After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. 9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. 15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
On Easter Sunday Jesus rose from the grave, and for the next couple weeks, the disciples remained in Jerusalem. It’s not clear exactly what they did there. They gathered for prayer, and it was incredibly special when Jesus would pop-in out of nowhere. However, for most of the time, I imagine they were quarantined behind closed doors. It was still pretty dangerous in the city; the opposition party of Jewish antichrists wanted their heads.
However, they had gone from Jerusalem to Galilee. Why? Simply put , Jesus told them to go there, and he would catch up with them later. Therefore, they did what disciples do; the worshiped Jesus by obeying Jesus and took the 80-mile trek to the north.
But these were probably incredibly sweet days for these fellows. They had chosen the right Messiah. They had proven not to be fools. Though they had sinned greatly and abandoned their Lord, they had found grace that was greater than all their sins. Their souls were in great stead with God. They probably slept really well since they had some distance from their enemies. For most of these fellows, Galilee was home. So it was fantastic for them to be back with family and friends. Can you imagine how neat it was in the evenings to build a fire by the lake, gather friends and family around, and tell stories that make much of Jesus. Finally, their sense of anticipation was off the charts. The Kingdom was on the move, ministry momentum was again headed in the right direction, and Jesus was soon to show up. They don’t know when, but they know he’s coming. He said so, and Jesus always kept his word.
Well, one night, while they were waiting for Jesus to meet them, Peter had great idea, “Hey fellows, the Sea of Galilee is not so far away; our stuff is in storage, it’s been a long time, let’s go fishing.”
Now, some theologians believe Peter was sinning by making this suggestion. He had been called by Christ to leave his nets behind. He was to be a fisher of men. In their eyes, Simon is going back to his old ways. He is backsliding. He is sinning.
Others have been kinder in their assessment of Peter. They know he and the fellows did not have much money, and they needed food. Remember, Judas had been stealing from their funds. They also have recognized how Peter was not the idle type. Therefore, have assumed Peter was being a wise steward of his time. He was going to work to make a profit, and this was honorable.
Then others have merely seen Pete as longing for some rest, recreation, and fellowship. Besides, they can’t do anything until Jesus comes, and it is nighttime; what else are they “supposed” to be doing?
Evidently, the other disciples did not think he was sinning; they were not troubled by his proposal. Six other men — Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, James, John, and two others – agreed to join him on his night-fishing adventure.
One thing was certain, catching fish should have been a sure thing. It should have been as easy as Martha Stewart making a grilled-cheese sandwich. They had good weather, or else they would not have gone out and stayed out all night long. They had good timing, for nighttime was the right time. They had good equipment; their boat and nets will be proven very solid. And they had good knowledge. Peter and the fellows had lived on the water for many years; they knew the lake well; they knew all the secret spots. Yes, catching fish should have been a piece of cake.
However, on that night, the disciples proved to be good at fishing but poor at catching fish. That’s right, they fished all night long and caught not one fish. (Was this a miracle?) So, as morning started to break, they made their way back to shore, empty-netted, and with their pride injured.
As they approached land, they encountered a person on the shore. We have learned it was Jesus, but they did not know this. Due to the distance, darkness, fog, or morphing post-resurrection body of Jesus, they did not recognize their best friend … yet.
The anonymous stranger called out, “Children, have you caught any fish?” That was a bit odd. Why would he question their success, and why would he call them “Children, little brothers, or lads?”
They simply responded back with their fishing woes, “No luck tonight.” They didn’t owe this fellow much of an explanation.
Then they heard some odd advice from the stranger, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat. That’s right, 8-feet over. You’ll like what you find.” Some have reasoned he saw a school of fish from the shore. I don’t think so. This was Jesus; Lord of heaven and earth; King of the fish.
Consider the possible and likely responses. Many would have responded with mockery. They would have rolled their eyes and said something like, “Whatever, can you believe this guy?” Many would have shook their heads with pride, “Hey man, we know what we’re doing; this isn’t our first rodeo.” Some might have responded with weariness, “Great, maybe next time, we’re done’ it’s been a long night.” Then there could have been the logician, “Let’s see here, we have the same day, same lake, same boat, same nets, same weather, same current; what difference is 8 feet going to make? You don’t make sense.”
