Note – The notes below are for a message taught at Calvary Chapel – Leesville, SC Sunday morning April 19th, 2020. The audio file is a run time test recording made at home the previous week. The final message given at the drive-in church service was cut down a little due to time and weather limitations.
What a privilege and blessing it is to come freely and openly to the house of the LORD to worship the one true and living God in spirit and in truth together with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us never forget that it cost our LORD Jesus His own life on the cross to obtain this privilege for us. Let us also always remember and lift up in prayer our fellow believers around the world who are being persecuted and killed for confessing boldly the Name of Jesus as Savior – the only Name by which we can be born again into eternal life in His holy presence.
Today we will be looking at the first half of the last chapter of John’s gospel, and God willing next week we’ll finish up our study of this beautiful book. Turn with me if you will to John 21. John is the only one of the gospel writers who reports this particular event we’ll be studying today, but nevertheless it’s always a good idea when studying the gospel accounts to compare all four. God has chosen to share these stories with us through the eyes of four very different men. The variety of perspectives they provide allows us to gain a better understanding of the events. It also prepares us to be ready with answers when Gospel naysayers claim inconsistencies in the accounts. So if you have the capability, while you’re turning to John 21, also mark places in Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Luke 24. We’ll be looking at some passages from those chapters in parallel with the account in John 20 & 21.
While you’re turning there, let me just say what a great privilege and honor it is for me personally to have the opportunity to share these two messages with you. When I was just a baby Christian twenty years ago, I asked an acquaintance from the local church I was attending to recommend a reading plan for God’s Word. He said I should start with the gospel of John, and then go back to Genesis and read the whole Bible from start to finish. In hindsight, I believe this was very sound advice. We always need to approach the Bible keeping in mind that the entirety of scripture points to Jesus. God’s Word is His proclamation of His redemptive plan to restore sinful mankind into fellowship with Himself by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and His victory over death through His resurrection from the dead by the power of God’s Spirit. By starting a systematic study of God’s Word with the gospel of John which proclaims the deity of Christ as its central theme, we lay a proper foundation for our study of the entire Bible.
Overview – Seven Disciples Encounter the Risen Jesus at the Sea of Galilee
So if you’ve all found John 21:1, let’s go ahead and get started. I’ve called this message “Recognizing Jesus.” Let’s read the passage together and then we’ll work our way through it verse-by-verse.
1After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 2Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. 4But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” 6And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. 7Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. 9Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” 11Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. 12Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. 13Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish. 14This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.John 21:1-14 – NKJV
John 21:1-2 – The Setting and Context
1After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 2Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together.John 21:1-2 – NKJV
Just as in the real estate business, there are three important factors – location, location, and location, so in studying a particular passage in God’s Word we must always keep in mind context, context, and context. When did a reported event happen, where did it happen, and who was involved? It’s often challenging and sometimes quite impossible to biblically determine precise answers to these important questions. In some instances, extra-biblical traditions have grown up surrounding biblical events. Often these are based on solid “hearsay” evidence from contemporary witnesses – e.g. the Jewish Roman historian Josephus (who provides the only contemporary account of Jesus’ crucifixion outside the Bible itself). While these extra-biblical sources can be very helpful in improving our understanding of difficult passages, we must always be on guard to ensure they don’t conflict with God’s revealed Word, or (as is more often the case) put human words into God’s mouth.
Occasionally we will find that there is really no way to objectively determine a specific context and/or meaning for a passage. In such instances, we must simply acknowledge our ignorance, and trust in God to reveal the answers to us in His own way and in His own good time. As I’ve mentioned before, the Bible itself is always the best expositor of the Bible. It is a great blessing indeed – and not a coincidental one – that God has often provided multiple sources within His Word relating to the same events so that the slightly different perspectives of the various men whom God chose and guided as His scribes can bring us greater insight into the details and meaning of the events recorded in His Word. Unfortunately, in this specific instance we find that only John records this particular meeting with the risen LORD Jesus along the shore of the Sea of Galilee so there is no way to cross-reference what John wrote here.
With all that said then, let’s delve into our passage for this morning.
Whenever we are studying a passage that starts with a phrase like “After these things…” as this passage does, we need to go back and review those things that came before. In this case John is referring to the previous encounters the disciples had with the risen Jesus – with Mary Magdalene at the tomb, and with the eleven remaining “inner circle” of His disciples in the upper room where they had shared the Passover meal with Jesus on the Thursday evening when He was betrayed. John describes these encounters in detail in John 20, but perhaps most importantly, he tells us why he reported them. That’s so important we should look at it briefly again before we move on.
