One hundred and fifty three fish.
This is the abundance that the risen Jesus provided for his followers. At some point after the resurrection, Jesus’ followers were gathered together. “I’m going fishing,” Peter declared.
“We will go with you,” the others responded.
But despite fishing all night, they caught nothing. At daybreak, they saw a man on the beach. This man called out, “Children, you have no fish, have you?”
“No!” they respond.
“Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some,” this man advised. When they cast the net on the other side of the boat, it was filled with so many fish, that the disciples were not able to pull it in. When he saw this abundance, one of the disciples declared, “It is the Lord.”
This disciple recognized the risen Jesus in the abundance that Jesus provided for his people.
So how do we know this abundance today? Like those first disciples, Jesus shares with us the abundant love of God. Love that is gracious and forgiving, no matter our failings. Through that love Jesus opens to us the life of God. This is the life that allows us to have a relationship with God today. This is the life that we know when we turn to God in prayer.
This is the life that we know when we ask for guidance, and when we ask God to provide for the needs of our life today. We know this abundance in our skills and abilities. We know this abundance in our relationships with family and friends. We know this abundance in answered prayers. We know this abundance in the “things” that are left in our care. But this abundance is not just for today. Because Jesus has shared with us the life of God, this abundance is for eternity.
But there is also a call.
After Jesus had fed his disciples fish and bread on the beach, Jesus took Peter aside and asked him three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” And three times Peter responded “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” To each confession of love, Jesus gives Peter a command: Take care of my sheep. This command makes the point that Peter’s love for Jesus is not an emotion but an action. If Peter truly loves Jesus, that love will be revealed in his actions. He will care for Jesus’ sheep. This is Jesus’ call for Peter’s life.
This call is for us also. Jesus loves us. Jesus shares his life with us. Jesus provides for us. Jesus has blessed us abundantly. And if we love Jesus, we will also care for his sheep. We will love others – family and stranger, those nearby and those far away, those who are longing to hear the good news of God and those who are in need of food and shelter. This love that we are called to is not an emotion. Instead it is agape – self- giving love, love that is made real through the actions of our lives. This love serves. This love takes risks. This love makes sacrifices. Through this love the life of God is made real in our world.
I heard a news story recently that demonstrated this kind of love. Emily is a 10-year-old who lives in Kannapolis, N.C. She found a lost dog and went to a lot of work to get the dog back to its owner. When she did, the owner was overjoyed. The dog was an important part of his life. He was so grateful that he gave Emily a gift certificate to Build-A-Bear Workshop so that she could make herself a bear as a reward. Instead, Emily used the gift certificate to make three bears which she gave to the Kannapolis Police Department so that they could give them to children in times of crisis.
Emily said, “I figured other kids might need it more than me.” She also quoted her grandpa who advised, “It’s better to give than to take.”
Together we can help others. Together we will care for Jesus’ sheep. We have received many blessings in our life. We have known God’s abundance. Now we are called to return Jesus’ love, by taking care of his sheep.
The Rev. Sally Franklin is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church: email@example.com.