Greetings everyone, and welcome to Friday’s edition of EDiBS, here for you each weekday rain or shine! God’s peace to you today in our Lord Jesus; it’s great to be with you as we gather to learn from God’s Word together. As we open the Scriptures over these next few minutes, we’ll be embarking on our look at the final chapter of the gospel according to John. Let’s pray and begin.
Heavenly Father, thank you for this day and for this time to be together in your Word with our EDiBS family. We love you, we praise you, and we thank you for the gift of your grace and mercy in our lives. Help us to be focused in our study time today, and help us to grasp with sure faith all that you would teach us. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
As we get started today, we’ll be coming to Jesus’ third post-resurrection appearance to the disciples, and I trust that your memory banks will be at work as we recount something quite interesting about this meeting between the Lord and His men. Our focus: How’s the fishing?
After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.
Since moving EDiBS into its permanent ministry space this past spring, I’ve not only had to get used to life in a new town, but really, life in a new environment — one different from anything I’ve ever known. Part of that new environment is water: between the East River, St. Simons Sound, and the marsh front that butts up against highway 17, we have it on three sides of us. In that water, of course, are fish…at least presumably so. I say “presumably” because while there’s plenty of evidence that fish reside there, and while my neighbors talk all the time about the wonderful flounder and spotted sea trout and tripletail they enjoy (not to mention the blue crab for which the area is purportedly so famous), when I go fishing...well, let’s just say that I haven’t had the best of luck! To be completely forthright, I’ve never been a good or even particularly enthusiastic fisherman, and I’m pretty sure that most of whatever it is that I’m doing is wrong. One of these days I‘ll find someone to give me some guidance, and then maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally hook one of those elusive creatures which delight in mocking me from just below the surface.
Verses 1-3: As we move into the final chapter of John today, we come to a scene that is at once brand new and at the same time distinctly familiar. It is the scene of seven disciples, led by Peter, going fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (otherwise known as the Sea of Galilee). This is what they know, of course; it’s what is familiar to them and what has provided for them and their families over the years. When they were with Jesus, fishing for fish was laid aside and replaced by the task of fishing for men. But now, things are a bit tentative for these followers of the Lord. What are they supposed to do now? There’s a void, a gap, a vacuum...and the natural tendency is to fill it. You and I both know that the easiest way to fill a void is by doing something that we know how to do, and as we get into the text, this is the first obvious question that we have to ask.
When Peter announces that he’s going fishing and the others say that they’ll join him, is this a return to the old life or simple prudence? Only the attitude of their hearts can tell, and so there can be no judging on our part here. If they want to give up on the business of serving Jesus, it’s bad; if they’re providing for themselves and those near to them until Jesus tells them what to do next, then it’s fine. What do you think? Scholars are somewhat divided on the intentions of Peter and the others here, but I think we can fairly say that at the least, these men are at a place of inconclusiveness. Morris says that “The fishing expedition plainly reveals the uncertainly of the disciples, an uncertainty which contrasts sharply with their assured sense of purpose from the day of Pentecost on.” Fair enough. But here’s what is clear: no matter what their reason has been for returning to their fishing boats, their efforts have not been successful! The fish have mocked them from just below the surface, and after a whole night out on the lake, they have nothing to show for it.
Verses 4-7: I love what happens in the second half of this passage, because it shows the faithfulness of our Lord Jesus to His disciples, the masterful way that He continually teaches and brings to recall important things for His disciples, and it also showcases His compassionate heart and His love of interacting with His disciples. I hope it’s not sacrilegious to believe that Jesus has a sense of humor, because I can definitely sense a twinkle in His eye and a smile playing on the corners of His mouth as our Lord calls out to the boys in the boat. Jesus, we see, has appeared on the shore, and He initiates conversation with the fishermen by inquiring about their catch. One thing I’ve learned living in Missouri, which is a huge fishing state, is that when you are unsuccessful at fishing, you don’t generally welcome questions about your progress. Here in the text, Jesus asks anyway – and if you look closely, you’ll note that this isn’t really an inquiry by Jesus at all: He knows that they haven’t caught anything! What happens next is wonderful. It’s a bookend; the repeating of an event from the very beginning of our Lord’s association with these men when He first called them from their nets to be His disciples. Do you remember it? Three long years ago these men had had a similarly frustrating night on the water and who should show up but Jesus, giving instructions which would ultimately turn their world upside-down and change them forever. Go back to Luke 5 and read through it. Now Jesus returns and sets that scene up all over again. The Savior gives instructions, just like last time; the disciples follow them, just like last time; a miraculous catch occurs, just like last time...and through it these men are changed yet again as they are readied for the final and greatest season of ministry to which God is calling them.
As we wrap things up for the day, we do so by looking at what happens in verse 7. As this event takes place, I can’t help but think that something must be eerily familiar to the disciples...and as they attempt to haul in the net full of fish that they’ve just caught, and can’t because it’s so large, John suddenly puts it all together. “Oh man, Peter,” he says, “It’s the Lord!” And Peter – beautiful, bumbling, brash Peter – literally goes overboard for His God and Savior in keeping with the unique personality traits we’ve seen him exhibit throughout this gospel account. Peter, of course, is heading back to the beach and towards what will be turn out to be the defining moment of his life. He doesn’t know that yet, but he will soon enough – and we will do well to follow along as it unfolds. This is one of those scenes where I pray to have a heart like Peter. Oh, that I would scramble after my Lord like that, even if it means going overboard…and even if it means other people will think I’m all wet because of my actions. I never want to be ashamed of going after Jesus, regardless of what or who may be around me. God help us all to have a faith like that! Have a great rest of the day, everyone, and I’ll see you again next time. God bless you richly, and do take care!