30And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.John 20:30-31 – NKJV
So now in John 21:1 the “disciple whom Jesus loved” relates yet another encounter he and some of the other disciples had with the risen Jesus on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
When – This meeting took place some few weeks after Jesus’ resurrection. Recall that Jesus had appeared to His disciples in the upper room on the evening of the day He rose from the dead, but Thomas wasn’t present with them (Luke 24:36-43, John 20:19-24). He appeared again one week later in the same room. That time, Thomas was present when Jesus pronounced a sweet blessing upon the believers who were to come.
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.John 20:29b
So now here in John 21, we read about the third encounter these disciples had with the risen LORD Jesus. It could not have been more than a few weeks after His resurrection because we know from Acts 2 that on the fiftieth day after the Passover sabbath (Saturday) on which the crucified Jesus lay in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, these apostles had returned once more to Jerusalem to celebrate (as all Jewish men are required to do under the Law of Moses) the Feast of Weeks (also called the Feast of First Fruits). While in Jerusalem for that feast they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost – the coming of the Helper that Jesus promised during the Last Supper.
Where – John calls the Sea of Galilee “the Sea of Tiberias” here in this passage – after the name of the largest city on its shore. The lake is also known in various languages as the Sea of Kinnereth, Chinnereth, Gennesaret after another of the towns along its shore. The preferred name used by the Roman occupiers at the time John wrote his gospel around the end of the first century AD was – The Sea of Tiberias. No doubt John was hoping to appeal to the broader audience of the entire Roman empire rather than just his own Jewish countrymen.
Exactly where along the lake shore this encounter took place is hard to pin down biblically. John tells us in John 1:44 that Peter and his brother Andrew came from Bethsaida just east of where the Jordan flows into the lake from the north. But we also know from Matthew 8, Mark 1, and Luke 4 that by the time of Jesus’ Galilean ministry, Peter was living with his wife and her mother in the fishing village of Capernaum – near the opposite side of the inflow of the Jordan. Tour buses in Israel today stop near the town of Tabgha further south along the western shore about half way between the inflow of the Jordan and the large city of Tiberias at the site of a small chapel – The Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter – which is traditionally held to be the site of this breakfast encounter with the risen Christ. It is a very beautiful place but I seriously doubt that it is where this encounter took place. I think it more likely that it was somewhere near Capernaum. We know from Luke 5 that Simon Peter, his brother Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee – James and John – were partners in the fishing business when Jesus called them all to be his disciples. Since Peter was living in Capernaum at the time, Andrew, James, and John very likely lived there too. The location is excellent for fishing due to the large influx of nutrients for cover plants brought in by the Jordan.
Who – The gospel writers and Paul the apostle refer to Jesus’ so-called “inner circle” of disciples as “the twelve,” and later following the death of Judas Iscariot, Matthew, Mark, and Luke speak of “the eleven” remaining disciples. It may be surprising then to hear that the gospels don’t all agree on the names of these men. In particular, only John mentions Nathanael. We first hear of Nathanael in John 1:45-51 when Jesus called him to be a disciple about the same time He called Andrew, his brother Peter, and Phillip – all men of Bethsaida.
45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” 48Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”John 1:45-51 – NKJV
This story of Jesus calling Nathanael is the only mention of him until John tells us he was present at this encounter by the sea in John 21, and these two are the only mention of Nathanael in all of God’s Word. Nathanael was called by Jesus very early in His ministry on the day before Jesus performed the first miracle reported in the gospels – turning water into wine at a wedding feast in Nathanael’s home town of Cana. But Nathanael is not listed by any of the gospel writers as one of “the twelve.” No doubt Nathanael continued to follow Jesus after his bold declaration of faith on the day he was called. He most likely fulfilled his calling quietly and humbly in and around his home town of Cana in Galilee, dutifully going up to Jerusalem (as all devout Jewish men do if they are able) for the three yearly appointed feasts – Passover in the spring, the Feast of Weeks or First Fruits at the beginning of summer, and the harvest Feast of Tabernacles in the autumn. Despite the lack of biblical reporting about his ministry, we can be certain that Nathaniel continued to faithfully serve the Gospel because of the things Jesus said to him and about him at the time Jesus called him.
