Father, we are grateful for today, grateful for this morning, grateful for a chance to gather with Your people and I do ask that You would bless this particular class on the geography of Israel. I pray it will be a blessing to everybody that’s listening out there in cyberspace, and I pray You’ll bless our main service that follows. Help it to be a time where Your Word really comes alive to us. And we ask that You would grow us, not just intellectually but in our personal walk with You. If anybody here is unsaved, Father, or listening today is unsaved I pray that today would be the day of salvation, that they would trust in You and would receive the greatest miracle a person can receive, the transference from death unto life spiritually. So we ask that You’ll do this work and we’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said…. Amen.
No handouts for this series because it’s mostly pictures but all this material that I’ve got here on Power Point is posted on our website so you can get that and download that at will. And let’s take our Bibles and open them to John 6 for just a minute, and verses 35-36. We’re continuing (we’re already on part 3) on the lessons related to Israel based on some trips that I took there recently, along with my family, so I’m kind of trying to retrace some basic sites that we saw and tie those in in terms of biblical significance.
So in our first lesson we talked about Tel Aviv, Joppa, Caesarea Maritma, Mt. Carmel and Megiddo. And then in lesson number two we talked about Sepphoris, Upper Galilee which would include Caesarea-Philippi and the Tel Dan. We talked a little bit about the Sea of Galilee, and we were just sort of there on the Sea of Galilee working our way to some key places, one of which was the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount.
So we’re continuing on with the Sea of Galilee and then from there we’ll move into the southern direction, down the Jordan River. So today, if time permits, we’re looking at Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee, a place called Tabgha on the Sea of Galilee, and then the Jordan River as it leaves the Sea of Galilee and travels down south to a place called Bet She ‘An, and then also a place called Jericho.
So let’s start off with the Sea of Galilee and talking at a place called Capernaum. And if you look there at the lower right you can see a map of the sea of Galilee and we have Capernaum circled. Capernaum was located at a major crossroads connecting with Damascus, so it’s sort of a, I don’t know, a main travelled place. And who remembers where Jesus grew up? Anybody remember? A place called Nazareth, and what you find is Jesus saying things like this: “a prophet is without honor” where? “in his home town.”
Over in Mark 6:1-6 it talks about how in Nazareth He couldn’t do (it doesn’t say He wouldn’t do) it says He couldn’t do many miracles there because of their unbelief. [Mark 6:1-6, “Jesus went out from there and came into His hometown; and His disciples followed Him.  When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands?  “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him.  Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.”  And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.  And He wondered at their unbelief. And He was going around the villages teaching.”]
And in fact, He kind of started His ministry there in Nazareth and He preached in a synagogue in Nazareth and that story is in Luke 4:14-28, and His home town appreciated Him so much that they tried to throw him off a cliff. So if you think your first preaching experience is rough as a pastor I don’t think anybody has tried to throw me off a cliff yet, although maybe some have fantasized about that. I’m probably too tall to be thrown off a cliff, and I don’t know how many cliffs there are around here that I can think of.
[Luke 4:14-28, “And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district.  And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.  And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read.  And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,  “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,  TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.”  And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him.  And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”  And He said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’”  And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.  “But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land;  and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.  “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”  And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things;  and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff.”]
So basically you have this idea that Jesus is basically rejected in His home town so consequently His ministry headquarters becomes a place called Capernaum, and I know I had you open up to John 6 but you’ll see a reference to that in Matthew 4:13 which says, “and leaving Nazareth,” why is that? Because they tried to throw Him off a cliff, “leaving Nazareth He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea,” which sea would that be? The Sea of Galilee, “near the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.” And so this becomes Jesus’ ministry headquarters, this place called Capernaum. And a lot of things happened here at Capernaum. For one thing, if you go over to Matthew 8:5 it says, “And when Jesus entered Capernaum….” And then dropping down to verses 14-17 it makes a reference there to a miracle Jesus performed at the home of His mother-in-law. “When Jesus came into Peter’s home, He saw his mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever. And you know the story of the miracle there and if you don’t know about it you can read about it. [15 “He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she got up and waited on Him.  When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill.  This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES.”]
