John 21: A Fishing Trip
In John’s epilogue he includes one more important meeting seven of the disciples had with the resurrected Lord Jesus.
I believe it was a night and morning much like the morning they were called to follow Jesus, as recorded in Luke 5 over three years ago. Obviously it was a fishing spot known to them and to the Lord. We know the Lord would make unexpected visits then again disappear. So it was as if they never knew when He was coming back.
Peter always impatient and probably still uncomfortable over his denial of the Lord on the night of his arrest said, “I am going fishing.” There are seven in all, we are given the name of 5 of those: Peter, Nathaniel, Thomas, James and John. Think about what we know of each of these: Peter was impulsive, self-reliant and had denied the Lord three times; Nathaniel was skeptic, a wisecracker who doubted anything good could come out of Nazareth; Thomas was a doubter who would not believe until he could see the Lord; and James and John wanted positions of authority in the Lord’s kingdom to come. In other words, these men were like you and me, they had selfish interests, doubts, and varying degrees of confidence in their own abilities. We do not know who the other two men were, they are left unnamed. Could it be the Holy Spirit convicts us if the Lord were gathering a meeting of disciples who had problems with serving the Lord, with all their mind, will and emotions at times- that we could all be invited on this fishing trip? So for the sake of illustration- let’s say the other 2 seats on this boat are reserved for me and you. The Lord has something to say to us in this final lesson John gives us as he is closing this Gospel.
Three separate incidents are recorded in this chapter for our learning
- The miraculous catch of fish which occurred when Jesus directed them where to cast.
- The Sea Shore Breakfast prepared for by the Lord Jesus Himself.
- The Conversation with Peter- a one-on-one dialogue between Jesus and Peter
THE NET FILLED WITH FISH.
Like their first call to service, the men had fished all night and caught nothing. They were actually on shore and cleaning their fishing nets when Jesus asked to use Peter’s boat as place to teach from on the sea shore that morning over three years before. Peter and these men had met Jesus just six weeks before and spent time with Jesus before He was led to 40 days of fasting and testing by the devil in preparation to beginning His ministry. So as we will see there are so many similarities to their first fishing trip we could say: ‘it was déjà vu all over again.’
(Déjà vu is French for “already seen.” That sense we have experienced the same experience before. )
Our Lord Jesus had planned this night of failure. He asked them: Children, friends, have you caught anything? No.” Ever notice when people have had a successful event in their lives, they cannot tell you enough about it. And when they have had a failure- they do not want to say anything about it. Have you come to realize the failures in your life were planned and/or allowed by the Lord to get your attention and redirect you? Then the Lord tells them to” cast the net on the right side of the ship and you shall find.” Not sure how wide their boat was- but success was not that far away- but this is how close some people will come to missing heaven- 18 inches- the distance from your head to your heart. Here are some of the points of this incident. The Lord directs our service. We will then learn the prerequisite for service is not knowledge or ability, but love of the Lord. We will also see the Lord wants to restore us when we repent. The Lord has used this example of Peter’s failure to teach the disciples and us, even the strong fail. We all fall short. The Lord also longs to meet with us each day and have a one-on-one dialogue with us. I believe He favors the first thing in the morning as the best time to meet.
He directs them to cast their net on the right side and they will find what they are looking for- a catch of fish. What are you looking for? Where are you looking? Are you waiting on the Lord to direct your service? Have you fished all night and caught nothing?
Here again is the oft repeated lesson: follow His directions, His instructions and you will find what the Lord has for you. When we follow His commandments we will be blessed, when we don’t not only will come up empty-handed, but also frustrated and thinking- ‘ where did I go wrong?’ And there is the Lord waiting patiently on us and asking us: “ Have you caught anything?” The Lord told us He came to give us life, life more abundantly. His miracles John has recorded are signs of this abundance. He took the six large water pots and filled them to the brim at the Wedding at Cana and turned them into the most marvelous wine. He took a little boy’s meager lunch of 2 fish and 5 barley loaves and fed thousands with 12 baskets full left over. He fills to the top, even overflowing and pressed down with more than enough to satisfy our hunger and thirst. Look at His invitations in the Gospel of John: come and see; come and drink; come and dine. And notice the Lord takes what is at hand, and often in our hands, like Moses’ rod, earthen pots of water, a lad’s meager lunch, and a bunch of rag-tag, hard-headed fisherman, a tax collector, a zealot, and one who would betray Him. He selected people considered foolish, weak, uneducated, in other words- nobodies like me and you.
With the catch of fish, John recognizes this is the Lord once again appearing to them. He says, “It’s the Lord.” As soon as John said this, Peter recognized it was the Lord and is out of the boat and swimming for shore. He cannot wait for them to bring the boat into shore. The catch of fish is so heavy, we read they were unable to draw into the boat, so they tow it in to shore. Where Peter will drag it ashore. For the second time in his life, Peter willingly steps out of the boat in order to be closer to the Lord. Déjà vu all over again.
