Shortly before I moved to Chattanooga, some friends in the Church took me frog hunting. I will never forget what it was like on the boat that day with 3 Cajuns from the Bayou. We were about 1 ½ from the land in the marsh waiting for it to get completely dark. Around 10, we put our hardhats with spotlights attached that had 2 cords running to batteries stored on the boat. Cajun engineering at its best. We turned those spotlights on and I could see thousands of little. Eyes. I said, “look at all the frogs. Jesse said, “that’s not frogs, that’s alligators.” red eyes were bad. Pearl eyes were frogs. One guy leaned over the bow, the other sat on the chest with open hands to receive the frogs. I asked, “where is the gig?” he said, “you have two of them: your hands.” for the next 5 to 6 hours we caught frogs right next to alligators—450 to be exact. Jesse and jason said they have never caught that many before or since that day. I was the most anxious and excited at the same time. Especially when the boat got stuck in the middle of the swamp.
I have been out looking for frogs since then, but nothing compares to the night we caught 450 frogs. The disciples had a night to remember. They went fishing and didn’t catch anything. That was, until someone from the shore instructed them to throw their nets on the other side. They hauled in 153 fish in one cast.
My goal today is to show you the importance of abiding the power of Christ to carry out the Great Commission. This section is a picture of the process of evangelism.
John 21:1–14, “after this, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples by the sea of tiberias. He revealed himself in this way: 2 Simon Peter, thomas (called “twin”), Nathanael from Cana of Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 “I’m going fishing,” Simon Peter said to them. “we’re coming with You,” they told him. They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4 when daybreak came, Jesus stood on the shore. However, the disciples did not know it was Jesus. 5 “men,” Jesus called to them, “you don’t have any fish, do you?” “no,” they answered. 6 “cast the net on the right side of the boat,” He told them, “and you’ll find some.” so they did, and they were unable to haul it in because of the large number of fish. 7 therefore the disciple, the one Jesus loved, said to Peter, “it is the Lord!” when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tied his outer garment around him (for he was stripped) and plunged into the sea. 8 but since they were not far from land (about 100 yards away), the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish. 9 when they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. 10 “bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus told them. 11 so Simon Peter got up and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish—153 of them. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 “come and have breakfast,” Jesus told them. None of the disciples dared ask him, “who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread, and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. 14 this was now the third time Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
Remember what your mission is
Verse 2, “Simon Peter, thomas (called “twin”), nathanael from Cana of Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 “I’m going fishing,” Simon Peter said to them. “we’re coming with you,” they told Him. They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
This is the 3rd time Jesus appears to the disciples in John’s gospel. The angel at the tomb instructed them to return to Galilee.
Galilee is Peter, Andrew, James and John’s old stomping grounds. You might as well do what you know best: fish. 7 of the disciples go out fishing that day with Peter on the sea of Siberias which is the sea of Galilee. Most of the men on the fishing expedition were fishermen. This was not a day of fly fishing for relaxation. They went out with a purpose. Some commend them for going back to fishing saying that they were going to work. They had financial obligations and mouths to feed. While they were waiting for Jesus to give them the plans for the mission, they had nothing better to do. Some have criticized the disciples lack of faith, saying that they sold out and went back to their old life. They suggest that Peter and the disciples returned to their former occupation, and gave up full-time service to the Lord. I believe that Peter and the others, due to their impatience and lack of direction went back to what they knew best: fishing. In order for us to understand what Jesus is doing here, we must return to the first miracle on the same sea. It probably happened in a similar spot on the water, in the same boat, with the same men and the same results.
Look at Luke 5:3, “Jesus got into one of the boats, which belonged to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from the land. Then he sat down and was teaching the crowds from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 and Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 and when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 but when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 for he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 and when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”
This miracle was the turning point for Peter. He not only sees Jesus in a different light, but sees himself in a different light. Peter realizes he is not worthy to be in the same boat with Jesus. In both texts, these professional fishermen were unable to catch anything on their own, even though they were laboring in the area of their expertise and on the water they knew well. Jesus is teaching them that he is the source of success. The purpose of both of these events is ministry not fishing. Jesus is reaffirming his call to leave behind their nets and follow him. Also, I think that it’s a reminder of what Jesus said earlier, “seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you.” he is the source and sustainer of life.