And I think it’s always interesting when it makes references in the Bible to Peter’s mother-in-law because the Roman Catholic Church teaches the celibacy of the priests going all the way back to who they think is the first Pope (Peter), and they teach this doctrine that you know a priest, or a religious clerical figure can’t be married. Well, then why is it that your first Pope has a mother-in-law? Peter was obviously married. And just as a side note, if you jot down 1 Corinthians 9:5 Paul says, “Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as [the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and] Cephas?” Cephas is Peter’s Aramaic name.
So, Paul says one of His rights that he didn’t exercise was to take along a believing wife and He uses Peter as an example. So obviously this idea of the first Pope and the celibacy of the priesthood doesn’t hold up when you actually look at what the Bible says.
So in Capernaum He healed Peter’s mother-in-law. Also, He called Peter from his fishing trade into a life of discipleship. And you’ll see that in verses 18:22. [Matthew 4:18-22, “Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.  And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.  Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them.  Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.”
And we know that this happened in Capernaum because verses 18-22 of Matthew 4 is preceded by verses 13 which we read just a moment ago, which gives us the place of geography. And one of the things that’s very important to understand is when Jesus called Peter into a life of discipleship, where He said to him, “Leave your nets and I will make you fishers of men.” [Mark 1:17, “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”Also, Matthew 4:19, “And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”]
It’s very important to understand that that was not Christ’s first interaction with Peter. If you have a good study Bible, and I recommend the Ryrie Study Bible, at least in the edition I’m using, pages 1156-1157, what it’ll have is it’ll have all of the events in the life of Christ put in chronological order for you. And that’s very helpful because what you discover by studying that chronology is Jesus encountered Peter in event 20 in the life of Christ. That’s in John 1. And then He called him into a life of discipleship in event number 35. So, you see the order here? First you get justified by faith alone and then you get called into discipleship. So, the calling into discipleship at Capernaum was an event subsequent to Peter’s initial justification by faith alone.
And the reason I bring up these little things is because many people teach that when Jesus went to Peter and called him into a life of discipleship He was actually calling Peter to salvation and they mix sanctification with justification together; they mix discipleship with justification together and that’s a doctrine called Lordship salvation where you hold out to the lost sinner, not the hope of the gospel per se, you also tell them they have to submit to discipleship and all these other things. And I think it’s very interesting that Jesus did call Peter into discipleship but it was only after Peter was justified before God. And you can see this very clearly by just studying the chronology of the events of the life of Christ.
The pattern is first you’re redeemed, and that’s by faith in Christ alone, plus nothing! And then God begins to deal with you in a walk of sanctification. And Lordship salvation basically gets the cart before the horse and in the process, they end up teaching a works-oriented gospel to the lost. That’s why this lordship salvation issue is a big deal. And you’ll see the exact same pattern with God’s work with the nation of Israel. The nation of Israel is redeemed, probably at Passover, and that occurs in Exodus 10, 11, 12, right in there. And then Exodus 19:1 says two months pass and after those two months have passed, as they were wandering in the wilderness, God brings them into discipleship by putting them under the Mosaic Law. [Exodus 19:1, “In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.”]
So you’ll notice that in God’s dealing with Israel, first comes redemption and secondly comes discipleship as God put Israel under the Mosaic Law. And by the way, if there was ever a group of people that needed to be under the Mosaic Law it would be those Hebrews, wouldn’t it, as they were going through the wilderness, coming out of Egypt, complaining every step of the way. So you have a reality of saved people not yet being discipled. And you have the same pattern with Peter as God is dealing with Peter. And so that’s why we at Sugar Land Bible Church make a distinction between justification and then your growth in Christ, sanctification which is the second step. And people that are heavily under Lordship salvation teaching this is new to them, they’ve never heard this. And the reason I bring this up is it’s just studying the basic chronology of the Bible and you’ll see these various steps. If you’re honest with yourself as a Christian that’s how God has dealt with you; first He brought you to an initial faith and then it’s not catching the fish that’s the hardest part, it’s cleaning the fish and then the Lord has to start dealing with us in terms of our daily walk and our daily life and sin patterns and wrong ways of thinking, etc.
