May 3, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 24:36-43 (NRSV)
While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.
The account of Jesus’s resurrection is not a ghost story because Jesus was a human being with a body, not a ghost. The account of Jesus’s resurrection is not a fish tale because it’s true, not an exaggeration or fabrication. When we’re struggling to believe God or to discern God’s guidance, God often gives us hints or signs, evidence of God’s presence, love, and wisdom. Sometimes God can speak to us even through a fish!
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
Yesterday’s devotion based on Luke 24:36-43 was called “Not a Ghost Story.” My main point was that Jesus had really been raised from the dead, that he had a body able to eat food. Additionally, Jesus was kind to his disciples by giving them evidence of his resurrected reality.
Today’s devotion is called “Not a Fish Tale.” I expect you know that a fish tale is a whopper of a story, one that isn’t actually true. People who fish are apparently famous for exaggerating their catches. From this we get the pejorative phrase, “fish tale.”
The resurrection of Jesus was not a fish tale. Jesus had truly been raised from the dead. He had a physical body, though his body was not limited by the usual natural laws. Jesus could be touched. He could eat food.
When Jesus first revealed himself to his disciples after the resurrection, they were shocked, even terrified. But Jesus was kind to them, giving evidence that he was real and not just some ghost.
Though you and I will probably never have a physical encounter with Jesus (at least not in this age) – we do receive from him – evidence of his existence, bits of encouragement so that our faith may be strong. Yes, there are times when the Lord is oddly silent, times when our faith journey travels through a dry desert. But there are other times when God makes known to us his goodness and grace.
One of those times in my life happened a number of years ago. My family and I were living in Irvine, California, where I was pastoring a church. We were well-settled in the community and had no intentions of moving. But when Laity Lodge in Texas reached out to me, my wife, Linda, and I began to wonder if God was calling us to leave our good life and move to Texas.
For me, the scariest thing about moving was what might happen with my kids. They had great friends, great schools, and a great church group in Irvine. What would happen if we left all of this? Would they be okay? Would they be angry and blame God? How could I move my kids when their lives were so blessed?
Linda and I decided that if we were going to move, it was crucial that our kids sense God’s presence and guidance. They needed to know God was in this for them. Frankly, that seemed like a tall order. How would our 13- and 11-year-old children be able to hear from the Lord? How would they have confidence that Jesus was with them for real? It wasn’t exactly as if Jesus would come over and eat some fish to prove himself to them.
Yet, in a strange way, God did use a fish to speak to our family. It happened in the summer when we were trying to decide about our move to Texas. My son and daughter went to camp in the Sierra mountains of California. They carried with them their deep worries about our potential move. Were they going to lose all of their friends in this season of life?
Part of the camp experience involved a backpacking trip in the High Sierra. Our daughter Kara got up early one morning to pray by a secluded alpine lake. She was talking to God about her hesitations and fears related to our potential move. All of a sudden a fish jumped out of the water right in front of Kara. It was only a few feet away. In that moment God spoke to her through the fish, not with words, but in her heart. Kara realized that the fish jumped out of the water for nutrition. Leaving the security of the lake was good for the fish. So, Kara reasoned, if she were to jump out of the water of her familiar life, perhaps it would be good for her too. Maybe she would grow in ways she could not if we stayed in Irvine. Plus, since the fish survived the jump, Kara somehow knew that God would help her survive if we moved to Texas.
When Kara got home from camp, she was excited to share with Linda and me what happened alongside that mountain lake. God had given her a whole new way to think and feel about the possibility of our move. While the fish meant so much to Kara, it did to me as well. Since my greatest fear about moving was that it would be terribly hard on our kids, the fact that God had reassured Kara so dramatically calmed my heart. (Meanwhile, Nathan had his own Texas-related “God-moment” at camp. I’ll save that story for another time.)
Okay, so what I just told you is a sort of fish tale. I admit it. But what I’ve written is not exaggerated. I promise. That’s exactly what happened. If you and I were able to sit down and talk, I expect we’d both be able to share other stories like that of Kara and the fish. As I think back on my life, I remember many times when God knew that I needed extra help. I needed something like Jesus eating broiled fish or Kara seeing a fish jump out of a mountain lake. I’m grateful for how God has been so gracious to me, holding onto me even when I was inclined to wander away.
No matter where you are in your faith journey right now, let me encourage you to be aware of God’s presence in your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. Keep the eyes of your heart open. See how God helps you, guides you, surprises you, and reassures you. God’s love for you is not a fish tale.
P.S. In case you’re wondering, we did move to Texas. And the next couple of years were pretty tough for Kara. As our family processed together all she was feeling, we’d often say ironically, “Stupid fish!” When Kara was lonely: “Stupid fish!” When the kids at school made fun of her: “Stupid fish!” But, in time, Kara found a real home in Boerne, Texas. Now that she’s in her 20s, she has told me several times our move to Texas did great things in her life. She’s glad we did it. Maybe that fish wasn’t so stupid after all.
Have you ever experienced anything like Kara did at the lake? If so, when? What happened? How did you respond?
How has God guided you in the past?
How has God helped you to have strong faith?
Do you need God’s guidance or help right now?
Talk with a good friend or with your small group about times when God has touched you in a special way, to encourage you in your faith or to guide you in your life.
Gracious God, thank you for all the ways you reach out to us. Thank you for all the ways you communicate with us. Thank you for caring about us in such an amazing way.
I’m sure there are many times, Lord, when I miss what you’re saying to me. I can be dense, rushed, self-absorbed, and inattentive. I can doubt that you’re on my side, or even that you’re there. So help me, I pray, to be open and attentive and wise. Help me to see where you are present in my life and to hear what you are saying to me. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Humbly Grateful, or Grumbly Hateful?
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.