Humble Obedience (John 21:1-7)
Good morning everybody; if we could take our Bibles and open them to John chapter 21, the title of our message this morning is Humble Obedience, entering the final stretch here in John’s Gospel, beginning today the final chapter of the book. Of course, we know that John is writing this book about Jesus to identify Him so that people might believe in Him. We are at the tail end of that outline, the passion of Christ, which dealt with His death and His resurrection. We have the empty tomb early on in chapter 20, and then what follows are about five post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to various groups or individuals. And the verses that we find ourselves in today are the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus Christ to the seven disciples on the Sea of Galilee.
I hope you like the letter “C” we have the characters, verses 1 -2; the consternation, verse 3, the call, verses 4-5, the command, verse 6, the catch, verse 6, the comprehension, verse 7, the calls, verses 8-9, the count, verses 10-11, and then the communion, verses 12-14. We won’t be getting through all those today.
But notice, if you will, verses 1-2, the characters. John 21:1 says, “After these things Jesus manifested Himself again,” now that would be the real Jesus of the Bible, not that fake Jesus you saw a little earlier, “After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way.” You might recall that Thomas becomes a believer at the end of chapter 20. Jesus is actually going to ascend back to the Father in Acts 1, so there’s an increment there of a number of days and this event that we’re reading about here took place sometime in between the conversion, or the belief expressed by Thomas, and Christ’s ascension.
You’ll notice also the geographical area is given, the Sea of Tiberias. According to John 6:1 the Sea of Tiberias is the Sea of Galilee, the two are synonyms. The Sea of Galilee, you might recall, is that upper body of water then in the north of the land of Israel. It indicates here in chapter 21 and verse 1 that Jesus “manifested Himself.” In fact, it’s interesting, you’ll see the word “manifested” two times in verse 1.
This is not the first use of that word; the word Christ manifesting Himself appears many, many times in John’s Gospel. John 1:3, John 9:3, many, many other places. [John 1:3, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” John 9:3, “Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in Him.”’] John 2:11 uses that same word, “manifested,” related to Christ’s first miracle. John 2:11 says, “This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory….”
Jesus keeps perpetually revealing Himself, manifesting Himself to these various disciples through various signs and wonders for the purpose of increasing their faith. Why is He increasing their faith? Because they are going to be the carriers of the gospel not too many days from now; Jesus will go back to the Father and the work that He has entrusted to them must be carried on.
And you cannot serve God effectively; you cannot walk with God effectively unless you are walking with Him by faith, moment by moment, because “without faith it is impossible to please God.” [Hebrews 11:6] So these miracles that have been happening, and as we will see in this chapter will continue to happen are for the purpose of building the faith, if you will, of these various disciples.
Going down to verse 2 it lists the disciples that were involved in this encounter. Verse 2 says, “Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together.” Five of the disciples that saw what is going to happen here in chapter 21 are named. You have Simon is named, of course, that’s the name Peter; Thomas is named, Nathanael is named, and then you have Zebedee’s sons, one of them is named James; the other one is named John. John doesn’t like to reveal his own identity in this book; you don’t find the proper noun or the proper name “John” anywhere in this book. And this is about close to John as he comes in terms of saying he was present, because he was one of Zebedee’s sons. And then also at the end of verse 2 it mentions two others that are not given, their names are not given; so five named, two anonymous, seven disciples total.
Now one of the things that’s interesting about this chapter is the amount of detail it gives, like the detail that we just went over, seven disciples present. Why his that significant? It’s significant because these are the things that you would expect from an eyewitness. You would expect a recollection or a recalling of specific details; lots of details like that are found in this chapter. And what we have to understand is this book comes to us through eyewitness testimony. John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory….” In fact, at the very end of John’s Gospel, in John 21:24, John says, “This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true.”
1 John 1:1 says, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life.” This is not a story dreamt up by a religionist; this is not a fiction that is being written here. This is not coming out of someone’s imagination, but the record that we have in this Gospel comes from eyewitness testimony. Of course, eyewitness testimony is the most powerful evidence you can introduce in a court of law and that’s what the New Testament record claims to be. And if someone is an eyewitness to an event we would expect a recollection of details and John provides many myopic details here in this particular chapter and throughout the book.
