Some of the best religious jokes revolve around water.
Moses and Jesus are golfing and arrive at a water hazard. Jesus pulls out a 9-iron. Moses says, ‘hey, you really should be using a driver for this’. ‘No way’, says Jesus. ‘I saw Tiger Woods play this hole last week. He sunk it with a 9 iron. If Tiger can do it, I can do it’. Jesus tees up, swings… hits the ball which sails into the water. Moses says, ‘I’ll go get it…’. He walks down to the water, parts it, grabs Jesus’ ball, walks back up and hands it to him.
Jesus tees up again with his nine iron. ‘Jesus,’ says Moses, ‘don’t you want to try the driver’?. ‘No’ says Jesus, ‘Tiger Woods did this with his nine iron, so I can do it’. He hits the ball, which again sails into the water. ‘I’ll get it’, says Jesus. He walks down the hill, and walks across the water, reaching in to his shoulder to fish around for his ball.
The foursome behind Moses and Jesus has caught up and are standing there, stunned. Pointing at Jesus on top of the water, one of them says ‘Who does that guy think he is, Jesus?’ ‘No’, says Moses. ‘He thinks he’s Tiger Woods’.
A mother was watching her four year-old son playing outside in
a small plastic pool half-filled with water. He was happily walking
back and forth across the pool, making big splashes.
Suddenly, the little boy stopped, stepped out of the pool, and
began to scoop water out of the pool with a pail.
“Why are you pouring the water out, dear?” asked the mother.
“Because my teacher said Jesus walked on water, and this water
won’t work,” he replied.
There was an old man sitting on his porch watching the rain fall. Pretty soon the water was coming over the porch and into the house. The old man was still sitting there when a rescue boat came and the people on board said, “You can’t stay here you have to come with us or you will drown.” The old man replied, “Nope, I’m staying put, Jesus will save me.”
So the boat left. A little while later the water was up to the second floor, and another rescue boat came, and again they told the old man he had to come with them. The old man again replied, “Jesus will save me.”
So the boat left him again. An hour later the water was up to the roof and a third rescue boat approached the old man, and tried to get him to come with them. Again the old man refused to leave stating that, “Jesus will save me.”
So the boat left him again. Soon after, sadly, the man drowns and goes to heaven. When he sees Jesus, he angrily asks him, “Why didn’t you save me?” Jesus replied, “I tried. I sent three boats after you!!”
“One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God.”
No joke. There was a time when people actually begged to hear more Scripture and longer sermons. But that was from Jesus, and you all are stuck with me.
But Jesus gets into a boat because the people are crowding him, and asks him to go deeper into the lake. Now, this lake is called “garden of riches,” but these fishermen, these brothers, have not had a good night fishing.
That’s kind of an oxymoron though: “a good night fishing.” I’ve always seen fishing as the equivalent of hunting in the dark with no way to see what you’re shooting at! But these guys, who are by their own decision “fishermen,” haven’t caught anything.
And Jesus tells Peter to stop in the deep water and let down the nets.
Jesus, fully God and fully man, is the son of a carpenter. He’s not a fisherman. It would be like me showing up at your place of work and telling you how to do your job better than you know how to. Now granted, that’s pretty typical: most of us have told doctors how they got it wrong, referees how they’re destroying the game, and cooks how they could make the food better.
But I don’t think that’s Jesus point in telling Peter how to fish. But argumentative Peter only says, “listen, we’ve worked hard and there are no fish, but because you said so, to humor you, I’ll let them down.”
And the result is that they catch so many fish that they can’t pull them all in to the boat. They have to call for help. Their nets are exceeded to the point of breaking and sinking the boat. They have caught so many fish that it exceeds their expectations, not just because they haven’t caught anything but what they could’ve expected to catch on any given time out!
Peter is so convinced by this catch of fish, which shows how crazy it was, right? that he kneels before Jesus and confesses that he is sinful and unworthy of Jesus’ presence! Seriously, what has it taken in your life to so convict you that you immediately repented??
And Jesus uses this opportunity to tell Peter: “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” Remember all of those DNBA in the birth narratives of Jesus? Gabriel tells Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds not to be afraid– and now it’s Jesus who is issuing the encouragement and comfort. Just like those early DNBAs, it’s followed with the most epic of fish stories:
“you’re no longer going to fish for aquatic beings, but you’re going to fish for men.”
These simple men, these uneducated, hardworking, rabble-rousers left their nets and their boats, their livelihood and quite possibly all they had to their names, and followed Jesus.
What would it take for you to leave everything and really, really follow Jesus? To completely turn away from all of your excuses about how you’re too busy, or too poor, or too whatever, and fully embrace a “go crazy, dare to dream” kind of discipleship after Jesus?
I’m not going to show up at your workplace and tell you that you’ve got it all wrong. But what if Jesus does? How are you going to respond? Do you already know there’s something about how you work and interact with others that has to change? Do you know that if Jesus showed up at your house that you’d have to change how it appeared or what you were doing before you could let him in? Are your relationships needing tidied up, your influences needing edited, your attitudes needing a New Year’s cleaning?
I wonder sometimes what would happen if Jesus walked in right now and said, “you guys are getting this all wrong.” Or, more gently, he stepped inside and told us that we needed to “go catch fish” on the other side or a different location? What would happen if he told us that we needed to redefine our vision for what it meant to follow him?
I hope I would have the grace to say, “we’ve been working on this really hard, and we’re tired, but because you say so, we will.”
The good news today is that Jesus showed up where the fishermen were, that he wasn’t threatened by the overwhelming crowd, or the unexpected response. That Jesus was willing to go into deeper water and boldly challenge the fishermen to keep trying. That Jesus met them where they were but didn’t leave them there. That Jesus had a greater calling for Peter, James, and John than to keep wearing themselves out doing the same things with little results.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
The fishermen were there and sometimes we are, too! But this good news, that Jesus shows up, goes deeper, and is willing to show unsuspecting, unprepared simple folks the way is excellent news for us! We simply can’t do it without Jesus, because without him we are wandering and visionless, insanely expecting different results.
But Jesus doesn’t give up and neither should we. Stop doing the same things to battle your anxiety, frustration, and unhappiness. Turn to Jesus and hand over the controls to your life’s boat, and let him show you a new way to work, to relate, to live.
Just don’t expect to pray that prayer and end up staying stuck for long. Because when you go fishing with Jesus, the catch is amazing, and overwhelming, and life changing.
Friends, to go fishing with Jesus is to come back with one, epic fish story.
Don’t look for me in the same place anymore, I’ve gone fishing.
This sermon is for the 11 a.m. service at Blandford United Methodist Church on January 12.