We have just celebrated the Easter season—the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have told and heard the old, old story of the cross and the empty tomb. For most of us, that’s where the story ends. But in fact, there’s more. What did happen after that? In chapter 21 of his gospel, the Apostle John tells us.
Jesus had instructed His disciples to meet Him in Galilee, and so they travel north to the familiar scenes where most of our Lord’s ministry took place. One evening, while Peter, James and John, Nathaniel and Thomas, and two unnamed disciples were waiting for Him, Peter decides to go fishing—not, mind you, just to “put a hook in the water,” but actually to go out and spend all night dropping his large commercial nets as he had many times before. The others decide to go along with him.
They fish all night and catch nothing, but as dawn breaks, they see a man on the shore with a fire, cooking breakfast. Amazingly, it is the risen Christ! No one would have guessed that they would find Him in such a place doing that! The disciples don’t recognize Him, even when He asks if they have caught any fish. When they admit they had not, He tells them to cast the net on the other side of the boat—Jesus had said that before, many months earlier. They do, and the net is so full they can’t haul it in. Suddenly, John recognizes that it is Jesus. Peter dives into the water and swims to shore. The others immediately row the boat in, dragging the fish behind them. The Lord Jesus then proceeds to feed them breakfast.
It’s after breakfast that our Lord poses His famous question three times to Peter: “Simon, do you love Me more than these?” From our vantage point, it’s an ambiguous question. Who are “these”? The fish? Or the other disciples? Perhaps he refers to both. Three times Peter affirms his love for Jesus; three times Jesus commissions Peter to feed His sheep. That’s an unambiguous call for Peter to give His life to the ministry of preaching and teaching the Gospel of the crucified and risen Christ, and of salvation through His redemptive work. So what is the point of this incident at the Sea of Galilee? Perhaps we should discern the following lessons.
- Wait for the Lord to open doors of ministry for you. It’s easy to run ahead of the Lord. The disciples had been told to go to Galilee and wait for Jesus. They had not been told to resume commercial fishing. When the Lord calls us to serve Him, but then doesn’t use us right away, it’s easy to become impatient. We need to learn to wait. The Lord will take care of us in the meantime. The disciples didn’t need to fish; Jesus was already broiling fish for breakfast! Just be in the place where He leads you, ready to respond when He gives you your assignment.
- Without our Lord’s direction and approval, our service for Him is vain. The disciples fished all night and caught nothing. At His word, however, they put down their nets on the other side of the boat, and immediately they were filled with fish. It’s possible to work—even for years—and have no appreciable success in the Lord’s service. If that’s your situation, listen to see if your Lord is telling you to put down the net somewhere else!
- Always be ready to respond when the Lord gives you your assignment. Once before Jesus had called His disciples from their boats and nets to follow Him. Now, He does so again, especially addressing Peter whose idea it had been to go fishing. Jesus doesn’t rebuke Peter for fishing, but now reminds him that he and all the disciples have been called to something far greater—the feeding of His sheep. No longer fish, but sheep! He had told them, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (Jn 20:21). The time had come. May you and I also be prepared to follow our Lord once His calling has become clear, and may that calling be our supreme priority.