It’s also interesting in verse 2 that he mentions “Nathanael of Cana in Galilee.” The reference to “Cana in Galilee” reminds us of Christ’s first two signs. The book of John is essentially a book of signs; seven have been described to us thus far. The first one, changing water into wine and the second one, the healing of the official’s, or the nobleman’s son, took place at Cana of Galilee. And I think John brings up the fact that Nathanael is from Cana of Galilee, he doesn’t give the identification or the home of any of these others here but He mentions Nathanael as coming from Cana of Galilee. John brings up that detail to tie the whole book together, to bring us full circle. The miracles which Jesus began are the same miracles that He is finishing up, wrapping up, and completing.
So we have in verses 1-2 a list of the various characters that were involved in seeing a tremendous miracle that’s about to take place here along the Sea of Galilee, in John chapter 21. Cana of Galilee, of course, is in that Galilee area as well.
And we move from the characters to the consternation. Now consternation means frustration and I couldn’t use the word “frustration” because of the need of a “c” and so I’m stuck with “consternation.” But notice the frustration, or consternation of these apostles. Notice, if you will, verse 3, “Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.” So this whole trauma has happened, the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and generally people in a time of rapid change, in time of a trauma, in time of life altering events they retreat to what they know. They retreat, in point of fact, to what they are good at. And if there was anything that Simon Peter was good at it was catching fish. Why was Simon Peter good at this? Because he grew up in the home of a fisher¬man; Matthew 4:18 says, “Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brother, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother,  casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.”
So in the providence of God, Peter is allowed to return to an area of his strength. And understanding that Peter is operating here in the natural from an area of strength is necessary in order to understand the lesson that Jesus is about to bring along Peter’s path.
If you have been tacking with us in John’s Gospel you will recall that the Lord has been breaking Peter down. Event after event after event has been strategically allowed into his life for the purpose of emptying him of self-confidence. You recall in Matthew 14 that Peter was desiring to walk out upon the water, which he did successfully for a short time and then he began to sink. You’ll recall in Matthew 16 how Jesus gave many, many wonderful promises to Peter; then Peter opened his mouth and began to talk, he began to talk Jesus out of the cross. And Jesus issued that very sharp word of rebuke, “Get behind me, Satan.”
You will recall that Peter is the one that began to swing a sword at the head of a man named Malchus when Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane, and how Peter missed and shaved off Malchus’ ear. And you remember the sharp rebuke that Peter received from the Lord, that he is to put his sword back into its place, these things must be fulfilled, I must go to the cross and die. And you might remember in the Upper Room the total self-confidence of Peter. He made the statement that he will never betray the Lord, and we know how that story ended, how he denied the Lord three separate times and once the rooster began to crow Peter wept bitterly.
You see, what is happening here with Peter is event after event after event after event is being introduced into his life for the purpose of failure; the failure is designed by God to break this man of self-will. And another breaking is about to happen as the Lord is about to break Peter one final time in the area of his strength. He allows him to fail, in fact in what he is good at, catching fish; he allows him to fail in his vocation, in his occupation, in his training.
Now why is the Lord breaking Peter down in this way? Because Peter has a destiny in God. In Acts 2, which will occur not many days from here and this event, Peter is going to deliver the opening sermon on the day of Pentecost Acts 2:14. As he is going to begin to speak his words, Acts 2:37, are going to pierce the hearts of people. The end result of that, Acts 2:41 is three thousand people are about to be saved. [Acts 2:14, “But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them” ‘Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words.” Acts 2:37, “Now when they heard this they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, shat shall we do?’” Acts 2:41, “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.”]
That’s a tremendous evangelistic outreach, isn’t it? You give a sermon and three thousand people become believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, that miracle is going to be so big man can’t take credit for it, can he? It must be a work of God. So how do you get a human being who is filled with himself and filled with self-reliance to the point where he becomes a pliable vessel in the hands of God? How do you transition him into pliability and dependability and usability? You allow him to go through failure after failure after failure after failure, the breaking process of God.
You see, Jesus said something very interesting in the Upper Room; John 15:5 He made this state¬ment, Peter was there to hear it, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in Him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” Peter, no doubt, intellectually understood that but human pride is so strong that we really do not experientially understand it until we go through successive failures; each failure is designed by God to weaken our self-reliance.
