Skip Heitzig - John 21
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Father, we calm ourselves now. The music is set aside. The exuberance and excitement of being able to express to you the feelings and the worship of our hearts through song with others, as wonderful and powerful as that is, now is the time where we reverse it. You've been listening to us, and now we listen to You. You speak, Lord, through Your word, and especially in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, as written in Your word. For we remember what the writer of Hebrews tells us, that God, who at different times and in different ways spoke in times past to the fathers, by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son or through His Son. So as we conclude the Gospel of John, as we consider once again the Lord Jesus Christ with His disciples, I pray that we, who are Your modern-day disciples, would take courage from what we read, encouragement by what we understand, and then I pray that we would be instruments of encouragement to others. You'd speak to us so that You might speak through us. In Jesus' name, Amen.
I was thinking today how many photographs I have taken of my family. I have hundreds, no, I have thousands of pictures that I have taken of my family over the years. Now, in all of the pictures, everybody asks, well, where's Skip? He's behind the camera taking the picture. And so most of them are of others, not of myself. But I have of just my wife alone thousands in different places and different stages of life. And every now and then, I like to pull them out and just reminisce where that was taken.
But the favorite picture that I have of my wife is not a picture. It's not a photograph. It's a painting. And it's when my wife Lenya was a young girl with her sister and brother. She must have been 10 years of age. And they were down in Mexico, and her dad Rod decided to have the kids, he paid for a painting, a street guy to just paint the kids. And he said it was inexpensive enough, but it's a pretty grand painting. And when he was shuffling things around his house and was thinking about getting rid of that, well, I said you're not getting rid of it. I want that for my house.
And the reason I like it so much is because a painter has to take time to study the face. He makes a quick study of the features of the face. But the whole time while the painting is being executed, he's looking down and then looking up and then looking down. And he's studying the face carefully as he makes a studied portrait of that person. And as I look at that painting still today, when I go through the house, I look at it, and I go, boy, he captured her perfectly. And what I really like about it, too, it was done down in Mexico so the skin tones are a little browner. It just makes me think, if my wife was born in Mexico, that's what she would look like.
But the eyes and the features, beautifully done. The Gospel of John is like that painting. The Gospel of John is not a snapshot as much as it is a studied portrait. And I say that because John is different than Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Those three gospels, known as you know as the synoptic gospels, because they are so similar in format and in storyline, whereas the Gospel of John, 90% of the material in the Gospel of John is not found in the other three gospels. Certain healing miracles that Jesus did, found in the Gospel of John, are not found in the other gospels. The great statements of Jesus' divinity, "I am the bread of life," "I am the light of the world," "I am the way, the truth, and the life," those seven "I am" statements are found nowhere but the Gospel of John.
Also that great discourse, one of my favorite sections of the scripture, called the Upper Room Discourse, of which we've already gone through is found only in the Gospel of John. The prayer of Jesus on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane, John 17, found only in John. So we have noticed how different John is in displaying the character. It's a studied portrait rather than a snapshot. And now we come to the last chapter, chapter 21 of the Gospel of John. We notice something in chapter 20, and I'm going to make reference to it because when John ends chapter 20, he ends with the theme that has been running through the entire book of John. He speaks about Jesus Christ and believing in Him. And those are the themes of the gospel, Jesus Christ and faith in Him.
So the term "Jesus" in the Gospel of John and the term "Christ" are terms that are found 170 times, more than 170 times in the Gospel of John. And the word "believe" is found in the Gospel of John 100 times. So just by the frequency of those words, you know what the theme has been. The theme of the Gospel of John is believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. That's his grand theme.
Now in reading chapter 20, it actually would have been a suitable place to end the book. In fact, as I read chapter 20, every time I get to the end of it, I think John could have stopped right here. Why didn't he? It sounds like it's an epilogue. It sounds like it's a closing. Look at the last two verses of chapter 20 to refresh your memory. "And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book. But 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."
Now that's a perfect way to end. Why doesn't John just stop right there? Why does he give us 25 more verses that comprise chapter 21? Well let me try to answer that by giving you two answers. I'll suggest two things to you. Number one, because Jesus is a great Savior. What do I mean by that? Well, Jesus promised His disciples that He would die, that He would be buried, that He would rise again, and that He would see them afterward, after His Resurrection. He has died. He was buried. He has risen, conquering death as He said.
They have already seen him, at least many of them have. And now He's going to gather together with them as that Savior to recommission them, to commission them to go into all the world and preach the gospel. So because He is a great Savior, He's doing what He promised He would do. But let me suggest a second reason why John wrote this. Of course, he's inspired by the spirit. But I do believe there's another reason, not only because Jesus is a great Savior but because John is a great friend.
And if he were to end in chapter 20, we would all be remembering how Peter was such a failure and how he felt so bad and hurt and disappointed and discouraged over his failure. But John wants you to know how Peter was restored uniquely by Jesus. He wants the readers of his gospel, yeah, there's a little rivalry and competition. Yeah, they both ran to the tomb, and John wants you to know that he beat Peter. We remember that Resurrection marathon.