However, after many hours of unsuccessful fishing, they heeded the advice of the stranger and put their nets back in the water.
Why did they do so? I think they are starting to figure out who the stranger was who called them “children.” I think they are remembering an episode that happened to them a few years back. (Lk. 5:1-11) It was when Peter, James, and John were first called to be Jesus’ disciples. This was “Deja-vu all over again.”
They heard revelation from their Savior, and again they responded with humility, love, faith, obedience, and worship. Again, this is what disciples do.
And they were greatly rewarded for their humility, faith, and obedience. All night long, without Jesus, they caught nothing. One moment with Jesus, in obedience to Jesus, they caught 153 fish – too many for the seven manly fellows to get into the boat.
At this point, their worship began.
John, throughout the Gospels, appeared to be the thoughtful theologian. He recognized Jesus and worshiped by means of his voice crying out, “It is the Lord.”
Peter worshiped differently; he grabbed his coat and hit the water. He swam to shore leaving the other fellows to navigate the boat and haul in the huge load of fish.
Jesus encouraged them to share the bounty they had received. Jesus already had a charcoal fire with fish and bread. He did not need their assistance, but he asked them to contribute a portion of that which they had received. Jesus asked for some of the fish he had provided for them. Eagerly, Peter led the disciples in doing so. He must have been filled with affection and adrenaline as he went back out to the boat and pulled in the net.
At that point, Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” He hosted them. He served them. He led them in communion, for oh how Jesus loved (and loves) to feed, eat, drink, fellowship, and commune with his friends.
Even at this point, Jesus was so confusing to them. They knew who he was. They were overwhelmed, but they chose not to ask him all the questions going through their heads.
But Jesus had some questions for Peter, and he had determined to ask them in front of the entire group. So, after breakfast, Jesus said, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He asked him, “Do you have agape love for me; do you love me with the one-way, self-sacrificing, never-changing, covenantal love of God; and do you love me more than these other brothers?”
This must have been a little disconcerting for Peter. Questions he must have had would be:
Why is he singling me out?
Why is he questioning my affection?
Why is he calling me by my old name, “Simon, son of John,” and not the name he personally gave me as his disciple?
Why does he want me to compare myself to my brothers?
Why is he doing this in front of my friends, for they all remembered his declarations of unmatched faithfulness. They were there when Peter said to Jesus, “… I will lay down my life for you.” (John 13:37) They heard Peter promise, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” (Luke 22:33) And the big one, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away …” (Matt. 26:34)
But Peter showed humility and maturity in his answer, “He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Peter called Jesus his “Lord.” He admitted the fact that the Lord intellectually knew him – he was known from the inside out and could not hide the truth from Jesus. So he answered honestly, you know that I care for you. Peter used phileo instead of agapeo. He did not use the same love-verb as Jesus, and I believed he did so because he knew he did not have the one-way, self-sacrificing, never-changing, covenantal love of God that he ought. James Boice loosely translated Peter’s reply, “I will not say I love you 100%, but I will say I love you 60%.” And as for the second part of the question, that dealing with his brothers, Peter did not even go there. He seemed to have totally lost his desire to compare.
Jesus did not argue with Peter. He did know him well. He knew his chief disciple did not have the love for Jesus that he ought. However, he responded with grace. Knowing his love-deficient disciple, he still restated his ministerial charge. Peter was to show his love by feeding Christ’s lambs. He was to show his love by shepherding the youngest members of the flock belonging to Jesus.
Peter must have thought, “Shew, I’m glad that’s over.” But Jesus was not finished with his questions and education. School was still in session.
Jesus repeated his question, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Again, Jesus used the agape word, “Simon, do you have the one-way, self-sacrificing, never-changing, covenantal love of God for me that you ought?”
Peter repeated his answer, “You ask if I have agape love; you know I have phileo love for you; you know I care for you.”
But then came the third question from Jesus, “Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you [phileo] love me?” In effect, “Do you even care for me?”
