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The Lull: John 21: 1-19

The Lull: John 21: 1-19

By Roger Salter
Special to Virtueonline
www.virtueonline.org
May 1, 2017

Matters are not always straight forward for the followers of Jesus. We are living an illusion if we are expecting a charmed life without perplexity and setbacks. Sometimes the gospel is presented in this fashion - for the Christian a smooth and prosperous life lies ahead free of trouble, uncertainty, and disappointment. If that were the case many would embark upon the Christian life purely out of self-interest (as some mistakenly, no doubt, do).

Christians live a life which in the providence of God reveals their weaknesses and susceptibilities to temptation. Nothing more effectively brings us closer to God in total dependence, humility, and repentance. We were saved without any hope in ourselves and we are educated continually in the truth that the Lord is our only hope without whom we cannot do for a moment.

In spite of the Lord's former appearance to Peter after the resurrection Peter still has much to learn about himself, his Lord, and the divine purpose for him.

At Jesus' command Peter and his colleagues are waiting in Galilee for the risen Lord's appointed meeting with them. In the meantime there is a very significant lull in the disciples' communication with their Master. After the huge event of Easter morning life for Peter and his friends is becalmed. A season of respite follows the resurrection. Excitement is given time to abate. Divine activity is never frantic and observes a wise pace.

The disciples need quiet and time to absorb God's mighty act of raising Jesus before the next episode of divine disclosure. While they are waiting what better occupation for a band of fisherman than fishing? Besides the disciples need to eat and it is obvious to them as to where food may be find. They will rely on their professional expertise. They are not incapacitated men in spite of recent developments. They have confidence in themselves in a simple situation and it is obvious that success will come their way when they man their boat. A spot of night fishing will fill in their time and the catch, which they do not doubt will occur, will fill their stomachs. How well they will cope.

But the expectations of these men were dashed. Night fishing is a highly fruitful occupation - but not on this occasion. Men of great experience caught absolutely nothing. They were coming back to shore with empty nets and their appetite after all their effort and dejection was very keen. Empty boat and no breakfast. It was a dismal beginning to their day.

But transformation was waiting at the edge of the tide.

'Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus" (v4).

The timing of Jesus is simply beautiful. He is early, awaiting the weary return of his friends. They are frustrated. He is looking forward to reunion. In the dimness of dawn the disciples do not discern that it is Jesus standing by the sea. They see the silhouette of a stranger. They hear his greeting. "Friends, haven't you caught any fish?". He knows their failure in spite of their distance from land. When Jesus meets us he knows full well the circumstances of the encounter.

The disciples call out, "No". Jesus surpasses their natural and acquired talents as successful navigators and businessmen. "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." The Lord is in command of nature. The fish are at his bidding. His guidance is infallible. His promise is sure. The men toss the net from the right side of the vessel and the result is astounding. These hefty men of physical prowess were unable to haul in the net loaded with large fish.

John recalls a similar incident early in their association with Jesus (Luke 5: 4- 7). This beloved disciple alerts Peter, "It is the Lord". Immediately Peter springs into action, quick off the mark as usual. Seeing to presentable attire he jumps into the water, wading to shore, the disciples following with their massive catch towed by the boat.

Jesus proves his reliability and provision for his own. He averts any lingering sense of desertion. A haul of fish is amazingly furnished in spite of the disciples' judgement that none were to be found and there were obvious signs that a meal was being prepared - fish and bread (v9). Jesus calculated what was necessary to commence the cooking and requested the remainder - which he also provided - to ensure that the supplies for breakfast were sufficient.

The Lord invites his "special men" to eat. "Come and have breakfast". The disciple's absence of sustenance gave Jesus opportunity to sustain them. His handling of bread and fish recalled to their minds the marvellous miracle of the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:1 -15). He establishes his Messianic credentials.

The disciples satisfy their physical hunger. But Jesus knows the character of Peter.

He hungers for the knowledge as to whether he has any future in Jesus' service. He has seen the the risen Lord but he offended and betrayed him gravely. Where, in Christ's estimation, does Peter stand now.

The arrangement of the breakfast rendezvous is not only to confirm the faith of the apostles but to powerfully reassure Peter of the Lord's forgiveness, acceptance, and commissioning as a witness.

Three times Peter denied Jesus. Three times Jesus denotes Peter's role as messenger of the gospel (15-19). It is a thorough re-grounding of Peter in his life's vocation. It allays all his personal doubt. It indicates his destiny as missionary and martyr, and all the while in the care of God (the security of foreordination).

The lulls in our lives have a purpose also. We take stock of ourselves and our endeavours. It is only in the presence of Jesus and with his guidance and provision that we are fruitful. We cannot claim our capacities and campaigns as successful. It is all of God, all of grace from calling to conclusion. Who is the One we need and sometimes lack because of our hubris and misplaced self-confidence? "It is the Lord!" From who do all resources and blessed results come? "it is the Lord!'

The Rev. Roger Salter is an ordained Church of England minister where he had parishes in the dioceses of Bristol and Portsmouth before coming to Birmingham, Alabama to serve as Rector of St. Matthew's Anglican Church.

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