Paul would write, in 2 Corinthians 3:5, He says, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.” Paul had a difficult time with that lesson; in fact, he had to spend three years in Arabia in a desert situation, to learn this dependence upon God. This is the process that Peter is being taken through. And beloved, may I just say to you that it’s the same process that He’s taking you through; it’s the same process the Lord takes me through, and with failures we have a tendency to become discouraged and yet when we look at this rom the biblical perspective we actually should become encouraged because each failure weakens our pride a little bit more till finally the day arrives when the Lord says you’re ready to be that instrument in My hands.
So Peter moves off into his strength and the Lord allows it because there’s another lesson for him to learn here in this chapter.
You’ll also notice in verse 3, it says, “They said to him, ‘We,” that would be the other disciples, six others involved here, “They said to him, ‘We will also come with you.’ And they,” plural, “went out….” It’s not just Peter who is being broken here; it’s the rest of the disciples that were gathered as well. Why is that? Because these disciples had a destiny and a calling in God; they were destined to become, Ephesians 2:20 tells us, the foundation of the church. [Ephesians 2:20, “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone.”] God was going to build His entire program of the church age upon the foundation stones of these apostles. Jesus, of course, in the temple imagery is the chief cornerstone, He is the stone that goes in first and all other stones are adjusted or put into place based on the cornerstone.
But then would come the foundation stones. Now if you’ve ever lived, let’s say, for example, in Dallas, as we did, foundation problems are a big issue. The house can shift beneath you and cracks begin to develop in the walls; it doesn’t matter how nice the drapes look, it doesn’t matter how beautiful or how new the carpet is, if you have a weak foundation you’re going to have incredible structural damage in that particular house. The foundation is being laid of the early church; the rest of the house is only as good as the foundation it’s laid upon. And that’s why Jesus is working over and over again with these disciples, given the monumental role that they are about to fulfill in the coming church age as recorded in the book of Acts.
And there is a special focus on Peter. Why is that? Because when you study Acts chapters 1-10, not just Acts 2 but 1-10, there isn’t a man more significant to the early church than Peter. Virtually in every chapter Peter is playing the lead role. Now Peter, at this time, doesn’t understand these things; Jesus, though, as omniscient God does understand these things, and therefore these life lessons of failure are necessary to prepare him.
You’ll also notice in verse 3 it says, “They said to Him, ‘We will also come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat!” What’s very interesting is that a discovery has been made in Israel when I was there about a year ago, this is actually a picture I took of it, they have it preserved, it began to corrode the moment they brought it up from the Sea of Galilee, and so they had a place they special preservative on it so that it wouldn’t dissolve, but they have discovered a fishing boat, a Galilean fishing boat in the Sea of Galilee, or in the Sea of Tiberius.
Now there’s no sign inside that said Jesus and Peter were here. Was this the exact boat? I don’t know, maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t, but it’s always interesting to me how archeology has a tendency to come along and vindicate, not contradict, vindicate what the biblical record is saying. The stories of the Bible, the better you understand biblical archeology, are quite credible. And in fact, I recall that when we were on the Sea of Galilee, the tour guide was telling us about the depths we were at in terms of sea level and the mountains that were around us and the tour guide was explaining how quickly a storm can take place on the Sea of Galilee. And my goodness, does that not describe the biblical record, how they’re out on a boat many times and a storm just comes right out of nowhere.
And so Peter and these disciples get into this boat and you continue on there in verse 3 and it says, “and that night they caught nothing.” Notice the reference here to the “night.” They apparently launched out in the evening, just before night, that apparently was a popular time to fish, and as their frustration grew and they were catching nothing all night long, they just kept staying out there. And it’s easy to see how pride kicks in; it’s like when you’re lost that you’re too proud to ask for directions. You just keep driving around and around to prove that you’re not lost and the more you drive around and around the more lost you get. And that’s sort of the attitude and the atmosphere that’s taking place here amongst these disciples. How is it that we are catching nothing? Peter, you’re the professional, you were reared, you were raised in this profession and this occupation.
Now in John’s Gospel the night, or the evening is typically used as literal night and evening but it also signifies throughout the book spiritual darkness. John 3:2, you remember Nicodemus? It says, “this man came to Jesus by night,” I call that chapter Nic at Night, because he was in a state of spiritual darkness, not even understanding the new birth. John 3:19 says, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” John 13:30, recalling the betrayal by Judas says this, “after receiving the morsel he went out immediately; and it was night.”