At this point, Peter was cut to the heart; he was grieved. Peter was putting the pieces together:
- He was noticing the fire and remembering the fire in the courtyard where he denied Jesus.
- He was hearing the three questions and was remembering his three denials.
- He was hearing Jesus question his 60% love.
But he knew he had some measure of love for Jesus. He knew he cared for Jesus. He really did! So Peter exclaimed, “Lord, you know everything, but you KNOW.” He used a different Greek word. Instead of oida which meant an intellectual knowledge, this time he used ginosko which implied experiential and relational knowledge. In effect, “You know everything, but you KNOW me. We are tight. I’m the sinner; you’re my Savior. I’m Peter. I’m yours, and you KNOW I really do love [phileo] for you.”
I think at this point, Jesus leans back, smiles, nods his head, and issues forth his gracious commission for a third time, “Peter, display your love for by feeding my sheep.”
It is important to remember the context here. All of this took place before the watching eyes and listening ears of the disciples. If they had any questions as to the “fitness” of Peter to ministry, they had received their answers. It mattered not that Peter had sinned greatly after becoming a disciple. It mattered not that Peter’s public testimony was incredibly tarnished. It mattered not that Peter had denied his Christ – three times. It mattered not that Peter was just like Judas. Peter was rescued, redeemed, and reconciled. And Peter was to be restored to usefulness in Christ’s service. He was a sinner, but he was a sanctified sinner, and he was to worship Christ by being a humble, faithful, and obedient lover of Christ and Christ’s church.
Perhaps at this point one can remember Jesus’ earlier statement:
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:32-32)
Jesus then reminded Peter of the cost. Peter’s love for Christ and love for Christ’s flock would be very costly. No prosperity-theology message from Jesus on that morning. Peter would lose his freedom and his life, but Peter was to continue following Jesus through it all.
So, that’s what transpired in Galilee, but how can this help us in Greenville? Here are six ways we can apply this truth to our lives.
1. Let us recognize our sin.
They disciples proved to be like every other child of Adam. Read the Gospels and take off our old Sunday school glasses. The disciples – all of them — were guilty of materialism, idolatry, selfishness, unrighteous anger, legalism, arrogance, and faithlessness. Sins of commission were added to their sins of omission. There was not a one of them that every had agape love for God. They all broke the first commandment – the chief commandment. Therefore, they were guilty of breaking them all, and this was true of them before and after coming to meet the Savior of their souls.
We are like the disciples. As Judas, so are we. As Peter, so are we. Remember the teaching of Jesus:
Luke 18:9–14 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
Let’s not be Pharisees. Let’s not think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Let’s not lower God’s Law, and let’s not selectively grade ourselves on a curve. Let’s be honest about who we are. We are saints, but we are sinful saints. We are no better than anyone else … anyone!
2. Let us recognize our weakness.
The disciples thought they could be successful as fishers of fish, but they were wrong. They found they could not be successful in that which was natural for them without Christ’s blessing. Without Christ, they could do nothing.
The disciples thought they could be successful as fishers of men, but they were wrong. They found they could not be successful in that which was supernatural for them without Christ’s blessing. Without Christ, they could do nothing, and this was an important lesson for them to learn.
The same is true for us. Let us learn the lesson again that without Christ, we can do nothing. Regardless of our education, work ethic, acquired skills, spiritual gifts, character, assets, or team, apart from Jesus Christ we are impotent. This applies to:
- Gaining friends
- Winning games
- Making grades
- Getting a date
- Choosing a mate
- Getting a job
- Receiving a promotion
- Making profit
- Keeping wealth
- Saying “yes” to worship
- Saying “no” to sin
- Enjoying emotional health
- Having children
- Maturing children
- Discipling members
- Reaching neighbors
- Evangelizing the world
- Growing a church
Go ahead and talk about the “power of positive thinking” if you like. Go ahead and say, “If you believe it you can achieve it.” “Aim high; or aim for the stars.” But without Christ, even that which should be natural is impossible; much less that which is supernatural. Friends, let us learn the lessons of the lake – the success or failure of any work depends entirely upon God. Let us recognize our sin, and let us recognize our weakness.
