From Despair to Joy

(based on John 21)


Two and a half weeks ago, their Master died. He suffered a violent death, a shameful death on the cross in Jerusalem. For the next two days, they lost all hope. They all hid and were scared of appearing in public places.


On the third day, everything turned around. A few women first met their resurrected Master. That evening, their Master appeared again. They were encouraged; they felt new strength. Their hope was revived. Their Master told them that they would be sent out to do His work.


A week after that, the Master again suddenly appeared. But again he left them. Soon after that, they travelled back to their home region, Galilee.


They were hoping to have their Master lead them again like in the past. They had exciting conversations but gradually their jubilation turned to sadness. They realized that the Master would soon leave them for good.


It was evening. Peter, James, John and four other disciples were sitting around a fire on the sand by the Sea of Galilee. The sun was setting behind the hills in the west. The sea to the east of them had already turned dark. Soon, the sun gave out its last beam of light. The western sky still showed colours of red and orange but the land had descended into darkness. The deepening darkness appeared to foretell their future: unknown darkness.


Slowly, the full moon emerged from the dark waters of the sea. A lonely bright star followed closely behind. John stared at the moon for a long while without blinking and he seemed to see the moon turning into a face mocking at him, mocking the meaninglessness of their lives. They talked about what they could do from now on. Some said they would return to their former career. Since they were mostly fishermen, they talked about buying new nets. But they had no real plans. They had no meaningful work to do. They had no more Master to follow. They are lost! The usually impulsive Peter, their leader, never joined their discussion. He was in deep thoughts. This was unlike him because he always had ideas. The others gradually noticed his silence. Slowly, one after another stopped talking. They sat quietly for a long time.


The deep silence intensifies their despair and their hearts were melancholy. Now, with the fire dying out, they could barely see the others¡¦ faces. Each one was trying to start the conversation but nothing came to mind. At last, Peter lost his patience. He felt that he had to do something or else he would turn insane. He said quietly, ¡§I am going out to fish.¡¨ Without waiting for any response, he stood up and moved quietly towards the boat anchoring nearby. Seeing that there was nothing better to do, the others hurried up and called after Peter, ¡§We will go with you.¡¨ Fishing was their livelihood and now they were just returning to their former job.


They got onto the boat and rowed out to deeper waters. The night was the habitual time of fishing. Although they had not fish for more than three years, they could still remember where the rich fishing grounds were. They arrived at the spot where in the past they almost always got a large catch. The big net was dropped and they waited. But there was no motion in the water. The sea appeared totally dead. After a long while, they pulled the net up and to their surprise, they caught nothing, not even one small fish. This never happened before. This was unnatural. They looked at each other wondering what they should do next. Peter looked at the empty net, deep in thought again and without a word. With no guidance from their leader, James, John¡¦s brother, took charge, ¡§Let¡¦s move to the other spot over there. We surely would get some fish.¡¨ They agreed and started to row.


At their destination, they dropped their net again. Again, there was no sound and no motion. They waited. They pulled up the net. It was again empty. This time, they were really puzzled. Were all the fish gone from the sea? No, they remembered seeing fresh fish just yesterday. Maybe they did forget how to fish. Maybe they did not remember the location of the fishing grounds correctly. Maybe¡K. James was getting impatient, actually more like angry. He shouted to the others, ¡§Let¡¦s move to the next spot!¡¨


For the next eight hours, they tried again and again. They lost count on how many times they tried. But they got absolutely nothing, not even one fish. Gradually, their anger turned to despair and despair turned to sorrow. They could not even fish. Their future career was in doubt.


The eastern sky across the sea slowly turned grey. It was almost morning. The cool morning breeze from the west blew stronger. It felt fresh. Red clouds began to appear and it was getting brighter by the minute. They were extremely tired and hungry. They lost all hope of catching anything. They sat in the boat staring at each other. The currents had pushed their boat back to about 100 metres from land.


The coast seemed desolate. Suddenly, they heard a deep warm voice from the shore, ¡§Children, haven¡¦t you caught any fish?¡¨ Out of the greyish background came a man in white waving to them. At once, a few of them responded together in a tired and sad ¡§No!¡¨ ¡§Throw your net to the right side of the boat and you will find some,¡¨ the authoritative voice came again. They were amazed with his suggestion¡K. Of course they had already dropped the net both to the left and to the right. They did not get anything all night. How would they get anything this time? But they had no other choice and they were too tired and too hungry to argue. They simply obeyed. Once the net was in the water, the sea suddenly appeared full of action. Where there were nothing before, now there were countless fish. There must be at least one hundred fish in their net and all of them big! Even all seven of them were not able to pull the heavy net up. This miraculous event suddenly hit John. He stared at Peter and quietly said, ¡§It¡¦s the Lord!¡¨


Peter¡¦s eyes suddenly opened wide with excitement. Immediately, he wrapped his coat around his waist, jumped into the sea, and swam toward land. The others now realized what had happened and they quickly rowed the boat toward shore, dragging the net with it.


At shore, they found that the stranger in white had started a fire cooking breakfast for them. The stranger looked like their Master yet somewhat different but they could not say what the difference was. In their hearts, they all knew it was their risen Master. The Master had come to save them from despair. He had come not only to provide for their physical need but also for the mental and spiritual need. They sat down together sharing the food that their Master had prepared. They were overjoyed. On each of their faces was a calm but confident smile. They did not say much but simply enjoyed this sweet hour with their Master. Peter, no longer look melancholy, was still quiet but his tightened brows were gone. Peace and joy were brimming in the cool morning air while the sun crept from below the horizon and shed its warm rays on these contented faces.


Kwing Hung

November 2003