What I Learned From Fish
I first saw the Big Mouth Billy Bass in the obscure novelty shop, I knew I had to have one. This talking/singing fish trophy” would be perfect for our woodsy home. Only the $30 price prohibited Big Mouth from coming home with us that day. Nevertheless, months and millions of fish-alikes later, our Big Mouth Billy made his debut in our home, thanks to a $5 clearance sale.
As I pondered my fish the other day, I began to think about the significance of fish as God’s messengers in the Bible. And, whether we’re fond of fish or not, they played a significant role in making important theological points. I’ve tried to organize those points on the opposite page. But one point is difficult to contain in a chart.
When Jesus first called Peter and Andrew, they were casting their nets in the water. Jesus invited them to stop everything to follow Him. Abandoning their occupation represented the disciples’ willingness to surrender all to serve Christ. Yet Jesus had given them good reason to leave it all behind. He expressed it in a way they could understand, telling them He would make them “fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:18-20)
Many of the apostles were originally fishermen, and understood the intricacies of the profession. Some scholars believe that John sold fish to the high priest’s household. This may be why he had easy access on the night of Jesus’ trials.
When Jesus gave the disciples the greatest assignment of their lives, He clothed it in language and images they would understand and appreciate. They were to cease putting their efforts into gathering fish from the waters of the Sea of Galilee. The fish they were to seek would be the lost people of the world. First, these fish would be the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
In John 21, we read how the resurrected Christ appeared to Peter and a few of the other disciples as they were fishing on the Sea of Galilee. Upon inquiring of them and learning of their unsuccessful fishing attempts, Jesus told them to cast their nets in a specific location. Their obedience netted an overwhelming catch and helped them recognize Jesus for who He was.
The art of fishing still applies to us as Jesus’ followers today. Fish represent the lost. Fishing for people is more important than anything else we might do.
My Big Mouth Billy Bass looks nice on the wall. It’s great for entertaining visitors and guests. Beyond that, it is a useless piece of plastic and metal energized by batteries.
On the other hand, all believers are fishermen, casting our nets into a vast world spinning in a sea of apparent rushing, suicidal insanity. Every fish we catch means a soul saved for eternity.
|Text||Who Eats What||What It Means to Us||How it Relates to Other Passages|
|Jonah 1:17||Fish eats Jonah||No matter where you go, you can’t run from God if He’s called you to a task! God can and will create the means necessary to make His point.
And God’s desire for people to be saved is so strong that He will go to any lengths to get His message to them. If you feel that God is putting you in a “Jonah” situation, just remember that God can use you to bring salvation to others. Ultimately, He will raise you up from whatever trials you endure for His sake.
|In Matthew 12:38-40, Jesus referred to Jonah’s entrapment in the belly of the great fish as a type of His own burial and resurrection, and a sign to the disbelieving religious leaders of the day.
Jonah’s ordeal in the fish’s belly must have altered him considerably and given him amazing credibility. Those who heard the message were listening to a man who seemed to have come back from certain death. Even more dramatically, Jesus arose from the dead to offer salvation to those who would believe.
|Matthew 17:24-27||Fish eats a coin Jesus will use to pay the Temple tax||The passage makes it clear that Jesus was exempt from paying the Temple tax since He was the Son of God. Yet for the sake of others, He did not insist upon His right. Not only is this a lesson in humility, as Jesus was willing to pay the tax, but it also shows that God can and will provide what we need to get along in the world. In some cases, it may be that God asks us to do something we are good at (Peter knew how to fish), but brings forth something extraordinary and obviously God-given from our efforts.||Paul echoes Jesus’ attitude in 1 Corinthians 10:23: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.” The Bible teaches that it is important to avoid offending others unnecessarily.|
|Multitudes eat bread and fish which Jesus miraculously provided from a small amount of each.||Even after Jesus miraculously fed the crowd, the disciples were still clueless when He wanted to feed them the second time. They were right concerning their own inability to handle the situation, but they were wrong in failing to recognize that Jesus cared about the crowds and was able to provide for them. We need to be available as vessels whom God will use to feed His sheep, in terms of physical as well as spiritual hunger.||In John 21:17, we see once again Jesus’ compassion for those who are hungry, and how He wants His followers to meet their needs: “He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me? ‘ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me? ‘ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You. ‘ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep. ‘”|
|Luke 24:36-43||The resurrected Jesus eats fish||The disciples had many reasons to be fearful after Jesus’ death. He was their teacher and their master; what were they to do without Him? And what would happen to them as His followers? When He appeared to them, they were even more afraid—as most of us would be if we saw someone we knew had died walking toward us. By eating the fish, Jesus showed that he was truly alive. That fish was proof of His resurrection. And while we don’t understand exactly how resurrection works, we know that our resurrected bodies will not be altogether unfamiliar to us. Jesus demonstrated that with something as simple as eating fish.||1 Corinthians 15:52 promises that the same thing that happened to Jesus after three days in the grave will ultimately happen to us: “…in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”|