John 21:1-14, Luke 5:1-10
How can you launch if you have no boat ? How can you serve the Lord except you be sent ?
How can He go with you, without the resurrection ? How can He be resurrected without the crucifixion ? How can there be His crucifixion without our sin ? How can you seek effectively, without sin’s dethronement ? How can it be dethroned without Christ’s own action and His power ?
Yet if it be de-throned, how can you continue as if you were your own ? If you are not your own, to what then are you sent!
Such were and are basic questions, whether for apostle or Christian today! You either have your trust set in the only One sent to cover your sin, and constitute your life’s resource and Lord, and finding His sending, go; or if you do not, and having no Lord, you follow your own precepts, mind and pleasure, your own devices, with or without reference to religion.
You CANNOT however do both. Imagine riding two horses, jointly on their saddles, one leg each, as they gallop apart! Nor can you ride a horse, simply by your imagination. Faith is not a mere conviction, but one which leads you to ACT, and not to action in air, but to work with and for God: so that you entrust yourself to the ‘horse’ which you ride, the power of God, and the mercy of God in Christ, and with discipline, ride for victory.
Let us see how it worked out in the mind’s and actions of the disciples, not only before the drama, but also afterwards, when Christ resurrected, they had to re-orientate to the God of creation and the Saviour of the resurrection, not proceeding now TO the Cross but FROM IT! Isaiah 6 shows the great sending commission of the prophet Isaiah. He had to be cleansed and set apart for the Lord, by the Lord. So now by Christ are His disciples prepared.
1. The Sign and the Sinfulness Luke 5:1-3
Peter’s aversion and conversion both appear here. His Co-operation with the Lord, in providing the Boat for the people, led to the Divine Fisherman’s Operation in the Boat.
The sheer starkness of the contrast that followed His teaching, that of empty nets and then huge abundance, spoke clearly in context of Christ’s other miracles. Peter first however was convinced of one thing, that he was not where he should be, that there was a clash of an intimate and personal kind, between the source of such power and his own sin. Pressed, he voiced the desire for the Lord to GO, because sin said so! He did not mask it, but Christ mastered it.
2. The Sign and the Result Luke 5:4-7
Faith in the Lord came, practically. They SAW, they REALISED and after Christ commissioned them, they FOLLOWED. Although there was much more to realise, yet they committed their whole lives to this Jesus, knowing Him to be authentic. So it is with us who believing Him, follow where He leads, His word in the Bible, now the guideline, His Spirit still the dynamic and the source of strength, sent in Christ’s name (John 14:26, 16:13).
Peter and John with James, partners believing in this Christ, followed Him and so entered the pathway of power, travail, beauty and wonder, leading to the foundation and formation of the Christian Church. How little they would have realised at the first, but it is so with Christ, that His life leads through the marvels of His creative power, to new wonders, new heights and new ventures, wisdom and knowledge of God growing in fellowship divine (II Peter 3:18).
3. The Result and the Recognition Luke 5:8-11
Before they left everything, to follow Him, Christ had given the sublime commission. It was this: From now on, you will catch men. This call would lead to a vast re-construction in the world, but not of it! Jew and Gentile in large numbers, alike have been drawn into it, but this world with its own satanic leader, continues its mockery, indifference or flight from Him. What then was the hook for those who DID come to Him ? It was Christ Himself in the reality of His power, compassion, word and dealings, beyond all things past, in accord with the identikit of prophecy, clear on all things to come; and the very savour of His grace and truth (John 1:14) lingered like aroma. When the word of God was made flesh, flesh had seen nothing like it, nor would it again till His return.
Seemingly insignificant, these apostles would partake in the very foundation of the Church (Ephesians ), along with the former prophets of name and fame, and joined with Christ the chief corner stone. As with God nothing is impossible, so with God man must believe and follow, not in thought or plan, merely, but in action and honesty, reality and submission. Let God be God: there is none like Him! Let us turn for more instruct ion now to John 21.
