(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
August 5, 2001
One of the more difficult lessons for many Christians to learn is how to wait on the Lord for His direction in life. Over the years I have learned to be more calm while waiting on the Lord, but I have to admit this is still something that I struggle with at times. I am a bit goal oriented and I would like the Lord to spell everything out that He wants me to do in detail, then I can just work down the list and accomplish it in due order. There can be quite a bit of satisfaction in having a list and checking off each thing as you accomplish it. Perhaps you are like that too to one degree or another.
For those of you who are like me, you known how frustrating it can be to have only minimal direction without specific tasks to do. We don’t like just sitting around. We go on vacation to rest and come back exhausted. We are satisfied only if our list of accomplished activities is great. If we have to sit, we start fidgeting and looking for something to do. We don’t want to waste time. We want our lives to account and we measure its value by the list of things we have done.
God is not like that. Certainly He has in mind what He is going to do and how He will get it accomplished, but He is never in a rush. God is not concerned with any list of things He must do. He accomplishes His will in His own way in His own perfect timing. His concern is His relationship with His people. Is that not why Jesus took our place on the cross and paid for our sins? Jesus’ sacrifice accomplished what was needed in order for God to bring us into a relationship with Himself.
This priority of relationship can be a hard thing on people who like to get things done, yet it is a lesson that God will teach us. It is our relationship with Him that is the priority, and not all the things we accomplish. He does not want us bogged down with and anxious about the things of this world. He wants our focus to be on Him. That is why He promised in Matthew 6:33 that if we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, He would provide what we would need for life.
This morning we are going to examine the first part of John 21 in which Jesus taught this lesson to His disciples once again. It is a lesson for us to learn too. God does not work in our timing. He works in His own. We are to rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him (Ps. 37:7). We are to“Wait for the Lord; Be strong, and let your heart take courage” (Ps. 27:14). We are to seek Him and His will and He will provide for us.
Turn to John 21
1 After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested [Himself] in this way. 2There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the [sons] of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples.
At the Sea of Tiberas
The “after these things” are the post-resurrection events up to this point in time. Jesus, who had been crucified, is risen from the dead! It was announced by the angel to Salome, Mary the mother of James and the other women who had gone to the tomb that first resurrection morning. Jesus announced it himself to Mary Magdalene just a short time later, and then later on that same day to Peter, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and then to all the disciples that had gathered together in a room in Jerusalem. A week later Jesus revealed Himself again to His disciples, but this time Thomas was also present. At the presence of the risen Christ, Thomas cried out, “My Lord and my God.” The evidence was overwhelming and his skepticism was overcome. It was Jesus Himself standing before him. Though Jesus’ body had new qualities, like being able to come into a closed room, He was flesh and bone and not a spirit. He could be touched. He could eat, and He bore the scars of the crucifixion.
We know only a little of what Jesus said to the disciples on these occasions. We know that Jesus had explained the Old Testament prophecies concerning himself to the two who had been on the road to Emmaus. We also know that Jesus had calmed the disciples after appearing in their midst, and then He gently reproached them for their unbelief. After this He commissioned and empowered them for their future ministry. We saw this last week in John 20:21-23, “Jesus therefore said to them again, “Peace [be] with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and ^said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 “If you forgive the sins of any, [their sins] have been forgiven them; if you retain the [sins] of any, they have been retained.” This was according to what Jesus had told them back in John 16 that He would send the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, that would guide them into all the truth and disclose the Father’s will to them. In the same way that God the Father had sent Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim God’s revelation of Himself, so these men were being sent out by Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim God’s revelation of Himself. Because they would have all truth and know the will of the Father, they would be able to declare when sins were forgiven and when they were not.
When Jesus had seen Mary Magdalene in the garden He told her to “go to My brethren, and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'” What a wonderful revelation this was about the new relationship Jesus had with them. They were now His “brethren.” He was stressing His humanity to them and the hope that was now theirs, for one day they would be like Him. This was not to say that Jesus and the disciples were of the same substance, for it is “My Father and your Father, and My God and your God,” not Our Father and Our God.” Jesus is son by nature, but they are sons by adoption (Gal. 4:5). Jesus’ relationship with God is as a member of the eternal trinity, but they would now share in an intimacy with God they had not known before. This is the same hope that is given to all who place their faith in Jesus for salvation from their sins and follow Him. Jesus said in Matthew 12:50 that “whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” We also can be adopted into God’s family (Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:5; 1 John 3:1).
