Breakfast on the Beach: A Resurrection Fish-Fry

"Come and get it, boys!"

“Come and get it, boys!”

John 21:1-14

The Gospel of John begins with a prologue and ends with an epilogue.  In the prologue we learn some life-changing things about Jesus:  His eternity, His deity, and His Incarnation.  In the epilogue we not only see Jesus after His death and resurrection, but we seen His interaction with Peter and how Peter was restored after His night of betrayal.

After the resurrection of Jesus, nobody just “ran into” Him on a crowded street.  After His Resurrection, nobody could just “call Him up” and talk to Him or search Him out for fellowship.  Neither Mary nor the two disciples on the road to Emmaus recognized Jesus until He revealed Himself to them.  Nobody, save the disciples, ever saw Jesus in His Resurrection Body.  Now, seeing Jesus has become a spiritual issue; only those who believe can see Him.

On that memorable morning of the Resurrection, it happened this way.

1.  The time

As in life, Jesus appeared at just the right time after His Resurrection.

(a)  After a dismal night of failure

Im going out to fish, Simon Peter told them, and they said, Well go with you. So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.  (John 21:3 NIV84)

Seven of the group formerly known as “the 12” were together.  Once again, Peter is the man of action; the leader of the group.  He was ready to go fishing.  After three years of traveling with Jesus, Peter made a decision to return to his former occupation.  Jesus had promised to make him a “fisher of men,” but after everything he had been through, catching fish must have seemed like a good excuse to relax and think about things.  That this fishing expedition happened after these men had seen and talked with Jesus on two different occasions after His death (Thomas just one time), seems odd.   It does, however, show that these men were like sheep without a shepherd.

We wonder if, after a night of fishing and catching nothing, they remembered a similar experience they had back in the early days of Jesus’ ministry.  Was history repeating itself?  What a disappointment it must have been – all that work and not a thing to show for it.  Sometimes, though, it takes disappointment and even defeat to prepare us to see a manifestation of God’s power and grace.  Sometimes we have to be maneuvered into a position whereby God can show us His power.

These men, close friends of Jesus, were about to learn a valuable lesson.  It doesn’t pay to lift a finger to do anything without His presence.

(b)  At the dawning of a new day

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.  (John 21:4 NIV84)

The way this sentence is written in the Greek, we sense the absolute frustration these  men were experiencing.  “The morning was finally arriving.”  At long last, the night of failure was coming to an end.  We might say, “What a long night!  I’m glad it’s finally over!”

…weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.  (Psalm 30:5  TNIV)

When there was enough light to see, the frustrated, tired disciples looked toward the shore and they saw a man standing there.  They didn’t recognize that He was Jesus.  Why not?  Scholars offer all manner of explanations, from the obvious – it wasn’t quite bright enough, that the early morning mists obscured their view – to the notion that these men were so preoccupied with their work and failure that they missed the fact The Lord was nearby.  The fact remains that Jesus was never recognized by anybody after His Resurrection until He revealed Himself to them.  It may well be that all people are so spiritually dull that Jesus could be standing right in front of them and remain unrecognized until He tells them who He is.

2.  The manner

Jesus is unique.  He never reveals Himself the same way to two different people. He knows the human heart and He alone knows what it takes to get the attention of a lost sheep.  Consider how He dealt with these frustrated disciples.

(a)  He led them to make a confession

He called out to them, Friends, havent you any fish?”“No, they answered.  (John 21:5 NIV84)

The way Jesus addressed them made it easy for them to be  honest.  He initiated the conversation like this:  “Boys, have rough night?  Catch anything?”  Jesus knew they didn’t have any fish.  He asked a question to which He knew the answer, but these men needed to make the confession.  Their return to their former occupation had been an utter failure.  They did not realize God’s plan for their lives.

