Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught."
Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
It was. . . interesting.
I did it last December, so it wasn’t completely strange. I went to work quickly. I rotated the two foot by four foot canvas to the horizontal. The idea of doing the ascension didn’t feel right. The message was on: John 21:7-14.
The disciples go fishing. Jesus has died, they are discouraged, they go fishing.
I painted the Sea of Galilee, Jesus on the shore, tending a fire, cooking fish, fixing breakfast.
The service was a big deal. A lot of people in the worship team, a choir, extra instruments, including horns; I think I heard a violin. The message was divided into three parts. We would sing, worship, and pause while our pastor spoke. Then back to worship. The lighting changed every few minutes, from darkened mood lighting, to a pool of light around our pastor, to full light. Each time the lighting changed the colors on the canvas shifted.
I kept my heart prayerful as I struggled with the paint, trying to push them into a painting that would please people, provide an illustration to the message.
153 fish in the straining net. 153. Odd number. I painted the number into the sea.
Hills, sky, water, beach, rocks. The lights kept shifting, I kept adapting.
The service ended, I said a few words into a microphone someone handed me, explained the image.
The lights came up. The hills were too bright. A patch of sky hadn’t blended correctly. I went into the kitchen, cleaned my brushes, washed the palette. The lights dimmed, I stepped back onto the platform beside those talented musicians. I squirted fresh blobs of paint onto the palette... the worship began again.
I pushed the paint where it should go, perhaps gripping the brush too hard. For several minutes I struggled to get the paint on in ways that would layout a balanced image, moving the eye from sea to sky to rocks to Him. Concentrating on composition, trying to balance colors in the shifting light. I gripped the brush, gripped the tubes of paint, even squirting paint directly onto the canvas (never did that before).
And my hand cramped. The ring finger on my right hand twisted inward, imbedded itself in my palm. I pulled it open with my left. The other fingers of my right hand cramped also. The cramp spread to my wrist. My right hand became useless. For perhaps two minutes I could barely open my fingers. I forced the fingers open with my other hand. I squeezed them, massaged them, and rubbed my hand, conscious people were watching, probably wondering why I was wringing my hands.
And it all shifted. In my mind, in my heart, I began to truly worship. I felt the cross hanging from my neck pressing coolly against skin. It hit me, really hit me. This scene, one of the last actions of our Lord on Earth, around a fire with some friends, some followers.
I relaxed. My hand relaxed.
I started darkening the skies and redoing the hills, dimming the image, darkening it down so the focus would be on Him. I scattered stars throughout the darkness, letting them stretch across the sky, creeping into the reality of this world.
I took a brush and sketched Him in, kneeling beside a fire, cooking breakfast for His followers, for His friends.
I knew it had really happened. Our Lord, the Living Word, had become flesh and sacrificed Himself, had knelt in the sand and cooked breakfast.
No choir of angels. No trumpets, just the sound of waves on the beach. Jesus kneeling, serving.
I knelt. I looked up at the painting. My heart swelled.
If I had been there on that beach He would have handed me a cooked fish skewered on a stick, passed me a piece of bread, smiled at me as I ate my breakfast. He would have smiled at me. At me!
My master. My Lord. He loves me so much. In big ways and in small. He created me, He died for me, He feeds me. Wherever I am. He feeds me in my own home, at my woirk. If I had been there, wading in from a fishing boat, He would look at me, feed me. Even today, He cares for me, in a deep, loving, way.
I looked up at the painting and it was no longer important if I finished a beautiful painting for the pleasure of those in the congregation. It no longer mattered if the colors worked in the changing light. None of it mattered except what was in my heart. My eyes misted over, I felt... I’m not sure I can share exactly what I felt...
I love Him.
He had died and given everything for us, for me. And before He left, before He moved from this world to the full glory of Heaven, He paused, fixed something for some cold and tired fishermen to eat.
I am eager to finish this painting. Perhaps it has just begun. Perhaps all the surface will get covered over with fresh layers of paint laid down under a constant, steady light. But it will always hold this prayer of mine within it.
Thank you Lord.