Nathanael is a great example for us to follow in our modern world that has grown so hostile toward the Gospel. He quietly devoted his life to the Kingdom of God, neither seeking nor receiving any fanfare. Such humble service is fulfillment of Jesus’ own example, and His directive for us to follow…
27And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”Matthew 20:27-28 – NKJV
1“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.Matthew 6:1-4 – NKJV
It is a real shame that in our present-day, celebrity-enthralled society, the only time the sensationalist mass media (or the public in general for that matter) pay any attention to the Church whatsoever is when some huge church gets into financial difficulties, some well known evangelist gets caught in some heinous sexual sin, or some such thing. In the past year or so, Kanye West has been making news with his traveling Christian musical performances at various mega-churches. I’m not putting Kanye down about this. I don’t know his heart in it – only God does. The point is that all the while thousands of small worship teams like our own right here in this little church are lifting up a sweet aroma of worship to the LORD week in and week out, but no one seems to notice. Recently, Franklin Graham and Samaritan’s Purse have received a great deal of attention (favorable and unfavorable) in the media for the work they are doing in New York fighting the COVID-19 outbreak. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. That effort is needed and surely laudable. But all the while our own Pastor Danny and thousands like him are working diligently with their local congregations to provide critically needed practical help and a faithful Gospel witness in their local communities around the globe without any fanfare. These unsung heroic ministers – like Nathanael are consistently following the example of Christian service first modeled by the LORD Jesus Himself in obedience to His admonition regarding charitable deeds we just looked at from the Sermon on the Mount.
Let’s continue now with this list of those who met the risen Jesus beside the Sea of Galilee in John 21. Thomas called the twin is listed by all three of the synoptic gospels as one of “the twelve” but only John says much about him, and none of those stories was particularly flattering.
- John reports (John 11:16) that Thomas resigned himself to following Jesus to Bethany where Jesus’ friend Lazarus had died. All of the disciples tried to talk Jesus out of going to raise Lazarus back to life out of fear for their own lives. Finally Thomas recognized that Jesus’ mind was made up, and resolved to follow Him, but he was far from enthusiastic about it, saying “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” (John 11:16)
- During the last supper when Jesus gave His gathered disciples the promise of the coming of His Holy Spirit, He told them all that He would soon be leaving them to go to His Father, and encouraged them that they would soon join Him. When Thomas protested that he did not know the way, Jesus proclaimed – “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
- Of course, most famously, Thomas refused to believe that Jesus had risen until he could touch the risen LORD himself. For that reason Thomas has been known down through the years as “doubting” Thomas. (John 20:24-29)
The others that John mentions by name here in John 21 are well known. John never refers to himself by name in his gospel – calling himself instead “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” But of course, he and his brother James were the sons of Zebedee – the fishing partners of Peter and his brother Andrew.
John 21:3-4 – Jesus Unrecognized Waiting on the Shore
Having set the stage and the cast of characters for us, John now proceeds with the story of the meeting by the sea.
3Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.John 21:3 – NKJV
These disciples of Jesus had left Jerusalem sometime after Jesus appeared to them for the second time in the upper room about a week after His resurrection. Recall that Jesus had promised He would meet them in Galilee through the angel who had spoken to the women at the empty tomb.
5But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”Matthew 28:5-7 – NKJV
When you think about it, it’s really sort of insulting to these women that the disciples remained in Jerusalem for at least a week after the women reported to them what the angel had told them. We might forgive them for not accepting the women’s testimony right away. After all it’s pretty hard to believe anyone’s report that someone has risen from the dead. Never mind that they had already witnessed Jesus raise Lazarus and the son of the widow from Nain, so they couldn’t possibly deny that Jesus has power over life and death. But certainly after Jesus appeared to them in the upper room that evening, they should have reconsidered the women’s report earlier that morning. The fact that they were raised in the rigidly patriarchal Jewish society in which a woman’s testimony wasn’t even permissible at trials unless corroborated by at least two men does not excuse these followers of Jesus, since He had repeatedly shown respect and honor for the women who followed Him as well as the men.
Nevertheless, they did eventually make it from Jerusalem to Galilee, but what were they supposed to do when they got home? Even though they knew that Jesus had risen, they really didn’t have a clue about what His future ministry would look like. They had expected that He would establish His Kingdom on Earth, starting with the overthrow of the Roman occupiers. But that didn’t happen. So what was Jesus’ plan now? None of them could imagine. When I was in the technical training business, we used to say, “If you don’t know what you’re talking about, talk about what you know.” These guys were professional fishermen, so they decided to go back to what they knew best, not knowing how long it would be before Jesus appeared to them again.
