On 153 fish and the nakedness of Peter

I love the story of the bbq on the beach where after His resurrection Jesus goes out to meet some of the apostles as they are fishing. They have returned to the old life, it seems, taken up their nets again. But as dawn comes they haven’t had much luck. Jesus tells them to try again and they do making a huge catch.

The things we are always told to not about this bit is the number of fish; 153 and the fact that the net didn’t break.

I think most of us have heard how 153 fish was to represent the nations of the world and the net, that doesn’t break is the Church. Father, this morning, gently reminded us that no matter how difficult it might seem sometimes, hauling in those smelly fish, that the net hasn’t broken and it never will.

But while we were listening to this I was looking up at the rood where Christ is crucified with Mary our Mother and St John on either side.

Peter, we are told in the Gospel was naked. He had to grab something to cover himself with before he could go before the Lord.

Jesus should have been naked on the cross-it was part of the humiliation the Roman’s liked to inflict at crucifixion. But we always see Him with a loin cloth of some sort. There are traditions, handed down from private revelation that Christ was indeed covered in this way, by the veil of His mother.

In some ways Christ being naked has a better symbolism. He is the Second Adam, and had Adam stood up to Satan in the Garden, then chances are he would have been pinned to the Tree of Life by the dragon’s claws-naked in his innocence. But he didn’t and ended up having to wear clothes.

Peter,  is given the role of Prime Minister; Pope-Father to the flock, a sort of stand-in Adam who will be the human father figure to the people Fathered by God. So he too is naked. But he has sinned and cannot come before Christ unless he is robed-and therefore covers himself, his guilty self to face his Lord.

They eat together- sharing food is always about love and hospitality.

Then Jesus and Peter have that really difficult conversation that is all about Peter betraying Him three times.

Jesus does not use the New Name, He goes back to the old one and asks

“Simon, do you love me?” OUCH!

There is some play in John’s Gospel written in Greek with the words Philios the word for close brotherly love and agape the word for a love that pours itself out for the other.

We can be fairly sure that the actual exchange took place in Aramaic, but John uses the Greek words to emphasise the guilt Peter had, and then finally with the third question of “Do you love me (agape)?” Peter pours out his guilt and sorrow and is forgiven, healed and gets his nameand job back. He is also given a good hint of the martyrdom he will face.

The exchange is very uncomfortable to us, readers or listeners, because the question is aimed at us too.  “He who loves Me will keep my commandments,” says Jesus (Jn 14:15). So we better do that, because we don’t want to be asked “Do you love(agape) Me?” and have to say, “Well, not really…”


4 responses to “On 153 fish and the nakedness of Peter

  1. Yes. Ouch. This is why I am grateful to have already experienced Divine Mercy Sunday, to prepare me for this question and remind me of His great Mercy!

  2. Superb reflection.

    Believe it or not, i never heard the 153 fish = nations of the world equation before. Aren’t there more nations than 153 though?

    It must have some significance, everything does in scripture.

  3. Divine Mercy is my anchor!

    Deb, I think the number 153 is symbolic-with some kind of kabbalah configuration meaning all the nations of the world. Some scholars believe St John had studied Kabbalah (the genuine thing not Madonna’s version) and so there are lots of heavily symbolic numbers in his writing.
    He is the one that makes the Day of Resurrection-the Lord’s Day- the Eighth Day as well as the First for example.

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