But John loved Peter. And John thought the record was not complete unless the reader knew that Peter, though he failed, yes, though he denied Jesus three times, yes, he also affirmed Jesus three times because Jesus is a great Savior, because John was a good friend. If he didn't write chapter 21, and you went right into the book of Acts, you'd be scratching your head because we know Peter failed the Lord.
We know he denied the Lord. We know that he ran away from the Lord after saying he didn't even know Jesus to that girl in the garden of the courtyard of Caiaphas the high priest's house. But then suddenly, we get to the Book of Acts. And we see that in chapters 1 through 12, the main character in the Book of Acts is Peter.
So we would be thinking, well, how did that happen? How did he go from a failure to the principal character who brings the gospel on the day of Pentecost and throughout Jerusalem, seeing as one of the chief leaders of the early church? There needs to be a link between those two events, and the link is chapter 21, the restoration of Peter.
So verse 1, John, chapter 21, "After these things, Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself. Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, the twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee", that's James and John, "and two others of His disciples were together." So we have seven of the 12 Apostles together in Galilee, the sea of Tiberias, seven of the 12. One has betrayed Him. That's Judas. He's committed suicide. He's not even part of the picture. So there were 11 left. Seven of them gathered together in Galilee.
"Simon Peter said to them. 'I'm going fishing.' They said to him, 'we're going with you also.' They went out immediately and got in a boat. And that night they caught nothing."
Now this does show to us that Peter was a natural leader. They're waiting around. Peter's kind of just twiddling his thumbs, whistling away, and getting bored. So he just says, I'm out of here, I'm going fishing. And at his suggestion, the others who didn't suggest it just are following whatever Peter says. OK, we'll go with you. Now that was Peter's initial occupation. He was a fisherman, we know that.
If you were to read Matthew 28 before you came tonight, and of course I wouldn't expect that you would because we're not in Matthew 28, we're in John 21, but you probably read John 21 before you came. That was your homework assignment. But in Matthew 28, Matthew gives us another part of the picture. He tells His disciples that He will meet them in Galilee on a mountain.
We don't know what mountain, what hill that is. I could suggest a couple. If I were there with you, I could point to a couple, probably one that is close by Capernaum, where we take people, where He taught the Sermon on the Mount, we believe, probably that one but we're not sure. It could have been all the way up in northern Galilee, Mount Hermon, way, way up north, we don't know. But on a mountain they knew about, they were to meet Jesus there.
Peter's a man of action. He's been waiting probably on that hill with his guys. And a day goes by, a couple of days goes by, and there's a no show. That's how he sees it. So he goes, you know what, I'm going to go fishing. Now I have read and I have heard preachers say, well, Peter shouldn't have gone fishing. It's wrong for Peter to have gone fishing because Jesus called him out of fishing. That was his earthly occupation. That's what he did before he knew the Lord.
And Jesus had said to him previously, from now on, Peter, you're going to catch men. I'm going to make you become fishers of men. So they see this as a mistake. He's going back to his old life, going back to his old ways. I guess that's one way of looking at it.
There's another way of looking at it. You can wait for something passively or you can wait for something actively. Peter was not a passive kind of a person. Do you know that by now? He's a man of action. He'll wait but while he's waiting, he's going to be doing something. There is passive waiting, and then there's active waiting. So he's going to stay occupied. After all, Jesus did say "occupy" or "continue to do business until I come," remember that story, that parable, "occupy till I come."
There's a principle, and everybody here knows this principle. It's much easier to direct a moving object than a stationary object. When you rode a bicycle, your parents didn't show you a video on how it's done and show you the biomechanics of bicycling, and you are there stationary. No, they put you on the bike, at least mine did, and they say, all you've got to do is peddle and keep it balanced. So they pushed me. You've got to get going. And so as they pushed me, then one would run alongside. I don't really know if they did the run alongside.
I think my brothers may have done that and maybe even waited back to see if I would fall as they smiled at it. But typically a parent will push and then once the bike's going, it's a lot easier to control it because it is moving rather than it being stationary. The time you lose the speed, you lack the control. So Peter is moving, he's occupying, he's going to go fishing, and he's going to wait for the Lord. He's at the Sea of Galilee. By the way, when it says Sea of Tiberias, that's another name of the Sea of Galilee.
Why is it called the Sea of Tiberias? Because the major city where the Roman government had its seat was the city of Tiberias. And when we take you to Israel, we stay in a hotel in the city of Tiberias right on the lake. So you get a view, when you wake up in the morning, of the whole Sea of Galilee spread before you, the sea of Tiberias or the Sea of Galilee.
