It is the Lord!

John 21:7-8.

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.

And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.

Before we look at the details of these two verses, I want to take a look at a similar situation recorded in Luke 5:1-11. In that story, Jesus had needed some respite from the crowds that followed Him. He saw two boats, one of which belonged to Simon Peter. He got into the boat and finished teaching the people from there; then He asked Peter to push off into deeper water where the people would not follow. He also instructed Peter to let down his nets, perhaps wanting to catch some fish for supper. Peter responded that they had fished all night but caught nothing. Nevertheless, at Jesus’ request they would cast their nets again, and this time there were so many fish that the nets began to break. Peter called for help from the men in the other boat, and together they were able to haul the huge catch to shore. Peter knelt at Jesus’ feet, confessing his unworthiness, along with his partners. And this was the time and place at which Jesus said, “Don’t worry, Peter. I will make you to be fishers of men!”

Don’t you think that this incident was in the minds of Peter and the others when John spoke up and said, “It is the Lord!” Our impulsive Peter couldn’t wait for the boats to reach the shore. He’d been stripped down for work, so he quickly pulled on his outer garment and jumped into the water. I wonder if he hoped, once again, to experience the thrill of walking on top of the water! He ran to Jesus, excited and apparently surprised to see Him. The others continued to row to shore, hauling the full net behind them.

The rest of what I have to say this morning is strictly my own observation on these two separate incidents. To me, the most outstanding feature in both is that when God is directing the work, which He has established, He will also abundantly bless the efforts of the workers. Those blessings may not be immediately evident. There are, for instance, missionaries who have labored for years with very little fruit. However, sometimes after the death of the missionary, others have turned to faith in God and the work has grown and expanded in remarkable ways.

We may not always see the fruits of our labors. The five men who were killed by the Auca Indians in 1956 did not get to see nearly everyone in the tribe come to Christ, but one of the wives, Elisabeth Elliot, went on to continue the work there and saw wonderful miracles of the saving grace of God.

I am reminded of Paul’s words in I Corinthians 3:6-8:

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.

So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.

The work of evangelism had not yet begun when Peter jumped out of the boat to meet Jesus on the shore. Peter had no idea, yet, of what his life’s work would be. But God was preparing him, as well as the other disciples, to trust Him and obey His directions. He was getting them ready to start the work that has never stopped, and will not stop until God says so.

Little is Much

John 21:4-6.

But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.

Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered Him, No.

And He said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

My mind is full of children’s songs right now: James, John and Peter in a sailboat; I will make you fishers of men. Maybe I’ll find one for you in a few minutes.

They had fished all night, but their nets were empty. How discouraging.

These fishermen did not sit idly in the boat waiting for the fish to come. They would gather in the nets every little while and then toss them out again in a little different direction, hoping for better results.

They did the same thing the same way over and over, hoping for better results. I think it was Einstein who said that doing so was a sure sign of insanity 🙂

Not saying the disciples were insane. Just that they were lacking in imagination, or stuck in a rut. Maybe they were all left-handed. Maybe it was just the way they always had done it. I don’t know. In any case, they caught nothing after a long night of effort.

In the dusky early morning, they saw Someone standing on the shore, not realizing it was Jesus.

The One standing on shore called out to them, “Children, do you have any meat?”

The word for children would be better translated lads, or fellows, a common greeting among workmen.

They must have been a bit embarrassed when they had to say, “No!” They had nothing to sell, nothing to offer for their efforts of the entire night.

In response, the Man on shore called out to them, “Try casting your nets on the other side of the boat. You’ll find all the fish you can handle!”

Why did the disciples do as the Man said? So far, they hadn’t recognized Him. There must have been something about Him, though, because they didn’t question His suggestion. They were still far enough out on the water that they could cast their nets, and they did–on the other side of the boat. And suddenly, the nets were so full of fish that the men couldn’t even pull them in.

