Scripture: John 21:1-14
Date: April 21, 2013
21 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
Just the other day, I went out for a cup of coffee after spending long time at home working. I was stuck indoors for a long time and I was stuck at my desk for a long time. It was not like I was able to move around my loft condo, I was genuinely stuck in front of my desk, specifically in front of my computer because of the nature of my work. So when I went out for a coffee, I realized had two choices. There is a coffee shop called Dark Horse that is just about 3 minute walk from my place and there is another coffee shop called Mercury which takes about 15 minutes of walk to get to. For convenience sake, I could have simply gone to Dark Horse and just get there in three minutes of time, but I chose to go to Mercury – I just needed to walk off my stress. In fact, the whole coffee break was just an excuse. I just needed a destination to walk to. Realizing the importance of the destination, I also realized I never was able to just wander around on the streets like many people could at shopping malls. Which direction will I go to? At which street would I make a turn? Which building or household would I look at during that walk? And most importantly “WHY” would I walk, make turns and look at those things? I have brought so much baggage thoughts to a simple stress relieving walk but my conclusion was that wandering aimlessly does not really work for me. I needed a destination and that delicious cup of latte that’s 15 minutes away was just perfect for me.
Imagine, however, I went out for a walk at late evening and the latte store was closed. Where would I go? When all directions are available to me, which direction and which turn would I choose? And for what purpose? When too many choices are given to us, we might welcome it since we don’t really like someone else choosing on our behalf but I also realized with too many choices come confusion. That sense of confusion, that sense of being lost and that sense of all of sudden losing the lead, was what the disciples felt after Jesus’ crucifixion.
Jesus spent three years in ministry and the disciples were called to Him in the beginning of his ministry. The disciples went wherever their master went. For three years, they were like needle and thread – inseparable, attached and intimate. And one day, their master was gone just like that. After three years of not having to think about what to do the day after, they are all of a sudden faced with a big dilemma. “What do we do now?” A sense of fear but also senses of being helpless and lost are dominating the minds of disciples. That’s where today’s scripture begins its story. Lost disciples, lost in the sea! Where are you going and why would you go there? Let’s look at what they had decided to do and what Jesus did about that.
1) First off, we have to see that Peter, the dominant and vocal one of the twelve, leads 6 others to go fishing. Peter, along with John and James were fairly well established fisher men. They were doing financially quite well for themselves before being called to minister to people. That is where Peter had gone back to and led 6 other disciples with him. One problem – this is exactly opposite of Jesus’ calling. When Jesus first called the disciples, the calling was “drop what you are doing and follow me. I have much greater things for you to do.” Peter at this point still does not understand what had taken place over the Easter Weekend or at least his denial of Jesus was so stunning and shocking to him that he had become like a little baby chick rather than a ferocious lion whose confidence out wits the wisdom of the world. Even after seeing the empty tomb and even after Jesus had declared that on this rock called Peter, I will establish my church; Peter had decided to go back to fishing and led 6 others with him. How is that for a wrong turn?
Peter had heard Jesus preach and Jesus even provided personal interpretations and explanations for the disciples for three years. Also during those three years, the disciples witnessed countless miracles, healings, exorcism and with commission from Jesus the disciples themselves were able to perform the miracles themselves. For those three years, Peter, John and James among all the disciples spent the most intimate times with Jesus but as if those times meant nothing to Peter, he turned back to fishing. Instead of repeating his master’s message to the world; instead of believing that that man from Nazareth had the message to preach to the world, Peter escapes to a private life devoid of mercy work, living only for himself and unto himself. Again, how is THAT for a wrong turn?
2) Let’s see what happens when Peter and the others turned away from their calling and had gone back to their old ways. The verse 3 says “So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.” It wasn’t due to lack of skills that the disciples did not catch anything that evening. As I mentioned Peter, Andrew, James and John were commercial Fishermen who probably grew up fishing in the Sea of Galilee. They know the sea floor like palm of their hands! So why did they not catch anything?
It is plain that God prevented them from catching anything that night. Just like that time when Jesus wanted to get Peter’s attention that He was serious about calling Peter to ministry, God had to disrupt Peter’s “old” vocation of fishery in order to make a point. Peter only understands things about fishing and not much else, so God uses fishing to speak to him. Peter needed to understand that apart from God he would not produce any fruit in life – never mind the ministry where he actually lacked the confidence and the skill, even in commercial fishing, apart from God’s blessing, there is no fruit to bear.