So anyway, that’s why Capernaum is sort of a special place. Peter is called into discipleship. And when you go over to Matthew 17 what you discover is one of the tools that God used to bring Peter into discipleship was a lesson related to fishing and taxes. I wish the Lord would let me pay my taxes this way. But notice what it says here in Matthew 17:24-27, “When they came to Capernaum,” that’s our location, “those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?”  He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, ‘What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?’  When Peter said, “From strangers” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt.”  However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea” what sea would this be? It’d be the Sea of Galilee, that’s very near Capernaum or on the shores there of the Sea of Galilee where Capernaum was located. “However so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.’”
So, part of his walk of discipleship was teaching him how to submit to authority. And this is why when Peter is going to write his own book under the Spirit’s guidance, in 1 Peter, about A.D. 64, Peter makes a reference whenever possible submit to the authorities that be. 1 Peter 2:16-17, and I believe Peter is writing that out of a personal lesson that the Lord gave to him there at Capernaum as Peter was called into a closer walk with the Lord and a walk with discipleship [1 Peter 2:13-17, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority,  or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.  For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.  Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.  Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”]
Now when you go to Israel, it’s interesting, they do have a restaurant set up there (surprise, surprise), and these places always lead you to the gift shop (surprise, surprise), and there’s a place where you can eat lunch called Saint Peter’s fish, where they serve fish from the Sea of Galilee. And I warned my daughter about this because there’s a lot of bones and things you’ve got to work your way through, so I think she ordered a hamburger or something like that. But I carefully watched the fish and ate the fish, enjoyed the fish, and you could see its mouth and everything. I didn’t eat the skin or the tail but I kept looking for the coin and I didn’t find it, so I’m hoping to go back and find that coin. But anyway, all these things are taking place at a place called Capernaum.
And one other thing before we leave Capernaum is this is where Jesus gave a sermon at Capernaum that to me is probably one of my favorite sermons that Jesus gave. Flip over to the Gospel of John and take a look at chapter 6, verse 17. And this is what we call Christ’s bread of life discourse and if you look there at verse 17 it says, “and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to” to where? “to Capernaum. And if you jump down to verse 24 it says, “So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to” where? “to Capernaum seeking Jesus.” So, Capernaum is the site of a tremendous sermon that He gave here called The Bread of Life Discourse in John 6.
And one of the reasons I like this sermon is because it doesn’t show up on the map of any church growth expert because church growth is all about teaching things in such a way to get the church to grow and if your church is not growing then you’re basically a failure in the ministry. And nobody ever quotes the bread of life discourse because Jesus basically started with a megachurch here in John 6. According to verse 22 it mentions the crowd. Verse 24 mentions the crowds, in fact he had just fed the masses with a few fish and a few loaves, earlier in the chapter.
[John 6:22, “The next day the crowd that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone.” John 6:24, “So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus.]
So everybody is on board with Jesus. In fact, it’s here in verse 15 and verse 26 that people are trying to actually take him and make him king by force. [John 6:15, “So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.  Jesus answered them and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.’”]
And so consequently at this point in Christ’s ministry everybody loved what He was saying because they are all thinking this is the guy that’s going to meet our physical needs forever and this is the guy whose going to get the boot of Rome off of our throats because Rome at this time was an occupier. And everybody is on board with Jesus, He actually has a mega church at this point in His ministry.
And then He starts to preach this sermon and the megachurch disappears, to the point where you get to the end of verses 66-71 the whole crowd is gone. The whole crowd dissipated. [John 6:66, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.  So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”  Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.  “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”  Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?”  Now, He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.”]
And the only people that are left are the twelve and this is where Jesus says to Peter, Well, you’re not going to leave too are you? And Peter makes the classic comment, where else are we going to go, I mean, you’ve got the words of eternal life. [John 6:66, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.  So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”  Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.”]
So he went from a mega church to a church of twelve and then he shrunk the number even further because he said of Judas, one of you is a devil, so that goes from twelve to eleven. [John 6:7, “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?’”] So that goes from twelve to eleven. And I’m just wondering if any church today would hire Jesus with this on His resume? I started with a church of… you know, ten thousand people and I shrunk the whole thing to eleven. And I’m kind of wondering what He said here that alienated everybody. He says a lot of things here at Capernaum, such as, if you look at verses 28-29 He says one of the most offensive things that a lot person could ever hear, He says in verses 28-29, “Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do that we may work the works of God.”
