Chapter 7 The Risen Lord

John 21:1-25

Galilee, the Discipleship Center

Strong associations clustered around the Sea of Galilee for Jesus and His disciples. It was while walking along its shores that he called Peter and Andrew, James and John to become fishers of men (Mark 1:16-20). In the fierce gale of wind as the waves were beating into their boat the disciples awakened Him, and they feared exceedingly to behold the Sea become perfectly calm at His: “Peace, be still!”(Mark 4:37-41). Sitting in a little boat on the Sea, He spoke to the multitude on the shore the matchless parables of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew, chapter 13). His disciples thought that He was a ghost when He came walking on the Sea in a storm (Matt. 14:25, 26). But now, risen from the dead, He meets them there on the seashore. This may be the most meaningful of all. We approach this chapter of the Word of God with reverent and expectant hearts.

“After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias and in this way He manifested Himself” (v. 1).

The Sea of Tiberias is the Sea of Galilee, “after these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias” (John 6:1). Regarding the meaning and message of this chapter, the following explanation by G. Campbell Morgan is very helpful:

“Notice carefully the wording: After these things Jesus manifested Himself. The voice of the verb is active, showing that it was a manifestation of intention and purpose in the mind of Jesus. The story is full of pictorial beauty. Let us imagine ourselves there, at the Sea of Galilee, with which these fishers were so wonderfully familiar: on the shores of which they lived for the prosecution of their old calling of fisherfolk. As we do, we notice how John tells that story. He says Jesus manifested Himself. The Greek word here means to shine forth. That is, Jesus made Himself to shine forth upon them in certain ways. Whatever we have in the chapter is something which Jesus particularly intended that little group to see. He manifested Himself. And again the statement is made that, He manifested Himself on this wise. Twice over the same word, manifested, shined forth, revealed. What? Himself. That is the key to everything in the chapter.” (The Gospel According to John, Fleming H. Revell Company, pages 324, 325.)

What Jesus Wants for You:

He not only appeared to them, physically, but He also revealed His heart to them. At no other time is the loving heart of our Lord laid bare more than here. He manifests what He, the triumphant Lord of glory, wants to be and do for us, and what He wants us to do and be for Him. Could anything be more appealing to the spiritual heart? They are simple, but basic things.

(1) He wants to share in our burdens and problems. “Then Jesus said to them, Children have you any meat?” (v. 5). He was genuinely concerned that they had toiled all through the night and had caught nothing. Our Lord is concerned about everything that concerns us, even our failures. There is nothing in our lives too great for His power, and nothing too small for His love. “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Literally, it reads: “Throwing all your anxiety on Him, because it matters to Him about you.”

“Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” He also may have asked this question to gently rebuke what apparently was their labor in self-will. “Peter said to them, I go a fishing. They said to him, We also go with you. They went forth and entered into a ship immediately, and that night they caught nothing” (v. 3). This is service in the energy of the flesh: I go; we go; zero. He may have been emphasizing this fruitlessness with His question. There is nothing wrong with fishing, but I believe that Peter’s restlessness drove him to his old vocation from which the Lord had called him. Waiting is often the hardest task for the believer, especially the Peter personality.

(2) He wants us to be honest with Him. “They answered Him, No” (v. 5). It is very hard for a fisherman to admit that he caught nothing. In our dealings with our Lord, there must be confession of failure, if we have failed, before He can bring His supplies. We must know our weakness before He gives His strength. He wants us to learn that we are entirely dependent upon Him. He did not say: “Without Me, you will accomplish very little” but “Without Me you can do nothing’’(John 15:5).

If our Christian life and experience is not quite what we expected it to be, and we are disappointed and discouraged, we must not go to Him, saying: “Praise the Lord! All is fine. Hallelujah!” If we draw near with our lips, and not from our hearts, He cannot help us. But if we are honest with Him in prayer, He can place His finger on the problem and correct our service.

(3) He wants to direct our service. “And He said to them, Cast the net on the right side of the boat” (v. 6). “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths” (Prov. 3:6). He has promised to instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go, and to guide you with His eye (Psalm 32:8). To be guided by His eye, you must intently fix your gaze on Him. A simple, effective life-text is: “Looking unto Jesus” (Heb. 12:2).

God guides us by His Word. “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). Our constant attitude and prayer should be: “Order my steps in Your Word” (Psalm 119:133). Usually, our decisions are guided by the general principles of the Word of God as our minds and hearts are saturated with its truths. Sometimes, there is specific leading through a verse or portion of Scripture, in context, in our daily Bible reading. If we wish to be guided by the Lord, we must be daily and obediently reading the Word of God. Then, we pray for guidance, “Show me Thy ways, O Lord; teach me Thy paths. Lead me in Thy truth” (Psalm 25:4, 5). To these two basic means of guidance, the Lord adds other factors of His leading as He sees them to be pertinent to the situation: a sermon, a spiritual song, advice of Christian friends, circumstances, etc. “He leadeth me” (Psalm 23:2). As already noted, sometimes the Lord has to correct us in order to guide us. “Cast the net on the right side.” We must be willing to accept and to obey His correction.