Why is the night or the evening mentioned here? Because these disciple are about to go through even another phase of enlightenment. They are in darkness on a particular issue and they are about to get more spiritual light on it. And what they are learning is what Jesus was talking about in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches, he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” It’s one thing to take that in intellectually and academically; it’s another thing to take it in experientially. And until a person is emptied of themselves, even as a Christian, they are still very much in the spiritual night, or darkness, because they are trying to accomplish the work of God through human power.
And as long as we seek to do the work of God through human power our efforts only go so far. But oh how incredible it is when God works through us. The results are immeasurable; the results are amazing, and yet pride is what it is in humanity, where we think we can work it out through the power of the flesh and as long as we are doing that in our lives and in our ministries we are very much in the night and in a state of darkness.
Notice the end of verse 3, it says, “they caught nothing.” The professionals are out there, they’re out there all night long, until daybreak, which is coming, and they caught absolutely nothing. In other words, they were humiliated in their realm of strength, what they were good at. And once they went through that humiliation they’re ready to listen to the Lord. See, a lot of times the Lord is talking but we don’t want to listen to Him. And so the Lord says okay, I’ll put you through a valley and I’ll get you to a point where you have completely made a fool of yourself; I’ll get you to a point where you have failed at what you have attempted to do, even in an area that you think you’re good at and it’s only until we get to that point that we’re ready to really listen to the Lord.
And maybe some of you are in that predicament, there’s just been one door shut after another, one setback after another. And maybe now the Lord is saying to you, maybe He’s saying to all of us, I’m ready to talk, are you listening.
So they have been out there all night and they caught absolutely nothing. Then suddenly there’s a calling from somebody on the shore. We’re going to learn a little bit later that this little boat that they were in was about 100 yards off the shore, someone said something who was standing on the shoreline, and this moves us into the call, verse 4-5.
Notice verse 4, “But when the day was breaking,” that’s not just physical day, that’s enlightenment, illumination, “when the day was breaking” they were about to get insight into something. You see, just as darkness in John’s Gospel speaks of spiritual darkness, light in John’s Gospel speaks of spiritual light.
In fact, that’s a theme or a motif that goes all the way back to early John, John 1:4-8 says: “In Him was life, and the life was the” what? “Light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” It goes on and it says,  “He,” that’s John the Baptist, “came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him.  He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.” Spiritual illumination is coming to these seven disciples. They are learning firsthand John 55:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches, he who abides in Me and I in Him bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
You’ll notice there in verse 4 as it continues on, “Jesus,” we’re told who the man standing on the shore was, “Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.” Now why couldn’t they figure out it was Him? Maybe the distance from the shore made it difficult to identify Him? Maybe as twilight or the morning was breaking it was still somewhat dark, although not completely dark and they couldn’t quite recognize Him. I personal think it has to do with the fact that His appearance had been altered somewhat because He was now in a resurrected form.
When the disciples looked at Jesus in His resurrected form they oftentimes did not immediately recognize it was Him. John 20:15 says this: “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Here is one of the sisters at the tomb, and she does not recognize the resurrected Christ right off the bat, she mistakes Him for the gardener. Luke 24:16 says this, concerning a contact that the disciples had with the resurrected Christ, “But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.” So for whatever reason they didn’t quite get the fact that it was Jesus who as shouting out to them from the shore.
The calling continues, as you take a look at verse 5, “So Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you do not have any fish, do you?’” Question mark! Now it’s very interesting that when Jesus calls out to them He refers to them as “children.” In fact the Greek word here is paidia, which is a Greek word for children; it could mean a boy or a lad. Why are they called “children” and lads, boys if you will, by Jesus Christ? Because they really had not yet been fully enlightened spiritually speaking. They had not progressed into spiritual adulthood because they had not mastered or understood one of the most basic rudimentary principles you can master in the spiritual life, John 15:5, without Me you can do nothing. [John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”]
Until a person, not just intellectually understands that but begins to actually live it out, they will remain as a spiritual infant and a spiritual child. The fact of the matter is in the body of Christ today you have people at all kinds of different levels. In fact, John wrote another book about 60 years later called 1 John and in 1 John 2:12 John writes this: “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake.  I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.”