So Peter is actively waiting at the Sea of Galilee. Let me suggest that as you wait for the Lord, you just don't find some little corner and get into a lotus position and just go, om, I'm waiting for the Lord. The Lord is coming back, and we're waiting for Him to come back. But until He comes back, we're to stay busy. We're to stay occupied, we're to stay doing things. I love, I love the testimony of the servant of Abraham in the Old Testament. His name was Eliezer.
Eliezer was sent by Abraham to go to Uncle Laban's house in Padam-aram to find a wife for Abraham's son Isaac, who was Rebecca, you know the story. When he's there, he gathers Rebecca and her dad Laban together, and he's telling them how he got there. Listen to what he says. "And I being in the way the Lord led me." I like that. "I being in the way the Lord led me."
Let me just suggest to you, get in God's way. God is moving. He has a stream that is flowing. And when you throw a twig in the stream, that stream goes or that twig goes in the way of the stream. Find God's stream, find the way God is moving and jump in. Get in His way. "I being in the way the Lord led me." Many years ago when I came to faith in Christ, back in what we called in California the "Jesus movement," we were convinced that Jesus was going to return within the next couple of years back then. And we believed His return was imminent. Now I still believe that. I believe His return is imminent.
I don't believe there's anything holding back the Rapture of the church, the coming of the Lord. And it's great to wake up every morning and go, this could be it. This could be the last day. The Lord could come back. And one day, we'll be right. Now it's been 2,000 years, they haven't been right, we haven't been. But one day, we'll be right. And so we wait, and we actively wait. But I remember during that time, when I announced to my friends that I was going to go to college, and they looked at me like I was so unspiritual. Why would you do that? Jesus is coming back. You won't graduate.
Maybe you're right, I might not graduate. But if I don't graduate because the Lord comes back, that's a great way not to graduate. In fact, I have graduated if that happens. We all have. But when the Lord comes back, I just want you guys to know, He's going to find me at college. And if He doesn't come back at the end of college, He'll find me working wherever I work. I'm going to be occupying until He comes.
But there was this notion that we should just wait around for the Jesus to come back. We'll wait around, do nothing, maybe get a credit card, maybe get a lot of things on credit. And because if Jesus is coming back, we won't have to pay it off. Not a smart way to live. Occupy, stay busy until He comes.
I heard a great story about a man who went to his doctor. And he said, Doctor, something's wrong, man. I'm just, I have no energy, and I need to find out what's wrong. The doctor says, let me take you through a cadre of tests and find out what it is. So he took him through a bunch of medical exams. And at the end of them, the doctor came to him and said, well, there's absolutely nothing wrong with you. In fact, I'll tell you as your doctor straight up because the guy said, tell me, give it to me straight, Doc.
What's wrong, what ails me? I can take it, give it to me straight. He goes, there's absolutely nothing wrong with you. You're just plain lazy. And the man said, OK, could you give that to me in medical terms so I can tell my wife? Jesus doesn't want us to be lazy while we're waiting for Him to return but to stay busy. So Peter's out there, I'm going fishing. Listen, Jesus is going to meet him in Galilee but you got to eat. And there's a lake, and I know how to fish.
I grew up doing it. So I'm going to go eat. I'm going to go occupy. I'm going to go prepare a meal. So notice, it says in verse 3, "They went out and immediately got into a boat." And notice it says that night, not that day, they're fishing at night. "That night they caught nothing, but when the morning had now come."
The best time to fish on the Sea of Galilee was at night for two reasons. The most important reason is because in the morning, you want to go to the marketplace with fresh fish. The only way to have fresh fish early in the morning when the market opens is to catch it at night. And so what they would do, and here's the second reason it was better, they would go out under the cover of darkness, fish all night with their nets.
There were three different ways to use a net. I won't elaborate. But they would light torches in the boat, and the fish were attracted to the light of the torches usually. This was a very unusual night. They were experts. They knew what they were doing. They had done this before. It's nighttime. We got this wired. They go out hour after hour catching zero fish. Nothing, I looked it up in the Greek, means nothing.
That's what they caught, big nothing. So it's morning, and the morning light begins to fill the landscape. The sun would have risen over the east over the Golan Heights and begin to glimmer on the Sea of Galilee. And someone shows up on the shore. "When the morning had now come," peeking over the Golan Heights, "Jesus stood on the shore. And yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus." Once again, we find that they didn't recognize Him.
A couple reasons for this, the boat would have been far away from the shore. A person on the shore is a speck. The light is early light. It's not good. It's just dawn so you don't get the details. But they had spent enough time with Jesus that usually, I can tell even up a long way off who a person is by their frame, can't you? You can see them coming. I can spot them in a crowd. Oh, there they are, way down there.
But let's just give them the benefit of the doubt. It's early. It's dark. They're far away. Again I'm just going to make a suggestion like I did last week, that the Resurrection of Jesus had brought significant change to Him. There were recognizable features about Him, and yet there were differences. And I do commend to you on your own that you go home and study, maybe tonight before you go to bed, 1 Corinthians, chapter 15. It's a lengthy passage.