There are some differences in the 2 accounts. One worth noting is that in Luke 5, Jesus is in the boat. In John 21, he’s on the shore directing them. Jesus can direct, guide, and provide from a distance as he did from up close. He knew they had caught nothing. From 100 yards away, he knew where the fish were and ordained them into the nets. He is slowly transitioning from being with them to being in them through the spirit. He can care for them just as good in Heaven as He did on earth. And Ge can do the same for you. Jesus is no less powerful today as he was when he was on Earth.
This passage should be a comfort to us today. Put yourself in the disciples shoes. You left everything to follow Jesus for 3 years. You believed he would usher in the kingdom of God through redemption of His people. He didn’t establish his an earthly kingdom at this time. In fact, he died. You saw him perform many miracles, but escaping His own death was apparently not one of them. 3 days later, He is back alive. Walking through walls, eating dinner with you, and confirming His identity and mission. You are thinking: now what? When is the kingdom coming? How are we supposed to proceed? What’s our message? Where do I preach? What are the exact words of the sinners prayer? How do I do an invitation at the end of the message?
What’s the point of this section? The men decide to do something in their own energy. Peter says, “I’m going fishing.” Jesus didn’t tell them to go fishing. It’s not a bad thing. It’s familiarity. Here’s a truth: when we lose sight of the mission, we tend to stray back to what we did before Christ. Have you done that today? But this action illustrates their self sufficiency, which led to disappointment.
Your perspective of God determines your understanding of evangelism. You cast the net, but God fills them. You draw it, but God receives the catch. The joy for a believer is not in the catching, it’s in the casting. Because God is the one who catches. Success is in the sharing not the saving. Replace fish with men in the story. The mission is to catch men. Here’s the hard truth: if you never cast the net, you will never catch men.
Recognize where you strength comes from
Jesus does 3 things worth noting:
Jesus asks a question
These guys cant get a break. Their leader is gone and their stomachs are empty. 7 guys working together in a boat and nothing. Dejected and disappointed, they head for the shore. On the shore where crowds gathered months earlier, the shore where they cleaned their nets and docked their boats, a man yelled out from about 100 yards away: “men, children, you don’t have any fish, do you?” Nope. Not a one.
I don’t know if you’ve ever fished before, but this is the worst feeling. When I was pastoring at Immanuel Baptist in Morgan City, fishing was my pastime. I went with one of my Church members who was a part-time fishing guide on the Bayou. We woke up at 4:30, went to the gas station and loaded up on snacks, drinks, and bait. We made sure we had the poles, nets, and ice chests. Then we drove over an hour by car to the dock. After loading the boat in the water, we embarked on another 30 minute to 1 hour boat ride to our destination. And then you wait. At around noon, you call it a day and retrace your route. Hour boat ride, load the boat, drive an hour home, unload the supplies, and get in my car and head home. Every time I walked in the door, Kandi would ask, “did you catch any fish?” What is the most demoralizing response, “nope not a one.”
Peter is very short: “no.” he had nothing more to say. You can’t blame him. The professional fisherman return to the shore empty handed. Talk about humiliating. Peter has been telling fishing tales for 3 years to the other disciples and now nothing.
God certainly has a way of humbling people. Jesus’ question is rhetorical. He’s not asking for His understand, but for their realization. He wants them to understand their own failures. God does this throughout the Bible with questions: in the garden of eden, God asked Adam and Eve after they had sinned, “where are you?” and, “who told you that you were naked?
Later, in the account of Cain and Abel, when Cain was displeased that his offering was rejected, God asked, “why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? Through Nathan God asked David, “why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes?” (2 Sam. 12:9). God asked Isaiah, “whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isa. 6:8). As a boy, Jesus asked His mother, “why were you searching for me?” He asked them. “didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house?”Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (Matt. 16:15). Now he asks, “Men, you don’t have any fish, do you?”
God never asks questions because He doesn’t know the answers. He asks questions so that we face the situation. When Jesus asks, “have you caught any fish?”, He is getting them to admit their failure. It’s the same question He asks us when we try to do something without him, “have you caught anything today? How’s that business working out for you now that you’re in control, not Me?
How’s that relationship with you at the center? How’s that sin you’re trying to overcome without Me? Are you satisfied? Are you happy? How’s that working out for you?
His questions are always meant to lead us back to him.
Jesus redirects their efforts
After the question, Jesus gives a command. He instructs the disciples to “cast the net on the right side of the boat and you’ll find some.” Why does Jesus say, “the right side?” Because that’s where he directed the fish to swim. If he would have said the left side, the fish would have been there. The point is not where the miracle happened, it’s how it happened. The disciples had a choice of whether to listen or not. Because of their obedience to Jesus’s direction, they experienced a miracle. I wonder how many miraculous events we miss in our life because we are disobedient to God?