It’s very clear, as you go through those verses, that the people He is addressing are all believers. Their sins had been forgiven, they, in a certain sense, have already overcome; they are called by family names, but notice the different designations. Some are children in John’s flock there; some are young men, in other words, they’ve progressed beyond childhood but they’re still looked at in a certain sense as young men. And then you have this third group, the fathers, the more spiritually mature. So just like in the physical world people graduate from childhood to being a young adult to actually becoming a father, that is how it works in the spiritual life; there are children and there are young men, spiritually speaking, and then there are fathers.
And what makes you one or the other in these three groups? It’s determined by the walk of the believer in the spiritual life. Are you, as I’m speaking here today, are you a child? Are you a young man? Are you a father? It really has very little to do with age, chronologically; maturation, or maturity spiritually relates to moment by moment dependence upon the resources of God as we walk out the Christian life. As long as we are trying to live our lives through human manipulation, scheming, planning, energy, we really have not progressed into young adulthood; we really certainly have not progressed into fatherhood.
Paul, in the book of Galatians, chapter 5, verse 16 says, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” Are you saying no with greater regularity to the lusts of the flesh as a Christian, because you’re depending upon not human will power but the empowerment of the Spirit? How you answer that question, and it’s really a question that’s between you and the Lord, has a very large effect on how the Lord looks at your level and my level of maturity.
So Jesus here, interestingly calls them “children,” they haven’t learned the rudimentary lessons yet of the spiritual life, but they are going to learn bigtime. The learning curve is about to go way up. In fact, it has to because Jesus, as we have said, in His ascension is leaving the scene. The work, if it’s going to go on at all has to be accomplished through these individuals, or Christianity as we would call it, will not make it into the next generation.
So Jesus asks them a question, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” Question mark. Now, when you study that question in the Greek language you’ll discover that it is a question that assumes a negative answer. It’s like Jesus asking the question but He is assuming that the answer is going to be no. And that’s what is happening here as Jesus poses this question. See, this question is not for Christ’s benefit; this question is for the benefit of these disciples that morning on the Sea of Galilee.
And you’ll notice the second part of verse 5, it says, “They answered Him, ‘No.’” Isn’t it interesting that the Lord puts them in a circumstance where they have to articulate their defeat. He puts them in a circumstance where they have to articulate their humiliation. He puts them in a circumstance where they have to acknowledge that they have failed, and that is part of the breaking process of God. He pushes us and pushes us and pushes us to the point where we collapse because we seek to do God’s work through human power and we are forced, in many ways, to acknowledge, at least before Him, our insufficiency.
And so all of this is sort of precursory to the command that’s about to follow here in verse 6. We move away from the calling to the command. Notice what Jesus says to them after bringing them to this point of failure. It says this, “And He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.’” All you guys have to do is cast your net from the left side of the boat, the port side, to the right side of the boat, the starboard side, and you’ll catch fish.
And you can imagine how that sounded to them. What a silly and ridiculous thing to say. You certainly don’t say something like that to a professional, do you? All you’ve got to do is throw the net on the other side and you’re fine. And so this probably seemed ridiculous, it probably seemed laughable and if they had figured out who Jesus was by this point they might have said well, what do You know about it, You’re just a carpenter, what do You know about fishing? You don’t have the professional skills we have. And so this “armchair fisherman” is giving them a command which seemed absurd, in fact, it was humiliating, to a bunch of professionals that had been out there all night long.
But you see, what is happening here is a test; it’s a test to determine are they going to be obedient despite the powerful existence of pride? Are you going to trust the Lord in a small thing like this when the whole thing seems absurd or is pride so strong in you, seven disciples, is pride so strong in you Peter that you won’t follow through in a very simple request and a very simple command. That is the test, and you see the great lesson that is coming out through all of this is when we break through the barrier of pride and simply do what the Lord asks us to do, despite the fact that many of the things He says and asks us to do are beyond human comprehension. When we break through pride and do exactly what He says there is manifest, manifold fruit. In fact, there is so much fruit it’s hard to contain it all. The fruit comes, not from the ability of these men but the capacity of them to fulfill certain simple and humiliating (from the human perspective) commands of God.
When you start to research this in the Bible you’ll see that this happens over and over again, as God deals with His people, and as individuals. I’m reminded of the story of Naaman, the Syrian, in 2 Kings 5:1, it says, “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 a valiant warrior, but he was a leper.” He was accomplished, he was successful, he was effective, he was smart, he had the full resume and credentials, but the problem is “he was a leper.”