And now another song is floating around in my head. I’ll find it in a minute. What was the difference? Simply put, Jesus was involved in their efforts when they cast their nets on the other side of the boat. He hadn’t been there when they decided to go fishing. Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have gone fishing, or that they had done anything wrong. It is, I believe, an excellent picture to illustrate that we will have success when God is directing our efforts.

This incident, of course, could be a metaphor for the coming evangelistic efforts of the disciples. They would “catch” people by the thousands when they started preaching, under His direction, the gospel of salvation. When God is present, directing the work, the results are always exactly as He wants them to be.

Here’s the song I was just thinking about:

I’m Going Fishing

John 21:1-3.

After these things Jesus shewed Himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed He Himself.

There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of His disciples.

Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.

I don’t know much about fishing. It hasn’t been part of my experience, really, over the course of my life. So my first question, and maybe yours, is “Why did they go fishing at night?” Those of you who are smiling at my ignorance, be patient. I really wanted to know, so I did a little searching.

First, the nets the disciples used were made of linen, and were less visible to the fish after dark. I didn’t know that.

Second, there are fish that are just more active at night as the water temperature cools. In the heat of the day, the fish tend to dive deep for the cooler water. At night they rise closer to the surface. We used to go canoeing at Lake Nockamixon, and toward evening the fish would start jumping to catch mosquitoes and other tasty bugs just above the surface of the water. So that part, I understand.

Also, there was no ice available to keep the fish fresh, so it was better to fish at night and have the fresh catch to sell early in the morning.

My second question: After their incredible experiences of the past several days, why did they go fishing at all? I mean, shouldn’t they have been having a praise-and-prayer meeting or something? A planning session?

I think they went fishing because they had to make a living. It comes down to something as mundane as putting food on their tables. And it’s what they were before they met Jesus–fishermen. It’s what they knew, what they were good at. I suspect, for the most part, they loved what they did. Who wouldn’t love getting into a boat, pushing off into the dusky evening after a hot day, enjoying the fresh breezes off the lake. The silence of the water, away from other people, must have been a wonderful experience. Did they talk about Jesus? I don’t know, but I surely wouldn’t be surprised. I’m sure He was uppermost in their minds as they threw their nets out into the depths of the lake and waited for the fish to come.

Who went on this expedition? Well, the verse is clear. Peter, Thomas, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, who were James and John. There were two others, unnamed in this passage.

Why are they unnamed? I don’t know. One commentator says they are representative of all the unknown followers of Christ down through the centuries, faithful but unknown except to the Lord Himself. That may be spiritualizing it a bit, but it is part of God’s inspiration in John, so it matters. If nothing else, we know that there were seven experienced fishermen in the boat that night.

Where is the Sea of Tiberias? It is the same as the Sea of Galilee, which is identified by several different names including Genneseret and Kinneret. It is the largest fresh-water lake in Israel, and was subject, because of its geography, to some pretty wild storms. It was also the richest source of fish, providing income as well as sustenance.

One more thing: Why had they gone back to Galilee from Jerusalem? Because Jesus had told them to do so (Matthew 28:728:10). They didn’t question Him; they simply obeyed. He had told them to tell His brothers that He was alive, and also that He would meet them in Galilee.

They had always been active men, so while they waited they did what they knew. They went fishing.

Why didn’t these experienced fishermen catch anything? Wait and see!

Sunday Morning Coffee: A Movie

So I’m watching a Hallmark movie–not embarrassed to admit it–on Saturday evening. It’s about an Amish girl who is struggling with the restrictions of her life, not sure she wants to stay in it. She knows that if she chooses to go to the “Englishers,” it will be a blow to her family and her community. She hasn’t joined the church yet, so she would not be put under the Meidung, in which she would be shunned by even her closest family members.

When we first moved to Pennsylvania in 1974, I was intrigued with the whole Amish culture. We didn’t have a computer back then, didn’t even know for sure what they were. So I used the library, looked at various magazines, did a lot of reading and even got an Amish cookbook that I still use quite often.

