From the House of The Nazarene. This will be a very in-depth deep-dive study of the Book of John.
Let’s begin in prayer. Father, we thank You for Your goodness toward us, and we ask that you would guide our thoughts as we learn more about your Son Jesus. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
We are completing our study of the Gospel of John chapter 20 and now we are looking at chapter 21. Really, there is such an extraordinary truth in this Gospel that it is hard to do it justice by doing a chapter every two weeks, but I have tried to distill the essence by doing it on every chapter and that is what we will seek to do, keeping in mind that this now occurs during that forty days between Jesus’ resurrection and His ascension. Our Lord appeared and disappeared at will. The disciples never knew when He would appear, so that had to stay very alert. That is an interesting parallel with us, isn’t it? You never know when He will be coming, so we need to be alert for His coming. The point here is that one of the evidence’s for the resurrection was the multiple appearances, and often too many people at once.
So, let’s take a look, first of all, at the first 11 verses, which concerns the issue of being ‘fishers of men’. This is an image they could understand, because seven of the twelve disciples were fishermen. So, there is an issue here of obedience and specifically obedience in the area of evangelism. That is to say, “follow Me and I will make you fishers of men,” was to make a claim that some change will take place in people’s lives. Let us first of all read these first verses in chapter 21. “After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias,” which is another term for the Sea of Galilee.
“and He manifested Himself in this way.” Let’s stop here for just a minute. What were they doing up there? We need to look for some parallel passages. For example, let me read to you Matthew chapter 26, verse 32, because they were up there for a reason. Jesus says to His disciples before His crucifixion, “After I have been raised I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” So, He is telling them that is where they are to meet Him. If you also compare this to Matthew chapter 28, verses seven through ten, and this is post-resurrection, you will see, “Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” So, there is a very clear understanding that they would go on to Galilee.
In Mark 16, it also says something similar, following His resurrection, in that account. In verse seven we see, “Go tell His disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.” So, they are in obedience to God by going up to Galilee. Returning to our own text, in verse two, “Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus and Nathaniel of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of the disciples were together. 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.” This has happened before, hasn’t it? Indeed, we see that there is going to be a parallel in this account, as we will see in the few verses. “But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.” Now, this is very reminiscent of Luke 5:1-11.
Let’s go back to that text for just a moment. It is good to recall that account. “Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret;” which is yet another name for the sea of Galilee, “an He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat.” Right there, by the way, is an interesting thought. It is very clever, because water will amplify your voice. So, Jesus created a natural auditorium. It goes on to say, “ When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch’. Simon answered and said, ‘Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets’.”
Even though he disagreed with Him, at least he was willing to do it. The point is that He is skeptical, but he is going to do it. A lot of times we will do the same thing. We will trust in Jesus for certain things in our lives, but rarely for our business. However, we make business decisions at our peril if we do not consult God in that decision-making process. The text continues, “When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But, when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, ‘Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, Lord’.” What does that mean? It means that he realizes that this is the power of God upon him. He knew there was no way this could have happened naturally. Not only the unusual circumstances, but the quantity, as well, was so great. He understood the implications of it and he was terrified because of the power of Jesus’ presence. “For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon, and Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men’. When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.” This, then, got their attention. They dropped everything and went with Jesus.
Sometimes in our lives, and you will never know what it will be, God will get our attention. Sometimes, I will speak about something, and you never know it will touch a person. Only God knows what each person needs to see and hear. But, as long as we are seeking, as long as we pursue Him, as long as we have an open heart, I believe we will find Him. It is when we close our eyes and our hearts to the evidence that we have a problem. But, when we are open to it, I believe God will ultimately show up and in a way in which we may not expect.
So, the disciples did not recognize Jesus at first, because it goes on to tell us, in verse four, “Jesus stood on the beach, but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.” This is also reminiscent of Luke chapter 24, that great chapter about the two on the road to Emmaus. I always love that passage. In verse 16, “But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.” It was not until later on, during the breaking of the bread, that they knew who it was. Also, in John chapter 20, in verse 14, we have something very similar. “When she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.” Only when He spoke her name did she realize that it was Him. This reminds me, also, of a text that Jesus gives us, in Matthew chapter 11, which is an incredibly powerful claim, and which would make no sense, if He were merely a prophet. In verse 27, of Matthew 11, “All things have been handed over to me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” If He doesn’t will it, you will not know Him. Now, this is a deep mystery, but He also knows the heart and also knows if a person is seeking Him. Those who seek will find; those who knock, it will be opened; those who ask it will be given to them. So, they did not recognize Him at first.
Moving on, in verse five, “So Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you do not have any fish, do you’? They answered Him, ‘No’. And He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch’.” This has to really make them begin to wonder. Remember He said that He would meet them in Galilee. Here they are, trying all night long, as they did once before, to catch fish, but with no success. “So they cast and they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.” Now, you can be sure that got their attention. “Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord’. 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.” Knowing what we know of Peter, that is exactly what we would expect him to do. The others would wait and bring the boat to shore, but Peter, he just jumps right in. That’s the way he was, very impetuous.
In any case, all our efforts, apart from His direction and blessing, are useless. Even when you think you are in control, and you seek to do it without His authority and control, I believe, for various reasons, some people can be very successful and others can not, there is no obvious connect between righteousness and provision, no obvious connection between unrighteousness and loss, but all things equal you would do well to invite Him into your decision making process. I think it is very prudent to do that. You would also do well to acknowledge that He has expertise in all things, far greater than you might suppose you have. He knows the future, and knows your best interests better than you do.
Now, it is an interesting text, then, because John was the first to realize that it was Jesus, and my suspicion is that it is because of chapter 13, verse 23. Why was John picking it up faster than any of the others? Well, in that verse we see, “There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.” Then go to John 19, verse 25 and 26, “Standing by the Cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus then saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son’. Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother’. From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.” In any case, what we see is that John knew Him best and he is the disciple who Jesus loved, because he followed Him harder than any other disciple. The more you pursue Him, the more He will manifest Himself to you. There is a connection between those two ideas.