3. Let us receive Christ’s grace.
Like the disciples, let us receive Christ’s positional grace. Just like Jesus loved, lived, prayed for, died, and pursued Peter and his brothers, so he does the same for us. Here he is right now. He KNOWS you inside and out. He KNOWS your sins. He is not coming near to judge and condemn. He has already done so. So, go ahead, see his tenderness, and confess your sins. Hear him say again:
My child, you are completely forgiven. You are loved. You’re covered. Because of my love for you, I declare you to be thoroughly righteous, blameless, and perfect. You are my saint, my sinful-saint, but a saint none the less. Nothing can separate you from my love. There is no need for you to keep your distance. It was for sinners like you that I have come, lived, and died. You can’t run me off. I will not leave you alone. I lose not one of my sheep, and you are mine. So come now, jump in my arms. Come now and commune with me. There is no better place for you to be, for I have foreseen all your faithlessness, and I have forsaken you not. Come, be restored and reconciled!
Like the disciples, let us receive Christ’s practical grace. Without Christ, nothing is possible, but with Christ, all things are possible. So let us receive positional grace and practical grace. Let us, with wide-eyed optimism, look forward to the work he plans on doing through us. This includes profitability in our fishing, loving, pastoring, and worshiping. Let’s be humble and see what he will do in all the areas of our lives.
Then, let’s remember this is grace. Can we imagine Noah taking pride in his weather forecasting? Can you imagine Hannah taking pride in her fertility? Can you imagine David taking pride in his stone throwing? Can you imagine Daniel taking pride in his lion taming? Can you imagine Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego taking pride in their fire walking? Can you imagine the Disciples taking pride in their fishing? No, the only thing to do is be humble, thankful, and vocal. Let’s rejoice in the wonderful work of Christ for us, in us, with us, and through us. To Christ be the glory!
4. Let us regard Christ’s revelation.
Christ doesn’t always make sense. He doesn’t always tell us the end from the beginning. But Christ always knows best. The disciples learned this as they were coming back into shore. How glad they were for Christ’s wisdom.
We should recognize this and eagerly seek out his truths. We should value his insight, read his Word, study his Word, memorize his Word, look for good books from good teachers, and sit in sermons as often as possible. God’s perspective is best. His commands are good. Let us not be wise in our own eyes. Let us humble ourselves, get in his book, and be instructed well.
But then, hearing is not sufficient.
5. Let us respond with humility, love, faith & obedience.
Christ looks at his disciples and says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. While a relationship with Jesus is “not based on works, it is the humble and loving disciple that wants to work in accordance to Jesus’ revelation. Humility is shown as we:
- See our sin
- See our weakness
- See the unfathomable grace of Jesus – positionally and practically
- Seek out his truth in his scriptures
- Set forth to practice that which he teaches us
How happy are those who walk in accordance with Christ’s words. How blessed are those who look into the mirror and make the proper adjustments. How glad are those who are graced by God’s revelation and then graced with the desire to trust and obey.
6. Let us reciprocate Christ’s grace
In the Bible, one reads of the love of the Heavenly Father. One then sees him prove his affection for the world by sending his own son that whoever believes in him might not perish but find eternal life.
Likewise, the affection of the Son for both the Father and the Elect is legendary. A greater affection is unimaginable, and a greater love has never been shown. Christ comes to the earth, walks in obedience, recommits in the garden, ascends the cross, accepts death, and descends into the grave. His incredible affection for his Heavenly Father and his earthly children is clearly shown in his indescribable actions.
How will you express your love for Christ? Let us see very clearly that “love for Christ” is best shown by “love for Christ’s flock.” Our compassion for Christ’s elect shows the love for Christ he is working out in our hearts. We are called to respond to Christ’s radical love with a sacrificial love of our own. Our affection is expressed by our actions.” Let’s consider this quote from J.C. Ryle:
“Usefulness to others is the grand test of love, and working for Christ the great proof of really loving Christ. It is not loud talk and high profession,; it is not even impetuous, spasmodic zeal, and readiness to draw the sword and fight, — it is steady, patient, laborious effort to do good to Christ’ sheep scattered throughout this sinful world, which is the best evidence of being a true-hearted disciple.”
