This amazing fish tale in John’s Gospel is about the fishermen, not the fish.
The communal context for telling this story over and over for 2000 years is the ongoing difficulty Jesus’ followers have believing in our influence. The world is huge. It has deeply entrenched values which do not include loving one’s enemy, caring for the needy as much as for oneself, refusing to do violence to others no matter how great the good at stake. We find it difficult to be so confident of Jesus’ just and loving world that we will expend every effort and take every risk to accomplish it.
Sometimes the amazing fish catch is said to mean that God will help Christians convince everyone to believe things about Jesus. Believing things about Jesus makes little difference. Only acting like Jesus makes a difference. We are called to move people to act like Jesus. That won’t result from our making powerful arguments for Christian doctrines. It will result from our living like Jesus and by our actions making God’s loving justice real in others’ lives.
But the challenge of convincing our world to live like Jesus isn’t the only prospect that overwhelms us at times. It is just as difficult to believe that we can live as Jesus lived. That’s the context of Jesus’ reassurance to the disciples. Jesus commented that it’s more difficult for a camel to pass through a needles eye than someone rich to be part of God’s Reign. Nonetheless, he continued, “What is impossible for people God can make happen.”
It’s crucial that we never doubt, let alone give up on our ability to live the way of Jesus. No matter how often we fail, we admit our failings and begin again. That’s part of being Christian. Jesus was confident that we could bring his love and justice to our world. We can.