Seeing Jesus in a New Light

May 15, 2020

READ John 21:1-14

In the midst of a familiar setting and unfamiliar circumstances, allow Jesus to surprise and guide you into a new future.

If you’ve spent much time by the ocean, then the scene of John 21:1-14 is probably easy to visualize.  It took place on the shores of the Sea of Galilee a short time after Jesus’ resurrection.  Prior to his crucifixion, Jesus had told the disciples that he would go ahead of them to Galilee (Mark 14:28).  Prompted again by an angel at Jesus’ tomb (Mark 16:7) the disciples returned to the region where their ministry with Jesus began.  

AN UNPLANNED WAIT

Upon returning to their homes, they waited … and then waited some more.  Apparently the waiting became rather hard and without a clear plan from Jesus, or any safer-at-home restrictions, Peter decided to act.  He simply says, “I am going fishing.”  Several other disciples must have felt the same way.  “We will go with you.”  

And so they went back to their boats and nets.  It’s easy to imagine them walking down to the shoreline carrying nets that they’d repaired countless times, grasping the rough wood of the boat with their fingers and pushing off into deeper waters.  As they went out on the water that evening it must have felt really good for a time. Their long familiarity with the profession probably allowed them to work without thinking and be fully engaged in the task at hand.  

But then the night stretched on and their empty nets likely echoed the emptiness they felt as they contemplated their future without Jesus by their side.  After months of walking with Jesus, learning from him and ministering to others, they had changed.  They had come to know God and acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah (John 17:3).  They had embraced Jesus’ teaching and it had transformed their understanding of reality and their place in it.

STUCK IN BETWEEN

But what did the future hold?  What would it look like to be sent into the world? (John 17:18)

At this moment on the Sea of Galilee, the disciples were soundly in between two stages of ministry.  Discipleship by walking around with Jesus had come to an end, but they had not yet engaged in the mission He had entrusted to them.  Being home may have been a comfort, but they were anxious for clarity and impatient to carry on the work.  And so they spent a long dark night on the water, working steadily.  As dawn approached, they still had nothing to show for their efforts.

When day broke an unrecognizable man stood on the shore within speaking distance.  With some guidance from this stranger, the men pulled in a massive catch and the disciple John quickly identified the influence of the Lord Jesus.

As they rushed to the beach, they saw the Lord was prepared to receive them.  A fire was lit and a meal of fish and bread lay before them.  Jesus asked them to contribute part of their abundant catch to the meal.  Amazingly, their 153 large fish did not damage their nets and they were reminded of both the fruitfulness and protection that comes in following the words of the Lord.  

A NEW EXPERIENCE

The joyful reunion is marred only by a sense of mild confusion on the part of the disciples.  Verse 12 implies that Jesus didn’t look the way they remembered him, much like the disciples who encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus.  While they were able to recognize the work of Jesus, they were forced to experience him in a new way.  This encounter with Jesus was therefore both wonderfully familiar and a little unsettling.  And then they ate.  

The scene continued with Jesus providing physical nourishment to the disciples in the form of bread and fish.  The ensuing conversation then provided Peter with needed restoration and direction.  Finally, the entire encounter must have encouraged the remaining disciples tremendously as they prepared for future ministry.  

This encounter reminds us of the importance of staying attentive to the work of Jesus so that we might respond to his words, produce God-ordained fruit and enjoy his protection as we continue in the occasionally unsettling but ultimately joyful journey of discipleship as we follow our Lord.

REFLECTION

The disciples didn’t recognize Jesus by his appearance, but they did identify him through the supernatural influence he exerted.  Have you been surprised recently by an encounter with Jesus where you didn’t expect to see him?

As you are forced to practice your faith differently, where do you see the supernatural influence of Jesus?  Where is Jesus at work around you?  

What form of nourishment do you need from Jesus today?  Do you need physical provision in the form of food, employment or health?  Do you simply need to sit in his presence?  Do you need a kick in the pants to “follow Jesus” a little closer in the day ahead?  Prayerfully ask Jesus for his provision and protection.  

About The Author

Dan Wendell

Dan joined the Cornerstone team in November 2018 as the Pastor of Missions. His focus is on empowering the church family to step beyond the boundaries of CCLB to declare the Good News, so that the Body of Christ might be established where it would not otherwise occur. In addition, Dan provides oversight for Cornerstone’s Care ministries.