(4) He wants to crown our service with success. “and you shall find” (v. 6). “They were not able to draw for the multitude of fish” (v. 6). I can see the disciples counting them: “One hundred fifty-one, one hundred fifty-two, one hundred fifty-three!” (v. 11). The verse tells us that they were big fish, too. He knows where the fish are. Each day we should ask Him to lead us to the prepared and needy hearts He wants us to contact for Him. I often fail in this.

(5) He wants us to obey Him. “they cast therefore” (v. 6). They could have answered the Stranger on the shore, “We have spent our lives as fishermen. We know how to fish. We don’t need you to tell us.” They might have replied that the right side of the boat was the wrong side over which to cast because they hauled in the net with the right hands. They could have said that you don’t fish in the Sea of Galilee in the daylight, for even a shadow on the clear water or the least movement frightens the fish away. But, they did not argue; they obeyed. He wants us to obey and He will do the rest. Sometimes, we must obey when we cannot understand His leading, or even when it seems contrary to our judgment. Mostly though, our minds and hearts, the Word of God, and circumstances harmonize in His leading. He wants us to obey and He will do the rest, in and through us. This is glorious, isn’t it?

(6) He wants us to catch fish. “Jesus said unto them, Bring of the fish which you have now caught” (v. 10). There are many kinds of disciples, but all are to be fishermen.

    1. John, with the spiritual eye. “It is the Lord” (v. 7).
    2. Peter, with the active zeal. “Now 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” (v. 7).
    3. Just plain rowers. “But the other disciples came in the little boat … dragging the net full of fish” (v. 10).

For every leader, like John and Peter, we need many more rowers in the local church, who are: “steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). Pastors come and go, problems are always present (where there are people there will be problems. If you want no problems, you will have to resign from the human race), but the rowers keep steadily in their place, doing their job of bringing the fish to shore. It is hard, unappreciated work, but thank the Lord for the rowers! It is even said of the great Apostle Paul and Barnabas that they were brought on their way by the church (Acts 15:3). That’s the rowers, quietly and consistently helping the saints along the way in the Lord.

Disciples are so different in their service, but all are to be soul-winners: “Bring the fish.” Jesus says to all believers: “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). For the building up of the body of Christ, for the work of the ministry, “He gave some, apostles and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11). But, it does not read that He called some to be witnesses, soul-winners.

“Bring of the fish which you have now caught.” Who really caught those fish? All night they were not able to catch anything. We obey, He does the work through us, and gives us the reward. This is grace upon grace. And, the fish that He and we catch, refresh both Him and us.

“Bring of the fish which you have now caught.” Let us not always give Him sun-dried, preserved tuyo (Philippine salted fish), or keep reaching down into the salt mackerel barrel. He likes some fresh fish. Never cease to thank Him for saving you perhaps years ago, and for all that He has meant to you through the years. But how is He wonderfully new and fresh to you today? That means most to Him.

(7) He want us to have food to eat. “As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread” (v. 9). Is it possible that the Eternal Lord of Glory is concerned that we have food to eat? Surely, this is one of the most touching scenes in Scripture. Nail-pierced hands of Omnipotence had prepared a breakfast of broiled fish and toast for His hungry men. He lays bare His heart to reveal that God wants to supply all of your need out of His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).

(8) He wants our fellowship, “Jesus said to them, Come and dine” (v. 12). In Palestine, as in the Philippines, to eat together is to fellowship one with another. There was a little girl who was daddy’s girl. When Dad was under the car, there would be two little feminine feet sticking out as she handed him the wrench and the pliers. When he came home from work she would run to meet him, leap up into his arms, and hug him tightly. Right after the evening meal was their special hour to romp and play, to mend her doll, to tell him all that happened that day, to read her a story. (God help the children whose parents have no time for the children’s hour.) One evening, right after dinner, she said: “Please excuse me, Daddy, I would like to go to my bedroom.” That was alright. But, it happened the next evening, the next, and the next. Poor Daddy! He said to his wife: “What has happened to my little girl? We don’t have our time together every evening anymore. I miss her so much.” (God help the parents whose children take no time to be with them.) Then, Christmas came. Under the tree, all prettily wrapped, was a gift with the childish scrawl: “To the dearest Daddy in all the world!” Opening it, he saw a pair of knitted slippers. Now he knew why she rushed into her room every evening after dinner. He lifted her up, hugged her close, and said: “Oh, I love your gift so very much. And, you made it with your own little hands. But, listen, my dear, I must tell you something: I want your presence more than your presents.” You mean more to Him than even your fruitful service, important and vital as it is. He wants a bride more than a servant, though He wants both. Does He have your fellowship, especially in the daily quiet time? Then, do you walk with Him all day long?

