The atmosphere was heavy with heat and excitement as the disciples were on two boats, helping the local fishermen to pull in their nets. It was Abba Ah Beng’s new spiritual formation project to get his disciples involved with the local communities in the villages surrounding Sow-Lin Monastery. Whether the local communities wanted to be ‘involved with’ is another matter. It was late afternoon and the reflection of sunlight on the surface of the sea was dazzling.
“Watch it!” shouted disciple Ah Lek as he avoided the elbow of disciple Ah Kow which was on a collision course with his nose. “Ouch!” yelled exchange disciple Iskandar from the Middle East as the netting rope burned his fingers. This is the first time disciple Iskander was on a boat. The land he came from was mostly desert. “There must be a lot of fish in the net. It is so heavy,” panted another exchange disciple Muthu who was more skilled in fishing as he slowly pulled the net into boat. “Jiayou! Jiayou!” cheered disciple Ah Lian from the shade of the cabin as she urged her fellow disciples to work harder. “Careful, the floor is wet and slippery,” warned disciple Ah Lek as he turned, slipped and fell overboard. “Monk overboard!” shrieked disciple Ah Lian in her high-pitched voice. There was a commotion as the disciples rushed to the aid of their fallen comrade which nearly overturned the boat and ended with disciple Ah Lek entangled in the net along with the fish.
It was a while before the local fishermen were able to rescue disciple Ah Lek and brought the fishing boats with their catch to the shore. “So many fish! So many fish!” chanted the happy fishermen. Abba Ah Beng beamed and said, “God is good and has blessed us with a bountiful harvest.” “How many fish are here, I wonder?” mused disciple Ah Lek who did not seem worse for wear despite his dip in the ocean except for a distinctive fishy pong that seem to surround him. His fellow disciples were trying to hold their breath and turning blue, or breathing into small linen that were dabbed with fragrant medicated oil. “153!” exclaimed disciple Ah Lian triumphantly. “What?” shouted all the disciples and Abba Ah Beng simultaneously. “How do you know the exact number of fish caught?” asked Abba Ah Beng after they have all recovered from their initial surprise.
“Gospel of John, chapter 21,” replied disciple Ah Lian with a smug smile on her face, “read it in my Quiet Time this morning.” “Ooo…,” said the disciples as their contorted expressions reveal their inner struggle to remember the chapter.
“Ah, now I remember,” said disciple Ah Kow. “It is about the time when the disciples went fishing after Jesus died. They caught nothing until the resurrected Jesus came along and told them to throw the net to the right side of the boat. They obeyed and they caught…caught…153 fish.” “Clever!” “Actsy!” “Show off!” were some of the comments from his fellow disciples.
“Very good, Ah Kow,” said Abba Ah Beng with a gleam in his eye. “Now, tell me why the number of fish caught is exactly 153?” Suddenly the disciples were looking everywhere except at Abba Ah Beng as they tried to avoid eye contact with their teacher. “Remember that they were not catching any fish and were about to give up until Jesus came along and they obeyed him,” continued Abba Ah Beng.
“Remember, my disciple,” said Abba Ah Beng switching to his teaching mode and even the sound of his voice became modulated, “that success and bountiful harvest come from obedience to the commands of Christ.
“God loves all of us and wants us to love Him. He wants to bring more people into His church. The number 153 is his code for His intention to grow the church,” said Abba Ah Beng.
“Hmm?” grunted disciple Ah Lek as he suddenly realized that he was sitting alone and his fellow disciples were keeping a discrete distance and were standing upwind from him.
“In the book of Genesis, God opened Rachel’s barren womb and she gave birth. Rachel named her newborn Joseph (Gen. 30:24). Joseph means ‘May the Lord add to me another son’ showing her desire for another son. As you know, Rachel and Leah were in a reproductive competition to see who will give birth to more sons. When Joseph came of age at 17 years old and was kidnapped (Gen. 37:2), he became symbolic of God’s ‘increase another son’ who was Benjamin.
“God uses the same symbolism to show that he will ‘increase another son’ to Jesus’ disciples after the resurrection. The other ‘son’ will be the Gentile nations who will come to follow Jesus through the actions of Jesus’ disciples in obeying His Word and spreading the Gospel. If you add 1+2+3+4+5+ all the way to 17, you get?”
“153!” shouted Ah Kow who was very adept at working with an abacus. “Exactly! In letting Jesus’ disciples catching exactly 153 large fish, God was revealing to them that a new ‘son’ will soon be joining them. All He required of them is their obedience.” Abba Ah Beng stopped as the mouth watering aroma of freshly BBQ fish replaced the fishy smell of disciple Ah Lek. “Remember, it is in obedience to Christ that the disciples were successful in catching fish. Now, let’s eat!” said Abba Ah Beng to the cheers of his disciples.
1. The key to success and abundant harvest in John 21 is obedience to the commands of Jesus Christ. Why do you think to be obedience to the commands of Jesus Christ is so important?
2. God has left many clues in the Bible of His intention to save all people, not just the Jews. What are some of the examples of these clues that you can think of?
3. Being obedient means sharing the Gospel. What are some of the ways you can think of to share the Gospel with your friends, neighbors or colleagues at work?
Thank you for your love for all the people. It is wonderful that you have hidden the clues to your redemption plan in the Bible showing us that it is your purpose all along to save all people. Help us to read the Bible carefully so that we can understand your master plan. Equip us too so that we can become agents of yours and serve you in this plan of redemption.
Thanks to Dr Tony Siew for his post on 153.
Labels: Abba Ah Beng Stories, Acrostic Bible, Mission, Missional