It Was Never About the Fish

Private Appearances of Jesus, Resurrected  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  28:54
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Private Appearances of Jesus

In the Gospel of Mark , once the resurrection has happened, and the women go tell the disciples, who can’t fathom what’s going on, the gospel ends so abruptly that later editors added just a bit to explain Jesus’ continued work for and through the disciples.
Matthew is also pretty quiet about the disciples between the resurrection and the Great Commission. Matthew shared just shared the experience of the women at the tomb, the false tales of the guards that Jesus’ body had been stolen out of the tomb, and then Jesus in Galilee giving them the mission: Go make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow Jesus’ commands faithfully.
Luke shares the wonder of Peter after the report of the women, Luke 24:12 “12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths. So he went away, amazed at what had happened.” and the story of the two disciples who had left Jerusalem as soon as they could after the burial of Jesus, which John refers to who, once the Sabbath day was over and they were allowed to walk to their nearby village, walked away to Emmaus, all the while trying to sort out what they knew. That’s the day Jesus was raised from the dead and met them on the road, and they ran back to tell the disciples the same “We have seen the Lord” that the women had already shared.
Luke has Jesus showing up once in the upper room, eating some fish to prove he wasn’t a phantom, giving them understanding of the prophecies about him, and telling them to wait for power from on high. He spoke of the ascension of Jesus into heaven; but Luke was still telling the tale like it all happened in Jerusalem—after all, he was somewhat of a city boy, and it only made sense that Jerusalem would remain the focus of the Jewish messiah. Luke more or less just gives an introduction to the first chapter of Acts as he closes his Gospel.
But here in the Gospel of John, we have these wonderful stories of Jesus’ encounters, his private appearances, to his disciples that take up most of the last two chapters. In John’s stories, there where two upper room appearances, then the Disciples were in Galilee, and they went fishing, lost and wondering.

From the Sea to the Shore

After “I’m going fishing” that drew the Disciples back to their old lives, the Third post-resurrection appearance to the gathered disciples had a purpose to restore the sense of mission to the disciples once again.
When you are on the sea, you are there with your crew; a pretty small representation of humanity. Back on shore, the mission of Christ could be recovered and the disciples would have an important message to go with the mission.
You see, although the “let’s go fishing” beginning to John chapter 21, the real purpose of the story is not about the fish. It was never about the fish. This record is about the person of Jesus and the mission and the message that the Disciples of Jesus would learn, to bring the Gospel to the rest of their countrymen and the world.

It is the Lord!

As we return to our story in Galilee, the men had been fishing all night without success. They were coming to shore when a man there asked them if they had a good fishing night. No, they had caught nothing. Then that man on shore told them to toss the net in on the other side of the boat and the net was suddenly so full of fish they couldn’t haul it in to the boat.
Something clicked in John’s mind and understanding when the net was full, and we read,
John 21:7 ESV
7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.
That is the original response to the fact that the guy by the fire on the shore told them where to cast the next and the filled it up.
Yeah, Peter was impulsive. Isn’t that what he was like? And John, the Beloved Disciciple, was the first to recognize the Lord. Sort of, that is. We’ll get to that.
But while Simon Peter was rushing to shore, his crew was pulling the boat in, with the net dragging behind. It was maybe the length of a football field off when Peter left the boat, which was good for his swimming in to shore—by the way, even though he was excited by the possibility to see his dead friend Jesus again, nothing here suggests that he was walking on water to get there.
Meanwhile, the boys in the boat were pulling on the oars, working hard to get the boat ashore and still dragging the net full of fish that was too much to bring in over the side.
So there was Peter, on shore before the boat got there, but so far not knowing what to do about it. There is no mention that Peter greeted Jesus, not yet, anyway.
I imagine him standing on shore, dripping wet, trying to catch his breath, trying to get the water out of his eyes, trying to focus on what was here in front of him. He wanted to get closer but didn’t seem to know why.

On to Shore

Apparently Jesus would have to make the first move again. He had told them where to catch the fish, and they filled the net. He now watched as they struggled with the net, probably heard John say “It’s the Lord” and Peter’s thrashing swim to shore.
These guys were fishermen, after all, not Olympic swimmers.
John 21:8 ESV
8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
Now the boat had come in. The other 6 disciples and Peter were standing on shore now, and they all got a glimpse of the fire and the cooking that was happening on shore.
John 21:9 ESV
9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread.
A charcoal fire took a while to get ready, but it was the best way to do open-hearth cooking. You wouldn’t expect Jesus to be a poor chef, would you? I know some of you have had the kind of barbecue afternoon where for some reason the charcoal would just not get ready for your burgers—at least not in the time schedule you thought.
Jesus was already there. His fire was ready for cooking. He already had some fish cooking. And he had some bread cooking too. This was a guy prepared for the morning.

