Easter Fish

We are in the season after Easter so when asked, I insisted that the “Word for the Day” had to come from one of the Easter stories.

“Read the one about the guys going to Emmaus.”

So, I did. The whole story, from the two disciples meeting Jesus along the way to Emmaus, to his explaining the scriptures to them, to his staying with them and them recognizing him in the breaking of the bread.

“They should’ve mentioned the wine, not just the bread. You can’t eat that bread without some wine.”

“Some people say it was grape juice, not wine.”

“Why? Jesus made water into wine. He liked wine.”

“Either way, you need something to wash that bread down.”

“Didn’t Jesus feed his disciples fish after he rose from the dead?”

“That’s another story. It’s a different one.”

“Hey, what’s that fish sign Christians used?”

I never know when the focus of the discussion is going to change slightly. I wanted to get my answer right, so I used my phone to look up the fish symbol. The Greek word for “fish” is “ichthus.” Ichthus is an acrostic for Iesous, Christos, Theou Yious, Soter, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.” The first letter of each of those words in Greek creates the Greek word “Ichthus.”

“Why did they use that sign?”

A little more research, “Well it turns out that it was a kind of secret symbol among Christians who faced occasional persecution from the Romans. The fish sign could mark meeting places without arousing suspicion.”

“You mean like a sign to indicate a Christian cat hole?” A cat hole is a secret place a person on the streets creates in which he or she might sleep safely and protect one’s scant possessions. Sometimes a cat hole is under a bridge or in an abandoned building or behind a thicket of bushes. The goal is to have a place others cannot easily see or find. The goal is to have a place the police cannot find, to avoid persecution.

“Yup, to mark a Christian cat hole. “

“Did you know that hobos in the old days had ways of marking safe places? We’ve got one of those on our H.O.P.E. shirts.” H.O.P.E. stands for “Homeless Organizing for Power and Equality. It is a local advocacy group made up of people currently or formerly on the streets.

“I’ve heard that but what were some of the signs?”

More research revealed some of the common signs marking safe places and also ways to give warnings. I shared that my Grandma Weis used to feed hobos out the back of her house. The house was near some railroad tracks. My Mom told me this story a few years ago when we were first starting Manna House. I would guess that there was a mark on the house or nearby that directed hobos to my Grandma’s house.

“Hey, those hobos were on a journey, like the disciples going to Emmaus.”

“But where do you see Jesus around here?”

J.C. happened to walk out the door. I frequently call him “Jesus Christ.” There was a lot of laughter when I said, “Well, there he goes right now!”

I talked with J.C. once and asked him if he minded me calling him, “Jesus Christ.”

“Nope. It’s a good name and I get your point. Jesus is in those of us who come here.”


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