BOWEN COLUMN: Back to old nets

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, January 24, 2023

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Don’t you think it is not only appropriate but even a little amazing that John takes us to the Sea of Galilee for his final chapter?

 Tremendous events have transpired around the Sea of Galilee these three powerful years, so it is fitting that John’s final observations in the life of his Lord be set in that old familiar place. The Lord has made two earlier appearances to this group since his resurrection, but for some days now he has not appeared to them. The disciples need to get away and do something — keeping those hands and minds busy, which is a good thing — so, all the men following Peter’s lead, they go back to Galilee to go fishing.

John picks up his narrative there, in the early-morning hours on the shore of that old familiar place.

They return to the trade of an earlier period of their lives, to their old nets, and it is a reminder of the importance of some of these nostalgic journeys, especially at a life-crossroad. There is something healthy and refreshing in that. Something about such a journey helps us draw closer to God and reminds us how big our God is and how big he has been in our lives. Looking back and going back can do that for us. One thing I know, such journeys help us take a closer look at ourselves, and we have to do that before we can take that deeper, more profound look at our God.

As I reflected on this great scene, I thought about the well-documented  journey we took back in the summer. It was our second journey to the backcountry of Yellowstone to the same landmarks to which we journeyed a year before in the summer of 2021. 

Of all the spots that we traveled deep into that wilderness in our July 2022 trip, one of the ones that made the most impact is a special spot by the churning waters of Snake River. 

The Snake River was my Sea of Galilee, I suppose. It was the scene a year before where Todd Perrin and I camped that Wednesday night, the fourth night of our trip. 

It was the first time since the first Sunday night we had slept in a campsite and not out in open grizzly country.

Having found that campsite by the river that summer afternoon after wandering in the wilderness for more than two days was an experience that grabbed ahold of you and still won’t exactly let loose. 

I might compare it to when Peter and Andrewm — two of our disciples in the boat in John’s final chapter — meet Jesus out on the Sea of Galilee and lay down their nets and follow Him for the rest of their lives. It is hard to compare to that, I know, but in its own way, ours was a ‘meeting Jesus’ experience, too. It was a deep realization of the Lord’s bountiful presence out in the remote wilderness away from anybody, just my friend Todd and the Lord around. And no doubt angels, too.

What a journey back, going to that site where the epiphany of God’s presence seemed to be as real as I have ever known it. I walked down to that river just as before, a couple of hundred feet down from the campsite, and talked with the Lord, remembering the blessed communion from before.

I remembered leaving Todd that early morning up at the campsite doing some of the chores you do to prepare for that day’s grueling journey. I had water bottles to refill and a chore or two of my own; but that morning we did more than fill those water bottles. We could not help but fill our mind with God’s glory — with “rivers of living water,” as the Lord once said — as we looked out over rolling waters and tried to sing out feebly the words of ‘How Great Thou Art’ so quietly that only the Lord  — and perhaps unseen animals out in the early dawn — could hear. We went back, just as Peter, Thomas, and Andrew, John and James, Nathanael and an unnamed disciple do on this night at Galilee’s waters. I note again, even now, that, in their going back, Jesus would come to them at dawn.

I am very sure that on the Snake River that summer morning in 2021 Jesus stood on the shore with us at the morning’s dawning, too.