Bring Some Fish

John 21:10 ESV
10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”
Jesus is the main subject always, but here Peter becomes the supporting actor once again.
Trying to take it all in since he got to shore, his heart pumping and full of adrenaline, was almost ready for what Jesus just said. Do you think he had an idea what he would do? I kinda think he had no idea what he would do.

Hang on a minute, I got this

But now, he ran to the boat and grabbed the net, the one that was so heavy his whole crew couldn’t pull it on the to boat, —well, let’s read it:
John 21:11 ESV
11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.
Wow. Jesus said bring some fish, and Peter hauled it all in. He just grabbed and heaved and drug the full net on shore, where all the fish were now thrashing and flopping around, and by God’s grace (otherwise it wouldn’t have been mentioned here), the net was intact. No tears, even though it was overloaded and they were used to making repairs even on a light fishing day.

This was a good catch!

It’s easy to get sidetracked here, but we will need to remember that the subject of the story is not the boat, not the net, not the disciples, not Peter, and not the fish.
The catch is recorded. Not unusual. There were always tax men around, always buyers looking for fish for the market, always records to keep. Why else would they count them all.
Jesus just said “Bring some of the fish you caught.”

Peter brought it all in.

This big old fisherman found the strength that he didn’t know he had to do the work that Jesus called him to do. And he found out he could do more when it was what Jesus said to do than when he was just doing it on his own.
But 153 fish is significant. These days, the the limit for a boatload of charter sports fishermen offshore near us.

And the net was not torn.

The wonder of the event is at every turn. Throwing the net out when coming in empty handed and getting a full catch. Not able to pull it all in. Seeing Jesus on shore. With a fire for breakfast. Peter able to single-handedly drag the net in. 153 large fish. The net untorn.
Pay attention, because the subject of the story is not the fish.

It Was Never About the Fish.

I shared last week, as we started with these men going fishing that they seemed to be without a mission in life after the death of Jesus, their Lord and Master.
And I shared the the fist lesson from this part of the story is that Jesus is calling the disciples back to the mission that Jesus announced to them when he first called them: “I will make you fishers of men”.
And about how Jesus is calling us back to himself to share the catch he commanded.
Well, in this part of the story, there is even more for the disciples of Jesus, which includes us, to learn about Jesus.
It all starts in

A Communion of Breakfast

As Jesus gets the disciples involved in something simple to show himself once again as their Rabbi and friend:
John 21:12 ESV
12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.

Rest around the table

— or in the circle of sand — that Jesus calls them to.

Fragile Faith

Wonder About the Person of Jesus

Such a conflict of thoughts written down honestly by the Apostle.
“They dared not ask”
“Who are you?”
“They knew it was the Lord”
Why would they be surprised at their own wondering. They had always marveled about Jesus. And when it come to reasons why “they knew it was the Lord”, even in their great wonder, we can go all the way back to their reaction after Jesus calmed the sea:
Luke 8:25 ESV
25 He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”

Jesus Serves His Friends

a breakfast, a meal, a celebration of life on the shores of Galilee.

So They May See and Believe

John 21:14 ESV
14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

The third time

Really means this is the third record of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances that John has told. After all, he already said that all the stories about Jesus’ activities on earth could not possibly be told.

Jesus Revealed To the Disciples

is the real story here. Now, the fish catch, the excitement of Peter, his adrenaline-fueled task of hauling in the net, which survived the abuse, all of those things were tools that were being used by Jesus to reveal himself to the disciples

After He was raised from the dead.

as he was preparing them to bring the good news of salvation to the rest of the world.
They needed to know, to really know that Jesus, the Son of the Living God, the Sacrifice for Our Sins, the Atonement for our messy lives, their friend and teacher and Lord and Master, was really, truly alive.
They needed to know that this Jesus had lost nothing of who he is because he went through death and hell and resurrection. He still had command of his time, command of his location, command of the seas.
Psalm 61:1–3 (ESV)
1 Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; 2 from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, 3 for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.
To really, really know that Jesus is . . .

The Lord of Land and Sea

to help us know that he

Is Lord of Me!

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