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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson

Fishing or Catching?

“I prefer catching over fishing.” I’ve heard my husband say this on multiple occasions. He who lives on a lake, and dabbles in the sport. Keep in mind this is the same guy who raised our boys on the adage, “Winning is fun”—in response to Mom’s encouragement to enjoy the game, no matter the outcome. Of course, they sided with him. 

And it’s true. The winning is more fun. The catching, too. I mean, just look at the post-Easter stories. Death and resurrection. Fishing and miracle catch. 

The disciple, John, includes more post-resurrection story than any other gospel. Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the “gardener.” His own race with Peter to the empty tomb. Jesus appearing in a locked room, terrifying the disciples, granting peace. Breath of Spirit. “Doubting” Thomas. John tells the reader: Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book (John 20:30)… and then he goes on to tell one more story (John 21). 

A fishing story. 

It goes something like this…

The disciples spend a long and frustrating a night on the water. Fishing, not catching. Morning comes and there’s a guy on shore, shrouded in mist. He calls out. They answer. He gives some instructions. They heed the advice. 

Surely they must have had an inkling. 

“Throw your net on the right side of the boat…” Ring a bell, anyone? 

You get the sense all-night fishing hasn’t been all that much fun, but what happens next is hilarious. Weariness gives way to unbridled excitement, laughter filling the morning silence. Muscled arms reach every which way, hands entwined in slimy cables, fingers gripping for all they’re worth. They were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish— 

And then…

One Beloved Disciple shouts above the fray.  

And one desperate friend forgets his shame.  

A fallen Rock dives headlong over arms of friends and chaos of nets.  

And the one who once walked briefly across stormy water…

Frantically splashes once again. To get to Jesus.  

It’s Jesus. 

Standing on the shore. Grinning. Like it’s no big deal and “Who wants fish for breakfast?” 

See what I mean? It’s a lot more fun to catch. 

But the story’s not over. 

Friends gather, giddy with wonder. Chilled hands extend toward a welcoming fire. Eyes meet, glistening, happy. Tension melts. The sky wakes red. 

Seagulls chatter. Water sloshes. Laughter quiets. And then, so softly only one friend can hear it. A question…

“Do you love me more than these?”

Peter. The Rock. Inhaling deeply, scent of fire. 

Courtyard fires. The questions they’d asked. “Weren’t you with Him?” “One of his disciples?” “There in the garden?” 

He feels it again. Sickening questions. Stuck in his head. 

Dark night. Surreal mist of impossible morning. He chokes out an answer…

Yes, Lord. You know I love you. 

(Did I really say I didn’t know the man??)

“Feed my lambs.” 

Peter looks up, startled. Jesus repeats the question. Calls him Simon…

“Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Yes. Yes. You know I love you. 

“Take care of my sheep.” 

Brow furrowed. Heart pounding. Smoke wafting… In the distance, the cock crows morning… tragic morning… 


He catches his breath. Eyes meet, as they did that awful night by a courtyard fire. 

“…do you love me?”

You know all things. You know my story. You know what I did. Even before you called me Rock…

You knew. You knew. You knew. 

Lord, you know it all. You know I love you. 


The Rock is lifted. The fog clears. A new day blazes, brilliant. A net bursting with fish and friends savoring breakfast and One who was dead throws back his head and says it loud enough for all to hear it—

“Feed my sheep.”

So much for fishing. 

A new life begins.

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