Oh be ye blest who Jesus blest;
His loving sermon still stands sure.
And blest are ye who seek the Christ,
Who open their hearts to be pure.
So “Let” and find eternal grace, –
An inner peace that cannot hide:
Dissolving wrong and sense of self,
All personality and pride.
Oh how I pray to heed this word,
Be led unto Gennesaret.
In humble trust “…but as thou wilt.”
Let go! No need to do! Just let…..
Luke 5: 1-11; John 21 1-22
I’ve been here before.
Slogging away for no return.
I’d gone back to my fishing,
What I grew up doing, and knew well.
I sniffed the breeze, judged the wind and the currents,
Dropped down the net.
And hauled up with aching arms and hands.
I looked at Nathanael and Thomas. Caught John looking at me.
We could read each others thoughts.
What were we doing here?
How had it come to this?
We had seen Jesus twice since his resurrection
Not just seen but touched, – Thomas even more so.
Yet we felt flat, as empty as our nets.
The selfish retreat of fishing for fish that weren’t even there a meaningless routine,
A hollow comfort of escape to the past, fear of the future.
As I hauled on the wet rope another weary time I felt a disbelief and frustration born of guilt. I had denied him three times in public, was now denying him with my life returned to normal.
I thought back three years back in this very boat.
It seemed like an instant replay of when it all started.
I was there again, hauling up the unfilled empty weight. All night, nothing caught.
This man Jesus had asked to step on board, preached the gospel to crowds on the shore.
And when he had left speaking told us to go out again, to launch into the deep, let down the nets. I remembered and felt the pointlessness of the time, the weariness and memory sending a shudder down my spine.
I’d answered for all of us. What’s the point, – the fish just aren’t biting.
Yet we obeyed because he had asked.
When I hauled up, I had nearly fallen in with the jolt. The net had broken with the weight of fishes.
We’d had to call James and John, – and here we were again. Time was all confused. We had struggled to bring the catch to shore, -it had filled our two boats, and we only just made it.
The fish had been there all the time.
We had been dumfounded, and when he said to follow him, we followed. Left all.
Three years of miracles, lepers cleansed, limbs restored, multitudes fed, storms stilled by his word, – he had even got me to walk on the water, until I looked down and began to sink! I knew he was the Christ, – I’d told him! He shewed us what could be done.
He overcame death. I’d seen him twice! And here I am fishing.
And I have caught nothing.
The rocking of the boat seemed to mock us all.
I stretched up long and hard, the early morning light glinting on my sweat drained nakedness. Turned to James and John.
“I’ve just been thinking back three years ago. It’s just like it was yesterday. We caught nothing then either. Yet one more time, at Jesus’ command, and we couldn’t bring them in! Don’t you remember? It’s like a bad dream!”
Had I achieved nothing in all this time? The daft panic question…Was Jesus just a dream?
I hauled again at the reality of another empty net.
A stranger on the shore called out.
“Children, have ye any meat?”
He can’t see the barren wooden floor, awash with froth and weed.
I shout back the understatement of the year. “No!”
He calls out yet again:
“Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find.”
We felt impelled to obey.
The net went over the other side, and it was barely drawn across the water when it resisted, almost fought against us; it was heaving with fish!
John said, “It is the Lord.”
Tears filled my eyes with re-ignited memory..
I now knew! Grabbed my coat, tied it quick and tight, dived in!
Powerful strokes gave the lie to previous weariness.
I reached the shore, stumbled through the dragging water,
Dripping joyously as I ran to him.
He was sat calmly by a fire of coals, with fish and bread.
“Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.”
We all heaved the net full up the beach
Renewed strength, newly awakened.
Another flash back those three years hence, – those nets had broken, but this now not spoiled. We stopped to count the abundance. One hundred and fifty three!! And they were big fish too!
Was I living in the present or the past? I heard again Jesus words from the past besides those broken nets: “Fear not, from henceforth thou shalt catch men.”
And I had selfishly gone back to my fishing….
The present jolted back at me:
“Come and dine.”
We ate of our fish, the work of our hands. The bread and the fish were the best I’d ever tasted, but that was not why I remembered that meal. It was Jesus, my Lord. The Christ. Sought me out yet once more. Me not deserving. I had disowned him three times, but here he was, not disowning me, any of us. We had even denied him by going back to our fishing, despite having seen him alive since his awful crucifixion. Why did he even bother to look for us? How did he find us? I felt his love.
The rising warm light of a beautiful cloudless day was matching and lifting heart and soul.
We had finished, all comfortable round the fire. Wondering. Trembling with anticipation.
“Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?”