Doesn’t that sound like a religious person? What have I got to do to please God? And people are generally like this because if they can contribute to their own salvation then who gets to brag? They do. So a works oriented religious system is always appealing to pride. And then, verse 29, “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you” what? “believe in Him whom He has sent.’” You mean I made it right with God simply by believing in the finished work of Christ without a bunch of religiosity? And that’s true. And as inviting as that message is to a lot of people it’s also very offensive because it’s an attack on pride.
And so consequently the whole crowd begins to dissipate and it’s at this point He stops talking about politics and physical needs. See, a lot of people are with you as long as you’re talking about things at the physical level but once you start talking about the real need, the ultimate need that we have that we can’t necessarily feel, and the only way we’re aware of this need is through divine revelation. People are no longer interested in that; give me a sermon on how to make my marriage better, give me a sermon on how to catapult my career, give me a sermon about how to make more money, but once you start talking about the real need that we have as lost sinners that we can’t necessarily feel and we stop talking about felt needs, felt needs, felt needs, felt needs, and really get to the root of the problem what you discover is that message is not very popular.
And so what He begins to say in verse 35-36 is your problem is not a lack of physical bread, it is a lack of spiritual bread. Verse 35 says this, “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.  But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.”] Everybody loved Him when it was all about physical bread but then when He starts talking about spiritual bread and the need to receive this spiritual nourishment through faith alone, the word “believe” is used about 99 times in John’s Gospel) suddenly people aren’t interested in that because you’re dealing with a realm of philosophy and thought in theology that we as human beings can’t necessarily feel and it may have to be disclosed to us from above for us to even know that they’re true.
And it’s at this point that Jesus gives the first of the seven I am statements. In John’s Gospel, as you probably know, He divulges Himself as the “I am” at least seven times. “I am the bread of life.” [John 6:35] “I am the light of the world.” [John 8:12] I am the good Shepherd. [John 10:11-14] I am the resurrection and the life. [John 11:25] I am the way, the truth and the life. [John 14:6] I am the true vine. [John 15:1, cf. v. 5]
And here at Capernaum is His first “I am” statement.” And when you drop down to verses 52-56 He says something else that’s very troubling to a lot of people. Verse 52 says, “The Jews began to argue with one another, saying, ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” [John 6:52] So he’s trying to connect the spiritual level, they’re still talking about felt needs. So verse 53, “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man drink His blood you have no life in yourselves.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.’  This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” And then it says, verse 59, “These things He said in the synagogue as He taught” where? “in Capernaum.” Which is our location.
So, you Roman Catholics come along and they basically say well, communion or the Lord’s Table is what’s called transubstantiation; when you partake of the mass you’re actually physically eating the body and the blood of Jesus. And that’s not our view, our view is Jesus said concerning the Lord’s table, “Do this in” what? “remembrance of Me.” But they believe to a large extent that it’s talking about eating the physical body and blood of Jesus Christ, and that has many, many problems, doesn’t it? Not the least of which is Jesus has to be recrucified every single mass and that can’t be because the Book of Hebrews tells us He died how many times? ONE time! And so your Roman Catholics will come along and they’ll quote this verse, they’ll say it’s right here in the Bible, Jesus said you’ve got eat His flesh and drink His blood. And so they’ll use this sermon at Capernaum as support for the doctrine of transubstantiation. And your average Protestant looks at that and is kind of caught-flatfooted that they don’t know how to answer that.
And in fact, there’s a very simple answer. Part A of the answer is the Lord is not dealing with the Lord’s Supper here in John 6; He doesn’t deal with that until the final week of His life, after it’s very clear that the nation of Israel is going to reject Him when He begins to hint of the coming church age. So to read into this passage a bunch of stuff about communion is to just ignore that basic chronology of John’s Gospel.
