“After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way. Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing. But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish. So when they got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.” Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples ventured to question Him, “Who are You?” knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise. This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.” (John 21:1–14, NASB95)
I haven’t written for this blog in a while. This has largely been due to a full schedule, but also primarily due to dedicating much of my “extra” time to preparing messages for a church I have been privileged to serve as interim pastor for. This morning was my second to last message there, before I leave and their new pastor comes to begin ministering with them. This is an exciting time for them.
This morning I went to the first half of the last chapter of John, both in an effort to bring the time to an end but also to wrap up the lengthy study of John we have been going through together. In the first fourteen verses of chapter 21 Jesus appeared to His disciples for the third time, and for those of you who have read my blog in the past you might remember that I wrote on this passage once before. But in today’s message there were a couple of areas of special focus; one of them I am going to look at here. The context is that Jesus had already appeared to His disciples twice after His resurrection. He had also sent the women who had gone to His tomb and to whom He appeared to on the road, to go and tell His disciples to head to Galilee where He would come to them. John 21 tells us that seven men were gathered together in Galilee, of whom we five were of the remaining eleven (assuming Nathaniel and Bartholomew to be the same person). As they were waiting, Peter told them that he was going fishing and the others agreed to go along with him. But after fishing all night, they had not caught a single fish.
In the morning, before He was recognized, Jesus came up to the shore and asked them if they had caught any fish, saying, “You didn’t catch any fish, did you?” Of course, their answer came back “No.” Jesus then told them to cast their net to the other side of the boat, and sure enough they caught more fish than they were able to haul in. John recognized at that moment that the person on the shore could only be one person—Jesus. So, Peter in response to John’s declaration immediately jumped in to meet Jesus at the shore while leaving the others to drag in the net.
Upon reaching shore Jesus invited them to bring some of their fish to add to the fish and bread that He had already prepared on charcoal. Peter then went down to the shore to finish bringing in the net and to get some of the fish. It is here that we read that there were 153 very big fish in the net and that the net was not torn. This is an incredible change of events and well worth John remembering. But, what makes it even more memorable is how Peter and John, along with their respective brothers Andrew and James were called into ministry in the first place. Luke records this for us in chapter 5 of his gospel.
“Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.” (Luke 5:1–11, NASB95)
Think of it. Jesus used the same miracle here at the end that He used at the beginning. These men had seen Jesus crucified and risen. They had been told by Him that they had been chosen to go into the world and do even greater works as the good news of salvation is spread to the people of all nations. Many people would hear and read of Jesus because they were sent and faithful to that sending. And now that they had been shaken by the persecution of their Lord, their Lord reaffirmed His call on them by once again filling their nets. And beyond that, whereas in the first account the nets were so heavy that they broke, here not a single fish was lost. Jesus demonstrated His ability to provide the catch and to keep the catch, and He demonstrated afresh that these men and the others were chosen to go out and catch men instead of fish.
The same is true today. God is faithful to work and provide. What we are called to do is to trust and to obey. Between Him and us being used of Him as we do what He says, great things will happen.
(For a more complete handling of this text go to the Sermon link at my blog, www.butGod356.com, and either listen to or download and read the message for April 17, 2016 – “Called and No Going Back”)