They don’t want to have their pictures taken. They even make dolls with no faces for their little girls. Too much like making a graven image.

Cloth Amish Doll

Some communities are much more strict. Others have loosened the reins just a bit, hoping to keep their young people in the church. I’m not writing tonight to comment or express any opinions about any of this. I have, however, been reflecting on my own upbringing.

I was the kid who wasn’t allowed to learn to dance in gym class. I didn’t attend movies; didn’t ever, not even once, try smoking or drinking. There were other things, but they didn’t bother me a whole lot. Life was good. I had friends, was involved in lots of extra-curriculars at school, was busy at church, and spent a lot of time trying to learn to play the piano for church. I even had a boyfriend or two 🙂

So why the rules? Well, let’s back up a bit.

My parents were born in the 1920’s, grew up in the Depression, got through WWII. Dad trusted the Lord as his Savior when he was 14, but no one really discipled him. He joined the Navy at 19, after he and Mom were married. She was 16. Things were different then, huh?

While Dad was away, my Mom got saved. Dad was learning to drink and carouse and he was not impressed when Mom wrote to tell him. They had some rough years once he came home, until he finally surrendered to God’s call on his life to be a preacher.

They both grew up in what we knew as “worldly” activities, things that, looking back, they felt did not bring honor to God. They chose to rear us differently, avoiding worldly activities and thereby the temptations that could destroy our lives.

Did I agree with everything? No. But I loved and respected them, and as I said, life was really pretty good. I never felt deprived, really, although I think I would have loved to learn to dance 🙂

Didn’t I ever have a rebellious thought or desire? Well, sure. I’m very, very human.

I’ll tell you one thing for sure, though. I’m not sorry at all that I have nothing to regret in abiding by my parent’s rules. I was saved when I was only five, but I understood that I was a sinner. Lying is sin. Temper is sin. Cheating. Jealousy. Gossip. All just a sinful as the list of Baptist no-no’s that I grew up with. I’m not sorry I’ve never been addicted to alcohol or drugs. Never had to fight the terrible battle of giving up nicotine. There have been plenty of other battles that are just between me and God, and I’m so thankful that He knows all about me and loves me anyway.

I’m also thankful that I understood that I could never be good enough in my own strength to be allowed into heaven. That it was “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us (Titus 3:5-7). It is not belonging to any particular church, or denomination, or creed, or community that paves my way to heaven. It is the precious blood of Jesus, shed in my behalf, that cleanses me from sin and gains me entrance to heaven.

Jesus, Son of God

John 20:30-31.

And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book:

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name.

John wrote very similar words in I John 5:13: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

The entire purpose of John’s gospel, his epistles, and his Revelation was to present Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Savior, the Messiah. There is life in believing in His Name!

In the next and final chapter of this gospel, Jesus encourages His disciples and bids them farewell until the next time they meet. It’s a wonderful chapter, full of the love of God for His Son, and of the Son for His disciples. I’m looking forward to digging into it.

Belief Without Seeing

John 20:29. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

John 20 29 - What Is True Faith

This verse has been on my mind since I finished yesterday’s post. Was this a mild rebuke, the only one Jesus offered to Thomas? I don’t think so, because there were plenty of people who had seen Jesus’ miracles and heard His teaching, and who still did not believe. His own brothers took their time in coming to faith in Him.

I think, instead, that Jesus of course knew that down through the centuries there would be millions who would turn to Him in faith, believing, although they had not seen Him or touched His wounds. Was it a greater blessing to believe without seeing?

This doesn’t seem to be a comparative statement. Jesus did not say that those who believe without seeing will be MORE blessed. Just that they will be blessed, as Thomas was blessed.

I read several commentators in my studies, and I like what one had to say:

“The faith of Thomas becomes the climax of the book. Throughout the Gospel of John Jesus has triumphed over sickness, sin, evil men, death and sorrow. Now with Thomas, Jesus conquered unbelief.”