And secondly, all He’s doing here in verses 53-59 is using a metaphor that he’s already established earlier in the chapter. Remember what He claimed to be? Verse 35-36, “I am the” what? “I am the bread. [John 6:35, “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”] Well, what do you do with bread? You eat it. So He’s using eating as a metaphor for what? It’s right there in verse 36, “But I tell you that you have not seen Me and yet you do not” what? “believe.” When He says “eat of My flesh and drink of My blood” He’s not talking about that in a literal sense; we try to take the Bible literally whenever we can but the context here doesn’t argue to that. He’s using eating and drinking of Him as a metaphor for faith alone in Him. And it’s not me unpacking that metaphor, it’s me just paying attention as to how He set up the metaphor in verse 35. And then He gives it a little bit further explanation there in verses 53-59.
[Verse 53, “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man drink His blood you have no life in yourselves.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.’  This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”  “These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.”’
It’s the same kind of thing He did in John 4 when He said to the woman at the well, “If you drink from this water you’ll thirst again, but if you drink from the water I give you’ll never thirst again.” [John 4:14, “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”] And there He’s using drinking as a metaphor for believing, and He’s doing the exact same thing here in John 6. So this in no way, shape or form is talking about transubstantiation or cannibalism or anything like that. He’s just unpacking a metaphor, His first “I am” statement. “I am the bread of life” delivered at Capernaum. And it’s interesting that when you walk around Capernaum there’s at least three things that are very interesting here.
You have a synagogue in Capernaum that’s being excavated and there at the bottom, in between the two bottom pictures is my family and myself in front of this excavated synagogue. And that shouldn’t surprise us because Jesus did a lot of His teaching, according to John 6, in this synagogue. So they found excavated remains of it there in Capernaum and archeologists are working on that. And then they’re also found what they believe is the home, Peter’s home, the home of Peter’s mother-in-law and that’s there on the upper right. And then it’s very interesting that when you walk through here and a guide has to show you it’s there it’s so small but it’s so small, but it’s to my left there inscribed in a rock is a picture of something that looks an awful lot like the tabernacle, doesn’t it? So somebody in history, early on in history chiseled that out into the rock wall there, the tabernacle which clearly establishes the Jewish presence there in Capernaum, exactly like the Bible says because of course Jesus did a lot of these things, interactions in the synagogue in Capernaum. Capernaum is a very interesting place and this is what became Christ’s ministry headquarters after He was kicked out of Nazareth.
And from there we move a little further south, southwest and we come to a place called Tabgha. Tabgha, you’re not going to find that name in the Bible, it’s an Arabic name and it basically means seven springs. And the name that they’re given to this place is what’s called Peter’s primacy. And it’s a very special place that the Lord had with His disciples. It’s where the disciples, most believe, kept their fishing boats here. It served as sort of a meeting place that Jesus had with His disciples.
There are all kinds of miracles and interesting things that happened here but one of the things that’s most interesting is this is the place where it’s believed that Jesus engaged in His post resurrection ministry with His disciples. If you go over to John 21, which is the very last chapter in John’s Gospel, this is the location of this famous story. And the disciples who really didn’t believe Jesus was going to die but was going to bring in the kingdom were as freaked out as anybody that He actually went to the cross and died. And, of course, they thought it was all over and they went back to their fishing trade. And this is where Jesus meets them in His resurrected body, post-resurrection.
Take a look at John 21:3-6. “Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.”’ See, that’s what you do, isn’t it, when you hit a crisis in life, and we just go back to what we know. Simon Peter understood fishing and so that’s what he went out to do. And where would he be fishing? He would be fishing in the Sea of Galilee, right? “Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will also come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.” How humiliating, these are the professionals and they can’t catch a single thing.
And then if you look at verse 4… and think about that, being out there all night in humiliation. And the Lord kind of pushes us to that point many times, doesn’t He? He takes us to things that we’re good at, or we think we’re good at them and He allows us to have absolutely no fruit in it because He’s trying to get us to see something that He wants to work through us. And He can’t really get us… it’s hard to fill a cup with water when the cup is already full. Amen! A lot of times the Lord Jesus Christ will just kind of empty out the cup and we go through humiliation because He wants to fill it with something better, it’s just we don’t realize that and we have to be shown that through failure.
