Welcome to the final study of my little book. Whether you are browsing or have read through, thank you for sharing in what the Lord has taught. Any good passed on to you was from the Lord. As I received, so I gave to you, beloved. Thanks again for coming along. It is currently the Christmas season and I want to close with this message that I recently shared at a local nursing home where my own mother is a patient. Take heart, beloved, always have faith in Christ, and always find a way to obey the Holy Commands.
Part I- The Gift and Celebration
John 21: 1-4
"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. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus."
Humility and anonymity are crucial, but often very difficult issues for many of us in giving to others. Christ was so humble that they didn't even recognize Him at first. And, remember, He had recently conquered sin and death by His suffering and resurrection. So if humility was the right way for Him to approach giving it SURELY is right for you and me.
"Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No."
Did Jesus really mean to call them "children?" One translation I saw used the word "friends" instead. But the Greek dictionary I have says that the word means either an infant or child under 10. I think that's what He meant, and, believe it or not, that's how He views you today, beloved, no matter who or what you are. You are a child in God's eyes. We can take great comfort in that as we rush around trying to look so grown-up and strong all the time.
"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."
There's the gift. Notice it's especially for them and thought out with care. This is no generic effort. You would probably have to know and love these fishermen to come up with a gift like this. This gift, as many are, is about to be accompanied by a celebration!
"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. As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken. Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise."
There are so many ways to kill the joy of being together with others, even those we care very much about. It's a sin that we have all been guilty of at times. But these men found joy together there on the beach that day and it's because Christ was with them. We do better if we take Him along in our hearts to our celebrations, too.
"This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead."
Just imagine that you are the Apostle John writing these accounts. Can you feel how sweet his memories of Christ are? And especially AFTER the resurrection. No wonder the Apostles were ready to die for Christ. They weren't crazy, they were in love with the Lord. He had completely won them over. Their salvation brought them great pain and trials at times, but also a kind of joy, seen here on this beach, that the undecided can never experience.
Part II- Wrapped in Reality
"So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep."
A great teaching here, as we continue on through this chapter, is that our relations with others don't have to be bleached of all problems and realities in order to be joyful and Christ-like. Jesus and Peter had a problem, and it was like the elephant in the living room (hard to ignore) even at a celebration and reunion. So Christ confronts Peter, who had recently denied he knew who Jesus was before the Jewish leaders and Romans. But, I think, though it could have been sooooooo ugly, that this is the most loving confrontation recorded in history. Subtly undoing a three-fold denial with a beautifully orchestrated three-fold apology, Christ not only forgives Peter but gives him another gift; a special commission to "feed His sheep." If you look at Peter's life after this celebration on the beach at Galilee, you will find that he never forgot this gift, and the loving way it was presented to him, and indeed lived up to it for the rest of his life. Christ is showing us that real love makes room for reality. We'll never solve our problems by hiding them away. That kind of love is just play-acting.
"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?"
Now the party is starting to sound like some of the ones I've been to. Peter would serve into old age and it was none of his business how John would serve. Envy, jealousy and selfishness are part of human nature, and unless you are celebrating with people made from cardboard, these things will enter in. (I know they'll be at the parties I attend because unfortunately I will be bringing them with me.) But we mustn't be shocked or stopped in our giving when these things appear. It didn't stop Christ, as we can see here, and just think about it, He KNEW it was coming before He even showed up that day. If that was going to stop Him, He wouldn't have shown up 33 years earlier in Bethlehem to begin with and there would be no Christmas! No, these things are just part of giving to others, and not a legitimate excuse for retreat and isolation.
"This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen."
The impression Christ made on John and these men was real and wonderful. But today, even at Christmas, are we impressed? Someone noted to me recently that Christmas in our country has become a birthday party at which the Guest of Honor is no longer welcome. But Jesus wants to celebrate with us, beloved. He comes to us every Christmas, and in every season of giving. And His humility does not give us license to ignore Him. He has so much to give us and so much to show us about giving.