Guzik, Blue Letter Bible

It is the power of the Holy Spirit, after all, that opens our spiritual eyes, our hearts and minds, to the truth of the gospel. However it comes, faith to believe is a lifelong blessing to the believer.

Thomas Believes

John 20:26-28.

And after eight days again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing.

And Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and my God!

My Lord and My God!

Eight days after His first appearance in the locked room with His disciples, Jesus again appeared to them. This time, Thomas was present. This time, he was seeing with his own eyes what the others had seen. Remember, this was the first time Thomas had seen the risen Christ! Try to put yourself in his place; or, try to remember when you first understood the salvation story, and your joy and amazement at that moment. That’s what Thomas was experiencing.

The doors of the room were shut, but that was not a problem to Jesus. He came and stood in their midst, and again greeted them with “Shalom!” Peace be unto you!

Jesus addressed Thomas. I believe His voice was kind, tender, loving. He never scolded or reprimanded Thomas for his initial disbelief. Many commentators have been harsh in their words about Thomas, but Jesus was not. We should take our cue from Him.

In my own words: “Thomas, come. Look and see, and touch My hands and My side. Turn away from your faithlessness, and become a believer!”

I love the painting I found of that moment in Thomas’ life. I think the artist perfectly captured his awed expression as he saw, touched; and realization washed over him. (I believe the artist is a man named Kermit Zarley. I pulled this picture from Google Images.)

Once he had seen for himself, touched the prints of the nails and the spear, Thomas surely fell to his knees. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had put his face to the ground, exclaiming, “My Lord and my God!”

At that moment, Jesus became the Lord of Thomas’ life; and Thomas acknowledged Him as the risen Christ. What a dramatic moment it must have been, as the others in the room watched and rejoiced with Thomas.

I really do think Thomas has an unearned reputation for being doubtful. In john 11:5-6, he was the only disciple who questioned why Jesus was saying He would go to Jerusalem and be put to death. He was the only one who said, in John 11:16, “Let’s go with Him.” It was Peter who said, “Don’t go to Jerusalem!”

We also should remember that John and Peter, when Mary told them of the empty tomb, ran to see for themselves rather than just taking her word for it. No one condemns them for that.

After his moment with Christ, after His ascension, Thomas became a missionary. History tells us that he traveled as far as India, where his name is still popular in its Indian form, Thoma. There he preached Christ, baptized, and discipled. There is more than one explanation of his death. One is that someone speared him as he preached, and he died of the wound. Another is that he was executed by four soldiers who used their spears to kill him.

What matters is that he remained steadfast and faithful to the end of his life. He became Faithful Thomas, Believing Thomas, and that is how I would like to think of him.

Thomas Doubts

John 18:24-25.

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.

Poor Thomas, forever saddled with the word doubting in front of his name. Maybe he was from Missouri, the “Show Me” state, but his honest need to see with his own eyes and touch the wounds in Jesus’ body have given us a picture of a man who didn’t believe much of anything without proof.

I don’t think he’s any different from the rest of us.

He wasn’t there when Jesus defied the locked door and appeared to His disciples. We don’t know why. I’ve read some very harsh opinions. He was isolating himself from his friends; he was brooding, bitter, angry that Jesus had allowed Himself to be crucified. He was bitterly disappointed that his dreams of freedom from Rome had not been turned to reality. He was full of unbelief, he was insolent and arrogant; and he missed the blessing of the God-breathed Spirit. When he saw his friends again, and they told him they had seen the risen Lord, he said, “I will not believe” until I can not only see, but also touch and feel the wounds in His body!”

I don’t know. I have a hard time believing that he was really that bad, because it is understandable to me that he was doubtful. Maybe he thought the others, locked away for so many days, had had some sort of group hallucination. He needed proof. He did not say, “I will never believe!” He said, “I will not believe until I can see and touch.”