But the apostle Paul tells us about our resurrected body. Our body now compared to what it will be like raised from the dead, it will be similar but different. And he says it's like the difference between a seed and a plant, a seed and something that has blossomed and grown into a vibrant plant or flower.
They're related by DNA. But you've got to admit, a seed looks very different than a flower. And so there are going to be significant changes in the resurrected body from the earthly body. We'll still know it's you.
People ask me this all the time. Will we recognize each other in heaven? Spurgeon said, do you think we'll be more stupid in heaven than we are on Earth? If you can recognize somebody now,
But they couldn't recognize them. They weren't resurrected. In heaven, we'll recognize one another. But they didn't know it was Jesus. "And Jesus said to them", notice His question, "Children, have you any food?"
Hey, kids, what did you catch? It's a beautiful term, "paidion," children, little ones, ones that someone who loves them, a guardian would care for. And this is a typical question that we ask fishermen. Of course, we don't say children to them. They'd beat you up.
But when we see fishermen, when I used to see them at the Huntington Beach pier, you'd go, what'd you catch? And they'll always tell you. Well, I got a few of these or I got nothing.
He says, "Children, do you have any food? They answered no. And He said to them, cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some."
The right side of the boat is seven and 1/2 feet away from the left side of the boat. The boat that they used 2,000 years ago in the Sea of Galilee, there's one that, when you go to Israel with us, you'll see from 2,000 years ago. 27 feet long, seven and 1/2 feet wide. They had the nets down on one side. Jesus said, well, just lift the nets up and move them seven and 1/2 feet, and you'll catch some. Doesn't make much sense.
So they cast, what do you got to lose. You caught nothing. So they cast and now, "they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of the fish." I absolutely love those times when Jesus gives fishing advice to expert fishermen.
He didn't grow up as a fisherman. He grew up in Nazareth. He didn't grow up at the Sea of Galilee.
He was a tekton. He was a craftsperson. He was a carpenter. But I love how this carpenter gives fishing advice to fishermen. And well, He should.
He knows more about fishing than they do. He created fish. Just like Jesus can give advice to a physicist about physics, a scientist about science, or any profession. He knows more than they do.
But He asked them a question, "Children, do you have any food?" Why did He ask them that? Well, He wanted to hear the answer, nothing. No, we caught nothing. Did you catch anything? No.
Why would He do that? He wants them to face their failure, I believe. He wants them to face it and to announce it.
No, here's my confession, I caught nothing. We got a big zero. You will discover, and that would be a fun study, wouldn't it, to look at the questions that God asks in the Bible. The first one is to Adam in the Garden. "Adam, where are you?"
Did God know the answer to His own question? Sure, he's right there. He's right there in the Garden. You can see everyone and everything.
Why would you, why would you ask that? "Adam, where are you?" Then second question, "Did you eat of the fruit of the tree that I commanded you not to eat?" Why would He ask the question?
He wants Adam to face it and admit it. There was the time the Lord asked Elijah the prophet, running from Jezebel, running from the chick queen. He was so courageous with the prophets of Baal, and then Jezebel threatens his life, and he goes, oh, and he runs away down to the Sinai.
His contemporaries would have jabbed him about that, joked about that all day long. And so he's down hiding in the cleft of a rock, and God comes and says, "Elijah, what are you doing here?" God knew the answer. He wants Elijah to face it.
So He asked them, have you caught anything? No, nothing. Now there's Jesus right there. They don't recognize Him.
And again I just want to bring that principle up. We saw it last time. How often is Jesus right there, and we don't recognize him? How often God is with us, and we're oblivious to the fact, we're blinded by the pain, by the circumstance, by the expectation we had that didn't get fulfilled.
He's there. He's hidden from us. We don't recognize Him, but He's there.
Do you love the story about Jacob running from his brother? And he goes out to Bethel, it's just that open wind-blown deserted place in Israel, puts his head that night on a rock. He's run from his family.
It's a Godforsaken place that he's at. That's how he would have described it. It's Godforsaken. He puts his head down at night, and he sees a dream of a ladder going to heaven and angels coming down and going up.
The Lord speaks to him in that dream, and he wakes up. And he says these words, "The Lord is in this place, and I knew it not." The Lord is in this Godforsaken place. It's not Godforsaken, the Lord's here.
"The Lord is in this place." And then he says, "and I knew it not." I know it now, but I knew it not. Now I know it, the Lord is in this place. The Lord is in that place at Galilee at the sea of Tiberias, right there on the shore, talking to them. But they didn't recognize Him.
So he tells them, verse 6, "cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some. So they cast, now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of the fish." There's a huge difference between doing something on your own and doing something at the direction of God, at the leading of the Lord. And you know what the difference is? Results, that's the difference.
If you go out on your own, I'm going fishing, OK, go ahead. If it's not spirit-directed service, you're going to say the same thing they did. I caught nothing.
