Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.
I like to browse in book stores. I don’t know if it is the words or the colors of the covers, the experience – maybe everything combined. Many years ago I was browsing in a bookstore in a mall just before Christmas, and I just turned a corner around a shelf and I saw a tall man slide a book under his coat and run out the door into the crowded mall. In the midst of just living my day, a thief shows up and is gone. It was so unexpected, so sudden. I literally stopped in my tracks for several seconds before I could process what happened. So unexpected, and we are told that someday Jesus will return like a thief in the night. Many people will be caught unawares, and people will sing Norman’s song I Wish We’d All Been Ready.
This year we are talking about God showing up, but the reality of is that we then need to be prepared for God to show up, because He tends to come quickly. Jesus was crucified, died, and rose again. He had appeared twice before to His disciples. In spite of the two previous resurrection appearances, the mini missionary journeys they had already gone on, and all that Jesus had talked about with His disciples in His ministry, they went back to the familiar, to their regular job – fishing. They were fishing when Jesus called them, and back to fishing they went. They no longer had a physical Jesus to follow – their future now seemed totally dependent upon their own choices and decisions. For three years it had been easy to know where to go and what to do – Jesus led the way and told them specifics as needed. Now that He was gone, what were they to be about? Fishing gave them some income, something concrete to do, and perhaps a chance to think and reflect.
The disciples went through the motions, and caught nothing. Then a stranger is on the shore, someone perhaps looking to buy some fish. Then there is a miraculous catch – and God shows up.
Except God was already there – it’s just that He wasn’t recognized. This is the first lesson – God is already here. We pray and ask for Him to come and reveal Himself, to show up and impact our lives and our church; but this does not mean we believe God is not already here. God indwells each of us who claim Him as Savior and Lord. He inhabits the Scriptures in such a way that as we read and memorize and meditate on it we partake Christ – the Bread of Life. He has already been at work in our services and programs. He has been with us on our path of life, spoken to us like those going to Emmaus. He leads and guides us even now. Seek to recognize God in your life, in your day to day activities. He is there, and you will find Him participating in your life as you focus on Him. Look for Him in your life today, in what you are already doing. Today Jesus was on the beach, and had something for them.
When we are asking God to show up, we are asking Him to do something different, something new and fresh. We are asking for the future to be different. We may even be asking for deliverance. Israel cried out in bondage for God to show up, as did Samson and others down through the ages. God was in those situations, but they needed the hand of God to act on their behalf. The disciples were lost – Jesus was gone and they had no idea what the next step was. The disciples needed fresh insight into their future. And God met them where they were. Jesus wasn’t sitting around the temple or a synagogue waiting for the disciples to come to Him. He went to where they were, just as He did in the incarnation, just as God has done through the ages. While we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us.
So, as we are going through life, God shows up – and He talks to us about the future. As we read further in this story we hear Jesus challenging Peter to shepherd and tend His sheep and lambs. When the nation of Israel cried out for deliverance from bondage and God showed up and delivered them, there were those who grumbled and complained about the food and drink, about the wandering, about so many things. It turns out they weren’t really interested in God showing up, or if they were, it had to be on their terms, not Gods. You have to be ready to have your future altered when God shows up. Can you pay that price? Abraham was told to leave his homeland. Moses was told to leave comfort and return to the place where he was a wanted criminal. Gideon was told to fight some 135,000 men with 300. The list goes on – have you surrendered all that holds you back and may hold you back from God doing a new thing? Jump in with both feet and see what God will do when He shows up. Give Him not just today, but your future.
Lastly, expect God to provide. Jesus challenges Peter’s future and gives him a vocation, but he also gives the seven disciples breakfast and a bountiful catch of fish. When God is involved, it is not just sacrifice and persecution all the time. Jesus said to “Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things (all the things necessary for day to day life) will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Eugene Peterson puts it this way: “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” As you root your identity in the resurrected Christ, as you seek to bless those around you with the love of God, as you strive to become like Christ in your thoughts, words, and actions, He will provide what you need for the ministry He has called you too. He will even bless you in ways you could never imagine.
The choice is to pursue the stuff and let Christ come along, or to pursue Christ and let the stuff come along. The disciples started to pursue the stuff, and went out to fishing. Along the way Christ showed up, and He told them they had it backwards. Pursue me, live in the kingdom, and the fish or whatever it is you need will be there. We all have responsibilities, whether it be children or a spouse, or work, a house, neighbors, and more. You serve all those things best when you pursue Jesus first and let who you are in Him flow into the rest of your life. Let go of those things, knowing God is in control.