What a question is this! Why pick on me? Why Simon and not Peter? Had my reversion to fishing, my denials, robbed me of the rock he expected me to be? Not “Have you truly repented” but “Lovest thou me.” That’s the real proof. Who or what is more important? What do I really value most? What I think of myself, or how much I really love him? I give my answer.
“Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.”
“Feed my lambs.”
Be a fisher of men… do as I first asked of you! Change again. Genuine repentance, not skin deep, convenient….
“Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”
He’s reading my thoughts. Supporting the true repentance taking place. No comparison “more than these”, just the direct need to love him. That is all that is needed. I reply exactly the same:
“Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.”
“Feed my sheep.”
Look after my flock, feed them with the gospel of Love, the manna from heaven; I leave them in your charge. Lord am I worthy?
“Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”
You ask me the third time whether I love thee. How deeply I love thee. Are my affirmations not stronger than my denials? Guilt makes me aggrieved. I am being tested.
I feel his love, it revitalizes my very being. I am caught in the memory of fish too many to haul, that first command to be a fisher of men, to reach out to the world and bring them the gospel, not just to feed but to nourish. They are waiting for me. They need my obedience. I answer with the assurance of his blessing:
“Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.”
“Feed my sheep.”
His final command confirms his forgiveness and re-establishes the purpose and rock of my being, the selfless demand to love God and not self, before which we all must bow.
And in that true repentance of thought, changed wholeheartedly from self to God, I know I can never again go back. A new and deep awareness fills my being. Words are easy. I must now reach out, and prove my love for Jesus by my love for others. No more denial, but stronger, much stronger, the affirmation of God-based action!
My life-purpose changed: Not about me, about others.
FEED MY SHEEP!
And I just knew in another blinding flash of understanding, that as I had been given this command, so God would give me all I needed to fulfill it.
Matt 4:17 Jesus
Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
“And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said “Look on us.”
Not the look of worthless pity gave they,
That makes more miserable a man already satan-bound;
Nor of contempt, the “I am better than thou”, –
The hurried steps to leave alone as found.
NO! Here an active deed of unselfed love.
Peter saw him, and spiritually discerned with surest gaze
The perfect man, whole, complete, a fellow child of God.
“Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee:
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
And he saw too, lifted up by Peter’s knowing praise
To see himself as whole indeed, no longer to live
Upon the alms of man, but in the freedom of the Lord!
“And he leaping up stood, and walked….
Walking and leaping and praising God.”
So too for us; may we so leap to see,
To walk with God, in Love’s reality.
Life had not seemed fair.
Born blind. Stayed blind.
Led wherever I had or wanted to go.
No freedom, no light,
A life full of imaginings,
Empty of hope.
The nagging questions “Why? …Who to blame?
Who can be sinless? Why should we suffer for the sins of our parents?”
Endlessly debated and always those unanswerable accusations.
What had they done?
What had I done wrong while in my mother’s womb?
What chance had I for repentance before thought or conscience sparked my will?
The fact is I was born blind.
And in those repeated low moments of jaundiced bitterness and self-pity I again condemned the sin of the world and those who laid blame upon my heritage and knew everything and nothing.
That’s how it was. And one day, one special glorious day, it all changed.
Sitting by the wayside, stick in hand, quietly listening to the sounds of passing feet and distant birds, I heard as if talking directly to me, the sound of a stranger’s voice, talking about me as if I was an old acquaintance. I focused hard on the conversation taking place. I felt like reaching out and asking who was there, but heard yet once more voices querying that deep question that had so occupied my thoughts all my life:
“Master, who did sin, this man or his parents that he was born blind?”
They were clearly talking about me, but who was this “Master” they addressed? It must have been him I first heard. My whole being focused on a picture I could not see but felt, and how felt! A sense of warmth and love brushed across me, as though my past had been erased and a new painting drawn. I yearned for his answer.
“Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”
A lifetime of belief denied in one simple statement of what to this man was truth. The love that radiated round me was more tangible than the stick in my hand. I stood up. The stick dropped from my hand, as I began, with hands outstretched, sensing, feeling, the security of Love, to move towards the direction of that voice as it spoke on.
“I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”
I didn’t understand, – my thoughts were still repeating and repeating I had not sinned, I had not sinned. His love was still drawing me closer; I could nearly reach and touch from where he spoke. My heart was hammering. I felt he was talking directly to me.
“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Despite my blindness, for the first time I could sense true light, – much like I could feel the sun’s rays with their warmth, and knew it was there, but could not see it, so this new light was shining. It was the light of prophecy, for I somehow knew that this man, this Master, was indeed a prophet, and my life had already changed.
