Fishing For A Future

Private Appearances of Jesus, Resurrected  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  30:01
0 ratings
Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →

The Appearances of the Risen Jesus

Invited Into the Story

John goes back to storytelling, with these words:
John 21:1 ESV
1 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way.
Now if that isn’t an invitation to listen to a story, I guess you’ll need a banjo and a Beverley Hillbillies theme song!
John tells us right up front what we are about to see: Jesus will reveal himself to his disciples, again. But there is a different setting this time.
The first appearance was to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb. Then he appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, where they recognized him in the breaking of bread.
Mary had already run to tell the disciples that she had seen the Lord. The two disciples that hurried back to Jerusalem in the evening told the rest that they had seen the Lord.
It makes no sense to our minds and emotions that the dead rise from the grave, even if it is something we hope for so dearly when we lose someone we love. And they all loved Jesus. That’s why the ones who hadn’t had the experience didn’t believe the eyewitnesses at first.
Not until Jesus showed up in the upper room to 10 of the 11 Apostles that were left and the other disciples that were there. But of course we know that Thomas was told later that they had seen the Lord, and he refused to believe.
Until 8 days later, on a Monday night — that’s the first day of the week plus 8 — Thomas was there when Jesus showed up again and invited him to see, touch and believe. That’s when Thomas proclaimed the great truth of Jesus: He said “My Lord and my God!”. That’s a giant leap from what the others said when they called him Lord and Master.

Directions to Go Home

Now, the only record we have of the next several days is what shows up in Matthew 28:1-10, when the group of women including Mary and the other Mary went to the tomb, experienced the earthquake when the angel rolled the stone away, told them “He is not here, He is risen” The angel then said they should tell his disciples that he had risen and will be there in Galilee.
They were on their way to do just that, when Jesus met them in the garden. “Then Jesus told them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.”
Then we read in Matthew 28:16, “The eleven disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them.”
Now they are back to home territory, in Galilee. While John did the reader’s digest version that abruptly has them in Jerusalem and suddenly in Galilee, Matthew told that they traveled there, and then compresses what happens before they meet Jesus on the mountain.
It was somewhere between 85-100 miles to Galilee. That’s nearly a week’s walk for the boys. But they were used to travel on foot.
That means that, since this was a work day, it was probably the next Sunday or Monday they arrived. So a week since Jesus appeared them last in the upper room.
We know that Jesus would spend 40 days meeting with and teaching his followers after the resurrection and until his ascension into the clouds. So we are now at 15 days past the resurrection. Only 25 more days to go.
But first, these men that Jesus had been preparing to spread the Gospel were lost. Lost in their confusion, lost in their purpose, lost in despair and depression.
What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

Going Back to The Familiar.

Unless you have good reason to stay away, the best place to be when you don’t know where to be is where it’s familiar.
They were back in Galilee because Jesus told them to go. Okay. Now what. Without their leader, what would they do?
John tells us that there were seven of them together. So probably Matthew, who was Judean, Simon the Zealot, and maybe Bartholomew weren’t with them. Here’s the list:
John 21:2 ESV
2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together.
So we have Simon Peter, Thomas (or Didymus–that’s what everyone called him, anyway), Nathanael of Cana, James and his brother John bar Zebedee, and 2 others. Any guesses? They are disciples. They know fishing. They were probably Galilean. Best guess, anyone?
Let’s be clear. We are just guessing. But Andrew was Peter’s brother, and he and Philip got along; and it was Philip that went to get Nathanael to met Jesus. John 1 says Philip was from the same town as Peter and Andrew, according to John 1:43. So the easy choice is that Philip and Andrew were the other two.
But they were most all Galilean, so James the little guy-actually the son of Alphaeus, Bartholomew, and the other Simon, the activist (or Zealot, it says in scripture).
Simon Peter now takes the lead:

Going Fishing

and here comes the phrase that makes me think there was some despair and depression along with their sense of loss:
John 21:3a ““I’m going fishing,” Simon Peter said to them. “We’re coming with you,” they told him.”
Well, so much for the mission. But hey, I’m sure by now cash was running low. And fishing is what Peter did. And James and John. And probably the others.
Only one reason Simon Peter would have let them on the boat for fishing. They must be fishermen. They knew how to handle the boat, or how to throw or gather or mend the nets, and how to choose good fishing spots for the evening. So my choice is still Andrew and Philip for the other two who aren’t named.

Fishing Wasn’t Working

It’s been said that the Gospels never record that Simon Peter, a professional fisherman in Galilee, ever caught a fish unless Jesus was there. That seems to be true within the Gospel stories.
John 21:3b (ESV)
3 ... They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
But of course, this is not a full picture of Peter’s fishing career. It is clear that Peter is in charge–He has always been in charge, when it comes to his boat and his fishing business. To get that many men on the boat to go fishing for profit simply means that there was a crew, and Peter was captain. Or so I imagine it. Remember, we are invited into the story. Let’s let the story of this adventure gain some traction in our hearts and minds.
Next in the story, . . .

Someone Wants Fish

With so much hard work and nothing to show for it, the discouragement was getting worse, not better. But fishing can be like that. Boom or bust. Full nets or empty nets..
And what we have now is not helping.
John 21:4–5 CSB
4 When daybreak came, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not know it was Jesus. 5 “Friends,” Jesus called to them, “you don’t have any fish, do you?” “No,” they answered.
He might just as well asked them if the sun was rising. A fishing boat with no fish in it rides pretty high in the water. But, or course, assuming the man on the shore was asking a straight-forward market question so he could have fresh fish for breakfast, the boys called back “No.”
If you want any fish today, you better go along and find someone with better luck than to somewhere else.
But then this land-lubber got in their business–almost literally. He decided to tell the professional fishermen how and where to fish.