There is one other thing that Jesus said before this time that is recorded, and that was to the women who had been at the tomb. Jesus told them to “go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they shall see Me” (Mt. 28:10). That was the same message the Angel had given them earlier that morning (Mt. 28:7; Mk 16:7).
That is why the disciples are now at the Sea of Tiberas. John probably uses this name for the Sea of Galilee because it would have been more familiar to those he was writing to in Ephesus. Back in 6:1, he used both names to explain what he was talking about. Jesus had told them to meet Him there.
The Disciples. John mentions several of the disciples that were present by name – Simon Peter, Thomas and Nathanael – two by referencing their father, and two more that are left unidentified except that they were disciples.
Simon Peter was one of Jesus’ very first disciples (John 1). He was introduced to Jesus by his brother, Andrew. They were from Bethsaida on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Philip was also from that city. Peter was married and had a home in Capernaum where he and Andrew had worked as fishermen. They were good friends with James and John who were their fishing partners (Lk. 5:10). Peter was bold and impulsive, sometimes acted before thinking things through. His boldness made him a natural leader even among the disciples. John uses both names for him here. Simon, a Greek contraction of the Hebrew, “Simeon,” was his given name. Jesus called him “Peter” (or Cephas – Aramaic) meaning, “rock.”
Simon Peter was extremely devoted to Jesus. I heard a good description given of this once. Peter followed Jesus so closely, that if Jesus stopped suddenly, Peter would run into him. That is why it is Peter that jumps out of the boat in the middle of a storm to go to Jesus who is walking on the water (Mt. 14:29). It is Peter that boasts he would defend Jesus to his own death and later pulls out his little sword and starts swinging away until Jesus tells him to put it away (Jn. 13:37; 18:10,11). It is Peter that is scared nearly to death but still goes to Jesus’ trial (Jn. 18). It is Peter that boldly rushes into Jesus’ now empty tomb (Jn. 20:6). It is Peter that is the first of the twelve that Jesus reveals himself to (Lk. 24:34). Peter is devoted to Jesus.
Thomas we spoke about a couple of weeks ago. He was called “Didymus,” which means “twin,” as a nickname to identify him. Though people often refer to him as “doubting Thomas,” he was not really any more doubting than the other disciples, for they did not believe the report by the women of Jesus’ resurrection and only believed after they had seen Jesus themselves. Thomas was a very devoted disciple of Jesus, but he was also given to despondency (Jn. 11:16). The crucifixion of Jesus crushed his spirit and made him skeptical, but seeing Jesus in the flesh risen from the dead reversed all that. He was now Galilee to await the Lord’s further instructions.
Nathanael means, “God has given.” He is also referred to as Bartholomew, meanings “son of Tholmai.” He is from Cana of Galilee, which is only about five miles NNE from Nazareth where Jesus grew up. He was a seeker of the Messiah and was introduced to Jesus by his friend, Philip, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus had characterized Nathanael as someone without guile or deceit (Jn. 1:45). He was a person who was up front and honest. He would speak his mind. He was a student of the Old Testament and had at first doubted that Jesus could be the Messiah since he was from Nazareth. But he learned the truth of Jesus’ origin and character and became one of Jesus’ chosen followers.
The Sons of Zebedee are James and John. It is possible that they are cousins to Jesus. They had also been fishermen from the Capernaum area as Peter’s partner, so waiting for Jesus in Galilee is simply a return home for them. They were also among the first of Jesus’ disciples. They, along with Peter, made up Jesus’ inner circle which was with Him at the raising of Jarius’ daughter, the transfiguration and nearby Jesus prayed when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. They were zealous for Jesus and sometimes a bit rash resulting in Jesus calling them “sons of thunder.” Jesus also had to rebuke their personal ambitions at times. But they were committed followers.