4. The Repetition post-Resurrection John 21:1-6
At their meeting in
5. The Recognition and the Realisation John 21:7-14
The action rushes as if to the present. The disciples do what He says, and nearly sink with the vast number of fish now caught. Then Peter recognises the Lord, remembering their first call, and despite His sin he rushes to the source not of sentence but of commission, call and hope. “It is the Lord!” exclaims the impelled apostle, desiring above all His unrestrained company and the continuity after his own fall, of the comradeship of Christ.
6. The Re-Commission – based on belief, love and service - John 21:15-17
Christ invited them to breakfast and gave them bread and fish to eat. Here was a joint breakfast, no doubt reminding them of the occasion on the very day of the resurrection (Luke 24), when Christ had come to them, asking them for food to eat, and eaten it before them. No! He there assured them, a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have!
Food showed to them, as later the invitation to poke fingers in His wounds to Thomas (John 20), that this was physical, not poetic! In a physical world, the physically resurrected Christ has all power (Matthew 28:19-20). There is really no reason to be afraid, though suffer you certainly will, because of the devilries of this world determined not to appreciate what is authentic, loving and true. They suffered; and so do Christ’s followers (II Timothy ).
Now however was the same question as at the first. Would they FOLLOW Him ? Would they accept the God of creation in this Lord of redemption manifestation! Would they still follow, this time the resurrected Christ ? Yes, indeed. Their queries were rather about who would do what. As for Peter, why was he queried on his love, three times ? It was just as he had denied Christ thrice. DO YOU LOVE ME! The question, divinely put, resounded in his heart, searched his soul, tormented his memory until it found in his conscience the only possible answer. Yes, he had erred, but he DID love!
Three times the query came with the commission then from Christ; but it was not exactly the same query. Twice the word for ‘love’ was the Greek of religious significance. Did Peter have the love due to God for Christ ? Again, the first time, Christ added “more than these.” In other words, the issue was this: Was Christ the chief object of Peter’s love! This is valuable for people in churches. We love one another but we love Christ more (I John 5:2); and of course, prize Him more than our own lives too (cf. Luke 24:27ff.)! This leads to realisation, reverence, realism, obedience and so power (Acts ).
At first to Peter came the call, “Feed My lambs!” On the second occasion, Peter replying as at the first, “Yes, Lord, You know that I Iove You,” there came the commission, “Feed My sheep!”
The third instance came like a torrent of wind into the wind tunnels of Peter’s heart. This time Peter protested (as he had protested with swearing a little before the crucifixion, that he DID NOT KNOW Christ!): “Lord You know all things. You know that I love You.” The parallel now complete, the affirmations matching the earlier denials, the heart searching a match for the heart failures earlier, the depths of Peter’s heart reached now as the depths of sin before, Christ confirmed the call: “Feed My sheep.”
THIS was precisely what the ‘shepherds’ had failed so often to do in Israel, as shown for example in Ezekiel 34; and for this not least, Christ had come. Now that He had come, it was essential that His pastors and apostles should FEED the people with the word of God, in the presence of God, in the sight of God (II Cor. , 4:2-3), with the power of God. So did they continue the ministry which ended on earth in Christ’s redemptive death, bodily resurrection and teaching confirmation, UNTIL HIS RETURN (I Cor. 11:26, Acts 1:7ff., Matthew 24:30ff.).
In the interim, you and I must be assured of our Christian call, convicted of sin at the first, brought to faith secondly, and in love, commissioned for service thirdly. It can be quite harrowing before it is made plain; but better to be harrowed, with crops to come, than merely harried, with no fruit but the weeds of a godless heart.
THEN, collected, careened, cleansed, called, commissioned and sent, for them we find the significance of the divine directive: LAUNCH FORTH INTO THE DEEP!
Whose is the power ? Whose is the wisdom ? Whose is the wit ? Whose is the work ? You are right, it is all One: It is He who was dead, and is now alive forevermore (Revelation ). Let us then launch forth into the deep (John , I Cor. 11:1).