FISHING ON THE RIGHT SIDE
An Easter Sermon by Rev. Frederick M. ChapinApril 16, 1995
Then Jesus said to them, ‘Children, have you any food?’ They answered Him, ‘No.’ And He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some [fish].’ So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. (JN 21:5&6)
The Lord’s resurrection ushered in a new way of worshipping God. We have more freedom to express our love and devotion to the Lord. No longer are we restricted to comply with specific external laws and rituals. There are now a variety of expressions that can show our inmost appreciation towards the Lord. We now have the opportunity to have an internal relationship with the Lord. Our union with the Lord will not be centered exclusively upon performing a certain set of rituals. Now, our association with the Lord is determined by the quality of our love towards Him. The Lord described the genuine worship that He was establishing when He told the Samaritan woman at the well:
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is a Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (JN 4:23&24)
Worship of the Lord is now established according to our willingness to comply with His instructions regarding what our loves, thoughts, and delights should be.
Just as the Lord’s resurrection introduced a more sincere worship of God for the human race, so too do the events that surrounded the Lord’s resurrection picture a personal renewal that can happen continually in our lives. We can perpetually recognize the Lord’s love and mercy in greater light that will increase throughout eternity. This ever increasing light can give us an elevated sense of freedom and a greater assurance that we can make a significant contribution towards the Lord’s creation. The more we see the Lord Jesus Christ as the one God of Heaven and Earth, and recognize the steps that we must take to have a closer bond with Him, the more fulfilling our lives will be. This is the beauty of the Lord’s resurrection that can be personally experienced within us over and over again.
The teaching of having a greater sense of fulfillment can be especially seen in the incident of the disciples gathering a large number of fish. This wonderful story can illustrate how we can emerge from a period of confusion to one where we can have a clear direction which our lives should take and how we can have a positive influence upon other people. The more we can see this taking place in our lives, the more we are sensing the Lord making a personal resurrection within us. This sense will make our lives more satisfying and effective.
The incident begins with Peter and some other disciples fishing at night and catching nothing. This depicts our striving for a sense of achievement from self. Without the Lord directing our lives, the contentment we want will be illusive. We actually seek fulfillment from self when we do not have a complete and heartfelt recognition of our need for the Lord. We may confess our reliance upon the Lord with our lips, but our innermost attitude could be one of believing that it is possible for us alone to determine, from our own instincts and judgements, what should be applied to our lives. There is an element of believing that we can act somewhat independently of the Lord and still provide good things for ourselves and for others. So long as this is the case, our lives will not be as rewarding.
However, in the morning, when the sun was rising for a new day, the disciples saw the Lord on the shore. This pictures a new perspective of looking at our lives and what we really require. This new acknowledgment enables us to truly recognize that from ourselves, we will not find the fulfillment that can endure for ever. Within this sincere awareness, there is the recognition of our dependency upon the Lord to give us a genuine sense of purpose and satisfaction for what we are able to do.
Yet, the disciples did not know that it was the Lord on the shore. There is still the desire to determine for ourselves how we should live. We may recognize and confess our need for the Lord’s presence in our lives, but deep within us, we would rather it be different. We would still desire that we make the determinations of what we can indulge in. Acting strictly from self is a subtle desire we all must face, regardless of how strong we may believe our devotion towards the Lord is. However, even though this recognition is not entirely pure, it still is the beginning of a new attitude of living. We see the Lord at a distance, but inwardly we do not want to recognize Him. Only when we truly delight in the Lord’s leading will we genuinely find a Christian life stimulating and fulfilling.
But to reach this point, we must be willing to undergo major changes in our lives. To grow there must be a willingness to accept some form of change. If there is no willingness to change, there will be no growth. This is true for both our natural lives and our spiritual lives. We advance towards a closer bond with the Lord only when we are willing to make the necessary changes in our attitudes and in our manner of living. All growth has some element of change. The disciples were told that for them to catch fish, they had to change from fishing on the left side of the boat to the right side. Likewise, we must be willing to make fundamental changes in our lives to be able to receive the Lord’s guidance. The Lord simply will not be recognized so long as we are unwilling to alter our perspectives and delights where necessary. However, it is wonderful that the Word teaches us how we can prepare ourselves to be willing to undergo and endure changes. The more we are conjoined with the Lord, the more we will embrace the necessary changes that leads to an even closer bond with Him.
