After Jesus’ resurrection there is a very interesting event which takes place at the Sea of Tiberias, as recorded in John 21:1-17, which is really a story about Peter and his ministry and what the Lord really desired of his life.
1 After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way.
2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples.
3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out, and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.
We need to ask ourselves why they didn’t catch any fish. Could it be that they are going against the Lord’s will? Let’s go on in our John 21 passage and see.
4 But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
5 Jesus therefore said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.”
6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you will find a catch.” They cast therefore, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.
From the surface of this verse, it seems like the Lord wants them to be successful fishermen, but is that really what Jesus wants? Let’s remember what Jesus first said to them when He called them into becoming His disciples (Mark 1:17).
17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
He called them away from fishing; He called them away from being killers of fish into bringing life to human beings.
So, if returning to being fishermen was against the will of God, then why would Jesus do this (John 21:6)? Because, this was another one of God’s concessions granted to his errant children. He did this in the hope that they would learn from their mistakes and return to being obedient followers
7 disciples had joined in this ‘going back’. Will you be faithful to the end?
With this in mind, let’s return to John 21 and continue our study (verse 7)
7 That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” And 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.
Why would Peter clothe himself and throw himself into the sea?
Because he realized that in leading his fellow disciples back to fishing, he was going against the Lord’s will, as we are told in Matthew 4:18-20:
18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. KJV
The disciples were obedient at that time, but after Jesus’ death Peter lost his hope and returned to fishing. So, when he realized what he had done, he put on his outer garment, a way of covering the sin of his fishing attire, or lack of it, and threw himself into the sea, a type of baptism of repentance for his sin of disobedience.
Peter did get a little dramatic at times!
Furthermore, since Peter was the one who led them back to fishing, instead of being fishers of men, and since Peter recognized the error of his ways, the Lord speaks to him, as we continue in our John 21 passage.
15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.”
16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him,” Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You. “Jesus said to him,” Tend My sheep.
Peter denied Jesus three times before His death, and now He is asking him to reaffirm his love three times, but for what purpose?
When Jesus said, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”, to whom was He referring? Was He referring to the disciples? That doesn’t make any sense; because Jesus wouldn’t do anything to cause a separation between the disciples by asking if Simon Peter loved Him more than his brethren. Jesus is not referring to the disciples; He is referring to the fish.
In essence, Jesus is asking Peter, “Do you love Me more than these fish that you left the ministry to catch? I entrusted My ministry to you and your fellow disciples in order for you to be fishers of men, that you might bring them life eternal, and you have returned to being killers of fish. Don’t you love me more than these fish?”
And when Peter responds in the affirmative, Jesus tells him to tend the people whom He had left in the disciples’ care. He is not talking about fish, lambs, or sheep; He is talking about ministering to the people of this world and, in turn, to the whole of creation.
“I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.” (John 21:18, 19 NLT)
Jesus was telling Peter that if you follow me, you will die. Are you able to serve Him no matter the cost?
What can we learn about following Christ from this passage?
- Our love for Christ should lead us to serving others.
- Serving Christ will not lead to an easier life, there will be sacrifice, trials and tribulation but we will have all we need and will secure a place in eternity.
- Christ told Peter that service to Christ and his flock will lead to death – we must crucify our flesh to live in a way that pleases God.
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