The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NIV)
As I drive around I often see the symbol of a fish on the back of the car in front of me. It doesn’t mean that one of the driver’s hobbies is fishing; it’s there to indicate that they are a practicing Christian.
This symbol arose because of the intense persecution of believers in the early church. When a Christian met a stranger in the road, the Christian sometimes drew one arc of the simple fish outline in the dirt. If the stranger were a Christian, he drew the other arc, and so both believers knew they were in good company. Often they would then take it in turns to write five Greek letters inside the fish symbol, “IXOUS.” It is pronounced “ichthus” and means “fish”. In fact it is the normal word for fish in the gospels (
Matthew 7:10; 14:17; Mark 6:38; Luke 5:6; 11:11; John 21:6,8,11).
However, the early Christians gave the word for “fish” an even greater meaning than just identifying a stranger as a Christian. It became the acronym for the truth of Christianity:
- I represents Iesous, which is the Greek word for “Jesus”;
- X represents Xristos, meaning “Christ”;
- O represents Theou(Θεοῦ), meaning “of God”, genitive case of Θεóς meaning “God”;
- U represents Uios translated “Son”;
- S represents Soter, meaning “Saviour”.
When all this is put together we have the great confession of the Christian faith: ‘Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Saviour.’ It affirms that Jesus is fully God and fully human, that he is the long-awaited Messiah, the unique, only begotten, eternal Son of God, who through his life, death resurrection and ascension saves us from our spiritual alienation and reconciles us to God.
While the fish symbol was initially designed to allow Christians to identify each other while, at the same time, preventing those hostile to Christianity from identifying believers, today in the UK it can be displayed as a witness the Christian faith. It can remind the Christian to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, show other Christians that they are not alone, and to challenge non-believers to consider the claims of Christianity.
“Ichthus”, now that’s a ‘fishy story’ we should take seriously.
Father, thank you for sending Jesus to save me from my sins. Along with other Christians I commit to follow him and become a fisher of men. May the good news of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, our Saviour go out free from persecution in this country and across the world.
Have a good week witnessing to the Christian faith.