We seem to miss stuff hidden in plain sight in scripture. We get caught up in chasing interesting looking rabbits. We especially love rabbits with numbers attached to them. We attend seminars and Bible studies that teach us to plumb the depths of scripture. My theory is that while I would rather you attend a Bible study than to do something illegal or immoral, however if the knowledge is not changing the way you live, what is the point?
Too many times we miss the big picture. We preachers go for the “hook” before properly explaining the meaning of God’s word. From the beginning of the sermon, we are headed to the altar call. In the Methodist church we are headed to the benediction quickly.
Let me illustrate this for you.
Take a look at John 21:11: “Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.” Now, why in heaven’s name was there 153 fish? Have you ever wondered about that? No? Well others have.
Cyril of Alexandria in the 5th century said that the 100 represented the fullness of the Gentiles, the 50 symbolized the remnant of Israel and the three of course was there for the Trinity. Now Cyril could get rich today publishing a book on numerology. Does Cyril’s thesis sound credible? Yet, the basis for much of the understanding of numerology come from folks like Cyril of Alexandria and another fifth century scholar named Augustine…
Augustine’s theory was a little more complicated. He said, there are 10 commandments and 7 is the perfect number of grace and that’s 17 right? Now if you add all the numbers from 1 to 17 together, you know 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 all the way up to 17 you’ll get 153. And not only that but if you were to arrange them with 17 fish in the first row, and 16 in the next row, and 15 in the next row, all the way down to a row of 1 you get a perfect triangle which of course symbolizes the Trinity.
Jerome, he also lived in the 5th century, suggested that there were 153 different types of fish in the sea and it was symbolic of the church reaching all the people in the world.
Personally, I have my own theory. I think that it’s mentioned because there were 153 fish in the net.
Here’s another theory of mine: they had to divide the fish somehow, and so Peter being the Skipper he got 21% or 32 fish, and John being mate got 16% that’s 25 fish, and the other five got 10.5 % each or 16 fish. They cooked the rest. You see we can get so caught up in trivial stuff and miss the point that we need to be obedient to Christ, today.
After the resurrection, Jesus continued to teach and lead the disciples. The disciples were acting in a very human way. They had put Jesus aside to return to their former lives. Jesus surprised them, fed them and if you keep reading…
He restored Peter. The purpose of the story seems to be the restoration and salvation of the man who denied Jesus when it counted most. When Jesus needed someone to stand up for Him.
Are you still bothered by those 153 fish?
I think it is John’s way of saying this unbelievable story of forgiveness and reconciliation really happened. The story is as real as those 153 fish in the nets.