Updated: Jan 29
This is the third Sunday of Easter. There is symbolism that should be seen in that statement.
The Easter season is when we are taught by the Lord to go beyond the state of discipleship and evolve into an Apostle.
This is Saint Andrew, but all Apostles have the halo of the Holy Spirit surrounding them.
For Christians, Sunday is our Sabbath, such that it represents when we find peace and calm, as a day of rest so we can reconnect to the Lord.
The number three represents the Trinity, but on a level where there is a sense of initial completion, such that we begin to see three, but still need to learn how three becomes one.
Last week and at other times before, I have talked about the dualistic nature of life. We see that reflected in many of the stories in the Holy Bible, where two main characters meet: Abraham and Lot, Samson and Delilah, Moses and the Pharaoh, David and Goliath, Jesus and John the Baptist, Jesus and Nicodemus, and Jesus and the woman at the well … just to name a few.
In today’s readings, in line with the Easter season being when we are called to serve the Lord completely, we find two Apostles of different histories, who are not together in one story. Today we see Paul (when he was known as Saul) and Peter (the most prominent of Jesus’s disciples).
This dichotomy can be seen by our eyes as how we progress as Christians. Are we following a path more like Saul-Paul, or are we on a road more similar to Peter’s?
Saints Peter and Paul.
There is more than what immediately meets the eye in these readings. It is easy to read how, “Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem,” was more like an atheist is today, or even a Islamic terrorist … and see nothing about ourselves in that character.
It is equally easy to read how, “When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on clothes, because he was naked, and jumped into the sea,” and see how Peter was the first disciple, above all the rest, who fervently wanted to be close to Jesus. We can easily identify with that character.
Still, there are cracks in the appearance of both characters, cracks that are worthy of closer inspection.
In the reading from Acts, we see how Saul “fell to the ground and heard a voice,” after “a light from heaven flashed around him” (and those with whom he traveled to Damascus).
Falling to the ground represents assuming a position of subservience … as does bowing down and kneeling before one of importance. Because Saul heard a voice from heaven, we should be able to intuit that his soul was connected strongly to God. This means Saul was a devout believer of God … but his way of serving God needed some serious adjusting.
As horrid as Saul’s acts had been, he was known for his acts … not his inaction. We see that when the Lord went to his servant Ananias and asked him to go see Saul. We read how Ananias said, “Lord, I have heard about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem.”
People don’t spread rumors and talk about people who do nothing. Saul was a doer.
Now, in the reading from the Gospel of John, which I believe is a dream rather than an actual event, we can see that Peter was a doer too. We read that “Simon Peter said to the other disciples, “I am going fishing.” Six of those then said, “We will go with you.”
There is something relaxing about doing something you love doing.
Think about that for a moment.
According to one website I found:
“Gone fishing” is an English idiom that is used in reference to someone who is completely unaware of all that is going on in his or her immediate surroundings. The person described in this manner has checked out from reality and may be daydreaming of just simply ignorant of the people and things in the vicinity.” (www.wisegeek.org)
The site also adds:
“In its most literal sense, this phrase refers to someone who has consciously removed himself from a situation. When the stress of modern life becomes a bit too much, an idyllic retreat can be just what is needed to regain a sense of calm. As a result, some people may take some time away from their routines to find a brief bit of relaxation, and this expression represents those getaways.”
When this is realized, it becomes clearer to see how Peter was leading a majority of Jesus’s disciples on something of a “working vacation,” where the “work” was fishing.
Again, when you see this as being part of a dream, then the fishing element takes on the symbolic meaning of the time that Jesus told James and John of Zebedee, “I will make you fishers of men.” This means the work is that of want-to-be Apostles, more than laziness … but they were trying to catch fish, not men.
Of course, the main focus that John placed on Simon Peter was when Jesus (appearing as an old man) asked him three times, “Do you love me?” The answer given by Peter (twice) was, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”
“I love you man.” “You’re not getting my beer.”
While that may sound like Peter did love Jesus, the use of “philō” means, “affectionate friendship” or “heartfelt consideration” somewhat weakens that feel, especially when Jesus asked by using the word “agapas.”
The word “agapas” means the kind of “love” that is more “to wish well to, to take pleasure in, to long for,” and in particular, “to esteem” or “to have a reasoned love.” This understanding shows that Jesus was asking if Peter wanted to have the Mind of Christ, so that with the love of God was already deeply seated in Peter’s heart. Jesus was asking Peter if he had the esteem of Jesus that others had for Jesus.
Now, when Peter followed his affirmative answer by saying, “You know that I love you,” and when he answered the third time, adding, “Lord, you know everything,” before he answered again, “You know that I love you,” it can sound like Peter was answering much as Ezekiel did, when God asked him, “Mortal, can these dried bones live?”
