Thursday, April 7, 2016
Hearing is Believing
Every Tuesday morning, we read the gospel lesson aloud in staff meeting. Each of us takes a sentence, and, one at a time, we go around the table until the whole lesson has been read. By 9:15am on Tuesday, I've usually had a few opportunities to read and think and write about the lesson, but almost always there's a new insight that pops up as I hear my colleagues read the words.
This week, the lesson is John 21:1-19, and, when we read it, I put a little box around the word "heard" in verse 7. Peter decided to go fishing, and six other disciples joined him in the boat. Jesus appeared and asked them about their fruitless catch, but, as John wrote, "the disciples did not know that it was Jesus." Then, in a testament to his identity, Jesus invited them to cast their net on the right side of the boat, and the net became full of fish. At this moment, "that disciple whom Jesus loved" recognized what was happening and who it was. For Peter, though, the light hadn't gone off yet. The Beloved Disciple then said to his companion, "It is the Lord!" and the gospel account recalls the remarkable and confusing moment of Peter's epiphany: "When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea."
Sure, it seems strange to us that Peter would have been fishing naked. The Greek word is "gumnos," which can be translated as "naked" but, according to Strong's Concordance, rarely means "stark-naked" and more often means "wearing only the under-garment." So, Peter was probably fishing in his underwear. But why does he put on some clothes to jump into the sea? I think it's because, upon recognizing that it was the Lord calling to him, he wanted to be presentable--even if he was soaked--and the getting dressed and jumping into the water is a recognition of that paradoxical sense of "I want to honor this encounter with proper preparation but don't want wait any longer than I have to so I'm jumping into the water now." Bottom line: Peter understood the fullness of who it was standing there on the beach.
But he had to hear it first.
The Beloved Disciple saw and understood. Peter needed to be told. Sometimes the Lord is standing right in front of us, inviting us into a miracle, and we still don't understand. Sometimes our grief and guilt get in the way. Sometimes we're distracted by expectations or misunderstandings. Sometimes we need a little nudge. But, when it comes, watch out! We're jumping in.
Listen to the story--God's story, your story. Listen to the words of the gospel. Listen to the Beloved Disciple. Listen to Peter. Hear and believe what your eyes may not be able to see.