Analyzed to Death

As of this past Tuesday evening, Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox had swung at 94 fast balls this season. Amazingly, he had not missed one—not one. What I find to be even more amazing than that stat is the fact that someone kept track of it.

Major League Baseball used to document things like pitch speed. Now when someone hits a ball, they can tell you the exit velocity, the launch angle, and the exact distance it traveled. Those are just a few of the statistics they measure in our high-tech sports world. Baseball always was a game of statistics, but recently, analytics seem to have taken over. The entire game is getting analyzed to death.

I’m really not sure how much this analysis adds to the game. It certainly fits into our techie world, but I have the distinct feeling it actually diverts us from the simplistic beauty of the sport. Someone throws a round ball, and someone else with a round stick attempts to “square it up.” Even when we didn’t know the exact speed of the orb, we had a pretty good idea when it was moving at a high velocity. It’s a game of visuals.

Statistics in the Time of Christ

I’m glad they didn’t keep stats in the time of Jesus. If they had, Scripture would be bogged down with things like the exact amount of water that was turned into wine at Cana. We would know the number of seconds Peter walked on water before he fell into Jesus’ arms. It would be a matter of record as to how many lepers, blind men, and lame folks were healed by the Savior.

As it is, there’s one odd statistic that is recorded in the Gospel of John. After the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples while they were out fishing. Why they were fishing instead of making disciples, I’m not sure. Apparently, they were bored. They were fishermen, so they decided to go fishing.

After Jesus had given them a miraculous catch of fish, they hauled their nets ashore to meet Him for breakfast. Scripture then mentions (almost in passing) that there were 153 large fish in their nets. So, why do we need to know the exact number. Why didn’t John simply say, “There were about 150 fish,” or “There were over one hundred fish.” Instead, he recorded the exact number.

Counting Fish

It’s been speculated that John wanted to make a point. If he did, the point may have been this. The disciples were taught by Christ Himself to go make disciples—to become “fishers of men.” Instead of doing what He had trained them to do, they quickly went back to their old habits. In this case, their old habits included counting fish.

John makes it clear that these faithful disciples didn’t start out as faithfully as we tend to think. They were analyzing dead fish. Fortunately, they soon got around to hitting home runs. (Please pardon the obvious baseball reference. I couldn’t help myself.)

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently pastor of Smith Chapel in Great Falls, VA.]

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