I know many people who are in service of the Lord. They work hard. They're competent. They're diligent, and they walk away going, I caught nothing.
Because it's more than diligence, and it's more than being competent. It's being obedient, to listen to where He wants to go and how He wants you to do it. Listen, the difference between success and failure was the width of the boat.
What difference does it make to put my nets here or seven and 1/2 feet away? Only that Jesus said to put it there. Why would He say that? I don't know, but are you going to argue about it or are you going to put your nets down and get something?
So you can be competent. You can be diligent. But it's better to just be obedient and then add to that competence and diligence.
Go where God wants you to go. Do what He's called you to do. Operate in the gifts He has poured into your life and enjoy it and enjoy results. "Therefore, that disciple whom Jesus loved", who would that be? John, we love, I love John for that.
Because he gives me the, he sets the model for me. He called himself the disciple Jesus loved. Peter could have referred to him as the disciple Jesus loved because Jesus loved Peter, too. Nathanael could have called himself the disciple Jesus loved. I'm the disciple Jesus loved, so are you.
But John just knew that he was uniquely loved. And so maybe as an act of humility without naming himself, but really just to say, there's one thing I know, He loves me. "The disciple that Jesus loved said to Peter, it's the Lord."
He's figured it out now. John has figured it out. Now John was the one who figured out the whole thing about the tomb remember last week. Peter and John run to the tomb. John gets there first, looks in.
Peter comes there, heh heh, panting, a little bit later goes in, can't figure it out. John goes in, figures it out. He's risen.
He believed in the Resurrection. So John figured out the Resurrection from going in and looking at the tomb. John also figures out from this little encounter, this can't be happening unless that individual who told us to put the nets from this side to that side unless that's the Lord, that's the Lord. That's the Lord.
"Now when Simon Peter heard that it was", before we get there, what convinced John to recognize that individual who said, "Children, do you have any food?" No, cast your nets on the other side. To know that's the Lord is that it sounded familiar. This whole scenario feels like something that happened a few years back.
I'll read it to you. You Don't even have to turn there, but you can just remember and mark it, look at it later if you want. This is Luke, chapter 5, the beginning of Jesus' ministry in Capernaum.
"So it was as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, He stood by the lake of Gennesaret", same lake, Tiberias, Galilee, Gennesaret, all the same. "He saw two boats standing by the lake, but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats which was Simon's and asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down, and He taught the multitudes from the boat."
So He used it as a way to get away from the people at a sufficient distance so He could preach a message. It was a floating pulpit. "When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon," hey, launch out into the deep "and let down your nets for a catch." Let's go fishing.
"But Simon answered and said, Master, we have toiled all night and have caught nothing. Nevertheless, at Your word, I will let down the net." Smart thinking, I'll do it at Your word.
Now I'm sure Peter's thinking, oh my goodness, this guy's a preacher, he's not a fisherman. You don't fish during the day. We've fished all night. The best time to catch is at night. We haven't caught anything, but this guy wants to go fishing so I'll take the preacher fishing. I'll humor Him and show Him that I was right all along.
"And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came, and they filled both boats so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying depart from me for I am a sinful man, oh, Lord."
Why would he say that? Because now he recognizes this isn't an ordinary person. I'm Peter the Great Fisherman. You're a preacher in my boat. Now all of a sudden, I'm a sinful man and you're the Lord. I see how bad I am because I see how great You are. In seeing You, I see myself. Depart from me, Lord, get away from me. You shouldn't be tainted by me.
So John after the Resurrection said, it's the Lord. It's the only explanation for it because three years ago, that was the Lord. And there are certain things that happen and the only logical explanation is it's the Lord. It's the Lord.
How do you explain Peter standing up on Pentecost and 3,000 people coming to faith at his sermon? It's the Lord. How do you explain a drug addict getting clean, coming to Christ, giving his life to Christ totally changed? It's the Lord.
I was speaking to a preacher from Halifax, Nova Scotia, the other day. I was up in Toronto, Canada. And after I spoke, a preacher from the east coast of Canada, way up in the north, up in St. John, Nova Scotia, far east coast of Canada, came up to me and said, I listen to you all the time. I found your sermons, and I listen all the time.
And he's asking about the church and how it grew and what is the explanation for it. It's the Lord. It's not, well, we have an organ that cost thousands of dollars, the largest pipe organ in the area. People come out to hear that, or we have this or that. There is no explanation except it's the Lord.
So in catching all of those fish from moving that net seven and a half feet, he goes it's the Lord. So watch what Peter does, verse 7, John 21. "Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment for he had removed it, and he plunged into the sea". He just had his undergarments on, his skivvies on, so to speak.
And you take off the coat that you use to keep you warm. He's working up a sweat, toiling all night, catching nothing. And so he puts on his coat and he jumps in. Now that to me is funny, because it's not a wetsuit. It's not neoprene.
It's 2,000 years ago. It's wool or cotton, so putting on a coat to jump in a lake isn't going to help you. You're not going to get warmer. It's going to provide more drag.