Some have noted that he did not mention the wounds in Jesus’ feet. The common practice was to bind the feet of the victim with rope, so it shouldn’t be surprising that Thomas didn’t mention His feet. Luke 24:39 gives us Jesus’ own words referring to the wounds in His feet: “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself: handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have.”

Tomorrow we’ll see how Doubting Thomas became Believing Thomas. And maybe we won’t be so hard on him.

Jesus Breathed on Them

John 20:21-23.

Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.

And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

Do you suppose the disciples were more than a little fearful when Jesus suddenly appeared among them? After all, they had all, but one, left Him during His trials and His death. I think that their presence together in that locked room spoke something of their fear, their regret, their uncertainty of what was to come.

Jesus knew all that. His first word to them was possibly the traditional Hebrew greeting: “Shalom!” “Peace to you.” It was an assurance to them that He came not in anger, or to rebuke, but in love. His next words, though, were perhaps more alarming: “as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.”

I’m certain there were questions in the minds of all those who gathered there. Perhaps, by now, they understood that Jesus had been sent by the Father. But to what was He sending them?

They were just ordinary men, about to be given an extraordinary task. What happened next just gives me goose bumps!

He breathed on them. His breath was the breath of life, the giving of the Spirit. I don’t know how this looked. Did He blow through His mouth, turning in every direction to cover them all? Did He just stand still, and fill the room with the sweet breath of life and the Holy Spirit? Did they feel anything?

The Greek word used here is the same as that used in the Septuagint in Genesis 2:7, ‘the Lord God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath (or The Spirit) of Life’; and Ezekiel 37:9,‘breathe into these slain and they shall live’ (the vision of the Dry Bones).”

There is an important connection with the breath of God that brought Adam to life and the breath of God that gave new life and meaning to the disciples and, in fact, all who were gathered there with them (Luke 24:33). Jesus could have said, “I give you new life, new power, new understanding to enable you to go out and carry on the work I have begun.”

Finally, verse 23, which has given rise to some false teaching, and misunderstanding of what Jesus was saying. It is not, and never has been, within the power of any human being to forgive sin in the sense of complete remission, and entrance into the presence of God. We can–and must–forgive each other for offenses, but we do not have the authority of the Father to know who gains heaven and who does not.

The mission Jesus was giving the disciples here was to become messengers of God, announcing the completed work on Calvary, the resurrection, the freedom from sin and death that God provided through His Son. Jesus has always been central! Not any particular church or hierarchy can presume to take the place of the risen Christ, through Whom all sin is remitted when anyone turns to Him in true repentance and acceptance of the gift of salvation, not to be won by any works that we have done, but according to His mercy (Titus 3:5-7).

The disciples, and all believers, are commissioned to be ambassadors for Christ, announcing the availability of freedom from sin that comes through Him, and only through Him.

The gifting of the Holy Spirit manifests differently in different people. Peter was gifted to preach powerfully to masses of people. Philip was gifted to become a one-on-one soul-winner. God has a special kind of task for each of us, which He will reveal as we seek Him.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Friends

I have a friend who is just a little older than I am. Her daughter is just a little younger than mine. Several years ago, we got together for a game night. We’ve done that a few times over the years, and today we spent the afternoon together. Good food, good conversation, lots of laughter and even some tears. We’ve shared some common experiences over the years. I treasure these friends, and I’m so thankful we can meet now and then just for relaxation.

If you have old friends, treasure them It’s been harder to keep in touch this past year, but it’s worth the effort. I have a lunch date with a newer friend on Tuesday. And I need to pick up the phone to arrange something with a couple of other old friends. There is an old saying: Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver, the other is gold.”

God has given us the gift of friendship. The best friend of all is Jesus. Here’s another song I love:

If you have an old friend you haven’t talked with in a while, pick up your phone. You’ll be glad you did.