JOHN21v1to14: JESUS ON THE SEA SHORE
(A) Introduction. (Read the reference)
The story of Jesus and the miraculous catch of fish is one of my all time favourite gospel stories. It illustrates so many of the most endearing characteristics of the Master. This exposition is built around three telling but brief phrases found in the chapter.
(B) The best example to follow:"Follow me." v19.
Jesus, appearing for the third time to his disciples on the shore of Lake Galilee, sets us an example to follow. We see this in the:
(1) Interest he took. Early in the morning Jesus stood on the shore. v4.
Jesus was interested in what his disciples were doing. He came to the lakeside as dawn was breaking to see how they were getting on. His concern was a hallmark of his love for them. I like to think that Jesus continues to take an interest in every thing his friends get up to.
There are some Christians who only talk about them selves. Several years ago my brother Paul, then the Baptist minister of an inner city church in London, was stopping with me. During my brother's stay I had a visit from a well-known pastor in Suffolk. During his conversation, mostly about him self, he never once asked my brother how he was getting on at Clapham. If Jesus takes an interest in us we should take an interest in others. We should be good listeners!
It is encouraging when others take an interest in the work we are doing. Each summer term fourth year pupils at Debenham High School went on two weeks work experience. Staff were allocated three pupils each to visit. I know the pupils looked forward to those visits and took pride in telling their teacher about their achievements. It is very discouraging when fellow Christians don't want to know anything about the work you are engaged in for Jesus.
(2) Inquiry he made.
The disciples had experienced a number of set backs in the recent past and here they were failing at what they did best - their special sphere of expertise. They replied, like most fishermen who have failed to catch anything, with a very brief and disgruntled: "No." But they were beginning to feel a bit better. There is nothing like a cheery, light-hearted, friendly greeting to raise the spirits.
I can recall turning up to watch Brockley play cricket one Saturday afternoon. This was a very rare event as I usually played. Indeed, there was little I would miss a cricket match for! I could tell things were not going well by the way the village blacksmith, Len, was sitting in his chair. He was hunched up and pensive. I glanced at the scoreboard and said, a lot more brightly than if I had been playing, "Not many runs on the board, LP!" "No JR," he replied, "Not many, not many. We're finding it a struggle." I cannot say he was ecstatic about the situation - but he was beginning to cheer up. A smile, a friendly face and a bit of good-humoured banter does lighten the gloom.
We can help our fellow Christians when things are getting them down by being cheerful and positive. We can introduce a sense of proportion when a brother bemoans his failure in Christian service. For a time I had a mature student working with me at Debenham High School. After one lesson, during which I collected homework from a rather indolent class, I grumbled to her, "What a lot - fully one third of them had not done it." She smiled at me and said softly, "Be thankful that two thirds had."
Success in Christian work is not all down to us. Even Jesus - that greatest of teachers - thanked God for the disciples he had given to him. The twelve disciples had been prepared by the Father to follow Jesus.
(3) Instruction he gave.
Sound practical instruction is invaluable for success. When I was at school I used the Microsoft program 'Publisher' with my pupils. I didn't know how to use it properly and we all struggled! But after I retired I found a small, slim book in the public library entitled, 'Publisher', and all was revealed. I got on like a house on fire and am able to produce newsletters for the church and cricket club with the minimum of trouble. My practical instruction came too late, though, to benefit my pupils.
I wonder how much practical advice you have received and accepted regarding Christian service? I haven't been given much. My father used to tell me after listening to my fiery sermons, "Boy - be as wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove." I didn't pay him much attention and as a consequence have very few preaching engagements! I am not enthusiastic about giving advice but have told a few long-winded speakers to be briefer. I also advised a very youthful pastor to use more illustrations in his sermons. I am thankful that my guidance was accepted and all benefited from following it. Yes - they did!
Jesus gave his disciples a word of encouragement: "And you will find some." They were told to persevere - to try again - just one more cast on the other side of the boat.
It know from my many years as a schoolteacher how vital encouragement is to achieving anything worthwhile. I like the story told about John Clare, the nineteenth century, Northamptonshire, peasant poet. He was in the Dolphin Inn at Stamford passing round the prospectus of a book of poems he hoped to publish. No-one showed the slightest interest. John Clare felt more and more depressed and embarrassed. Without much hope he gave a sonnet to another customer. After a while this man invited John Clare over for a drink. He told Henson the publisher to put his name down as a subscriber to the new work saying that he felt the book would be a great success. John Clare took heart. In later years he said that the few words of the Rev. Thomas Mousey, master at Stamford Grammar School, did more good than all he ever met with before or after. He was encouraged to go on and produce such masterpieces as the 'Shepherds Calendar'. Here are a few lines he wrote about April:
Jesus words of advice and encouragement brought the disciples success: When they did, (cast the net on the other side) they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. v6.
A good teacher will bring his pupils success. I was only able to produce this website because I received clear instruction from Mr Peter Peddlesden. I am pleased that he taught me how to do it from first principles.
Jesus said to his listeners: "If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." Jn7v17. If we apply the teaching of Christ it will bring us success in God's service.
(4) Insight he showed.
Wise church leaders will find jobs for their members to do. New folk to the fellowship can feel a bit useless and unwanted unless they are involved in the work. Some of the happiest times we have in my small church occur when we labour together. In the spring a gang of men join forces to trim the tall yew trees that surround the chapel. We chat, laugh, co-operate and gain much satisfaction in getting the job done.