Verse 4,” But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach;” this is where He did this, at that place called Tabgha, “Jesus stood on the beach yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.  So Jesus said to them, “Children,” interesting He calls them children here, they haven’t really developed in the full stature spiritually, had they. “… Children you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.”  And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.”’ Now think about that, you’re the professional, you’ve been out there all night, not a single thing has worked out for you and some guy you don’t even recognize starts yelling out from the shore, oh, all you’ve got to do is throw your net on this side of the boat. And you can think how the disciples could have resisted this and said this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.
But you see, this is how the Lord works. The Lord oftentimes asks us to do things that completely humiliate us because He’s trying to show us that human pride really doesn’t get us anywhere. And this is why salvation is so simple; what is going to send people to hell largely is something called pride where think the whole thing is just too easy. I mean, it can’t be that easy can it, throw your nets on the other side of the boat. It reminds me of the prophet, it wasn’t the prophet but it was the story of the healing of Naaman, the Syrian, 2 Kings 5, and he was afflicted with a skin condition and what did the prophet of God tell him to do to get rid of the skin condition. Dip yourself in the Jordan, was it seven times, if I remember right. And he went away in a huff and his own servant confronted him and said well, you know if that the prophet had told you to do some great thing you would have done it but because he asked you to do something simple you rejected it. So he humbled himself and did what he was supposed to do and when he came out of the water the Bible says his skin was like that of a little baby. In other words, his skin affliction had been totally healed.
[2 Kings 5:1, “Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master, and highly respected, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram. The man was also a valiant warrior, but he was a leper.  Now the Arameans had gone out in bands and had taken captive a little girl from the land of Israel; and she waited on Naaman’s wife.  She said to her mistress, “I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy.”  Naaman went in and told his master, saying, “Thus and thus spoke the girl who is from the land of Israel.”  Then the king of Aram said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” He departed and took with him ten talents of silver and six thousand shekels of gold and ten changes of clothes He brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, “And now as this letter comes to you, behold, I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may cure him of his leprosy.”  When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man is sending word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? But consider now, and see how he is seeking a quarrel against me.”  It happened when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent word to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Now let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.”]
And this is what the offer of salvation is to people? You mean I just have to trust in Christ to go to heaven, I don’t have to do a bunch of stuff, and they walk away in a huff and they try to find a religious system that will appeal to their pride and consequently they end up missing the healing that God wants to do in their lives. So no obedience in 2 Kings 5, you’re not going to have a healing; no obedience in John 21, you’re not going to have a miraculous catch of fish.
So they did what they were supposed to do and it says, verse 6, and this is so interesting, they were not even able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. I mean, they were out there all night and they didn’t catch anything and they fulfill a simple command in humiliation and now they’ve got so many fish they can’t even bring the thing to the shore. So this is all happening there in Tabgha.
And if you go down to verses 9-14 Jesus continues to minister to them in his post resurrected state. It says,  “So when they got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread.”  Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.”  Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.” Now for the last two thousand years of church history you could study commentaries, everybody is trying to figure out why it says “a hundred and fifty-three” fish. And people go on and on about all of the codes and all of these kinds of things what this really means.
And I’ve looked into a lot of those things and here’s my conclusion. Are you ready for this? When it say “a hundred and fifty-three” fish what it means is there was “a hundred and fifty-three fish.” It’s not any hidden code. And these little numbers and things like this are given to remind us that John was an eyewitness to these things and if you’re an eyewitness to these things you remember little details like that. So they have this hundred and fifty-three fish. It says, verse 12, “Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples ventured to question Him, ‘Who are You?’ knowing that it was the Lord.  Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise.” So this is a very fascinating story here that took place at this place called Tabgha. I think I left out verse 14, “This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples after He was raised from the dead.” [John 21:14]
This is an interesting story because it demonstrates that Jesus is concerned with their spiritual well-being but that never subtracts the fact that He’s also concerned with their physical well-being. I mean, the Lord’s ministry to us is so complete that He takes care of the spiritual food we need but He’s also in the business of providing for our physical needs as well.
Paul, in Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will supply all your” what? “needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” And you see how practical Jesus is here. He’s concerned about what they’re going to have for breakfast. I mean, the very hairs on our head are numbered, right? And that’s how intimate the Lord is with each of us. And this is all happening here at Tabgha.