As you go down to 2 Kings 5:8 and following we find these statements: “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.’  So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha.  Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying,” regarding your leprosy, “‘Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean. [11 But Naaman was furious and went away and said, ‘Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’  Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?’ So he turned and went away in a rage.  Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, ‘My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”  So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean.”
Naaman was put through a crisis, wasn’t he? It’s the exact same crisis that the Lord is putting these seven disciples through; it’s a crisis of the will; it’s a crisis of pride. When Naaman, to his leprosy was given such a simple solution as to dip seven times in the Jordan River he went away angry. I didn’t want the Lord to work that way, I wanted Him to work in a different way, and I just should have stayed home, after all, we’ve got plenty of nice and good rivers there. And the text says he went away mad, he went away angry and fortunately he’s confronted by his friends, his servants and the servant says to him, if “the prophet had told you to do some great thing” you would have done it. But you despised the voice of the prophet because he has asked you to do something so simple, so easy, and yet so humiliating. Naaman humbled himself and the results are what they are.
Do you see the pattern of God? God asks us to do simple things, things that are beneath us, things that are beneath our ingenuity and our pride. The easiest thing the Lord has asked you to do to get to heaven is to trust in His Son. And that message is so simple; in fact, that’s the reason it’s rejected by so many, because pride kicks in and we say well, we want to contribute to salvation, let me add my two cents, let me do good works. And consequently the gospel itself, Galatians 5:11, is a stumbling block to people for that very reason. [Galatians 5:11, “But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished.”]
And yet, when the crisis of pride is overcome and we simply humble ourselves, and do exactly what the Lord told us to do, which in the case of salvation is to believe in His Son, trust in His Son who did it all in our place, the results are staggering. The gift of eternal life becomes ours; the Spirit of God comes inside of us.
1 Corinthians 1:25 says, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” How is Peter ever going to reach a point in his life where he is going to preach and 3,000 converts (about, roughly) occur in a nanosecond? How can this man reach that point? He’s got to get into the habit of obeying God, listening to the voice of the Spirit of God over and over again and even when he doesn’t understand what the Spirit of God is doing simply obey. Humble yourself and obey and then you will be that branch in the vine that bears much fruit. Just throw the nets on the other side of the boat, and I could see the battle happening intellectually and through pride in the minds of these seven, particularly the Apostle Peter. But the command turns into the catch. In fact, it’s the catch of a lifetime, isn’t it, because in verse 6, the second part of the verse says, “So they cast,” they did what they were told to do.
Now the Lord has brought them to the point where now they’re willing to obey, through three years of lessons. In fact, this kind of miracle has already happened in the lives of the apostles, it goes all the way back to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 5, verse 4, where the Lord simply tells the disciples to go out into deep water in the Sea of Galilee and to lower their nets and the end result of that was they caught so many fish that the nets themselves began to break. [Luke 5:4, “When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’” Luke 5:6, “When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break.”]
And when you study a harmony of the life of Christ, a study Bible like the one I have, the Ryrie Study Bible, which organizes the events in the life of Christ from beginning to end, what you’ll discover is the Luke 5 miracle happened in event number 35. This story, John 21, is happening in event 182. So the Lord has been hammering away on these disciples over and over again, and so finally they reached into their memory banks and they said Jesus has a pretty good record with these fish, and they did what they were told.
It’s the same kind of thing with Abraham. You know, Abraham was saved, I believe, in Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness,” and it is not until seven chapters later in the book of Genesis, Genesis 22, that Abraham is willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, when the Lord says kill your only son. What an irrational command that must have sounded like. You mean, this son, Isaac, that we’ve been waiting for and that’s finally born, the son through whom the whole promises You’ve given are going to be accomplished… kill him??? Genesis 22. And yet Abram, whose name now was Abraham, was willing to obey a command of God that seemed completely and totally irrational. And what you have to understand is it took Abraham and God’s dealings with Abraham, it took God 20 years to get Abraham to that point, because he’s saved in Genesis 15:6, [“Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”] he is willing to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22, there are seven chapters between Genesis 15 and Genesis 22, and when you look at the numerical details given in the book of Genesis what you’ll discover is there’s a 20 year gap in between those chapters where the Lord is chiseling away at Abraham, getting him to the point of simple and humble obedience.