As he was speaking I heard those with him move to one side as I continued to move slowly and steadily forward. I stopped. My lips moved in silent acquiescence, expectant of more but not knowing what more was or could be. Every sense was alive, yet somehow at a different, higher level of being.
I heard him spit! Heard the spittle land on the ground, stretched every sense to imagine what he was doing. There was a deep silence. I didn’t know what was happening, but I had no fear. I felt a trust borne on his love. A hand touched the side of my face with great tenderness, and then a warm sensation as he anointed my left eye with clay, and then again over my right. He spoke once more with love.
“Go, wash in the pool of Siloam”
I knew I could get there, and knew that this man knew too. It wasn’t far, but I had dropped my stick. Yet been given this instruction. I had to obey, not quite knowing how. He had told me what to do, and it must be possible. Turning round, a hand touched my arm, a voice said “Come, I’ll take you”, and I was led. What had I to learn as I followed his command? For I was following his command! I hadn’t questioned it. The pool was sufficiently far for plenty of doubts, stopping, thinking, asking why, was the whole thing real? The clay stuck to my eyes but I had to work at my balance and obedience, – why couldn’t I just reach up with my hands and pull the clay away there and then? Much easier! But no, – the pool must be and was significant. Knowing I was being obedient gave me strength and courage. Didn’t Siloam signify the seat of David, the House of God? He was making me go back to my true heritage, each step requiring confirmation of that way I had to go, the way I had to be. Another negative thought sprang up at me. It was the Sabbath, – that would get me into trouble with the Pharisees, – but this prophet had spoken, given me an overriding authority because he spoke with true authority. Am I dreaming? The clay sat heavy on my eyes. Why dust and spittle? I am to wash it off. Neither hath this man sinned nor his parents. The Adam story of the dust of the ground! He had spat at that! I have to wash off the false belief of mortal heritage! I am the child of God! And it shall be made manifest! I felt born again.
My dear guide told me we were near, then by, the pool, ushered me to its edge. I pressed his hands in thanks, knelt, felt for the edge, the water, cupped my hands and washed off what was the dirt of ages. I watched disbelieving as the drips dropped back in to the water, looked trembling at the next handful of water as it came up to wash my face again. Turned round and saw my guide, saw the walls of Jerusalem, sky, colours, people, birds, looked back down at my reflection! I could see!
I grabbed my guide’s hand in joy, looked if not stared at his kindly face, touched his smile with my hand, revelling in the wonderful link of sense and sight. “I’ve got to find the prophet!” We went running off to find him. I didn’t know where to go! We looked and ran and looked but could not find him.
I kept stumbling, looking at everything around me, new associations replacing old imaginations. We met with some people that looked aghast and I recognised the voice of neighbours. They did not believe it was me. To them my sight was impossible. I explained what had happened. How blind can they be! How can I not be me! Their fear of believing was greater than any joy they could have felt for me!
They grabbed at me and took me to the Pharisees. They all needed to prove me an imposter. I didn’t fit in with their expectations, their superior knowledge; I had been healed by a sinner! He did not come from the God that spake with Moses. Argument after argument. Why could they not accept the simple truth? I could see! And this man had healed me because he was of God. Had that ever been done before? They could not share my joy and so tried to kill it.
They cast me out to wallow in the sins in which I had been born. A doubt crossed into my thinking, – is this just a fantastic dream after all? Will I wake up and be once more a blind sinner? Was this healing somehow a lie? But then so clearly came the thought that there could be no reversion to what that man had uttered with such surety and conviction. He had spoken of a deep Truth, and I was now the standing, moving, living proof of what he said!
A white-robed man came up to me and spoke in a familiar voice, kindness once more radiating, but now visible as well as felt. I knew immediately it was the Master. He offered out both his hands in love and friendship:
“Dost thou believe in the Son of God”
I had glimpsed myself in a new light, and knew that God must be the underlying reality that sourced my healing. But who can His Son be? I asked who it might be, that I could believe on him, understand more what had happened.
Jesus answered: “Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.”
The full realisation of who he was and who I was brought me to my knees in reverent acknowledgement and praise. He had restored not my sight but me to my true being and sinless son-ship.
“I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and they which see might be made blind.”
My eyes had been blind and now I see. Oh may all our eyes so blinded by dust and clay that we see not, be washed clean that all may see the true light that is now come to the world!
Not born blind, but born again, that the works of God are manifest in me, in us, so that we all can see! My life has fundamentally changed, from blind pessimism to light, to the glorious feeling and knowing God’s ever-present Love. Jesus told me how to pray, to call God “ABBA, Father”, to see God as my only true and sinless heritage.
Love is our Father, and I truly understand: we are all His sons. And in His Love, I see!