THE SEA SHORE BREAKFAST
The Lord already has fire of coals with bread and fish cooking. These men were in awe, but they were also wet and hungry. Peter must be reminded of that early cold morning as he stood warming himself by the coals of the fire in the courtyard of Caiaphas when with his third denial of the Lord; the Lord was being brought out of the house. They looked at one another over the coals of the fire, just as they did this morning. The Lord takes care of their physical needs. He also asks them to bring some of the fish they have caught to cook also. Do you see what He has done? He accepts what we bring to Him. Do what He tells you to do, the way He tells you to do it and He will bless you.
Now the Lord has told us in the Great Commission to Go- but I believe He wants us to come have breakfast with Him each morning before we go out into the world. He wants to feed us spiritually so we will be filled with the Spirit and our hearts warmed by His Word, our Daily Bread. If you will take the time each morning to sit down with Him, I promise you He will feed you and prepare for the day ahead.
THE CONVERSATION WITH PETER
The Lord always asks questions, not because He needs knowledge, but because He wants us to consider our actions. “Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me more than these? (Now a word of explanation is needed for the two words being used in this dialogue for love. Jesus in this first question uses the Greek word, agape. Agape is the highest type of love. It is the love described as loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. It is the word used for love in John 3: 16. It is the described in Romans 5 where we read: “God demonstrated His love for us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” It is a sacrificial love which places others benefits before their own. It was described in the English language of King James, as “charity.” Love given without expectation of anything in return. The word Peter uses in reply is phileo. A brotherly love, an affection. It is the word used in Philadelphia, known as “The City of Brotherly Love.”
Notice also Jesus does not use the name He gave Simon- Peter or Petros, which means rock. Because Peter was not a solid as a rock and had to be broken of his self-reliance.
Jesus asks Peter do you love (agape) me more than these other disciples. Peter had thought when Jesus said one would betray him, it had to be someone else, because he loved the Lord the most and would die for him. Peter does not use the word for the supreme love, agape, but the word for brotherly love, phileo. Gone is the self-confident, self-relying, physically strong Peter who by his own might and passion had failed miserably.
Jesus then commissions, reinstates Peter with instructions to feed my lambs. Lambs are newborns. These are the newborn, babes in Christ who need mentoring and teaching.
Now Jesus ask Peter as second time, do you love(agape) me? Jesus does not ask Peter to compare his love for him with the other disciples. Just do you love (agape) me with the supreme love with all your heart, mind, soul and strength? Peter says, yes Lord, thou knowest I love (phileo, brotherly love) thee. Peter does not have the confidence to say He loves the Lord more than the others or to say he loves the Lord with this supreme love more than anything else. The Lord says unto him- tend my sheep. Sheep being the more mature believer, and tend having the meaning of disciplining the mature sheep, the older mature Christians. Why? Because the Lord knows the young Christians have a tendency to follow the older, mature Christians.
Now in the last question, Jesus says to Simon for the third time: “Simon, son of Jonas, do you love ( phileo) me?” We read Peter was grieved because He said unto me the third time, ‘do you have at least a brotherly love for me?
Peter simply but humbly replies, Lord you know all things; and you know I love you. Peter is saying you know my heart better than I know it myself. I do not want to boast I love you more than the others or even boast I love you with all my heart. Peter was learning ‘the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it? ‘The Lord knows what is in your heart. He is a heart reader extraordinaire. Man looks on the outside, but God looks on the heart.
The Lord then reinstates Peter and gives Peter the commission to feed my sheep.
Love of the Lord is the prerequisite for serving Him. It is really the only thing required. We do not need knowledge, although we are to grow in knowledge. We are to study to show ourselves approved, a workman who needs not to be ashamed. Will you be ashamed when the Lord test your works at the Bema for rewards?
Recently, a little boy in our neighborhood came up to our door with his friend. He was selling cookie dough to raise money for their school. Of course we bought some, but as I was writing the check, Gina came up ask him to pray or her because she was going to have surgery. His mother was already praying for Gina. He said he would also. Then Gina asks his friend to pray also. The little boy was embarrassed and said I don’t know how to pray, I am not a Christian and we do not go to church. His friend immediately told him- how to be saved: you ask Jesus into your heart and get baptized. No wonder Jesus said, let the little children come to me.
What is in your net? Have you toiled all these years and still have an empty feeling in your life? Do you make it a habit to have breakfast with the Lord each morning?
Listen to the Lord, He will tell you where to cast your net.
And then we can all go fishing.
In Luke 5, Jesus said to Simon: Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.
I want us to launch out into the deep and let down our nets for a catch. This is why I am beginning the study I have entitled: For Such A Time as This.