The Two Others are not identified. Some have speculated them to be Andrew and Philip, since they were both from Galilee, but why not mention their names? That has led others to consider that they could be disciples John has not mentioned previously – Matthew, James the Less and Simon the Zealot. But since John has not identified them, we do not know.
Since Capernaum was where the home of Peter, James and John was located, and the place where Jesus often stayed, this is probably where they are staying while waiting for Jesus.
Personal Power (3-5)
We do not know how long they waited in Galilee, but it could not have been very long. They are still in Jerusalem a week after Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus would ascend from Bethany 40 days after the resurrection (Acts 1:3; Lk 24:50). Jesus also appeared more than once in Galilee (John 21, Mt. 28). It would take at least a couple of days to travel each way to go from Jerusalem to Galilee and back. Therefore, the maximum time they could have waited would be two weeks, but for people who need to do something, even a couple of days is a long time. Peter takes action in verse 3. We are not told why he does what he does, but he goes back to what he knows.
Returning to the Old Things
3″Simon Peter ^said to them, “I am going fishing.” They ^said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out, and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.
Peter’s reaction here is understandable for anyone who hates waiting. Goal oriented people want to accomplish something. People who fidget while waiting want to be doing something. Patience was not one of Peter’s virtues. But there is a problem here that is more than just being fidgety. Note when they go out and how long they fish.
If Peter just wanted to occupy his time while waiting, he could have done some recreational fishing, but this is serious fishing. He invites the others to go with him for a total of seven men to work the nets, and they work all night. Remember that at least, Peter, James and John had been professional fishermen. This does not give the appearance of being just a way to pass the time while waiting.
Now perhaps they were getting low on funds, and this would be a way to bring in some money. There is nothing wrong in itself about wanting to make time productive and plan for the future. However, there is a problem when you have been given a new job and you return to the old one.
We don’t know just what was in Peter’s mind when he decided to go fishing, but he should have remembered his last fishing experience. Three years earlier Peter, Andrew, James and John had all been fishermen in partnership with each other. Jesus came along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and called them to follow Him and He would make them fishers of men (Mt. 4:18-22). They left their fishing business behind and became Jesus’ disciples. Jesus had trained them what they were to do in spreading the good news about the kingdom of heaven and to rely on God’s provision for their needs (Matt. 10). That should have what they were doing then, but Peter goes back to his old life of fishing and gets the others to join him. Jesus would will teach them all a lesson about this, but it is a lesson each of us too.
The Failure of Own Wisdom and Power
4 But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus therefore ^said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.”
I am sure it was long night for these guys. Remember again that at least three of them had been professionals at this. They knew where to go, what to do, and where to do it. But they were skunked. They had not caught a thing and now it is daybreak.
We are not told why they could not recognize Jesus. They are about a hundred yards from shore (vs. 8) which is not a long distance, but far enough to make it difficult to recognize an individual you were not expecting. If there had been any mist from the lake that morning, it would have been that much more difficult to see clearly.
What is surprising here is not that they did not recognize Jesus, but their response to this stranger. Most fishermen do not mind being asked if they have caught anything, for if they have, it gives them a chance to talk about it and maybe brag a bit. A fisherman does not like to admit to not catching anything, but they can still save their pride by appearing helpful and telling the person what bait was not working that day. But how do you react when the person fields the question in the negative to begin with? The question here is not, “Have you caught anything?” It is, “you do not have any fish, do you?” And in the Greek it is phrased in a way that expects a negative answer. Most people might find that a little irritating, but they answer this stranger to them with a simple “no.” Perhaps because this stranger had called them “children” they took him to be an older gentlemen and they were just being respectful.
There were probably a lot of thoughts going through their minds at that moment, but the stranger’s question would have driven one thought in deep, “you guys have failed.” I think that is exactly what Jesus wanted them to feel at that moment. They had returned to their old profession and were relying on their own wisdom and power. He had trained them to rely on God’s wisdom and power and he wanted them to do it. By pointing out the fact of their failure, he could teach the lesson. You cannot be successful in God’s kingdom if you do things by your own abilities.
