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Rev. Nancy S. Taylor
Jan 22 2012


There is something fishy about Jesus.

He recruits his first followers by calling fishermen from fishing for fish to become fishers of people.

There is something fishy about Jesus.

There is the story of the miracle of the Great Catch. The fishermen have been fishing all night and have caught nothing. They are exhausted, exasperated. Muscles aching, hungry and done in they head into shore. Yes, no sooner do they arrive than Jesus climbs into one of the boats and instructs them to put right back out to sea. They sputter and protest, but then oblige Jesus. “Put down your nets,” says Jesus. They do and their nets swell with fish.

There really is something fishy about Jesus.

There is the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. Jesus sets out to produce a picnic for thousands … but he is woefully short on ingredients… a few loaves of bread and two fish … but by the end of the picnic thousands of people have eaten and are satisfied.

There is something fishy, something irregular about Jesus.

You recall the post-resurrection fish fry? Jesus has been crucified, had died. His ruined body had been anointed, shrouded and entombed.

His followers scatter … some returning to their former life: fishing. Some of them are fishing in the Sea of Tiberius when Jesus appears on the beach … the resurrected Jesus appears on the beach. He has built a charcoal fire on the beach. He is cooking fish and toasting bread. He motions to his friends. They haul in the nets. They heave the boats up onto the beach. They wipe the sand and grit from their hands and walk over to Jesus and his charcoal fire.

The one who had been crucified, died and was buried serves them a hot breakfast of grilled fish and toast.

There is something fishy about Jesus.

He is born in land-locked Bethlehem. He grows up in land-locked Nazareth … but he is drawn to water … to the Jordan River, to the Sea of Galilee and to the Dead Sea … to fish, fishing, fishermen and fish stories.

There is something fishy about Jesus … something irregular and odd … something slightly suspicious.

In fact, did you detect the ominous news with which this fishy story opens? The story opens with the worrying news of John’s arrest.

News of John’s arrest is being whispered up and down the Jordan River, from the Hilah Valley in the north, right down to the Dead Sea. It is all the talk. Everyone is worried to death.

John is locked away somewhere behind bars. He is without counsel or advocate. He is without the protection of law. He is at the mercy of Herod … who is without mercy.

Here’s what happened … just the facts: Herod is well-married when he falls in love with another woman. As it happens, the woman with whom Herod falls in love is also well-married. No matter. Herod rids himself of his wife by divorce. Similarly, his new love rids herself of her husband by divorce. The two, now liberated of previous and inconvenient encumbrances, get married.

Who ever heard of such goings on?

John takes exception to these marital machinations. John condemns Herod loudly and publically. Herod does not receive these challenges to his morality with either grace or with the repentance for which John calls. On the contrary, determined to silence such despicable charges, Herod has John arrested and thrown into jail.

As you know, the story ends badly for John. Herod has him beheaded … on whim.

This is the background and context for Jesus’ call to these first disciples. Jesus and John are cousins and associates, comrades and partners in this kingdom work.

So you see, there really is something fishy about this Jesus… something suspicious about this one who is in cahoots with John who dares challenge Herod’s morality, Herod’s character, Herod’s religious and family values.

People like Herod—public figures, powerful officials—tend to take umbrage at being challenged in this way … or, at least, so it was in the first century of the Common Era.

So, when Jesus hails Simon and Andrew, James and John … when Jesus hails them, beckons to them and urges, “Come, Come on, follow me, and I will make you become fishers of people …” well, they have at least some inkling of the danger of this work. There is a good chance that those associate with the fishy Jesus will become fishy by association. There is a high probability that what befalls John, will befall Jesus and that what befalls Jesus, will befall his followers.

Such is the context of the call to Simon and Andrew, James and John. It is a wonder, is it not, that they answer the call?

So, what is it about this kingdom-work, this God-work, this fishing-for-people that makes it so dangerous?

In John’s case, it was his assumption that the rich and mighty are accountable to the same codes of ethics as the poor and meek. (Imagine that!) John assumed that Herod, a Jewish king, was bound by the same moral standards to which the Torah held all Jews. (You can see where John went astray, can’t you?)

Not only had Herod openly defied two of Judaism’s top ten sacred commandments—a top ten code of ethics carried down Mt. Sinai by Moses: thou shalt not commit adultery and thou shalt not covet—he did so blatantly and flagrantly … for all to see …without a twinge of remorse.

It is to this to which John objects. It is for his objection that John is arrested, jailed and beheaded.

When Jesus calls Simon and Andrew, James and John from their nets, he calls them into a way of life that honors the ancient and holy codes … codes of ethics that enable and engender community.

When Jesus calls us, he is calling us into a way of life boundaried and bordered by ethical codes and mores… codes and mores by which we honor God and each other.

The world is so askew, that to the world, there is something fishy about such living … something fishy about ethical living!

I want to be that kind of fishy.

We are a people marked and profoundly formed in the waters of baptism. Like fish we, too, are born in water.

Which is why early Christians chose the fish as a symbol for Jesus and his followers (not the cross … that came later). For like fish we, too, are born in water.

Perhaps you have seen the YouTube video, “Why I hate religion, but love Jesus”? It has gone viral. It has been viewed over 16 million times over the past few days. The author claims … “If grace is water … church should be an ocean.”

I say: let this church be lake and river, sea and ocean. Let’s go fishing.