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Fish Welcome

John 21:1-19



In our text, the disciples have fished all night, and caught nothing.  It is as if the Lord has told all the fish to go somewhere and hide, like He does when I go fishing!  This final chapter tells of a spectacular miracle of a great catch of large fish, when after toiling all night with nothing to show for it, the disciples are told by a stranger on the shoreline to just cast their net on the other side of the boat.  Jackpot!  The net was overly full, but didn’t break. 


It’s obviously Jesus who gave the command to try something different, and it’s a good thing they obeyed.  Can you imagine their ‘fish stories’ we will hear in heaven?  Peter jumps out of the boat!  It’s not the first time for him.  He wants to get to Jesus!  They wind up on the beach with Him.  Jesus teaches them a most powerful lesson as they have breakfast, enjoying bread and fish on the coals.  It’s just one more thing I love about my Lord!


Who is the best fisherman here today?  How do you do it?  Dynamite? What is the secret?  Have any of you ever tried just posting a sign on your boat that reads, 'Fish welcome'?

        Most churches today have completely stopped actively evangelizing.  It's like we just have services and put out a sign that says, 'Sinners welcome.'  That’s a huge problem:  We are to be fishers of men, not just keepers of the aquarium!  It's what Jesus said at the beginning of His ministry as He called His disciples, and it is how He ended His ministry in our text.  He is about to leave Earth and He gives His great commission saying, This is the main thing.  Now make it YOUR main thing.  And the main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing!


Time out!  Couldn’t Jesus have made the fish swim into the net while it was on the left side of the boat? Why go to the bother of having them take the nets out and put them in on the other side? For that matter, couldn’t Jesus have made the fish jump into the boat? That would have been pretty spectacular! But it wouldn’t have involved the aspect of obedience. Jesus did not do it all for them. He tested their obedience so that they could learn that blessings follow obedience. In your relationship with God, success follows obedience, even when what He is asking you to do seems ridiculous to you. You are not smarter than God. You can’t keep doing the same things and expect different results.


Another lesson in this story is: We meet God when we come to the end of our rope. The disciples had been fishing all night. They had done all they could do. They knew the best fishing holes. They knew how to use their tackle. They were experts at their trade, but they still had no fish. They were at the end of what they could do. Their resources were spent. And that’s when God shows up. At the point where we give up is often when God shows up.

Simon Peter was certainly at the end of his resources. He had boasted that even if everyone else left Jesus, he would still be faithful, but he wasn’t. He had failed. He played the coward. He fell when he boasted he would stand. He failed Jesus. When he first met Jesus he was very aware of his sinful heart. Before Peter had been called to be a disciple, at the first miraculous catch of fish, he said depart from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’” (Luke 5:8). At this later miraculous catch Peter was too ashamed to say anything.

It is interesting that the Greek word for charcoal fire is found in only two places in the New Testament. Here in this story where Jesus is cooking fish for the disciple’s breakfast, and the other is when Peter stood warming himself after the arrest of Jesus in the courtyard. It was there that Peter denied the Lord and saw Jesus look at him as the cock crowed. As he smelled the charcoal fire on the shore this day, he must have been taken back again to that shame-filled moment in the courtyard. Peter realized that he was at the end of his resources. It was good for him to give up thinking that he was someone special and find some humility and realize that he could fail like everyone else, because that is when he really began to understand his weakness, find the forgiveness of God and the power of a new life. It was in his brokenness that he experienced Jesus in a new way.


Why is there a John 21?  Why not just take the great ending of chapter 20 where the resurrected Jesus appears to His disciples, and even Thomas believes and says, My Lord and My God?


Why have a chapter 21?  I believe the Holy Spirit of God inspired it to be written, in part because it would be wrong to close the book without letting us know about the restoration of Peter.


The last time Peter saw Jesus he was denying Him publicly, throwing in cuss words to distance himself from the Lord.  "I don't know the blankety blank man!"  Now in chapter 21 we see Peter being fully restored.  And if we didn't see this, we would wonder why Peter plays a leading role in Acts.


Jesus already has a breakfast of fish and bread ready for them.  Where did He get these foods?  He could have got the fish from the lake, that's easy to see.  But how about the bread?  I can't prove this, but I can see Jesus picking up some stones, and reminiscing about the time when He was fasting and the devil tempted Him, saying, "You are so hungry, and if you want, you can turn stones into bread," and now Jesus says, "You’re absolutely right, I can…but on my timetable, not yours, Satan!"


v. 15a  It's interesting that Jesus has this conversation with Peter in the presence of the other disciples.  This would benefit them just as it will benefit us today.  Also, Peter's sin was public, before men, and so should be his correction and restoration


If you sin and only God knows about it, and it doesn't affect someone else, then you go to God only and confess it, and He will forgive!  But if you sin against another person or offend another, you should make it right with them.  Peter sinned publicly!


The Lord doesn't condemn Peter, and doesn't even make it about the details of the sin, He goes straight to the heart of the matter, asking him 3 times, do you love me?


Jesus did not ask Peter...

1.         ...about his profession of faith.

Being saved does not automatically mean that you love Jesus.  Just because you have been born again doesn't mean that you have a heart for Jesus. 

    Peter had already made a great profession of faith.  "I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!"  That's good, orthodox doctrine.  He's a true believer!

ill.--"orthodox" = straight doctrine.  Ortho = like an orthopedic surgeon who makes your back straight or an orthodontist who makes your teeth straight + dox or doctrine.