While we read both Ezekiel and Peter say, “Lord, you know,” the same meaning and intent is not the case.
Ezekiel’s answer, “You know,” was a statement about the all-knowing mind of god, the Greek word used by Peter was “oidas,” which is rooted in “eídō (oida),” and literally means “to see.” Peter was not expressing faith that Jesus knew any more than he could observe. As such, Peter stated that his actions spoke for his love, as, “Lord, you see I love you.”
This then leads one to recall the Passover Seder meal, when Jesus proved he knew Peter’s heart, telling Peter he would betray Jesus three times before the cock crowed. Jesus could see Peter, whose actions showed his lack of true commitment to the ministry of Jesus: arguing about his feet being washed, cutting off a soldier’s ear in anger, and losing faith when he tried to walk on water, just to name a few examples.
Along this line of thought, when “Simon Peter heard it was the Lord,” we are told, “he put on some clothes, for he was naked.” “Naked” is how God “sees” us all; such that when Adam and Eve first realized they were uncovered, as God called out for them, they covered themselves with leaves. They did so because they thought they could keep God from knowing they had sinned.
How did you know you were naked?
The same pretense should be seen in the action of Peter to clothe himself, prior to presenting himself to the Lord.
As a contrast between Peter and Saul, we should see how Peter (and the other disciples) were invited to “Come and have some breakfast.” Now, the word translated as “breakfast” is “aristēsate,” which means to “dine” on a meal prior to the evening supper. It could be lunch or breakfast. However, the word “breakfast” is interesting as it literally means to “break fast,” by eating after roughly 12 hours since one’s last meal.
By Peter having been fed bread and fish – the same as the foods that fed the multitudes of 5,000 and 4,000 – he and the other disciples had been fed spiritual food. As John then stated that this was the third time Jesus had “appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead,” there was a state of initial completion (symbolism of three) as to how to feed others. This feeding then led to Jesus telling Peter, “Feed my lambs” and “Feed my sheep.”
You do not literally go feed livestock. You feed a flock with spiritual food … knowledge that uplifts their souls.
Saul, on the other hand, had never been fed anything by Jesus. Instead, he was stricken with blindness and told to go to Damascus and await instructions. We are then told that Saul “for three days was without sight and neither ate nor drank.”
In other words, Saul began a fast. After the Apostle Ananias touched Saul and filled him with the Holy Spirit – the true spiritual food – his blindness disappeared and he began to praise Jesus as the Messiah. His strength was regained by physical food, but he was baptized with Holy Spirit, not water.
The link between Saul and Peter is Ananias, who represents an Apostle of Jesus Christ, one who has been touched by God and Christ. Saul would change his name to Paul. Simon Peter would be known as Saint Peter. Both would serve God through Christ, as both would be reborn as a new Jesus.
The point of this comparison-contrast today … during this third Sunday of the Easter season … is for you to ask yourself, “Which one of these two disciples do I model more?”
Are you one who is so fervent about your faith that you leave a wake of destruction along you path, so that people tremble when they see you coming?
Or, are you one who takes the happy-go-lucky, lazy day, “gone fishing” way of putting your religion in your back pocket, only to leave your faith on the shore as you drift naked and aimless on the waters of human existence?
When Ananias heard the voice of the Lord come to him in an auditory vision, he could not see the Lord with his physical eyes. Still, Ananias knew who called his name.
Do you have the ability to hear your name being called? Do you need someone to tell you, “It is the Lord” who is standing before you … “Listen to him!”? Can you respond by answering, “Here I am, Lord”?
Or, do you require God send lightning bolts crashing all around you, causing you to fall to the ground, so you are finally blinded … no longer distracted by all the shiny object this world has to offer? Do you need something like that to happen so you will then willing to follow the instructions of the Lord – to serve Him?
Or, do you make a show of your admiration for Jesus by wearing crucifix necklaces, putting fish emblems on your car, or leading Bible Study groups, so others can see your love … all while you are hiding a trembling heart that is without God? Does your true faith make you always capable of denying you are a Christian, if you ever feel threatened by the eyes of the world?
Only you can decide who you serve. Only you can determine what you believe and in whom or in what you have faith.
We are all like the fish in the sea … like the 153 large fish pulled ashore by the disciples, in the unbroken net. We have all grown fat from living in this earthly world a long, long time. Thus we all have scales, like the ones that fell from Saul’s eyes when he gained an ability to see the truth for the first time.
In John’s other dream, found in the reading from The Revelation, we are included in that number, written as 153. That number represents the final completion of a spiritual quest (as a 9, or 3 X 3). Therefore, we each are one of “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea,” such that we are called upon to sing praises.
SING! “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
SING! “You have turned my wailing into dancing; you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy. Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing; Oh Lord my God, I will give you thanks for ever.”
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