Try the other side

which seems like a stupid idea at this time of the morning. Night’s for fishing. Daylight’s for cleaning and drying the catch, finding buyers and fixing nets.
John 21:6a (CSB)
6 “Cast the net on the right side of the boat,” he told them, “and you’ll find some.”
It seemed ridiculous to them. They had been fishing all night, which meant using a small sail if there was any wind, otherwise rowing in search of fish. They had to fold the net and then hold the net just the right way so when they were ready to throw it over the spot they believed the fish to be. Then they let it sink down a ways before they pulled the net in to see what it gathered. Over and over they did this, all night long.
Now they were tired and hungry, coming to shore to pack it all in. And this sidewalk supervisor or maybe a customer tells the fishermen where to fish–even though this wasn’t the time when fish were brought out of the sea of Galilee.
But then, it seems, they humored him:

They Threw the Net

…probably thinking this was going to show the bystander that there weren’t any fish there either. Tired, grumpy, and frustrated that they couldn’t even make a day’s wages by working hard over night, they decided to humor him.
John 21:6b (CSB)
6 So they did, and they were unable to haul it in because of the large number of fish.

Too Many Fish to Handle

OK, something is a little screwy here. Who is this guy? And why does he know where the fish are? And why did he tell us to throw the net in where we would catch more than we could carry?

This Isn’t the First Time

...this has happened to Simon Peter. But it’s been a few years. The first time we find recorded in Luke 5:1-11 when Jesus fist calls Simon Peter to the great adventure of the Gospel.
Here’s how that story unfolds (You will recognize a pattern here). Jesus was gaining a following for his provocative preaching about personal priorities when it came to living a life God would bless. So,
Luke 5:1 “1 As the crowd was pressing in on Jesus to hear God’s word, he was standing by Lake Gennesaret.”
Luke 5:2 “2 He saw two boats at the edge of the lake; the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets.”
So the first time, they had already packed up and landed, and Jesus asked a favor:
Luke 5:3 “3 He got into one of the boats, which belonged to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from the land. Then he sat down and was teaching the crowds from the boat.”
Luke 5:4 “4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.””
Probably the only reason they even considered they might do what this Jesus guy said this first time was that they were intrigued by the message, enough to honor him as teacher.
Luke 5:5 “5 “Master,” Simon replied, “we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I’ll let down the nets.””
Luke 5:6 “6 When they did this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets began to tear.”
Luke 5:7 “7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them; they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.”
Right now, it doesn’t seem like this was a great favor. Two boats so overloaded with fish that it threatened disaster.
But it also signalled to Peter that he was in the presence of someone who not only spoke the word of God but also was able to manipulate nature. This was big!
Luke 5:8 “8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’s knees and said, “Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord!””
Later on, there was the time when Jesus calmed the sea and Peter said the same thing. In the presence of the Holy One of God, Peter was always aware of his own sin and unworthiness.
But now back to the story of the first time that Jesus led them to a great cash of fish and what happened then:
Luke 5:9-10 “9 For he and all those with him were amazed at the catch of fish they had taken,
10 and so were James and John, Zebedee’s sons, who were Simon’s partners. “Don’t be afraid,” Jesus told Simon. “From now on you will be catching people.””

That’s when they began to follow Jesus

The result of this first catch was what led these guys to follow Jesus in the first place.
Luke 5:11 “11 Then they brought the boats to land, left everything, and followed him.”
So now, a few years later, same waters, same boat, same fishermen, after they had given everything up for Jesus, and he died and was buried and back to life again, the net was too heavy with fish to bring it into the boat.
John 21:6 CSB
6 “Cast the net on the right side of the boat,” he told them, “and you’ll find some.” So they did, and they were unable to haul it in because of the large number of fish.

They Recognize Jesus

in the catching of fish. This is a little like the two on the road to Emmaus who recognized Jesus in the breaking of bread.
John 21:7 CSB
7 The disciple, the one Jesus loved, said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tied his outer clothing around him (for he had taken it off) and plunged into the sea.
Peter getting too excited to handle business wasn’t necessarily out of character for “Mr. Impulsive”. But it did leave his buddies holding the net.

No time to waste

Peter didn’t throw himself into the sea to drown.
He grabbed his clothes, jumped in an got to shore as quickly as he could.
John 21:8 CSB
8 Since they were not far from land (about a hundred yards away), the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish.

Jesus Is Alive! And Here!

They didn’t find him in glowing white clothes on a mountaintop this time. He was back in his regular human form that they were so used to when they followed him.
John 21:9 CSB
9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread.
And here he was now on shore, cooking breakfast for himself. That’s when. . .

Jesus Invites Them to Join the Catch

John 21:10 CSB
10 “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus told them.
This seems at first like an invitation to breakfast. But Jesus doesn’t at first just invite them to breakfast. He invites them to share the catch.
The disciples had lost track of Jesus, lost track of their mission, and lost track of their purpose.
It’s all connected to the story of the first huge catch of fish in Luke chapter 5. In that story, remember, Jesus gave an invitation to join His mission.
In Matthew 4:19-20 , when Jesus met Peter and Andrew casting their net into the sea, Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will remake you to fish for people.” Or, as we are used to hearing it, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Then verse 20 says, “Immediately they left their nets and followed him.”
That first time by the see, Jesus helped them understand the mission.
But after the death and burial of Jesus, and the resurrection that they still didn’t understand, they forgot why they followed Jesus the first time.
And now, at the end of John’s Gospel, Jesus reminds them to once again focus on the mission, and share the catch of souls.
How about you? Do you still have the mission in mind, or have you wandered away from it because of the challenges of living?
Jesus is calling us back to the mission, calling us to share in the harvest of souls, to share the catch that will be blessed for eternity.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more