In a time and age when persecution of Christians reaches genocides level in some countries especially in China, Iran, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, and some other countries, the church is marching on in a great springtime. It is even becoming dangerous to follow Jesus in the face of the seductions of today’s culture. The case of a street preacher who was handcuffed with his hands, behind his back and his Bible taken from him when he was arrested in north London is still fresh in our memory. He was later “de-arrested.”
Satan’s three lines of attack is ‘to keep men from becoming Christians … to keep them from being active and useful as Christians … to destroy their character,’ hence denial of faith. Under these conditions and threats, the church and its leadership need renewal for revival of fishing expedition.
From the Gospel reading of today in John 21, God is saying to the Church, enough of doing business as usual just as Peter and the others were going back to business as usual. It is possible for the church like Peter to revert to old lifestyle and occupation, a denial of Jesus who had initially called the Church like ‘Peter from fishing for fish to that of men.’ The reflection is that, nets that has been empty when under the disciples’ own power are filled almost to bursting with a word from the Risen Christ. The world functions by the flesh, and get the degree of results that the flesh can obtain.
Peter’s fishing skills was based on the normal time for commercial/professional fishing at night when the fish came up towards the shore but he and his friends did not catch a thing. Indeed, the arm of flesh is failing nations and churches. The third verse of the hymn by George Duffield (1818 – 88) explains the limitation of the arm of flesh. Duffield summons us to, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus.” He invites us to “stand in his strength alone; the arm of flesh will fail you, you dare not truth your own…” The truth is that we are made powerless by sin but in Christ alone is our hope, reinstatement, and joy found.
The fishing expedition in today’s Gospel is a symbol of the Church ready of a great springtime. Just as the disciples responded to “a mysterious figure on the distant shore who shouts out to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” The disciples’ negative answer resonates with the state of the decline and emptiness in the church today and the need for us to listen to the risen Christ, by casting our net according to God’s Word. When we cast our nets of marriage, theology, and leadership according to the seductions in today’s culture, we will get the results that the flesh can obtain and that is failure. God is not unaware of the state of the church and our nations and all we need to do is to respond and obey His Word.
The fishing expedition across space and time points to the Church at its apostolic and prophetic task of seeking souls. The Gospel of John reminds us about the unity, the life, and work of the Church with the expectations of ‘a lengthy, twilight struggle, a hard toil that will often seem to bear little or no fruit.’ Using the words of Bishop Baron, ‘after the long night, the dawn of a new life and a new order will break.’ The Good News is that, a change is coming to the Church and our nations, ‘the transfigured world inaugurated by Jesus.’ Pope John Paul II said, “God is preparing a great springtime for Christianity, and we can already see its first signs. In fact, both in the non-Christian world and in the traditionally Christian world, people are gradually drawing closer to gospel ideals and values, a development which the Church seeks to encourage.” The first sign for a great springtime for Christianity is the increase in persecution and redefinition of Christian values which are exposing the satanic end time agenda. Part of the end time evil agenda against Christianity is denying our Christian identity. According to Karoline Lewis, even the church ‘deny who we are because we worry that we won’t meet expectations’ especially of the post-modern world. Lewis explained that, the church ‘deny who we are because we are afraid to disappoint the government of the day. We deny who we are because we could be judged, even rejected, for that truth. We deny who we are because we do not believe that we will be liked for who we truly are, or that we will be loved for who we truly are.’
When the Church like Peter return to its previous life of obedience to God’s command, there will be radical transformation especially in our leadership and our fishing expedition in form of soul winning will become a new experience of abundance. Just as Peter had the “last breakfast” with Jesus for his renewing commissioning and reinstatement, the church leadership today need renewal and reinstatement as fishers of men to transform our state of decline and emptiness into fullness and increase. The reflection is that, when Peter was using his boat as a platform for Jesus, there was no problem but the moment he returned to fishing as occupation, he was a failure. God is saying to the Church, you can not serve God and Mammon. The table turned, Peter with the load of fish in his boat everything changed and his thinking was, what he can offer Jesus in return. Jesus’ charges to Peter three times summons the church to surrender our heart to God by coming to grips with the revival of fishing expedition, feeding, and tending God’s people.