That is a lesson for all of us and it is a hard lesson to learn. When we are not sure what to do or things are not working out the way we had wanted them to, our tendency is to go back to our old ways. We return to the patterns of life, often sinful, that we had before being called by God to live for Christ. I have dealt with this many times when I am counseling. Even if the pattern is not blatantly sinful in itself, it is one that does not rely upon God, and that is bad.
The Christian life is simple in principle, but difficult to live out because of our innate sinfulness. God wants us to focus on Him. He does not want us bogged down with the things that everyone else thinks is so important – money, possessions, fame and power. Jesus does not want us to even be concerned about the daily needs of life – what we shall eat or drink or wear. He wants our focus to be on His kingdom and His righteousness and so He promises if we will put those first, He will take care of the rest (Mt. 6:33). My life should revolve around being used by God for the sake of His kingdom and living in holiness. Frankly, nothing else matters except serving God and being more like Jesus today than I was yesterday. If those two things are in place, then so will everything else because my priorities will be in proper order.
Money? Yes, it is needed for getting along in this life, but my God owns the world, so financing things is no problem for Him. He said he would meet my needs. Security is found in the Lord, not a fat investment portfolio. I may not have what the world has, but they do not have what I have – an eternal future in heaven. Their money is worthless to them when they die.
Possessions? I am owned by Christ therefore all the materials under my authority are possessed by Him and not me. I am simply a steward of them. I can have an open hand for their usage to advance the kingdom of God. Again, I may not have all the things the world has which they think is important, but I am neither possessive of nor possessed by those things – all of which are going to burn up in the end (2 Peter. 3).
Fame? Ecclesiastes points out that fame is vanity. It is an empty chasing after the wind. Fame is a fleeting moment of time that will be forgotten (Eccl. 1:11). Who was the Emperor of China in 100 A.D.? Name all the players in the 1972 Superbowl or World Series? What does it matter that anyone knows my name? I want them to know the name of Jesus Christ. The only place I want to make sure my name is known and written down is in heaven in the Lamb’s book of life.
Power? It is also fleeting just like fame, but it is more insidious, because power brings control and I want things to work out my way. But there will always be someone with more power that will thwart your plans. Hitler had power, but he was finally crushed. Stalin had power, but his plans were stopped in country after country and now his empire has disintegrated. King Nebuchadnezzar was an absolute monarch, but he lost his mind and lived in a field like an animal until he finally recognized the sovereignty of the Most High God (Dan. 4). In the church, there is authority, but no power structure. Those with the most authority are also to be the most humble servants (Luke 24:26). The Christian is to desire to see the power of God manifested, and so like Paul in 2 Cor. 12:9 they should rather boast in their weaknesses that the power of God may dwell in them.
Power? Control? I would rather let God be in control, for when I am in control, things get messed up.
My goal and your goal should be to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness and let Him take care of our needs. What you and I need to do is actively put into practice Proverbs 3:5,6 (5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight) and Psalm 37:4 (Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart).
The problem the disciples had and that we also often have is that things are not going the way we would like, so we take action by doing things according to our own wisdom and power. The disciples did not have a lot of instructions to follow while they were waiting for Jesus to come and given them further direction. That left them wondering. Sometimes we fell the same way. “Lord, what do you want me to do?” Their problem, and ours is usually the same, is that we do not follow the instructions he has given while we are waiting to see where the Lord will lead us in the details.
The disciples were to wait for Jesus in Galilee, but they had already been given to Holy Spirit and commissioned to proclaim the revelation of God (Jn. 20:21,22). They should have been trying to catch men, not fish.
We may not have a lot of the specifics we would like, but we have been given enough general principles to act on while we wait for the specifics. Are you faithful to those commands? Are you seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness? Are you loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself? Is that what is filling your mind in your daily walk of life? Or have you fallen back to old things? Are you falling for the world’s pattern of life and priorities? Are you becoming more like Jesus or your next door neighbor? What is your relationship with our Lord like?