(5) Informal meal he prepared.
One of the things pupils studying Home Economics did at Debenham School was to prepare a meal for two. They were then encouraged to ask a member of staff to share it with them. No pretty girls invited me to dinner for two but on one occasion Jonathan Imri did. I suppose it was better to be loved by Jonathan Imri than by no-one at all!
I shall never forget the first meal Mrs Segawa cooked for Tommy Bamber and me during our visit to Japan. We sat in her kitchen while she deep-fried in batter asparagus, prawns, scallops, halibut, onion-rings and fern fronds. It was a great treat and such a gracious demonstration of hospitality. I am not used to being made such a fuss of and it touched my heart.
We can show love for our Christian brethren by cooking them a meal for Christ's sake. (See also Tom Havers anecdote.)
(b) Love is humble. Jesus did not object to doing menial tasks - roasting the fish and serving breakfast.
One year I went and spent some time at the church camp my brother Paul organises. The day I spent at camp Paul had to clean up a nasty mess in the men's toilet, unblock a filthy drain, cook and wash up for the entire company. These are jobs not many pastors would volunteer for! I'm not sure I would!
(c) Love can be shown in small things. A good illustration of this is found in the story about the gracious publican. I spent hours without a break refereeing sports matches and contests during my many years as games organiser at a Christian camp. I remember with gratitude our cook, Freda May, coming out with refreshing and revitalising cups of tea on hot sunny afternoons. No-one else did - just Freda - who loved me a little! And I shall always remember her for it. My friend Jesse invariably entertained one of our visiting speakers - David from Chelmondiston. She heard him say on one occasion how much he enjoyed a steak and kidney pudding. Every time she had him for lunch, for love of the preacher, she cooked such a marvellous, luscious pudding - fit for a king!
I don't expect the disciples of Jesus ever forgot that breakfast he prepared for them by Lake Galilee. It would be a fragrant memory to the day they died. I wonder how many fragrant memories we will leave behind when it is our turn to be called home.
(C) Recognition and response: "Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord." v7.
The disciple's response was praiseworthy for its:
There are times God's servants feel like giving up. Plenty of the heroes of faith in the Old Testament had much to discourage them. Moses needed to be the meekest man on earth to put up with the undisciplined Israelites. Jeremiah never received an ounce of gratitude for the messages he brought from the Lord. Paul entered Corinth with fear and trembling after bruising encounters in Macedonia and discouragement in Athens. Yet men of faith do not give up!
I get very little feedback about the chuch newsletter I distribute round the village of Brockley and not much response from those who access my website. I feel very much like the disciples. I have cast my net into the deep with little success. But, then, perhaps, one more cast will bring me a net full of fishes!!
I wonder when you have said that? I said it at the end of my career after surviving relatively unscathed for 37 years in state schools. It was the Lord who kept me from temptation and delivered me from evil. I said it after falling asleep at the wheel of my car, waking up after a couple of seconds and finding myself still on the road. It was the Lord who preserved me. I said it when my father died in his own bed after I had been able to care for him for the final four difficult years of his life. It was the Lord who helped me through. I have said it several times after listening to a moving testimony on BBC TV's Songs of Praise. It is the Lord who has changed that person's life. I said it on my fiftieth birthday when a lady at church entertained me for the day and her children gave me presents. It was the Lord who put it into Carolyn's heart to show love to a middle-aged bachelor.
We should not be slow to express our gratitude to Jesus for all he has done for us both in providence and grace.
Thank You for grace to know Your gospel,
Thank You for grace to know Your gospel,
There is a time to lay down our nets. It is a pity to be so busy with our work that we do not have time for family and friends. Whenever I went to see my friend LP in his workshop he would lay down his tools for a chat.
It is possible to be so busy, so preoccupied with our careers, interests, friends and family, that we make little time for Jesus. On his return to earth the acid test of discipleship will be if we joyfully abandon what we are doing and look to him. On that day no-one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside should go down to get them. Likewise, no-one in the field should go back for anything. Lk17v31.
Some Christians find it hard to accept a favour. There are certain very independent ladies in my church who are very reluctant to ask for help. It is more blessed to give than to receive but to receive requires more humility!
We will never receive Christ's gift of eternal life if we are too proud to ask for it. Salvation is not something any of us can earn. It is something we have to beg for.
(D) A word to inform all all our service: "Feed my sheep."
These words were spoken to Peter but they are relevant to all Christians. One little word used by Jesus is of critical significance. Jesus did not say: "Feed the sheep." or "Feed your sheep." or "Feed our sheep." but "Feed MY sheep." Jesus said, "If you care for me you will care for mine. If you love the Shepherd you will love his sheep."
A few years ago I watched a report on our local news program about a visit by Nelson Mandela to Bedford, England. Why had Mandela come all the way from South Africa to this East Midlands town? He was an old man, over 80, and increasingly frail - so why had he made the effort? Nelson Mandela had come to unveil a statue to Father Trevor Huddleston who campaigned so vigorously against apartheid. He had come because he believed he owed it to Father Huddleston.
Jesus said to Peter and says to all who follow him: "If you owe me - extend all round care - spiritual, emotional and material - to my sheep." His flock contains all sorts: delightful, frisky lambs, mature, sensible ewes and more than a few disagreeable, cross-grained rams. Those that love Jesus are under an obligation to care for all his sheep - both the loveable and the unlovable. Cross-grained rams are more likely to respond to love than anything else!