“No,” was an honest confession of complete failure.  All night long they fished and didn’t get so much as a nibble.  They had nothing and, to their credit, they made no attempt to make it look like something.   When we are completely honest with Jesus, Jesus can show us a better way.  But if we try to “pull the wool over Jesus’ eyes,” if we try misrepresent ourselves to Him, He can’t do anything for us.  Christ wants us to be open and honest with Him.  If we have sinned, we must be honest.  If we have failed Him, we have to tell Him.

(b)  He tested their faith

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.  (John 21:6 NIV84)

Experienced fishermen would probably not listen to a stranger’s advice.  They, however, obeyed immediately, apparently without hesitation.  Why?  Did Jesus speak with some kind of authority that seemed vaguely familiar to them?   We may debate why, but the fact remains they did.  Really, what did they have to lose?

Again, timing is everything.  Jesus could easily have given them a full net any time during the night.  But He let them get to the very end of their resources.  They were tired, frustrated, hungry, and probably ready to just crawl into bed.  It’s our Lord’s way, though.  We need to be tested; our faith needs to be stretched just as surely as the disciple’s.  No doubt must remain.  In a sense, it’s the perfect way to deal with weak human beings.  When God manifests Himself, it must be obvious to the spiritually dull.

(c)  He turned their failure in success

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.  (John 21:6 NIV84)

The disciples obeyed the stranger and they were rewarded for they obedient faith.  There could be no doubt, no room for debate, that this was a miracle.  Jesus did not suddenly create all those fish, instead He moved His friends into the right place at the right time and He moved those fish into the right place at the right time so as to create the perfect storm of circumstances to take place to manifest His glory.

The fact of this miracle is important, but the reason for it is more important still.  These men needed to see that on their own, they could do nothing.

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.   (John 21:7 NIV84)

The hearts of Peter and John are revealed.  John shows that of all the disciples, he is the “spiritual genius.”  He saw Jesus in the miracle.  But it was impulsive Peter who leapt out of the boat and ran to shore to see His Lord.  Throughout their association, it was always Peter who seemed to act first.  John may have believed first, but Peter was the man of action.

What was it that caused John to realize who this stranger on the shore was?  It was the miracle, of course.   It was just like Jesus to turn failure into success; defeat into victory.  It was just like Jesus to meet the needs of His friends.  He always had before!

(d)  He fed them and fellowshipped with them

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.  (John 21:9, 10 NIV84)

It was a wonderful and welcome scene that greeted the weary fishermen.  Here they were, unable to provide food for themselves, about to sit down to big breakfast, courtesy of their Lord.  Even in His Resurrection Body, Jesus was keenly aware of what His friends needed.  Here is yet another revelation of our Lord’s love, concern, and compassion for His own.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  (Psalm 23:1  TNIV)

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:19  TNIV)

This was the Jesus these men knew so well.  He was the Good Shepherd, and He showed them who He was, He didn’t have to say a word.  They knew His ways, and that’s how they recognized Him.

Jesus said to them, Come and have breakfast. None of the disciples dared ask him, Who are you? They knew it was the Lord.   (John 21:12 NIV84)

The miraculous haul was a great miracle, but it wasn’t only one that took place this morning.  Consider this verse:

Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.   (John 21:13 NIV84)

Where did the cooked fish come from?  Jesus didn’t cook any of the fish His friends caught, He had them there, on the coals, cooked, seasoned and waiting for them!  They worked and worked and worked, essentially wasting an entire night, and Jesus had some fish already fried up and waiting on them to finally get there.  The disciples contributed NOTHING to the breakfast.

Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Jesus lives to give!

O how He loves you and me
O how He loves you and me
He gave His life, what more could He give?

This incident teaches us so much about Jesus and ourselves.  Jesus is never far from those who love Him and most certainly near to the discouraged and frustrated.  The Lord know our hearts, even as He knew the hearts of those three disciples.  They weren’t malicious.  They weren’t engaged in some dreadfully sinful activity.  They went fishing!  They were confused and discouraged.  At worst they were spiritually blind and worldly minded.  To these men, Jesus came, giving them precisely what they needed to get them back on track.

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