Jesus gives a blessing
First, He had asked a question; second, He gave a command. In response to their obedience, Jesus sends the fish. The fish (153 of them) represent men and women who were lost and now caught. In Luke 5, the net was broken and the fish got away, but not this time. None of those whom God has caught will be lost. John 6:37, “Everyone the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never cast out.”
Once again, John realizes what’s going on. He is the first one to recognize the man on the beach. It’s Jesus. Before he can get the words out, Peter grabs his clothes and cannon balls into the water. Fishermen stripped their outer garments into order to dive into the water to retrieve the nets. This is indicative of both Peter and John. John is always the first one to perceive and Peter is the first to respond. Any thought that Peter returned to his old life is squashed by his action. Leaving behind a fishing story of all fishing stories, Peter swims toward Jesus. Peter’s response proves where his heart was—with Jesus. John may have been the first to see Jesus. Peter was the first to seek Jesus. As the disciples walk toward Jesus, they notice a charcoal fire with fresh cooked fish on it and baked bread ready to eat. We know Jesus was cajun because he ate fish for breakfast. Real cajun’s eat seafood for breakfast. How do I know it was breakfast? Verse 3 says, “they caught nothing all night.” Jesus tells Peter to bring some of the fish he just caught. Miraculously, the nets didn’t break when he hauled the fish ashore. Is there any significance of the number of fish that were caught?
Some have said it’s the exact number of fish in the sea of galilee signifying that we must catch people from all nations, tribes and tongues. I don’t know if that’s true or even if the disciples would have known the exact number of fish in the sea. It doesn’t say they caught 153 different kinds of fish. I believe John is once again communicating with pinpoint accuracy the reliability of the scriptures. 100 yards, 153 fish. Evidence is in the details.
Verse 10, “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus told them. 11 so Simon Peter got up and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish—153 of them. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 “come and have breakfast,” Jesus told them. None of the disciples dared ask him, “who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread, and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. 14 this was now the third time Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
They don’t recognize Jesus until He breaks the bread. What is the significance of this section? Jesus is demonstrating what He taught in John 15—without Me you can do nothing. He wanted them to be dependent upon him. A man who saw the power and presence of God because of his absolute dependency was George Mueller. Mueller, born into a German tax collector’s family, was often in trouble growing up. He learned early to steal and gamble and drink. As a teenager he stayed in expensive hotels, then would sneak out without paying the bill. Eventually he was caught and jailed. Prison did him little good, for upon release he continued his crime spree until, on a saturday night in 1825, he met Jesus Christ.
Mueller married and settled down in Bristol, England. He developed a burden for the homeless children running wild and ragged through the streets. At a public meeting in Bristol on December 9, 1835, he presented a plan for an orphanage. Several contributions came in. Mueller rented number 6 Wilson Street, and on April 11, 1836, the doors of the orphanage opened. 26 children were immediately taken in. A second house soon opened, then a third.
From the beginning, Mueller decided to run the orphanage by 1 principle: he refused to ask for funds or even to speak of the ministry’s financial needs to anyone. He believed in praying earnestly and trusting the Lord to provide. And the Lord did provide, though sometimes at the last moment.
The best-known story involves a morning when the plates and bowls and cups were set on the tables, but there was no food or milk. The children sat waiting for breakfast while Mueller led in prayer for their daily bread. A knock sounded at the door. It was the baker. “Mr. Mueller,” he said, “I couldn’t sleep last night. Somehow I felt you didn’t have bread for breakfast, so I got up at 2:00 AM And baked some fresh bread.” a second knock sounded. The milkman had broken down right in front of the orphanage, and he wanted to give the children his milk so he could empty his wagon and repair it.
Stories like these became the norm for Mueller’s work. During the course of his 93 years, Mueller housed more than 10,000 orphans, “prayed in” millions of dollars, traveled to scores of countries preaching the gospel, and recorded 50,000 answers to prayer.
What was His secret: he knew where his source came from. Gods work, done, Gods way, never lacks God’s supply.
Maybe Jesus is speaking to you today? You are keenly aware of your own inabilities and shortcomings. In your own power, you have failed repeatedly. Jesus would say to you today, “I see you’ve fished unsuccessfully for years. Are you ready to cast on the other side of the boat? Are you ready to stop doing it the way you’ve always done it and listen to me? I have so much work for you to do, but you must do it my way.