4But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.John 21:4 – NKJV
The thing that most intrigues me about this passage is that these men who had all lived with Jesus side-by-side for over three years did not recognize the resurrected Jesus when they saw Him although He had already appeared to them twice in His resurrected body. Is His resurrected body that much different from the flesh and bone of the Man they had known as Jesus of Nazareth? Does He change His resurrected appearance at will? Did He blind them to His true identity for reasons of His own? Is it as Pastor Mike mentioned last Sunday that having seen Jesus beaten and scarred so badly that He couldn’t even be recognized as a man, and having had that image so deeply burned into their consciences, they could no longer recognize Him as He had been when He was with them in the flesh?
There are two other stories of encounters with the risen Jesus in which those who saw Him didn’t recognize Him. In each of these instances, Jesus did or said something by which they suddenly realized it was Him. The first of these, we looked at last Sunday.
11But Mary [Magdalene] stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. 12And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).John 20:11-16 – NKJV
For Mary Magdalene, it was when Jesus lovingly spoke her name that her eyes were opened, and she recognized Him. Mary had been following and serving Jesus and His disciples since He had cast seven demons out of her. We can hardly imagine what her life had been like prior to her miraculous healing. She must have been an outcast despised by even her own family for the ugliness of the evil spirits that possessed her. But Jesus treated her tenderly as no other person had, possibly for many years. No doubt, He had called her gently by name many times after she became one of His followers. So when He did so once more there at the tomb, she was reminded of all those previous times, and recognized Him as her “Rabboni.”
Aside – It’s been many years now since Dan Brown published The DaVinci Code. The urgency to speak out against this blasphemous, humanist nonsense about Jesus, which Mr. Brown disingenuously promulgates as a harmless bit of fictional entertainment may have diminished somewhat over time, but just for the record I’ll rail against it briefly once again.
- No! Jesus did not escape the crucifixion and sail off unnoticed to Great Britain. Jesus’ crucifixion and His subsequent resurrection are the very reason God came to Earth as the man Jesus of Nazareth in the first place.
- No! Jesus did not father children with Mary Magdalene through obscene sexual rituals. Jesus – being God – could not possibly procreate with a human being, and would not do so even if He could.
- No! These half-god children did not become the progenitors of a line of supermen known as the Illuminati who perpetuate their line through that same obscene sexual ritual. The Illuminati don’t exist.
The DaVinci Code is not harmless fictional entertainment. It is demonic blasphemy, which came straight from the pit of hell itself!
Who knows? Maybe those seven demons Jesus cast out of Mary Magdalene ended up possessing Dan Brown!
But enough about that!
The second occasion on which the risen Jesus appeared to someone who didn’t recognize Him is reported by Luke and Mark.
13Now behold, two of them [His disciples] were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. 14And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. 16But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.Luke 24:13-16 – NKJV
It’s a familiar story which we don’t have time to fully delve into. The crux of the story is that as they journeyed, Jesus spoke His Word to them showing from the Holy Scripture how His birth, death, and resurrection had fulfilled the ancient Messianic prophecies. But these disciples didn’t recognize Jesus until later that evening when He was eating supper with them.
30Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.Luke 24:30-31
Why was Jesus’ breaking of the bread and giving thanks for it the thing that caused these two to recognize Him? We don’t know who these two men were really. We know from the text itself that one of them was named Cleopas, but this passage is the only place in God’s Word where that name is mentioned. Were they present in the upper room the previous Thursday evening when Jesus instituted the LORD’s supper with the breaking of bread and giving thanks for it? Maybe they were present on the occasion in Galilee years before when Jesus began a meal with the breaking of bread and giving thanks for it, then wound up feeding 5000 men and their families with only five loaves and two fish. Something about the breaking of the bread and the giving of thanks for it triggered in them the memory of some past event involving them and Jesus, causing them to suddenly recognize Him.
So now here in John 21 we find a third instance of the risen LORD Jesus appearing to someone who knew Him, but didn’t recognize Him.
5Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” 6And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. 7Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea.John 21:5-7 – NKJV
For John and Peter here in John 21 the trigger that enabled them to recognize Jesus was His reminder of the day He had called them when He said “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” The story of their calling is recorded in Luke 5, Matthew 4, and Mark 1. We don’t have time to look at the story in detail, but recall that Jesus had borrowed Peter’s boat to teach from as the fishermen were mending their nets after a similarly unproductive night of fishing. Of course, they were tired and frustrated at having nothing to show for their work. Any fisherman can sympathize with how aggravating it is to fish but not catch. No doubt they all really just wanted to go home to sleep, but Jesus’ teaching that morning must have caused Peter to recognize something unusual about Jesus, because after He’d finished the lesson, when Jesus advised them to put out from shore for a catch, Peter’s response was…
“Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”Luke 5:5b
Of course, the most familiar aspect of that story was when Jesus called the fishermen to follow Him, saying “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19b – NKJV)
So we see in John 21:7 Peter’s impetuous reaction when he finally realized that it was the risen Jesus on the shore. We identify with Peter because we recognize something of ourselves in him. He often acts rashly, plunging in where angels fear to tread. In truth, oftentimes we would like to be a little more like him, being “all in” for Jesus. But the question is, did Peter jump into the lake (literally) to go toward Jesus or to run away from Him? We’ll look a little more closely at that question next time, God willing.
In the meantime, there’s something else we need to ponder. I believe that all people at some time in our lives come to a point when we finally recognize who Jesus is – the one true and living God, come to earth in the flesh of the man Jesus of Nazareth, crucified to take upon Himself God’s rightful punishment of death for our sins as a sacrifice for sin in our place, risen from death by the power of His own Spirit on the third day, and now sitting in glory at the right hand of God the Father. We recognize that Jesus will come again one day to righteously judge the living and the dead, and on that Day, Jesus will bring with Him the fulfillment of His promise of eternal life in His presence for those who believe and confess this Gospel – a promise purchased for us by Him laying down His own life in our place.
The most crucial decision we have to make in our entire lives is what to do with that realization of the truth about Jesus. Will we surrender ourselves to His lordship by turning from our sins, offering ourselves fully in devotion and service to His Kingdom, and following Him wherever He might lead, or will we continue to follow our own understanding, seeking the pleasures of this fleshly life, ignoring His call to repent of our sin and to serve Him alone? The stakes couldn’t be higher. This decision regarding what we will do with the realization of the truth about Jesus literally makes the difference between eternal life with Him, and eternal torment in what Jesus Himself called “the Outer Darkness.”
God leaves this choice entirely to us. So I urge you as strongly as I know how. Today – while it’s still called today – if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart against Him. Surrender yourself to His lordship, and thereby gain the most absolute freedom and joy you can imagine.
John 21:8-14 – Breakfast with the Risen LORD
8But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. 9Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” 11Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. 12Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. 13Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish. 14This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.John 21:8-14 – NKJV
It’s intriguing that Jesus had already prepared breakfast for the disciples before they obtained the large catch of fish. God gives us the provision we need at the time we need it, just as Jesus Himself said in His Sermon on the Mount.
31“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.Matthew 6:31-33 – NKJV
The purpose of the large catch of fish wasn’t to provide the disciples sustenance, but to remind them of what they already knew – that all of our provision comes from Him for His glorification, and by His good pleasure. God loves us unconditionally, wanting to give us the desires of our hearts once He has changed those desires to conform with His own through our spiritual rebirth in Him.
I don’t have a clue about the significance of the number 153 here. I trust along with theologians down through time since this gospel was first written, that God inspired in John the gospel writer the need to put this specific number into his account. Thousands of words have been written over the centuries regarding just what the significance of this number here might be. Probably not a few doctorates in theology have been awarded based on dissertations about this number. No doubt even more such dissertations will be written and discussed ad nauseum should the LORD decide to tarry in His return. But let’s keep our eyes on the ball! It may simply be that John put the specific count in just to add credence to his report – in effect saying, “I was there. I saw this. In fact, I distinctly remember the exact number of fish we caught that morning all these years later as I write this account.” Who knows? I certainly don’t.
The main point of this working breakfast that Jesus ordained was not about the fish. It was about the solemn mission that Jesus was about to send these men out on – to go forth throughout all the world proclaiming the Gospel of His resurrection and His sacrifice on the cross for the salvation of all mankind. But first, He had a little unfinished business He had to clear away. God willing, we’ll examine that next time.