That’s what the Lord has been doing with these seven. No doubt if you’re responsive to the voice of the Holy Spirit that is what God is doing in your life; event after event keeps happening to you, you don’t understand why but He’s getting you to the point of dependency. Why? Because He has something for your future, something he wants to bring forth in your future and yet stubbornness, self-will, self-sufficiency, pride, arrogance, “I’m going to do it my way” mentality gets right in the way.
Do you know why churches and ministries collapse all the time? Because you’ve got people in the leadership that don’t understand this basic rudimentary spiritual principle. I’m not saying that they’re not saved; what I’m saying is their mind has not been recalibrated the way God wants to recalibrate it. Their mind has not been reprogrammed, that’s why Romans 12:2 says we should allow our minds to be renewed, we have to start to learn to think the way God thinks. [Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed by this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”]
And what happens is we have habits from our old nature involving pride and we carry those into the ministry and we seek to accomplish the work of God through human power and our efforts go nowhere. We have not walked with God in this breaking process; we have not learned the lessons that we’re supposed to learn.
And you see, Peter had learned, finally! He overcame the crisis of pride and did exactly what he was supposed to do, shift the nets from the left to the right, from port to starboard and what is the result here? Look at the end of verse 6, “So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.” Those kinds of results do not happen through human manipulation and scheming, but they only happen through God. And God wants to use us and work with us but He needs us to be pliable and dependable. In fact, the word “multitude” here is used, concerning the great number of fish that were brought in. In fact, it says here they weren’t even able to “haul it in.” In fact, the verb here is elkuō, and you may recall that we made reference to that very same verb in John 6:44, which says, “No one,” Jesus says “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” That’s elkuō.
Just as the nets were hauled in with resistance the Lord has called us into a relationship with Himself and we are brought to Him many times with resistance. I’m not, as you know from other sermons I’ve taught, denying the free will of man in salvation; I’m also not denying the predestined purpose of God in bringing us to saving faith in Himself. Somehow that concept of predestination and free will harmonize, somehow, in the mind of God they harmonize in a way that I cannot understand it.
You say, well what was my contribution in salvation? Well, here’s what it was, you resisted, you fought Him, you struggled against Him; finally He got you to a point, got me to a point where we believe. But elkuō, is pulling in with resistance and that’s what they’re doing here with this massive catch of fish. The net doesn’t break like it did in Luke 5. The catch is not just to have a miracle; it’s designed to lead to understanding.
The catch, then, leads to comprehension. Notice, if you will, verse 7, “Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’” Now this reference to the disciple that Jesus loved is a reference always by John to himself. John does not like to identify himself by name in the book, I think because he wants the spotlight to go on Christ; he doesn’t want a book about himself. What a depressing subject, a book about yourself. He wants it about Christ? He wants it about Jesus so he doesn’t even mention his own name throughout this entire book. He just calls himself “the disciple whom the Lord loved,” John 13:28; John 19:26; John 20:2; John 21:20, he calls himself in this chapter, going back to verse 2, one of “the sons of Zebedee.”
But you see, the realization, the morning breaks, the enlightenment kicks in, and he recognizes that this shadowy figure on the side of the seashore is none other than the Lord, Kurios, meaning Lord. It’s identifying Him by His title, identifying Him based on who He is. And that is the purpose of these miracles. These miracles are all designed to inculcate faith; that’s the point of John’s Gospel; “Therefore many other signs Jesus performed in the presence of the disciples which are not written in this book, but these have been written so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” [John 20:31]
The signs in John’s Gospel are documented as seven signs. The first two occurring at Cana of Galilee, progressing right on through to the resuscitation of Lazarus from the grave at Bethany, in John 11; seven signs. Guess what we just ran into here in chapter 21? An eighth sign. Those seven weren’t enough, here’s yet another one. And, in fact, when we get later into this chapter, perhaps next week, there’s a ninth sign, because Jesus is going to make a specific prediction about how Peter will die. Peter died about, oh, I would say three decades after the events of the life of Christ transpired. John wrote this book three decades after Peter’s death. And so the reader could see, wow, Jesus knew exactly what he was talking about, because we historically know how Peter died; he died in the exact way that John’s Gospel calls attention to.
Peter is so excited about this, at the revelation that it’s the Lord, that what does he do? It says, “So 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.” Most of the commentators I’ve read indicate that they had an undergarment, they used that to do their work, and then there was an outer garment which they took off in order to do their work. Peter puts on this outer garment and dives into the Sea of Tiberias or the Sea of Galilee.