It's going to take you longer to get to the shore. You're going to get colder because you're, heh, heh, standing around in that little wet blanket that you've got over you. But Peter, I don't know, he puts his coat on, maybe his little hat.
"He jumps in, for he had removed it. But the other disciples came in the little boat for they were not far from the land, about 200 cubits, dragging the nets with the fish. Then as soon as they had come to the land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it and bread. And Jesus said to them, bring some of the fish which you have just caught. Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to the land full of large fish, 153. And although there were so many, the net was not broken" I don't know why but somebody counted.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, be right with you, Jesus. 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, hold on, 19, 20, 153, somebody counted. I can only think, I've tried to work through this a lot. I can only think that that's what they were used to.
And they would catch fish, and they would number them because they're going to take them to the market. So as soon as you bring it in, you count, you take it to the market, and you sell it. You know what your profit's going to be. This is probably how they used to work it.
But I will say this, Jerome, one of the early church fathers from fourth century AD, Jerome said 153 were the number of species of fish in the world at that time. And the significance was that Jesus was telling them, had told them, and was recommissioning them to catch men instead of fish. And Jesus commissioned them to go out into all the world and preach the gospel.
Interesting, I don't know, I don't want to press the point and try to make all these mystical, numerical things out of it. There's people who do that. I'm not one of them. I just think somebody counted.
And so John wrote it down. If you want to get all mystical and numerical, have fun, just don't tell me what you found. John said to them, Jesus said to them, come and eat breakfast. Wouldn't you love for Jesus to do that, cook you breakfast and say, hey, glad you woke up. Let's come and have breakfast. "Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him who are You, knowing that it was the Lord Jesus, then came and took the bread and gave it to them, likewise, the fish. Now this was the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead."
Notice some of the details here. First of all, Jesus made a fire. Why is that important? Well, Peter was pretty cold, standing around in that overcoat that got nice and wet.
It's nice to go by that fire and get warm. But more than that, Peter had denied Jesus at the fires of the enemy at the court of Caiaphas the high priest. There, standing by the fire, he denied that he even knew Jesus. Now he's standing with Jesus at a fire that Jesus made for him.
Notice something else, Jesus not only made them a fire, He made them breakfast. The creator of the universe, the God of everything made them breakfast. I bet it was good. There is a significance to this.
You know, in ancient times, to eat with somebody meant intimate fellowship, right. You know that. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone will open the door, I'll come in" and have a meal with him, eat with him, sup with him.
But to eat a meal with somebody who has done you wrong is a gesture of forgiveness. Peter denied Jesus. Peter, look, I've cooked you a meal. It's a gesture of forgiveness.
It's saying I'm willing to reconcile. I'm not holding anything. Let's have a meal together. So Jesus made a fire. Jesus made them breakfast.
Number three, notice this detail, Jesus made them add their fish to His fish. By the time they got there, there's a fish that Jesus has on that fire. He says bring some of those fish that you caught, put them on there with it.
Now He didn't need to do that, did He? He is the creator after all. Couldn't He have created a nice fish breakfast? Couldn't He have, if He wanted to, brought in Argentinean sea bass just like that, bam, on the plate with capers and a little olive oil, a little seasoning? Ooh, that's breakfast. I know it sounds a little fishy, but it, it, that's... He could have done that. But please notice the detail. He made them bring what they caught to add to His fish.
Here's the principle. Jesus doesn't need your help, but He loves your involvement. He doesn't need your fish, but He invites you to bring them. He can make his own. He doesn't need your help, but He wants your involvement.
So the little boy with the loaves and the fish, Jesus didn't need them. But He used them, and He multiplied them. I love that. He loves us to bring what we have. It's not much. So we can't go around saying I'm pretty awesome because you're not. And what you have isn't much, but put that in Jesus' hands, that will feed a multitude. That will go a long way. Doesn't need your help, but He loves your involvement. "Jesus came and He took the bread, and He gave it to them, likewise, the fish. This is the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples", ahem, "after He was raised from the dead."
Now let's say we have a microphone. We're interviewing the disciples right now. Say, boys, what's the highlight of your day? Or in Jesus' terms, children, but we'll be nice to them. Boys, what was the highlight of your day? They're not going to say fishing. They're not going to be the ones to put on their chariot the bumper sticker, "I'd rather go fishing," "I'd rather be fishing."
OK. The highlight of their day wasn't the fishing. The highlight of their day, you could ask them, they would have said, eating breakfast with Jesus, hanging out with Jesus, in fellowship with Jesus. OK, it's fun to go fishing. But it can't compete to hanging out with Jesus. It just can't, and they knew that. And that was the highlight of their day, being in fellowship with Him.
Sometimes we who serve the Lord and work hard for the Lord fishing for men, those of us who have the privilege of being on the staff of a church or being full-time in the ministry, there is a danger. We can get so busy about the King's business, we forget the King Himself. We forget hanging out with the King. And if we forget hanging out with the King, you've got no business doing His business unless you make your business hanging out with the King.