And then you go down to John 21:15-17 and Jesus now deals with the spiritual issue in Peter’s life.  “So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?’” Now there’s a debate on what “these” are; I’m sort of the impression that “these” could be a reference to the 153 fish they just ate because after all, I’m not sure if they ate all 153 but there was 153 of them. After all, this was Peter’s livelihood, this is where he got his sense of importance and Jesus is trying to get Peter to understand that in the walk of discipleship you put the Lord first, even before your occupation, which is a male at least, that’s where you get a lot of your satisfaction as a man, certainly that can apply to a woman as well.
It says there in verse 15, “So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” Verse 16, “He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Shepherd My sheep.’  He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘”Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’”
Why would Jesus ask this question three times of Peter? Because Peter had denied Jesus how many times? Not two times, not four times, but three times. So when Jesus spiritually restores Peter He asked him the question three times. And I think what’s largely happening here is an outworking of what we today called 1 John 1:9, where if we get out of fellowship with the Lord because of unconfessed sin, 1 John 1:9 says we’re to confess our sin and He cleanses us from all unrighteousness. [1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”] That doesn’t get us saved, we’re already saved. What that does is it restores broken fellowship.
So Peter, through the threefold denial of Christ pre-resurrection, had committed a sin against the Lord and now the Lord gives him a three-fold restoration. So the Lord is taking care of him physically, He’s also taking care of their spiritual needs as well. And when you study this in Greek, most of you know this, that in Greek there’s different words for love. People say there’s three words for love in Greek, there’s probably actually four. There’s something called storgē which means family love, and then beyond that you have something called philia which means brotherly love. You have something called érōs which means romantic love, and then you have something called agápē which is self-sacrificing love. And as you work through this interaction between Jesus and Peter in Greek you’ll find that the words start off at the surface level and eventually graduate to the agápē level. And it’s at this particular point in time that Jesus is actually giving Peter his calling. He’s going to be responsible for tending and some of your versions say “feeding God’s flock.” And that’s what a pastor is supposed to do. That’s why I think when you walk into Sugar Land Bible Church and you’ll see the table and look up to the right, there’s a sign there from Ezekiel 34:2 which asks a rhetorical question, “Should not the shepherds feed the flock.” [Ezekiel 34:2, “”Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock?”’
And what do you feed them with? Well, Deuteronomy 8:3 says man shall not live by bread alone,” but by what? “every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.” So our philosophy in ministry here at Sugar Land Bible Church is we believe one of our primary callings is to feed God’s sheep through a continual intake of God’s Word, feeding and tending sheep is what Peter is called to do. So one of the things you discover at [can’t understand word] when you’re there thinking about this is you’re thinking about the fact that God is a God of second chances. Aren’t you happy about that? Because a lot of us think we’ve gone too far in rebellion and that God is not interested in us any more, He doesn’t want to use us any more. And here’s a guy that denied the Lord three times and yet the Lord not only forgave Him in terms of restoring broken fellowship, but actually gave him a calling into ministry.
And a wonderful Scripture, it’s starting to become one of my favorite verses in the whole Bible us Jonah 3:1, “Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time,” isn’t that great? Because if anybody didn’t deserve to be used it would be Jonah, right? Because Jonah had four chapters in it, Jonah chapter 1 is the fleeing prophet from Joppa. Jonah 2 is the praying prophet in the belly of the fish. Jonah 3 is the preaching prophet where he was actually successful but he was upset about his success when Nineveh repented. And then Jonah 4 is the pouting prophet. So what chapter are you in? Are in you the fleeing part of it, the praying part of it, the preaching part of it, or the pouting part of it?
You would think that God would have just washed His hands of Jonah but it says “the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time.” And that’s what’s happening here with Peter at Tabgha, he’s getting another opportunity via the grace of God. And in fact, the opportunity that Peter is getting here at Tabgha is so significant that Peter actually, verses 18-19, is going to be given a rare privilege. And what is that rare privilege? To die what? A martyr’s death. It says in verse 18, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” John 21:19, “Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He” that’s Jesus, “said to him, ‘Follow Me!’”
