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153: a sermon on John 21:1-14

April 21st, 2010 by isaac · No Comments

Last week I preached on, as David James puts it in The River Why, “one of the most remarkable statistics ever computed”—the 153 fish the disciples caught at the third resurrection appearance of Jesus. Here’s part of my sermon:

But my favorite detail of John’s story comes a few verses later, when they pull their nets ashore to be with Jesus: “So Simon Peter…hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, one hundred fifty-three of them” (v. 11). 153. Not “about a hundred,” or even—if he wanted to be more exact—“around 150 fish.” 153. The exact count mattered. Every last fish. The best reading of this detail in the story doesn’t come from the commentaries out there. As far as I’m concerned, David James Duncan has the best reading of this story. It’s in this novel here, The River Why—it’s a book about fishing. Let me read the part where he talks about the 153 fish in John’s Gospel:

“This is, it seems to me, one of the most remarkable statistics ever computed. Consider the circumstances: this is after the Crucifixion and the Resurrection; Jesus is standing on the beach newly risen from the dead, and it is only the third time the disciples have seen him since the nightmare of Calvary. And yet we learn that [the fish numbered precisely 153]…. How was this digit discovered? Mustn’t it have happened thus: upon hauling the net to shore, the disciples squatted down by that immense, writhing fish pile and started tossing them into a second pile, painstakingly counting ‘one, two, three, four, five, six, seven…’ all the way up to a hundred and fifty and three, while the newly risen Lord of Creation, the Sustainer of their beings, He who died for them and for Whom they would gladly die, stood waiting, ignored, till the heap of fish was quantified. Such is the fisherman’s compulsion toward rudimentary mathematics!” (14-15)

For the rest of the sermon, follow this link to the church website: 153

Tags: theology