So in the Book of Revelation, the church of Ephesus, Jesus said, I commend you. You work, you labor, you do a lot of great things. But I have something against you. You've left your first love. You're busy like that. You do good like that, but you and I, we're not hanging out together much. So you begin there, you begin in fellowship with Him, then the labor flows from that. The ministry, the service flows from that.
So let's finish this up. "So it was that when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?' He said to him, 'Yes, Lord, you know that I love You.' He said to him, 'Feed my lambs.' He said to him again, a second time, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?' He said to him, 'Yes, Lord, you know that I love You.' He said to him, 'Tend My sheep.' He said to him a third time, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?' Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, do you love me, and he said to Him, 'Lord, You know all things. You know that I love you.' Jesus said to him, 'Feed my sheep.'"
Some have asked why would Jesus have this encounter with Peter, who had been hurting. He was discouraged because he carried on his shoulders the denial of Christ. Why would Jesus have this conversation with Peter publicly, with all of these other buddies of his listening in? Isn't that cruel that Jesus would do it publicly? No, it's not and here's why. Number one, Jesus and Peter had already privately met. They had already met privately before. We know this from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 24.
The two come from Emaneus road, and they come with the other disciples. And the disciples say, the Lord is risen indeed and has appeared to Simon. That happened in Jerusalem, a private meeting with Simon Peter. 1 Corinthians, chapter 15, Paul the Apostle says Jesus died, was buried. He is risen and appeared to Peter and then to the 12 and then to 500 also. So He already had a private meeting with Peter to hash it out.
Here's the second reason, or here's the second thing to note. Charles Spurgeon said a man's repentance should be as notorious as his sin. Listen to that again, a man's repentance should be as notorious as his sin. Peter denied Jesus publicly three times. It's only fitting that Peter gets to affirm Jesus with a friendly public, his friends, the fishermen, the apostles, three times. So He comes publicly to restore Peter.
Now quickly notice there's three parts to this little interrogation. The first part is a question. Do you love Me? The second part, a reaction, of course I love You. The third part is the commission, feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep. Question, reaction, commission, three parts and each is done three times. Now what does it mean when Jesus said, "Peter, do you love Me more than these?" What is He referring to? Any answers?
And I'm glad you're hesitating because the answer is we don't know. We weren't there. These could refer to a number of things. He could have been looking at the nets, the boats, the fish. Peter, do you love Me more than these tools of your occupation? Do you love Me more than your occupation, life itself, what you're used to doing, what you've been trained to do? Do you love Me more than doing that? He could have meant those things. He could have been looking at the other apostles. Do you love Me more than you love them, your friends? Do you love Me more than your friends?
Number three, He could have met in a comparative sense. Do you love Me more than they love Me? Do you love Me more than these love Me? And that is a possibility because at one time Peter said he did. He said you're all going to be offended because of Me tonight. And Peter said, oh, Lord, they might be offended because of You but I will die with You. Well, you're going to deny Me before the night's over three times.
Peter believed that he could die with Jesus. He was saying, in effect, I love You more than they love You. Somebody once said, he who stops to admire his own halo, looks up to admire his own halo will get nothing more than a pain in the neck. Not only will they get one, they'll be one. People are a pain in the neck when they talk about what they are willing to do for God and their sacrifice and where they've been in the world, while other Christians aren't as holy as they are. I am, I get bored hearing those things.
"Do you love Me more than these?" Now he's very sheepish about it. In fact, the language is important, and I've gone in-depth several times so I'm not going to go too much in depth except to say there's wordplay here. Peter, do you love Me? The word He uses "agapao," do you love Me with the 100% love, the divine self-sacrificing God-kind of love, where you are willing to put Me before all else. Do you love Me with 100% agape love, "agapao"?
When Peter answers the question, he doesn't use that word. He says, Lord, You know that I love You. It's the word "phileo," I admire You. Peter, do love Me at 100%? I'm about 70%. He asked him again, Peter, agape, agapao thou Me? Well, Lord, I'm about 70%. The third time Jesus asked him the question, He moves from the highest form of love down to Peter's level. And He questions now if Peter even admires Him. That's why it says Peter was grieved when He asked him the third time.
It wasn't because it's like, you asked me this question three times. That was a very common thing to do in Judaism, to ask a question or to say things three times. What bothered Peter is that Jesus didn't use the term "agapao" but "phileo." Do you love me at 100%? Uh, 70%. Do you love Me at 100%? Uh, 70%. Peter, do you really love Me at 70%? Do you really "phileo" Me? Now notice what Peter does. Oh, Lord, You know all things, and You know that I admire You.
