Dear David Jeremiah:
The ‘fishing’ going on in John 21, as elsewhere, at least as Peter had resolved to pursue it, is representive of the spiritual ‘fishing’ that is as fundamental to supervisory Christians’ spiritual lives as natural fishing is fundamental to the lives of fishermen, recalling the relationship between fishing for fish and ‘fishing for men’. But as the implanted seed is to the farmer, or the imbedded precious stone is to the miner, so is the uncaught fish to the fisherman, and similarly representative of a rudimentary and unimproved state of faith, in which, in the case of the fish, one breathes the ‘water’ of the faith, from which he is angled for and brought up by dwellers above, who breathe the ‘air’ or the ‘wind’ of the faith, into communion with whom he is assimilated, as having been ‘eaten’ by ‘fishermen’.
The wise spiritual ‘farmer’ knows how both to ’sow’ the fields to which he makes his appeal, and how to coax from the nurturing ‘underground’ of spirituality the sprout that pushes its way up into the spiritual ’sunlight’ in which it develops and grows to ‘edible’ fruition. A farmer raises wheat, but a spiritual ‘farmer’ raises ‘men’.
The wise spiritual ‘miner’ knows how to separate what is spiritually precious from the crude alloy with which it is so inconveniently mingled and buried. A miner mines for diamonds, but a spiritual ‘miner’ mines ‘for men’.
My point is that there is a ‘fishing for men’ that excels the sort of ‘fishing for men’ with which most pastors, teachers, and elders are inclined to identify the expression – the kind represented by that kind to which Peter had resolved by default to return. Once visited by true interpretation even a ’supervisory’ Christian cannot resolve to return to the sort of ‘fishing’ with which he once occupied himself. God does not prosper it. He toils all night and takes nothing. But there is a new and different sort of fishing to be done, that depends not on acquired skill but rather upon the prompting of a Spirit by Whom true interpreters are prompted.
David, I wonder if the carefully enumerated ‘153′ can be found otherwise in scripture – perhaps as the number of those referred to perhaps by name in the pages of the New Testament as original witnesses for Jesus fished out of the ’sea’ of Jews. I think I will start counting… In any event, as such they must be representative of original converts from a standard, received, established Christianity that, for all its self-conceits, proves to be only the ‘water’ of a greater faith.
Thank-you, as usual, brother, for a stimulating program Sunday morning this past. – Tertius
Dear Pastor Ron:
I have seen your program perhaps a dozen times, and appreciate the unaffected purity of the expression of your faith. This past Sunday you addressed yourself with characteristic earnestness to ‘the veil’ that lies over unregenerate minds. I would only refer you to the implication about those whose minds were characterized as ‘veiled’ in scripture – those accustomed to having heard Moses read every Sabbath – who to us presently cannot represent the unregenerate of a disinterested world at large, but rather of a ‘world’ that conceives of itself as founded upon attention to God. The images foretell a stolid, established, entrenched Christian religiosity dependent upon a widely commended ‘literal, grammatical, historical’ hermeneutic confronted by something of incalculably surpassing excellence, as Nicodemus in all of his received legitimacy found his time-honored presuppositions confronted by Jesus in all of His questionable legitimacy.
The churches ordinarily draw lines and distinctions only between themselves and the worldlings outside, characteristically growing very uneasy and indignant at the prospect of lines and distinctions liable to being drawn within churches themselves. Those who point up the necessary parallel between scriptural images and present spiritual realities make themselves liable to a cross parallel to the cross of Christ.
Of a spirit like yours, however, I believe I can reasonably expect an emulation of the Bereans.
Yours in Jesus, Tertius
I greatly appreciate your comments and insights. It is by God’s grace that He allows us to take part in attempting to expound on His Holy Word. I pray we as well as you will endeavor to keep searching the scriptures and keep ever coming to understand the truth and the transformational power of God’s Word.
To God be the Glory – Pastor Ron
Your class on Sunday morning was most thought-provoking. I did not speak when I might have – when you openly asked for any comments or questions. I wondered whether my reflection, if I had ventured it, might have gone forth a little prematurely, and been lost. But it was on my mind to ask aloud, “Well, if the Holy Bible is ultimately a spiritual allegory, then what does it owe to contemptuous historians, scientists, and atheists like those we have been hearing from? Indeed, what do we owe them, on their own terms, for that matter, except to openly exempt the Bible from their purview, and to no longer wave it in their faces as though it ought necessarily to mean anything to them at all? For how are the unspiritual to appreciate a spiritual allegory? Do they – or do we – suppose that because they can read they can understand a parade of images that treats of a secret life to which they are dead by nature?”
But of course the instruction was for us – our adversaries would not have endured a moment of it, and could never have been edified.
I especially appreciated your treatment of the need to ‘get’ a joke, or a parable, or an implication of any kind if anyone were ever to ‘get’ the Bible – the need to accept ‘indirection’ as being of the essence, considering that in the first place God cannot be directly gazed upon, but by images – ‘angels’ – only indirectly apprehended. So Christian truth in its real nature does not submit to the examinations of historians and scientists; it is not confined with them to their cramped quarters; in its surpassing power it is able to render merely parabolic any of the ‘facts’ upon which they dote.
In reflecting upon your early question as to whether God might ever be ’surprised’, it occurred to me that from the beginning He would seem to have sought by all of the ‘anthropomorphisms’ so unworthy of deity a condition in which He might have seemed, for example’s sake, to have tasted of ’surprise’, and to have expressed it – as it is written, “What have you done!!?? Have you eaten of the fruit of the tree from which I commanded you that you were not to eat??!!!” Indeed, He is ‘joking’ in some sense, and it is necessary that the reader should ‘get it’; He is play-acting for the sake of creatures possessed of none of a deity’s omniscience, who by nature can never be God, but who, as faithful sons seeking to imitate Him, might well ‘plant gardens’ – (churches) – and place in them counterparts to Adam and Eve, to supervise and administer them, and suffer unpleasant surprise at their turning to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – the ‘law’ and the letter – instead of continuing with the tree of life – the Gospel and the spirit. “I am amazed! – that you are so quickly deserting Him Who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel…”
Jesus in His turn ‘marveled’ at the faith of a gentile, as though ’surprised’. Did He Who knew everything marvel indeed, or was He play-acting, as before children, instructively exemplifying appropriate ‘marveling’ for others to follow in His image, who might have been indeed ’surprised’, and marveled similarly in similar circumstances?
I don’t know what your next series might be, but I hope to be in attendance. Thanks again for an exhilarating study. – Tertius