I was asked today why John 21.11 notes there were 153 large fish caught by Jesus’ disciples in this resurrection appearance. Here is my brief answer:
St. Augustine (in his Commentary on Psalm 50) notes that the number 153 refers to completeness of the Law and Spirit: the law being 10 and the Spirit seven(fold) with their sum being 17. If one takes the sum of the numbers 1 through 17 one gets 153. Case closed. 😉
I still contend it was the memory of a fisherman who notes the actualities of this miracle where there were 153 large fish and the net did not break (as it would be prone to do). A bountiful provision well beyond imagination. And Jesus didn’t need any of it to begin cooking them a fish breakfast, though he invites them to bring him some of their catch as well.
While any number of speculations have been offered for the meaning of the number 153 (imagination can be an incredible thing), the text is simply silent about it’s intent. The miracle returns to the super-abounding grace of God given through Christ Jesus as had happened at the wedding at Cana in chapter 2.1-12.
The goodness of God in Christ is more than sufficient to provide more than one could ever imagine or think to need. This drives the faith demanded by this gospel account (20.31): trust in this one as God’s own self-giving who would send the Spirit in super-abundance that He might remain with and in those who were His as a continuing witness to, in, for, and against the world.
It was my birthday this last week and one of my sisters, Holly (may her name be blessed forever for buying me books for my birthday 😉 ), purchased a book for me which was on my Amazon wishlist (apparently she didn’t want to buy the other nearly 200 volumes on said list…). She called to tell me as much, but did not mention just which book it was. I was elated this afternoon to open the mail and discover she had purchased Sam Storms Convergence: Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist (Kansas City, MO: Enjoying God Ministries, 2005).
Now some of you are already thinking, “You can’t be BOTH a Charismatic and a Calvinist…aren’t those an oxymoron like jumbo shrimp, found missing, or pretty ugly?” Sam Storms recognizes this tension (even proposed contradiction) and addresses it in his forward. He writes about those in each “camp” who cannot fathom their being any mixing of the two:
“Many of my friends and colleagues over the years have questioned my wisdom, if not my sanity, in seeking to live and minister in both worlds. Some of those from “Orlando” [representing Calvinists] have insisted, often zealously, that people who speak in tongues rarely engage in serious theological reflection. They’ve tried to convince me that people who pray expectantly for miraculous healings are inclined to minimize the importance of Greek exegesis. Quite a few have suggested that my being a Calvinist is inconsistent with belief in the spiritual gift of prophecy.
Those from “Anaheim” [representing the Charismatics] have also voiced their concerns. Some fear that my unflinching affirmation of the sovereignty of God will either kill my evangelistic zeal or undermine any sense of urgency in prayer, or perhaps both. They are often suspicious of my emphasis on the mind and the critical importance of history and tradition. Although few have said it openly, I can sense their uneasiness with my persistent and meticulous habit of subjecting all claims of supernatural phenomena to the test of Scripture. Beneath it is the worry that excessive devotion to biblical precision will either breed dogmatic arrogance or quench the Spirit or, again, both.
I didn’t buy into such false dichotomies then, and I don’t buy into them now. (pp.7-8)
While I am neither a self-confessed “Charismatic” or “Calvinist,”* I do find great strength in the contributions of these (professedly) divergent streams of the Faith. I’ve been looking forward to reading this volume for some time now and I personally believe it can only strengthen the church to be more “catholic” (with a little ‘c’) in its self-understanding and embrace of the wider potential for enriching ourselves and our communities of faith.
What are your thoughts? If you are Calvinistic, is their room for being Charismatic? If you are Charismatic, is there room for being Calvinistic?
* While I do not profess to being a “Charismatic Calvinist” I do profess to being “Reformed and Pentecostal” (the distinctions are not unimportant to my thinking).