Peter says, You are God, and Jesus says, You got that straight!


I know some people who are doctrinally straight, but their actions and overall manner of life suggests they are not in love with Jesus.  Their head is on straight, but their heart is cold.

    Now, we all make mistakes as sinners, and we should be very patient with one another about such.  But God sees our heart, and wants to get to the heart of what is the matter!


Good doctrine is no substitute for loving God!


ill.--when I do pre-marital counseling, I will ask each, Does your partner love Jesus?  Sometimes one will answer, Oh yes, they are saved!  That's not what I asked.  I didn't ask if they stood before a church in the past as a new convert.  I asked if they love Jesus!  And there's a huge difference.

    Some profess to be Christians, but love themselves!  Some 'believers' love the world!


ill.--imagine a newlywed man who is a traveling salesman.  He and his bride are so in love but he has to be away all week long.  They have wonderful weekends together.  But he will miss her so much all week that he takes out an index card and begins to write out facts about her, the date of their anniversary, her birthday, her ring size, shoe size, and dress size [in pencil in case it changes!] 

    He folds up the card into his wallet.  After 3 nights in a hotel room in a far away city, he is missing her so much.  What should he do?  You say, I know, he should pull out that card and read it...that will satisfy him!  No, that's ridiculous.  You and I both know there's a huge difference between reading that card and holding the true love of your life in your arms!


Jesus isn't asking you, “Are you a card-carrying Christian?”  He doesn't want to know if your doctrine is orthodox.  He isn't interested in performing an investigation of your sins.  He doesn't want to know if you've stood in front of the church or been baptized. 

    He wants to know, Do you love me, and is it proven in the way you live for me?  What a difference.


Jesus did not ask Peter...

1.         ...about his profession of faith.


Jesus did not ask Peter...

2.         ...about his position.

Peter was an of the privileged 12.  He was part of the inner circle of 3...and Jesus' chosen leader among them, the rock on which He would build the church.


Did you know you can be a preacher and not love Jesus?  Some preach, not for love, not for souls, but for self, for attention, and the Bible says some do it for a paycheck!

    You can be a deacon, a teacher, a leader, and do it not for love of Jesus, but because for you it is a power trip.  I'm not sure why, since the word deacon literally means servant, and all leaders are just servants of God! 

    You can sing in the choir, play an instrument, stand in the spotlight and do it for attention and glory, rather than for love of God!


Jesus isn't concerned about our position.  He could have asked Judas Iscariot, Do you love me?  And Judas could have said, You tell me:  I'm one of your 12 disciples, and not just any one, I'm the treasurer!  I'm the most trusted one...look at my position!

    That's not the question.  "Do you love Jesus?!"


Jesus did not ask Peter...

1.         ...about his profession of faith.

2.         ...about his position.


3.         ...about his performance.

Peter is the rock.  He bravely swung his sword in the garden.  He walked on water.  He saw Jesus' glory when He was transfigured on one occasion.  He had a huge list of accomplishments.

    But all Jesus needed to know was, Do you love me?


You may not have the gift of singing or preaching.  You may not be able to give millions of dollars for Christ...I'd say Roger is the only one [he's thinking:  Roger who?]. 

    But you can love Jesus as much as any human who has ever lived!


And Jesus had a heart for kids.  We should love what He loves.  He told these disciples that you can’t be saved unless you come to Him with the attitude of a child.  He sat kids on His lap and taught how precious they are.  And He told Peter that if he really loved Him, he would feed the little lambs.  We have that opportunity now with camp, Lifewise, and VBS.  Will you help get little lambs to come?


When they were fishing, these guys used huge nets and unless they worked together they had no chance of catching anything.  They had to all pull in the same direction or else everything would rip and come apart, and sadly, they wouldn't catch any fish!  So we have a plan for you.


    And for a church to function properly, we all need to be onboard the ship using the same plan!


ill.--an old man lived in the country.  His face was sun-wrinkled like a raisin.  One day he had the chance to go to the city and visit an art gallery.  As he walked thru, looking at all the beautiful pieces, he found himself gazing at a painting of Jesus dying on the cross.  As he stood there, he was overwhelmed by how much God loved him...and tears of love streamed down the cracks in his face as he pondered what Jesus did for him.  Out loud he began to say, Oh how I love Him!  Oh how I love Him!  Everyone around stood still, staring at him.  Then one man came forward and took the old man by the hand, and with tears of his own said, I love Him too, brother!  Another approached and grabbed his other hand and said, So do I!  Then another and another joined hands.  There they stood, unified in their love for Jesus Christ!


Another lesson we learn from this story is: You have to put the net in where the fish are. The point is that the answer is often closer than you think. The fish were not on the other side of the lake, they were just on the other side of the boat. The answer is often as close as your willingness to obey and do what God is asking.

ill.—Naaman the leper.  The answer was closer than he realized. It was humbling, but it was the thing he needed to do. It did not make sense at the time. He thought he had better water where he lived in
Syria, but the answer was closer than that.

Jesus said if you love me, keep my commandments. 

    May we love Him enough that we would die for Him.

            May we show it in the way we live for Him!

Jesus said if you love me, feed my lambs.

We have a banner out front.  It basically says, “Fish Welcome.”  That’s not gonna do it.  Let’s join the plan and be fishers of men.

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