Almost 20 years ago I wrote a short, simple drama for presentation to a group of leaders who gathered to pondering the future of their congregations. It has been published in one of our denominational resources, and performed in a number of settings. I revived, revised, and recycled it for use this past Sunday at Harrow United Church. My daughter, Naomi Woods brought expression and life to the role of narrator. Laura George and Jeff Csikasz went all out as the fisher-folk. The costumes, props, and acting were great!
Gospel of John 21:1-14
Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.
“I’m going out to fish, ” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.”
So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, ” Friends, haven’t you any fish? “
” No, “they answered.
He said, ” Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some. “
Narrator: Imagine you were on that boat, with the disciples. What was going through their minds when they heard a person that they did not yet recognize, tell them how to fish? They had been fishing all night, without success, and were probably tired, and discouraged.
The story does not say the disciples immediately followed the advice to throw their net on the other side of the boat. Maybe they had to strike a committee, and talk about it first.
Disciple 1: I don’t know. We have always fished this way. There have been too many changes lately. This is the way we have always fished.
Disciple 2: But we haven’t caught anything for a while. Some of the other boats have had to quit. Their crews quit coming out. The younger ones are saying that fishing isn’t relevant.
Disciple 1: We are fishing the way we were taught. My parents, and their parents before them fished this way. It was good enough for them. Where’s your sense of loyalty and tradition? That’s what’s wrong with the world today.
Disciple 2: Times change. Conditions change. Maybe the fish have moved. What can it hurt to try a new thing?
Disciple 1: Look! We’re tired. Some of us have been fishing a long time. We can’t put a bunch of energy into some half-baked idea. We just have to get ourselves better organized, and try harder.
Disciple 2: What if he’s right? What if it’s time to try a new way?
Disciple 1: Are you going to take the advice of some stranger? We’ve known each other our whole lives. Our families fished together! Our grandparents built this boat. We can’t let some new guy come in and take over!
Disciple 2: But maybe he’s got a point ….
Disciple 1: I don’t even know this guy. Did he grow up around here? Does he fish? Who is his family? What will people think if we try his way, and we still catch nothing? They’ll laugh us out of Galilee!
Disciple 2: If we can fish all night and catch nothing, maybe there are no fish out there. Maybe it’s time to give up fishing.
Disciple 1: Do you mean that you would quit? Give up the tradition? You can’t do that! You have to have faith!
Disciple 2: No, I have to have fish. I have a family to feed, and bills to pay.
Disciple 1: That’s exactly why we have to be careful. We can’t just change direction without thinking it through!
Disciple 2: I have been thinking about it, all night. There hasn’t been much else to do, except look at the empty net, and think. And you know what I think?
Disciple 1: I am a little bit afraid to ask, but what?
Disciple 2: I think that we have to decide whether we are out here to fish, or to catch fish.
Narrator: The ad hoc committee on ways and means of fishing came to a decision. Half the disciples watched and waited, and were ready to point out errors, while the other half took a chance, and pulled up the net, and threw it on the other side of the boat.
When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”
As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, ” It is the Lord, ” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it of and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full offish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.
When they landed, they saw afire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”
Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast. “
None of the disciples dared ask him, ” Who are you? ” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.