(9) He wants our love. “So when they had dined, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, do you love Me more than these? He said to Him, Yes, Lord, You know that I love You” (v. 15). There are two words for love in this verse. In his Word Pictures in the New Testament, A.T. Robertson states: “Peter makes no claim here to superior love and passes by the ‘more than these,’ and does not even use Christ’s word agapao for high and devoted love, but the humbler word, phileo for love of a friend.”

“He said to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, do you love (agapao) Me? He said unto Him, Yes, Lord, You know that I love (philo) You” (v. 16). The Lord Jesus no longer adds the “more than these” knowing that Peter has learned his lesson. ‘He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (phileis) Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love (phileis) Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love (philo) You” ’ (v. 17). A.T. Robertson again comments:

“This time Jesus picks up the word phileo used by Peter and challenges that. These words are often interchanged in the New Testament, but here the distinction is preserved. Peter was cut to the heart.”

Peter was grieved, not because the Lord Jesus asked him three times: “Do you love Me?”, but because the third time He had to come down to Peter’s lower expression of love. Peter is still honest and answers: “You know that I love (philo) You.” He does not boast of an agapao love. Peter had now learned the lesson of humility so he later exhorts us: “Be clothed with humility” (1 Peter 5:5).

The Lord Jesus received Peter’s lesser love and for the third time Peter was recommissioned: “Feed My sheep” (v. 17). See, “Feed My lambs” (v. 15), and “Feed My sheep” (v. 16). It may be that the threefold restoration also related to Peter’s threefold denial. At the world’s fire Peter denied his Lord three times. At the Savior’s fire he was recommissioned three times. “He restores my soul” (Psalm 23:3).

How much have you ever done just because you love the Lord Jesus, and not for any other satisfaction or commendation? None of us loves Him as we feel we should, but be honest like Peter and give Him the love you can. Let us not pretend love. He knows whether we love (agapao) Him, or if we (phileo) Him. “You know that I love you.” He accepts our imperfect love and ever seeks to refine it. The question is: Do you love Him a little more today than you did yesterday? If you fellowship with Him daily in His Word and if you see Him in all of life’s experiences, you will.

There was a lovely teenage girl who was so Christlike. She wore a heart-shaped locket suspended on a fine gold chain about her neck. She never let anyone look into it. When she contracted a terminal illness, she told her mother: “When I go home to be with the Lord, you may open the locket.” When she gently stopped breathing, her mother leaned over her silent form and with trembling hands opened the locket. There was no picture there, but only these words: “Whom having not seen, I love. 1 Peter 1:8.” She was in love with the Lover of her soul. That was the secret of her Christlike life. It is noteworthy that in 1 Peter 1:8, Peter now uses the word “agapao” to express the deepest love.

(10) He wants us to follow Him. “And when He had spoken this, He said to him, Follow Me” (v. 19). I cannot understand why He, the Lord of glory, would want us to follow Him. He could have saved us and then left us alone to take us to heaven when we die. That would be all of grace. But, He not only saves us, He empowers us, He leads us, He walks with us. He wants us. That is grace upon grace. “Follow Me” means: “I will guide; I will provide; you must love Me; you must obey Me.” On October 26, 1958, a passenger ship sailing between Manila and Cebu, the second largest city in the Philippines, caught fire and sank. The next morning, the Manila Daily Bulletin carried an account of the holocaust. The closing paragraph read:

“The only happy note in the nightmarish event was that of a pretty nineteen year old woman who was saved by a bachelor. When they reached the safety of Santa Fe, the woman gratefully said: You saved my life; I am yours, I will follow you wherever you will take me. The man indeed took her with him, and they presumably lived happily after the tragedy.”

      “I was sinking deep in sin,
      Far from the peaceful shore.
      Very deeply stained within,
      Sinking to rise no more.
      But, the Master of the sea
      Heard my despairing cry;
      From the waters lifted me
      Now, safe am I.” — James Rowe

And, by His grace, I would like to follow Him all the days of my life.

      At Galilee, our Lord laid bare His loving heart to His disciples:
      He wants to share in our burdens and problems.
      He wants us to be honest with Him.
      He wants to direct our service.
      He wants to crown our service with success.
      He wants us to obey Him.
      He wants us to catch fish.
      He wants us to have food to eat.
      He wants our fellowship.
      He wants our love.
      He wants us to follow Him.

In our experience, we also are to go to Galilee, to manifest the Savior. “That you should show forth the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). He is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15). He made the invisible God, visible. Now, we are to make the invisible Christ visible. This is the believer’s Galilee — Manifesting the Savior.