The Risen Lord Appears - John 21:1-14
Christians sometimes rule out certain matters as too big or too small for God. The evil and suffering of the world - including issues such as the inevitability of death, the terror of human existence, and the penalty for sin () - might seem so big that some may not believe that God can do much about it. Meanwhile, our day-to-day needs may seem so trivial that we hesitate to “brother” God with them.
Today’s text reminds us that for God no matter is too big or too small. The apostle John’s account of Jesus, raised from the dead and meeting his disciples by the Sea of Galilee, is a profound reminder that by Jesus’ death and resurrection God is transforming our world to become what he always intended it to be and is overcoming the sin and death that infect our lives. In this story, Jesus surprises his disciples with a morning meal, a simple gesture that underlines his promise always to provide what they need.
Today’s text is the first part of an extended narrative detailing one of Jesus’ appearances following his resurrection, an account recorded only by John. As the text opens, John has already recounted events from the day of the resurrection itself. Mary Magdalene, finding Jesus’ tomb empty, told Simon Peter and “the other disciple” that Jesus’ body had been taken (,). The two rushed to the tomb to see for themselves (20:3-10). Then Jesus appeared to Mary, confirming that he was indeed raised from the dead (20:11-18).
Later that same day, the “first day of the week,” Jesus appeared to his disciples in a locked room (). He appeared to them again a week later, that time addressing Thomas, who had been absent before. That man needed and received personal, tangible evidence that Jesus really was alive (20:24-28).
The appearance to Thomas is, in certain ways, the climax of John’s Gospel in light of Jesus’ statement, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (). John then immediately informs us of the “many other signs” (miracles) that Jesus performed (20:30). These comprise the fabric of this Gospel. Understanding the meaning of these signs, readers can put their faith in the risen Jesus whom they have not seen (20:31).
Unhappy Result -
Unhappy Result -
After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 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. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
We come to the final post-resurrection appearance of Jesus that is recorded in the Gospel of John. The general description afterward refers to the unspecified amount of time between the previous appearances in and near Jerusalem and the one that takes place by the Sea of Galilee. This body of water, also known as the Sea of Tiberias () and the Lake of Gennesaret (), is a large freshwater lake of about 64 square miles. It is the dominant feature of the region where Jesus grew up and conducted much of his ministry.
In verse 3, Peter announces that I go fishing - some have interpreted Peter’s announcement to be an expression of impatience or despair, a sign that he is returning to the old way of life from which Jesus had called him. But the text does not support this as the sole or even the best interpretation. Peter may simply be hungry, or he may want to retain a means of self-support, not knowing what the Lord intends for him personally. The others decide to join him. Fishing is generally done at night, when fish are nearer the water’s surface and so that fish can be sold fresh the next morning. But as was the case previously, he fishes all night without a catch ().
Unforseen Provision -
Unforseen Provision -
Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to 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 there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
In verse 5, Jesus calls out the disciples in concern. The Greek text indicates that Jesus already anticipates the answer to his question: “You do not have any fish, do you?” The fishermen, undoubtedly tired and hungry from a night of repeatedly casting their nets, acknowledge that they do not.
In verse 6, Jesus speaks as much more than just a sympathetic onlooker. His instructions are specific, as they were in . There the fishermen were to “put out into deep water”; here he tells them to throw your net on the right side of the boat. The result is immediate and overwhelming, as no fish are replaced by a large number of fish (numbered in as 153).
In what ways can this verse encourage believers today? In how we see past and current situations in light of each other; In how we anticipate the future.
Verse 7 addresses the disciples whom Jesus loved, John. He is the first to realize that the one who has just provided a huge catch of fish can only be the one who has command of the forces of nature. His declaration It is the Lord! is the basis for Peter’s spontaneous act of swimming to shore to meet Jesus.
What Peter does first upon hearing It is the Lord may be confusing, since it can seem that he puts on more cloths before jumping into the water! We should probably understand that he has been lightly clothed in a smock worn by fishermen, but that garment is loose around him. He wraps his outer garment around him to secure it close to his body so it does not interfere with swimming or wading.
What can we do to ensure a consistently genuine witness in the presence of fellow believers? When gathered for Bible Study; when gathered for prayer; when gathered for worship; when participating in service projects
The distance to shore is not so great that Peter cannot swim to shore. The close proximity to the shore also helped the six other disciples cooperate to drag the net to shore, as they may have been unable to empty its contents into the bottom of the boat as was the usual practice. The Lord’s provision is abundant, yet within their capacity to receive it.
Unexpected Meal -
Unexpected Meal -
When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
In verse 9, we see that those who come in from fishing for their breakfast would not expect someone on shore to have a breakfast of cooked fish ready for them. That is all the more so when considering that a fire of burning coals requires considerable time to heat fully. But the Lord who directed the fish to the fishermen’s net is also the Lord who fed the hungry multitudes with a scant amount of bread and fish. He is able to provide for his people in both large and small ways that astonish.
He announces to the disciples that he wants some of the just caught fish. The disciples are in a state of awe, wonder what to do next. We may wonder why Peter climbed back into the boat - but he helped to drag the net full of large fish. The inclusion of the specific number of fish point to the power of the appearance miracle.
Jesus has called his disciples “to fish for people” (, ). He has told them that as the Father has sent him, he now sends them. But how can this undistinguished band, so often marked by weak faith and failure, undertake such a task? The miraculous catch of fish points to the answer. By themselves, these men are inadequate. But empowered by the Spirit of Christ (16:7-11), they will do great things. Abiding in Jesus, relying on his provision, they will bear much fruit.
How did a time of God’s unexpected provision prepare you for future service? Regarding a provision of finances; regarding a provision of emotional support; regarding a provision of Bible understanding.
Verse 12 points to the Lord as the host of this feast, and all present are his welcome guests. Gone is the doubt that had plagued Thomas and others. All recognize their host as the sovereign Lord who commands the elements and the creatures that dwell in them. He is the one who was dead but is now gloriously alive again. They will testify with confidence about him, bringing multitudes and generations who have not seen to believe in what they have seen.
How would things change were we to acknowledge Christ as host and center of mealtimes? Regarding mealtime conversations; regarding mealtime priorities; regarding dinner invitations.
In verse 13, Jesus’ actions are described in a manner that highlights the meal as his gracious provision for his followers. As he did with the multitude, he distributes the bread and fish himself (). It is a simple meal, one typical for the times, but also an abundant meal, with plenty for everyone.
Jesus’ resurrection was no illusion, no mere visionary experience in the minds and hearts of his followers. It was an unexpected, life-transforming event in real space and time. It altered the flow of history as it fulfilled the most important promises of God. The resurrection accounts of John and the others demonstrate how real and powerful was and is the resurrection of Jesus.
How would you describe the reality and power of Jesus’ resurrection in your life? In terms of how it affects your relationships with fellow believers; in terms of how it affects your relationships with unbelievers.
Christ’s presence with and provision for Christians are constant. Whether our lives are easy, hard, or somewhere in between, he is with us. Whether our faith feels strong, shaken, or somewhere in between, he never fails or forsakes us. Jesus is not present in the flesh as he was for the disciples. But as he rules from Heaven and empowers by his Spirit, he is no less present with us than he was with them. Are we ready to acknowledge these facts, ready to receive what he gives, and ready to testify to his constant provision?
Father, may we acknowledge daily that you are with us, providing for our every need and empowering us to fulfill your every task. May your rule in the world find an anchor in our hearts. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.