God’s Provision (6-14)
Success with God’s Wisdom and Power
Most fishermen do not want to be told what to do. That is especially true if they fishing an area they know well. It is even more true if they have not done well. Yet the disciples willingly receive instructions from this man they do not recognize. Perhaps that is an indicator that they had been humbled by their night’s futile work.
6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you will find [a catch].” They cast therefore, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.
God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. In this case, that grace was a large catch of fish when they humbly followed the instructions of the stranger. It is at this point that John now realizes who was instructing them. 21:7 That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved ^said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” And so when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped [for work]), and threw himself into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net [full] of fish.
I am sure what occurred reminded them of a similar incident recorded in Luke 5. It was a miracle that manifested who Jesus was, and a similar miracle does so again. John is the first to recognize this and he tells Peter, and Peter, man of action that he is, puts on his outer garment and immediately jumps into the sea. Since Peter is with Jesus when the boat finally makes it so shore, we know that Peter jumped in because he was not going to let anything delay him from being with Jesus. The rest of the men in the boat make their way to shore dragging the net full of fish.
Meeting the needs
9 And so when they got out upon the land, they ^saw a charcoal fire [already] laid, and fish placed on it, and bread. 10 Jesus ^said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.” 11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus ^said to them, “Come [and] have breakfast.” None of the disciples ventured to question Him, “Who are You?” knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus ^came and ^took the bread, and ^gave them, and the fish likewise.
Jesus could have reprimanded them for going fishing and not waiting for Him, but Jesus is kind and gracious. He would teach them the lesson, but He also knew they were tired and hungry and He met that immediate need too.
Jesus had them go to the nets to get the fishes they had caught, but this was not because they needed them for breakfast. It was so they could sort through everything in their net and see what they had caught when they had obeyed the Lord. That is why they had a count of all fish. This was an extremely large catch as indicated by the comment added that the net was not torn. It demonstrated the miracle that had occurred. We know they did not eat any of those fish for breakfast because when they had come ashore, the found Jesus with a charcoal fire and one fish upon it (vs. 9 – oyarion Greek singular) and they all ate from that one fish (vs. 13 – oyarion Greek singular) and not from the fishes (vs. 10 – oyariwn Greek plural) they had caught. This may well have been a miracle similar to the feeding of the five thousand (Mt. 14) in the multiplying of the food.
The point here is simply that our God provides for us and it is better to wait for His provision and direction that striking out on our own. He has already given us plenty to do in keeping His commandments while we wait for specific leading.
John then adds the comment in verse 14, This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.
The first two manifestations to the disciples were to prove that He was really alive again. He had risen from the dead. He had a body with new qualities, but it was of flesh and bone. In this manifestation Jesus shows His care and provision for them, an important lesson before He gave them their commission to leave Galilee and evangelize the world (Mt. 28:16-20; Mk. 16:15).
Jesus has the same care for us that He did for the disciples. He will provide for our needs as we seek first His kingdom and righteousness (Mt. 6:33). We can cast all our cares upon Him, for He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times one or more of the disciples is mentioned 2) Talk with your parents about how the Lord Jesus provides for your family.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
Text: John 21:1-14. What “things” did these events occur after? What do we know about the disciples specifically mentioned – Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael and the sons of Zebedee? Who could the other two disciples have been? Why were the disciples in Galilee? Why do you think Peter went fishing? Why did the others go along with him? Why didn’t the disciples know at first that it was Jesus on the shore? Had they ever had a similar fishing experience? How did John know it was the Lord? Why did Simon Peter jump into the sea? What did they find when they got to shore? Why did Jesus direct them to bring some of the fish they had caught? Why did they count them? What did Jesus feed them? What was the significance of Him doing this? What lesson did Jesus want the disciples to learn. Tell about a time that you became impatient while waiting on the Lord. What did you do as a result of your impatience? Tell about a time the Lord provided for you in an unusual or surprising way. Tell how you see the Lord provide for your needs on a daily basis. What area of service do you think the Lord would want you to step out in faith to do.
At the Sea of Tiberas
Sons of Zebedee
Personal Power (3-5)
Returning to the Old Things
The Failure of Own Wisdom and Power
God’s Provision (6-14)
Success with God’s Wisdom and Power
Meeting the needs
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