This is somewhat consistent with what we know about Peter. Peter always wanted to get there first. Do you remember John 20:3-6, it says, “So Peter and the other disciple,” John, “went forth, and they were going to the tomb.  The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter,” see how John doesn’t like to brag, he doesn’t say I beat Peter, he says “the other disciple” beat Peter to the grave. John apparently was the better sprinter of the two. “…and the other disciple” that would be John, “came to the tomb first.” Now John doesn’t just charge into the empty tomb, it says,  “and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in.  And so Simon Peter also came,” probably huffing and puffing, “following him, and entered the tomb.” Peter just charges right in, tramples where angels fear to tread. And he saw the linen wrappings lying here.
Peter does not want to wait for the boat to drift a hundred yards carrying this massive catch of fish to get to the Lord; he wants to get to the Lord right away. In fact, he does something here which most people would look at as irrational; you don’t put on clothes to dive into the water. Normally it works the other way around. And I believe that Peter was just so excited at the prospect of being with the Lord that his thinking process was not as clear as it should have been. I mean, this guy, Peter, you can say whatever you want about him, he certainly gets an “A” for enthusiasm.
Dr. Constable, in his online notes says, “Normally people take unnecessarily clothing off before going swimming. Peter’s somewhat irrational behavior seems to be another indication of his strong desire to get to Jesus quickly. He was again demonstrating his characteristic extravagant loyalty to His Lord.”
Does that describe you? Are you the type of person that just can’t wait to get into the presence of the Lord? Are you the type of person that just can’t wait to get into His Word? Are you the type of person that just can’t wait to fellowship amongst the people of God? Wherever God is honored are you the type of person that wants to get there and receive from the Lord? Learn from the Lord?
Or has Christianity become just a boring routine, motions that you go through, no real excitement about the things of God, no real joy about the things of God. May we be more like Peter in this regard, God help us, protect us from being bored with our relationship with God, having everything become so familiar to us that it’s just looked at as another ritual, a mundane routine that we go through.
John, as an eyewitness, would record details like this. I mean, how would John have known in John 21:7 that” he put his outer garment on” before jumping into the ocean. How would he have known that unless he was there as an eyewitness? And I can see that we’re out of time, we’ll take a look at the coals, the count, and the communion that follows next week.
But if you are here today and you have never really taken the initial step of faith, you have never really received the free gift of God, our exhortation to you is to do so. And I can tell you right out of the gate that if you’ve never done that, there’s a crisis of pride going on in your mind right now. Am I going to submit myself through faith alone to principles of grace that make no sense in the eyes of the world? In the eyes of the world we’re always evaluated based on merit. In the eyes of the world we’re always evaluated based on what we do. In fact, every system of religion that this world has ever offered tells people, you’ve got to do steps, A, B, C and D to work your way into God’s presence. And here you’re hearing something completely different, that Jesus did all of it and we simply receive by faith what He has done as a free gift.
And just like Namaan and just like these disciples here on the sea of Tiberias, you’re asking yourself is it really that simple? Is it that easy? It can’t be that easy. And many of you are submitting to pride and not doing specifically what the Lord has asked you to do, and guess what you miss out on? You miss out on the healing of leprosy in your life, you miss out on the miraculous catch of 153 fish and those are just small potatoes. You miss out on the gift of life, you miss out on heaven.
And God has designed salvation in such a way that when we receive it has to be done in humility. It’s easier to give a gift than to receive it. It’s hard to receive a gift and yet that’s what the Lord is calling us to do. That’s what the Lord right now is calling some of you to do, simply to abandon the way the world and your mind normally works and simply do things the Lord’s way, which in this case is to trust in the provision of His Son. Believing is trusting, relying, depending upon. It’s not something that you have to walk an aisle to do, join a church to do, raise a hand to do, pray a prayer to do, give money to receive, pledge to work harder, it is simply a moment of privacy between you and the Lord where He convicts you and says this is your offer, are you going to receive it, because to receive it is going to require humiliation. And that battle goes on. Many people say I’m not going to do it that way, it’s too easy, I won’t humble myself, and they miss out. Our exhortation to you is to receive it, receive that gift by faith in a moment of privacy between you and the Lord as the Holy Spirit is convicting you. And watch the miracles that happen as a result. If the gospel is something you need more information on I’m available after the service to talk. Shall we pray?