I painted the words “Jesus Loves You” on a popsicle stick 40 years ago.
My mom glued a magnet to the back and stuck it to the fridge. I wandered far away from God over the years, but those three words stared at me each time I went for a snack. Jesus loves you.
But sometimes I wonder: does Jesus like me?
Like, not just love.
Would he let me challenge him to a game of Settlers of Catan? Or crush a plate of nachos while watching college football? Would he choose to go backpacking or put together a jigsaw puzzle or smoke brisket with me?
If I’m God’s child, is loving me obligatory? Or does he like me too?
Jesus and “The Big Reveal”
Questions like these can often be inferred by watching Jesus interact with his followers.
John 21 gives clues to the answer. After three years of following Jesus, suddenly he was gone. Killed by his enemies. His closest followers had given up businesses and friendships to be with him. Many of them returned home, defeated, to the only thing they knew… fishing.
Meanwhile, Jesus was contemplating limitless options to script his resurrection reappearance. He could have appeared in the sky with a booming voice or made some kind of spectacular entrance.
But he made a telling choice:
At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn't see who he was.
He called out, "Fellows, have you caught any fish?"
"No," they replied.
Then he said, "Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you'll get some!"
So they did, and they couldn't haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.
Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, "It's the Lord!"
- John 21:4-7
Jesus the Chef
His followers hustled to shore dragging behind a massive catch of fish. It must have been hilarious to watch this group scrambling to see Jesus but totally unwilling to let go of their massive haul.
Jesus has risen from the dead! But look at all the tilapia! Classic.
When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread. (v.9)
Jesus is hosting a beach BBQ.
Imagine: He planned it out, caught the fish, gutted them, gathered some wood and kindling, worked to create a spark and blew on the flame to get it roaring. He waited until it was hot enough while tending the flame. Finally, Jesus put the fish on the fire then gave the guys a shout.
Jesus knew Peter, John & Co. would love a beach BBQ with fish sandwiches.
He is no different than us in that respect. We love to bring delight to the people we like.
Jesus and Fishing
To be clear: the resurrection is the moment on which history hinges, death is conquered, the universe’s ultimate destiny is clarified and sin loses its power.
In light of this gravity, check out the disciples’ response:
Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn. (v.11)
The universe is rejoicing with the magnitude of the resurrection… and they pause to count the fish and the condition of their gear. Simple, Neanderthal minds are skilled at missing the emotional and spiritual significance of life’s big moments. Yes, it takes one to know one.
But Jesus clearly didn’t stop the fish counting. He could have said, “Let’s push the pause button on the fish, fellas. I’d like to discuss the eternal implications of me rising from the dead.” Instead he let them revel in their epic catch.
Again, Jesus shows a side we can relate to. We love to bring delight to the people we like.
He Likes You Too
Christmas is a time to re-evaluate if you’ve slid into rote “religion.” Has your faith become all formality and “being good” and not enough joy and beachside BBQ?
This story should jolt us to focus on the reality of a relationship with Jesus because it’s intimate.
It reminds us Jesus is genuinely interested in the details – your hobbies, profession, likes, dislikes, music, art and yes, probably trout (because the story clearly shows fishing is the only Jesus-endorsed sport).
If Jesus likes these frequently selfish, stubbornly immature and hot-headed group of followers, he likes you too. Because of this story, and those like it, I believe Jesus genuinely likes me.
And I'd love a little help from him next time I'm in a river with a rod in my hand.
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