April 19th, 2023: Fishers of Men- John 21:1-14
The gospel of John was written last among the four gospels. A very young man as he walked with Christ, now John is the last of the living apostles. All have met martyrs’ deaths, unflinchingly proclaiming the gospel without compromise in the face of intense pain and persecution. At the cross, Jesus gives John the responsibility of caring for his mother and gives Mary the responsibility to love him as her son. John has pastored at Ephesus and lived as an evangelist. He called himself the disciple Jesus loved. The Gospel of John is the most personal and the most intimate of the gospels. I find the 21st chapter to be one of the most tender accounts in all of scripture. After the passage we study in this lesson, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him three times, and Peter struggles while being questioned, but confesses that he does. Jesus asks him to feed His sheep and His lambs, reminding him of his calling and commission. Jesus does not want His disciples to go back to the life they once knew, but to go boldly forward to do “greater works,” in His name. By the time of this writing, history tells us that Peter has been crucified, upside down, at his own request, because he was unworthy to die the same death as his master but honored to die for the truth of His word.
1 After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.
2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.
3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.
It's so strange to think of the disciples in this situation. After Christ’s resurrection, it seems they all felt a little confused as to what they needed to do. Peter goes back to his previous occupation, fishing. He invites the others to join him. Ironically, he finds himself back in the same condition he was before meeting Jesus, he hasn’t caught a thing. At their first meeting, Jesus asked him to cast his net on the other side of the boat. Peter said that they had worked hard all night to catch fish, and had nothing to show for it. The fish just weren’t there, but he obeyed the Master’s request. So many fish were bound in his net that it broke.
This time, as he drags his empty nets into the boat, he looks up to see someone standing on the seashore.
4 But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.
5 Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.
6 And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.
Jesus doesn’t demand to know what they are doing. How could they think He would want them to go back to their old ways as if nothing had changed? Instead, Jesus lovingly asks them if they have what they need. Can you see the hair on their forearms raise as they recognize the voice, “Cast the net on the right side of the ship…” They may be too far away to recognize His face, but John certainly knew His voice.
7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.
John is “that disciple,” but he takes on the role of a nameless witness. Peter, hearing Jesus, no longer cares about the fish, but rushes headlong toward Him leaving behind boat and all. The gentle drawing of Jesus leads His children away from lesser pursuits and toward their high calling.
8 And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.
There is a difference between the first time Jesus asked them to cast their net on the other side of the ship and the second time, this time, the net held. It’s significant to know that they didn’t have the ability to bring in the multitude of fish before the death and resurrection of Jesus, but now, on the other side of the cross, the net holds. This is not a coincidence, this is a picture being painted of the power of the gospel to accomplish the will of God, through us, by the Holy Spirit.
9 As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.
10 Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.
There were already fish on the coals, Christ began the work, now His disciples would add their catch to it. Just as the disciples spread the gospel to the far reaches of the earth, making more disciples, who also became parts of the body of Christ and continued to bring all who would accept the sacrifice of Christ into the family of God. Now, bring those which you have caught.
11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.
12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.
13 Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.
This image of Jesus, breaking the bread, having a meal with the disciples that He loved speaks to the chasm that Christ crossed to save us all. This is a far different picture than the trembling masses around the base of Mount Sinai, begging Moses to keep God away from them personally. They pleaded for Moses to speak to God on their behalf because the idea of drawing near was terrifying, God is holy, and we certainly are not holy outside of Christ. This is Jesus, who is God, enjoying their company, walking and talking with them as a friend and a teacher. This is what the cross of Calvary made possible. Jesus is involved in the lives of born-again believers in every aspect. What a privilege to live our lives in fellowship with our Lord and Savior, to enjoy all the blessings He provides, and to share with Him our pain and sorrows, assured of His boundless love and grace.
14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.
It wouldn’t be the last time they would see Him, and we await our chance to see Him in the future. We will see Him returning to us in the same manner that He ascended. Are you expecting the wrath of a judge, or are you looking forward to seeing the face of your dearest friend? Also, If you are part of the family of God, are you living as you did before you met Him, or are you bringing others to Him?
Thank you for studying with us! God bless!