And I like Peter’s answer, verse 20, “Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved” who would that be? John, “following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said ‘Lord, who is the one who betrays You?’”  So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, ‘Lord, and what about this man?’”
In other words, I’m going to die a martyr’s death, and by the way, we know he did die a martyr’s death from tradition, he was crucified upside down to glorify Jesus, about thirty years later. And according to tradition the reason he was crucified upside down is he didn’t see himself as worthy as dying the exact same way that Christ died. And it’s interesting that Jesus is revealing all of these things to him prophetically at this place called Tabgha.
Verse 22, “Jesus said” concerning Peter’s interest in John, I mean we’re not like that as Christians are we, always interested in what God is doing in someone else’s life, when the reality of the situation is God doesn’t call us to be buttinskies into everybody else’s life, He calls us to walk our own walk with Him. And He makes a statement there in verse 22, “Jesus said to him, ‘If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me! “Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!’” In other words, you follow Me in discipleship and let me do what I’m going to do with your neighbor, with John.
So as we’re studying the Book of Revelation we know that John had a different destiny. He would live three decades (roughly) longer than Peter. They would try to martyr John boiling him in oil, according to tradition. The guy wouldn’t die; talk about a stubborn person, he won’t even die. So Domitian put him out on this little island in the middle of nowhere, off the coast of Asia Minor, called Patmos, and it’s there John received the vision that we’re studying in our main service, the Book of Revelation. Peter had a totally different destiny; he was just to follow the Lord and die the sacrificial martyr’s death which happened three decades after Jesus spoke these things.
So I don’t know, we’re very worried about what’s this church down the street doing, and what’s going on in this person’s life and with social media we can check up on everybody which sort of feeds envy, I think, a lot of times. And I think what the Lord is saying is you just follow Me, you don’t have to worry about everybody else, you walk out your own personal walk with Me. And these are profound and powerful lessons that Jesus taught them all right here at Tabgha. I believe that Jesus did here his ninth sign. You know, these verses when we were in John, we were actually in John longer than Christ’s whole earthly ministry, about three years. Remember the point of John’s Gospel? “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;  but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” [John 20:30-31]
John’s Gospel is all about signs, not so much as a magic show but to reveal the identity of Jesus as the Son of God. And not just as a theology lesson in Christology but to inculcate faith in people. John wants people to believe in Christ. And then notice it doesn’t just say believe, it says “believing.” He wants us based on these signs and a revelation of who He is to keep trusting Him through the exigencies and the emergencies of life. That’s the point of John’s Gospel. That’s why when you’re interacting with somebody at your office or in your family and they are actually intellectually honest and they want to investigate the claims of Christ and they know you are a Christian and they ask you where should they start in the Bible I would not send them to the Book of Leviticus or some book like that, I would send them to John’s Gospel because John’s Gospel is set up to reach the lost through a revelation of Christ’s signs. And in John’s Gospel Jesus did seven signs. He turned water to wine, He healed the nobleman’s son, He healed the invalid at the Pool of Bethesda, He fed the 5,000, He walked on water, He healed the blind man and He brought back Lazarus from the dead. And we know that John is setting up an intentional list here of seven because it says in his first miracle, John 2:11, turning water into wine. [John 2:11, “This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.”]
And by the way, it seems like there is only two verses unbelievers know, they know about Him turning water to wine, they like that one, and they also like the part of the Bible that’s says don’t judge. So, they’ve got those two things down. But it says there in verse 11, “This beginning of His signs” after he turned the water into wine at Cana of Galilee.”
And then when you go over to John 4:54 it talks about His second miracle, and what does it say? “This is again a second sign that Jesus performed [when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.]” So obviously John is setting up an intentional list here. So, he gives us these seven and I would push it a step further and say there’s actually an eighth sign. What would that eighth sign be? His own bodily resurrection from the dead, which He predicted.
And may I push it a little bit further? There’s actually a ninth sign, this is a sign He did in His post-resurrection ministry with the miraculous catch of fish right there at Toga. So it is sort of a wonderful thing to be able to stand there in the actual location where this post resurrection ministry took place.
So, we’ve looked at number one, Capernaum. Number two, Tabgha. We’ll talk about the Jordan River next week.