As one has said, “Our talk talks, and our walk talks, but our walk talks louder than our talk talks.” So let’s walk and talk loudly; let’s walk and talk with love.
And how ought we to respond to ourselves and others who have sinned – even grossly, persistently, and publicly?
You are not faithful. You are a false believer. You are not wanted by Jesus. What a disappointment you are. You would be better off to go away, shut down, and shut up. Perhaps, you should go and even end your miserable existence. Christ and his church would be better off without you.
The self-righteous say:
I’m so thankful I have not fallen like you have. (Remember Luke 18:9-14 above.) Sure, Jesus restores to relationship, but he doesn’t restore people like you to ministry. I mean, after all, you have to be trustworthy. You can’t be running around swinging swords for Jesus one day and swearing you don’t even know him the next. What sort of Christian testimony is this? Perhaps, if you had kept your sin private, then we could have worked with you. But once it is out, public sin disqualifies you from God’s official service. To be a minister, you have to look good like me.
But Jesus says:
Even if you have fallen away … Even if you have publicly sinned … Even if you have been in public ministry and have acted more like Judas than Jesus … Even is you have but a little love … You are to repent, enjoy reconciliation, and engage in MY ministry. I have my elect, my chosen ones, my flock, my sheep, my family, my church; you are to disciple them. And I am sure Jesus would have said the same to Judas had he come back to the house following his dastardly deed?
So what will we say – to ourselves and to others? Will we, and our church, be ready to preach repentance, reconciliation, and restoration? Sure, it might take a little time for people to trust again. Sure, there might be some consequences of our sins that linger after full forgiveness and restoration is offered. But God uses repentant sinners. God uses only repentant sinners. He would have none of his elect sit on the sidelines. He would have them all engaged in some sort of ministry. All are to be disciples. All are to be ministers. All are to be priests. All are to be fishers of men, walking in humility, seeking to reciprocate the love and pass undeserved grace on to others. For after all, it’s all about Christ, it’s not about you and me. But Christ loves using sinful-saints.
 This was a term of sovereign affection from a greater to a lesser.
 Luke 5:1-11 On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 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.
 Jesus feeding his friends
- Jesus feeds his people in the Garden
- Jesus feeds his people in the Wilderness
- Jesus feeds his people in the Tabernacle / Temple
- Jesus feeds his people on the Mountain
- Jesus feeds his people in the Upper Room
- Jesus feeds his people in the House in Emmaus
- Jesus feeds his people beside the Sea of Galilee – God cooks breakfast
- Jesus feeds his people in the Church
- Jesus feeds his people in Heaven
 Some believe Jesus is asking if Peter loves him more than his boats and nets. Others see Jesus as asking if Peter loves him more than his brothers.
 There are those who choose to emphasize the distinction between the two words. (John Calvin; James Boice) There are also some who choose not to emphasize the distinction between the two words. (J.C. Ryle, 504-505; also D.A. Carson; also George Beasley-Murray; also Warren Wiersbe; also Ridderbos; also Leon Morris ) Some of their reasons are as follows:
- Some believe no distinction should be made between the two words used for love in John’s account.
- Scripture uses Phileo and Agapao to describe the love of God for the Son. (John 3:35; 5:20)
- Scripture uses Phileo and Agapao to describe the love of Jesus for John. (John 20:2)
- Scripture uses Phileo and Agapao to describe the love of God for Lazarus. (John 11:5; 11:36)
- Scripture uses Phileo and Agapao to describe the love of Jacob for Joseph. (Gen. 37:3-4 Septuagint)
- Scripture uses Phileo and Agapao to describe the love of Amnon for Tamar. (2 Sam. 13 Septuagint)
- Some see Phileo as more emotional and Agapao as more rational.
- Some see Phileo as more emotional and philanthropic and Agapao including and more.
- Some see only stylistic reasons for the difference in terms.
- Peter does say, “yes, lord” It appears he is not differentiating
- When Jesus finally uses Peter’s word, he is not comforted, but troubled