3) Thirdly, this man appears and points to a location. He says fishes are there for a collection and the futile efforts of the 7 disciples came to fruition. They caught so many large fishes that the net was about to tear and it was far more than what the disciple turned fishermen can bear.
Jesus is making a point here: Once we are called, we are called for life. The disciples should have never returned to old way of living. Do you know which book is after the Gospel of John? Book of Acts. Do you know what happens in book of Acts? Peter, the scared one who fled to fishing, speaks and addresses thousands of Jews that he feared and after he had spoken three thousand people came to believe and received new life. After that Peter performs a miracle where he cures a lame person. This is the prototype of the faithful life he was supposed to live! Peter was to preach, perform miracles and cause people to repent. There were too many to reach that there was no time to play with his net trying to catch fishes. Peter was to be a fisher of men not of fishes. He was on the verge of break out in his ministry but it was about to slip because of his guilt, had it not for Jesus who came to restore Peter to his ministry.
But we also have something else here…. Everyone is familiar with the next scene to today’s scripture. It’s the famous dialogue between Jesus and Peter where Jesus asks “Do you Love me?” and Peter replies “Yes Lord you know that I love you” and so on. Everyone also knows that that scene is where Peter is restored back into ministry – a fisher of men. But look what made that scene possible. Jesus came to Peter.
Not only Jesus had enough love to forgive Peter, Jesus’ love was so overwhelming that he approached Peter first. He came to Peter offering forgiveness –Peter’s loving Jesus back was the only requirement. That’s grace. There was more grace in God than there was betrayal in Peter.
So what does this have to do with us today?
4) I know that Easter weekend has been long past but post Easter is when we need to think about God’s calling for us in life. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:14 says, if Jesus did not resurrect, our faith is in vain but post Easter epilogue insists that Jesus resurrected. That should make us pause in life and reflect a little bit. Jesus resurrected and all of his claims about himself being God have been proved to be true. Then all of a sudden, his calling of you must be taken seriously as well. For sure, he has been speaking to you! The most visible feature of Christian God from 3rd point perspective is that He speaks! If we have not been hearing him, then perhaps we should suspect we haven’t been listening.
What does your faith tell you to do? What does your faith tell you about the transformation that’s needed in your life? For sure, we are to love our God and our neighbour but when was the last time you caused a smile on someone’s face? When was last time, you actually lived to make someone’s day? When was the last time people praised God because of your actions? I’m not merely talking about one time, random, undecided moments of actions but I’m talking about lifestyle of honouring God and living unto others.
I cannot tell you what God’s been speaking to you about since it is between you and God but if he has been speaking to you (and no doubt he has been) then I have to encourage you that you respond as soon as possible. A delayed answer is always a no. Let’s suppose for a moment that I asked a girl out and she said “hang on, let me think about it” and she delays her answer for one month.. what do you think her answer is for me? Sure, we can give it a benefit of the doubt and say she is still “thinking” about it but let’s face it, she is saying no. It’s the same thing. A delayed answer to God’s invitation always says “I don’t want to therefore no.” But you know where that road gets you. It doesn’t get you anywhere! Effort will be in vain and your labour will be fruitless.
Follow Jesus and never return to your old ways. Now that you know Jesus and now that you confess that we belong to Jesus, the only way to live is for Him. Don’t be scared and don’t be afraid. All of us are at a verge of gathering much fruit, we just need to recognize that God’s calling for us is for life and just move on forward boldly with it. Just like the needle and the thread, wherever Jesus goes we go also. God will take care of the rest.
And I have a special address for the leaders among us. Today’s praise leader for example, have you ever seen her go up to the stage without a smile? Personally, I have never seen her not smile during the praise. I haven’t had a chance to train our praise leader but one thing I always encourage praise teams to do anywhere is to offer genuine smile. One’s poor evening night before Sunday should not ruin or provide the overtone for the praise for the worship service. But despite of the importance, life is simply hard at times. Life is stressful and one can commit sin and before she thinks she’s ready, she may have to face the congregation upon that stage leading the people of God to the worship of God. What to do then?
I’m not taking sin lightly at all. All sins need to be dealt with appropriately with God and when necessary with other parties involved in sin. But having dealt with sin and confessed before God, we must insist our ways in serving God. Going back to our old way of life away from serving God and his people must remind us Peter’s going back for fishing. The old way of life simply sin multiplying. We are committing sin upon sin when we let our sin guide us away from God’s calling and back into old way of life. God the King deserves our commitment and we must insist on it despite of our failures.