He's appealing to Jesus' knowledge of Him. At one time, what he said in effect to Jesus when he said, they may all flake out on Thee, Lord, but I will die for Thee. What he was saying in effect is You don't know me. You say I'm going to deny You. You don't know Peter, I'll die for You. Now he says, Lord, um, You know everything. And You know that I admire You. I can't even claim that I agape You. I'd like to but I can't. But notice the three times Jesus commissions him, He says, feed My sheep. Three times He commissions him. Now what an encouragement that would be to Peter.
We would understand it if Jesus would have said, you know, Peter, come over here, puts His arm around Peter. Let's take a walk, you and Me. Peter, listen, I love you, buddy. Oops, excuse me. I love you, buddy, but I can never use you in the ministry again because of your failure. You understand that, right? I mean, this betrays a deep character flaw. You'll never be able to be used again in the capacity you once did. And if Jesus would have said that, I'm sure he and the others would have understood.
But what He says to him is Peter, I'm going to entrust you with the most important thing in the world to me, and that is My sheep. Not only are you a fisher of men, I want you to be a shepherd of sheep. I'm commissioning you into service, not just to catch people but to feed them. Once they are caught, and they become My sheep, I want you to nourish them, tend them, feed them. What an encouragement to Peter.
"Most assuredly, I say to you", verse 18, "when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wish. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish. This He spoke signifying by what death He would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, follow Me."
Jesus was predicting Peter's death by crucifixion. To stretch out one's hands was a euphemism for crucifixion. The church historian Eusebius tells us that Peter went to Rome. They took him out to be crucified for his faith in Christ. He asked to be crucified upside down, rather than rightside up because he said, I am not worthy to die as my Lord died. So they crucified Peter upside down. Now Jesus is predicting that. You go, well, that's disturbing. That's pretty gross.
No, let me just tell you it's encouraging for two reasons. Quickly, I'll say them. Number one, it's encouraging to Peter because Peter once claimed he'd die for Jesus. In this little interview, Peter now realizes I don't even know if I can live for You. Jesus said, in effect, not only will you live for Me and feed My sheep, the day is coming when you will die for Me. Something you always wanted, something you boasted in, you're not able to now, you haven't been able to. Not only will you live for Me, the day is coming when you will die for Me. That would be encouraging.
Number two, notice it says, when you were younger, you did what you wanted. But when you are, what? Old, so now it informs Peter that he's not going to die any time soon. He'll die as an old man.
This is important when we get to Acts, chapter 12, because he is put in prison, chained between two guards. The orders have come from Herod to kill him in the morning. If you know you're going to die the next day, are you going to be able to get sleep? Probably not. It says Peter was chained between two guards sleeping. How could Peter sleep under those conditions? Because he knows he's not going to die tomorrow. But Herod said he's going to die. But he knows he's not because Jesus said, you'll die when you're old. And he's still a young man so I'm going to sleep. This isn't going to happen for a long time. I just want you to hear that because that's what the promises of God can do for a person. It'll give you a good night's sleep.
"Then Peter", I've got to finish this quick. "Then, Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also leaned on his breast" at the Last Supper or at the supper, "and said, Lord, who's the one who betrays you? Peter seeing him said to Jesus, But, Lord, what about this man? Jesus said to him, if I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me." Now Peter is still Peter. My friend used to say, still does, people change but not that much. So Peter's still Peter. Peter's worried about John.
OK, you told me about me. But what about him? And don't we often get really kind of like worried about other people when what we really should be worried about is our own personal walk with the Lord? What about him? What about her? How come she's not doing that? How come he's not doing that? Forget about them. In fact, Jesus said, if I want him to live till the Rapture, what do you care? Now because He said that, notice how the book closes. "Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus didn't say to him that he would not die.
But if I will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?" It wasn't a personal prophecy. It was, it was a hypothetical statement, that's all it was. "If," "if that's what I want," who cares, I'll worry about him. You worry about you. "This is the disciple who testifies of these things", John speaking of himself. "And who wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that could be written." One more word, "amen."
We're done. More could be said about some of these verses in this last encounter. Don't have the time, done it before. You can look in the archives and get it if you wish. But your homework assignment for next week is read the first two chapters of Joshua. We're going back to the Old Testament. You know, we go back and forth, Old Testament, New Testament, Old Testament, New Testament. So we're in it to win it in the book of Joshua as we look at them crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land. And we'll have a great time at a faster pace.
Thank you, Lord, for the ability to gather together to focus on Your Word, to apply it to our lives, to see men like Peter and John and to see ourselves in them. Thank you, Lord, for a man like Peter so concerned about his performance on the night he betrayed you, only to be loved on by Jesus, to stand in front of the One who knew him better than he knew himself, and to say, again, like He had said three years before, follow Me. Just like you did, do it again. Not only follow Me but fish for men again. Not only that, but feed My sheep, My lambs. I'm going to use you for big things. That's encouraging to us, Lord. If we feel washed up on the shore, I pray, Lord, that we would rise up from the shore like these disciples did from the shores of Galilee, and go into all the world in Jesus' name. Amen.