A New Age Restoration Meal (John 21)

Date: 5/5/2019
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Type: Sunday Sermon
Organization: All Saints
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John 21 is a kind of coda to the music of John’s Gospel. John provides a glimpse of the unrestored Peter’s leadership. Peter is still a leader. When he says, “I am going fishing” (21:3), the others follow. But how could anyone follow this Christ-denier? Peter was a coward. He had betrayed Jesus and cursed His name. But then all of His disciples turned away. They were all guilty of disloyalty, and so are we.

This example shows us the beautiful grace of our Savior. Much is made of Peter’s betrayals. All four Gospels highlight it. But only this passage shows the restoration of Peter. A few details help frame the purpose.

1) New Age Food of the Resurrection
2) New Age Fishing for Men
3) New Age Fire of Restoration

The miracle catch of exactly 153 large fish is puzzling. What could it mean? Many commentators dismiss this as nothing more than a factual accounting of the number of fish, while others accept that it must contain symbolic significance. For my part, if you have read the Gospel of John without a lobotomy, his use of numbers and symbols is rather pronounced. This number must mean something. If we take the passage as a whole, let’s derive the meaning from the clear emphasis of its purpose: the restoration of Peter. According to those who study such things, this number is strongly associated with Gentiles or the nations.

Some have argued that since 153 is the “triangular” of 17 (1+2+3 . . . to 17) is a number associated with the nations, 153 strongly connotes Gentile fishing. The gematria (the numerical value of Hebrew letters) of two references in Ez. 47:9ff is intriguing. “And it will come about that fishermen will stand beside it; from En-Gedi to En-Eglaim there will be a place for spreading of nets. Their fish will be according to their kinds, like the fish of the Great [Mediterranean] Sea, very many.”  This passage pictures the waters of the new covenant temple flowing out to the nations. ”En" means “spring” and the numerical/gematria values of the terms are surprising: Gedi = 17 and Eglaim = 153. This puzzling reference (upon investigation) becomes a clear foreshadowing of the salvation of the nations. It is the Great Commission of John.

This is exactly what Peter goes on to do: bring in the Gentiles to the Church (e.g., Cornelius’ Household, Acts 10, 11, 15).

Gregg Strawbridge Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as receive a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more