Furthermore, there was a significant reason why the Lord told His disciples to cast their net on the right side of the boat. It was far more pivotal than just catching fish. This change pictures going from an attitude of simply obeying the Lord from compulsion to one of obeying the Lord from love. When we begin to make the necessary adjustments to spiritually grow in the Lord, they will be uncomfortable at first. But the Lord desires that we change so the love we have towards Him will grow. It is only when we find delight in what the Lord requires of us that a conjunction with the Lord will take place. The right side of the boat pictures learning truths from a love towards the Lord. The motivation will not be on self-advantage or to avoid bad things from happening to us, but from a simple desire to learn what the Lord wants us to do, because we want to be closer to Him.
When this perspective in life develops within us, our spiritual degree of life will rule our natural degree. This means that our sensual pleasures will be under the dictate of complying with the Lord’s commandments. When this happens, our moral principles will not wander, like the fish in the open waters. Instead, they will be orderly contained within the doctrine of life we draw from the Word. Our personal doctrine of life is the net with the multitude of fish. The net is our basic and most fundamental philosophy of life. When our doctrine is directed from the Lord, it will have a multitude of knowledge of knowing how good affections and thoughts can be established in our lives. This is the multitude of fish that was in the net when they cast it from the right side of the boat.
It is interesting that despite the great number of fish, the net did not break. This is far different than what happened at an earlier time, when a similar incident took place, which we read of in our lesson from the Gospel of Luke. At that time the net did break. However, this time, the net was stronger. The same was true regarding the disciple’s inward attitudes and thoughts towards the Lord. There was a stronger devotion to follow Him and a stronger understanding of what the Lord wanted them to do. As a result, their doctrine of life could contain a more in-depth understanding about the Lord and the quality of life they were to live. This subtle comparison is displayed by the net not breaking. Our basic principles of life can also contain more wisdom and appreciation of the Lord’s teachings, as we proceed closer to Him. It is interesting to note that when the disciples saw the tremendous number of fish, they were seized with a fear. Peter especially showed this when he plunged into the water because he was naked. We are reminded of Adam, when he hid himself from God, because of his nakedness, after he ate of the forbidden fruit. However, there is a difference between Peter and Adam. Adam hid from the Lord because of a direct disobedience to the Lord’s command. He was afraid of the wrath of God punishing him. Peter’s reaction was more positive. Peter was appalled that the Lord, Who is infinitely good and pure, should see his nakedness. Peter was afraid, not so much from what might happen to him, but from a perceived unworthiness to be in the Lord’s presence in such a condition. Nakedness pictures our inner most secrets and desires becoming exposed. When we are sensing the Lord’s presence, the disorders of our innermost thoughts are plainly seen. This can lead to a fear. Yet, this is a holy fear. It is a fear that our failures and shortcomings will impede our bond with the Lord. It is not a fear primarily based upon avoiding the punishments that can be afflicted upon us. Instead, this fear is that harm will be done to our reception of the Lord. This holy fear provides the basis of removing the hidden impurities from our lives. Only when we want them removed will we be able to come before the Lord.
And when they did come to shore, the Lord already had some fish laid out over coals for them to eat. It is significant to note that in the story, the Lord invited the disciples to place their fish with His. This is a beautiful picture of the Lord inviting our heavenly affections and light, which are appropriated to us, to be conjoined with His Divine love and wisdom. This is the reason for the Lord’s coming to the earth and is the very core for our celebration of the Lord’s resurrection. It was at the Lord’s resurrection that such an internal conjunction between the Lord and ourselves was established and made possible.
The Lord’s resurrection brought in a new approach which has allowed our worship to be more genuine. The more we can take advantage of the opportunity that the Lord has provided for us, the more we will value His resurrection. And at the same time, we will find the Lord providing a life before us that is established in His peace and joy. There is no greater feeling of accomplishment than to do what the Lord has created us for. The Lord has enabled all of us to sincerely worship Him and to express genuine charity towards others. This is the foundation of the joy we celebrate today. It is by the Lord’s resurrection that He fully accomplished these blessed words, “I have come that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly.” (REF)