History, Prophecy, and Gospel
After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise showed he himself.…
The last chapter of the Gospel of John is an appendix, and not a supplement. The story of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection closed somewhat hurriedly with the preceding chapter. But now what about the future? What about the disciples' work for the world? This chapter answers. The relation between the Gospel of John and this appendix is the same as that between Luke's Gospel and his book of the Acts. The latter is the sequel of the former. Hence this twenty-first chapter is concerned about work, and about the disciples' future until Jesus comes again.
I. JESUS GUIDES THE DISCIPLES IN THEIR WORK. The work was commonplace — fishing; the story is simple, but the feelings of the actors must have been profound. The feast at Jerusalem is over. The disciples have made the journey of a long week's travel back to Galilee. It is not the Galilee of a few former months. There is no assembling of crowds for instruction, no miracles of mercy, no loved leader to keep the disciples in one body. Four are lacking on this fishing excursion. He has been seen alive after His passion, but not here in Galilee; it was away in Jerusalem. Galilee doubtless thinks that Jesus is no more. The atmosphere surrounding the eleven is oppressive; they are lonesome, idle, restless. The active spirit of Peter must find something to do. He proposes to go a-fishing, and six more of them accompany him. There is a minute particularity about the story. We are told who and how many composed the company, and how they came to "go a fishing." They noted that Jesus "stood" on the shore. The distance of the ship from the land is given, &c. These details, whatever other value they may have, certainly show how the hearts of the seven fishermen were wrought upon. Impressions, feelings, move men. Thought is born of them, and the whole course of life may be changed by them. Whence came that fire of coals, and the fish laid thereon, and the bread? This very wonder must have intensified the whole scene for them. Intensity was necessary. From the feelings of this hour they were to find not only the course of their own life, but also the wisdom to direct the world's. In the Transfiguration they saw His divinity; in the foot-washing they perceived His humility; and now, in this hour of fishing, they had set before them the lesson of their coming leadership of the world. Left to themselves, their labours were abortive, but under His direction many fish were taken. In a word, His guidance was necessary to future success. The work in hand was a parable of the glorious work which they were to do. These who were winning fish were to win men — an office as much greater as a man is better than a fish.
II. JESUS IS REVEALED TO THE DISCIPLES IN THEIR WORK. That net full of fishes was such a revelation of the Christ to them as they had not reached in the more wonderful miracles of feeding the multitude, casting out demons, or raising the dead; for in these He did His own work, but in the draught of fishes He helped the disciples in theirs. Though the power was still all His own, He became a fellow-helper with them. Henceforth He will work mightily through them and with them. This revelation was to serve the disciples in two ways. It was necessary to convince the world of the fact —
1. That the "Christ should suffer and rise from the dead." The Resurrection is the key-stone of the Christian religion. But what a stupendous tax on men's minds, to lay it upon them to believe that One who died was now alive again, and alive for evermore! Yet to establish this fact in the world there must be indisputable testimony. The witnesses must be so qualified that they could go forth with "many infallible proofs," so that they could say, "We did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead."
2. Of His activity in the affairs of men. For Jesus' death and resurrection do not take Him from His friends, but give Him to them. They needed this revelation of Him in work; for men are most of all sceptical on the point of the Lord's active participation in their efforts and needs. One says, "If thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean;" another cries, "If Thou canst do anything;" but the true heart alone says, Thou wilt, Thou canst, Thou dost — so that the apostles afterward reported not what they had done, but what "God had done with them;" and Mark sums up their history with similar words, "The Lord working with them." Christian faith is more than to believe historic Biblical facts. It believes God in Christ to be the one present, working Agent in the world to-day.
III. JESUS EATS WITH THE DISCIPLES AFTER THEIR WORK. This breakfast is every way beautiful. It seems to be Jesus' aim in this whole morning's scene — its climax; for as soon as they were come to land, they saw a fire glowing on the beach, and food in preparation. With this the disciples had had nothing to do. Still they have a share in providing the meal, for He says, "Bring of the fish which ye have now caught." He graciously ascribes the capture to them. When all is ready He asks them to "come and dine." The end of the Incarnation, the Cross, and the Resurrection is to bring God and man into family relationship. It was one who sat at this breakfast this morning who afterward wrote, "And truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ." The breakfast was also a prophecy of the time when the saint and the Saviour shall meet together to rejoice in the fellowship of a completed work. Paul wrote to those whom he had won to the Lord, "What is our hope or joy or crown, of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ?"
(History, Prophecy, and Gospel.)
Parallel VersesKJV: After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.