John 21: 9 – 11
9 When they (the Disciples) landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.
Jesus, having shown his friends where the fish were, then entertains them to breakfast, but wants to use some of their catch.
They had caught 153 fish – an extraordinarily precise number for John to recall all those years later as he writes his Gospel story. So it’s a fair question to ask, ‘Why 153?’
There are several answers (or to be more exact guesses, for no one really knows why!) If you use the Hebrew way of using letters to signify numbers (Hebrew does not have any numerical characters) you can make 1, 5 and 3 fit all sorts of names and devices, just as you can using John’s other great numerical poser from his Revelation, when he tells us the number of the beast is 666.
Some will tell you it is an historical number and John remembered it because it was the biggest catch of his life, or that he uses it just as a way of saying “it was a lot of fish”.
Another explanation comes from Greek learning. The Greeks were, on the whole, not big on classifying the natural world but one treatise on fish mentions the different types of fish and coincidentally (or perhaps not) describes 153 different types of fish.
If it is the latter, was this John saying that Jesus did not differentiate between men, women, free, slave, high, low or of whatever tribe? John writes theology more than history to much greater extent than the other three Gospel writers.
So, is he trying to tell us that Jesus welcomes all to his feast, whether it be breakfast fish on the lake shore or bread and wine after Supper.
We are all welcome and Jesus is with us all, no matter where we are; the people of Wuhan emerging from their quarantine, the populations of Italy and Rome seeing green shoots of recovery in the latest statistics, the folk of Malawi going into lockdown to try and keep the outbreak within limits; all are welcome, because Jesus knows our fears and hopes.
In him we can find safety, comfort, sustenance and energy to carry on.
Lord God, our loving Father in Heaven, as you welcomed your friends to breakfast on the shore, bring us into your presence, that we might feed on you and be emboldened to face whatever has to came our way.
In your Mercy hear our prayer,