Have you ever been told to try to do something different? Meaning, has anyone suggested to you another way that will supposedly work better than what you are currently trying? I have had many of these moments in my life simply because I over complicate things. There have been several instances in my life where people have given me the definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, perhaps people have felt the need to share that definition with you as well.
In John 21, Jesus is having a similar discussion with the disciples who are practicing insanity, and Jesus offers a fresh perspective to them. John 21 opens like this:
“Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus ), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.
First off, Jesus has just resurrected from the dead. He’s already visited some of the other disciples, but here in chapter 21, there’s more things needed to be covered. Personally, I feel like John’s gospel covered what it needed to: You have Jesus performing a plethora of miracles, you have Jesus claiming he is the “I am”, the Last Supper, the parable of the vine and branches, and finally the life death and resurrection of Jesus. John’s gospel is full of amazing things that could’ve concluded in chapter 20, but John chose to go on because I believe that there is some unfinished business that needs to be settled.
Jesus comes out onto the shore and sees Peter, Thomas and a few other disciples fishing and, for guys who grew up in the trade, they weren’t doing too hot. Jesus calls out and says, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” We must remember that these men, before becoming followers of Jesus, we’re professional fisherman. I think that their pride was broken a little bit, but then comes along this man giving them fishing advice. The text doesn’t say this, but I would think that Peter and the other men in the boat would be laughing at this guy and saying: Alright, who is this guy walking up thinking he knows it all? Does he seriously think we haven’t tried the other side of the boat yet? Then another disciple saying, Hey, we actually haven’t tried the other side. It’s probably worth a shot at this point. And so they do, and they catch so much they can’t even haul in the net.
A few points: One, these guys were out of options and they decide to trust this stranger, who is actually Jesus, for advice. Two, they chose to just go ahead and listen to him. And three, because they chose to trust this stranger, they were abundantly blessed. I think this is often how we come to meet Jesus in our own lives. We come to this point where everything that we have been trying just isn’t working. These men on this boat just lost the man they had been following for years—Jesus. I could imagine that these disciples were heartbroken and they needed to cope, so they went back to their roots, but the roots weren’t providing nourishment. The roots couldn’t fill the void.
When life gets heavy for me, a weakness of mine is to go back to my roots, which is pornography. It is where I think that I can find satisfaction, but the truth of the matter is, is that it leaves me emptier than ever before. And that goes for every sin! Are the roots that you’re going back to not working? Are they not satisfying? I can tell you the reason that they’re not, and that reason is that those things are not Jesus. It is only in Jesus that we can find satisfaction. It is only in Jesus that when He calls out to us, tells us to cast our nets into something different, that we will be abundantly blessed and satisfied.
Next, the disciples realize that it is Jesus who has called out to them. Immediately, Peter jumps into the water and swims to the shore after Jesus. Let’s recall what has transpired with Peter recently. Two chapters ago, Peter had denied Jesus three times. Peter assured Jesus that he would never do that, however, when push came to shove, he did. Jesus is then later crucified and buried. So, the last memory that Peter has with Jesus is the realization that he has just denied his lord and savior three times. Now, Peter sees Jesus again and swims after him with the hope of a second chance. Well, a fifth chance if you count the denials.
Continuing in verse 11,
“The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.” John 21:8-14 (NIV)
The disciples are now on the beach with Jesus. Then, we see Jesus lash out in anger at Peter for his actions for denying him, wait… No, that’s not what happens at all here. There’s no lecture. There’s no condemnation. No rebuke. There’s just acceptance. And provision. Jesus just says, “Come and have breakfast with me.”
I think what we expect here is for there to be some kind of frustration at Peter’s behavior, but that’s not the case at all. I believe we think that same thing in our own lives. We believe that because of what we’ve done, Jesus will be frustrated with us and condemn us. But no, he simply asks, “How’s that working for you?” He gives us the opportunity to form the words in our own hearts and our mind. He simply just wants us to sit and have breakfast with him. To be back in his presence. Louie Giglio in his book, The Comeback says, “We’ve all let Jesus down, not once, but many times. We’ve all been in that moment when the rooster crowed and we came to our senses and realized that we just blew something big time. We can’t believe we put ourselves in a compromising position, said what’s we just did, acted the way we just acted, or crossed a line we swore we never would. That’s why the last chapter of John was written. It’s to show us that big foul-ups happen, but Jesus still wants to have breakfast with us.”
Maybe you’re in that place this morning where you feel as though what you’re doing just isn’t working. Not only that, but you feel as though what you are doing can never allow you to be accepted by Jesus. I believe at that, Jesus would say, “Try me. Try to give me something that I couldn’t handle because I can guarantee you that I died for that.” Jesus wants you to be as outgoing as Peter. To just jump out into the water and swim after him, and once you arrive, sit down and have a nice meal with him. What a joy it is to be sitting at the feet of Jesus in awe of his presence.