This weekly topic is an effort to recap the Wednesday night Bible study I teach at Sola5, my youth group. I hope it serves to help us all in contemplating the ceaseless riches of God’s grace as revealed through the Scriptures.
After a week off to celebrate Reformation Day, we were back in John again last night, taking a look at Jesus’ appearance to some of the disciples in John 21:1-14. Here, we see Jesus perform a miracle, which isn’t a new thing in John’s gospel. Over our yearlong study, we’ve seen several – Jesus turning water into wine, healing a crippled man, raising Lazarus from the dead – but this is the only miracle that is recorded for us from after Christ’s resurrection. Along the way, the miracles have been a demonstration of Jesus’ divine power. Yet, since the resurrection was the penultimate display of that power, Jesus helping the disciples catch some fish can’t help but feel anticlimactic. This miracle is about Jesus power, but it’s also about teaching us a lesson in trust, and in how we now should live in light of the resurrection.
We find several of the disciples together in this passage, and heading out onto the sea to fish. They spend an entire night out on the water, but don’t catch a single thing. This is a strange thing. These guys aren’t just some average Joes out for some weekend fishin’ – they’re professionals, having earned their living this way before being called by Christ. Yet, in God’s providence, they catch nothing at all this night. Yet in the morning, a man on the shore tells them to throw the net on the other side of the boat. Yeah, right, they must be thinking. Like twenty feet of water is going to make any kind of difference. Yet, for whatever reason, they toss the net to the other side, and they haul in a catch so large that the nets are too heavy to pull back in. They instantly recognize that the figure on shore is Jesus, and Peter dives in and swims for shore while the others haul the boat and their catch back to land.
As I thought about this passage over the last week, one verse constantly came to my mind – John 15:5. Giving his disciples a lesson about spiritual life, he tells them that without him, they can do nothing. What we have in John 21 is an object lesson illustrating that very fact. We are utterly dependent on God in all things. We can do nothing in our own strength. Yet how often are we like the disciples, charting our own course and choosing ourselves which side of the boat to throw the net on. Often, when Christ does speak to us, we are too distracted by ourselves to even recognize his voice. Think of your day-to-day life. Are you depending on Christ for your wisdom and your direction? For your attitudes and your decision-making? If you were to pretend tomorrow that Christ was not raised, would your day be any different than it normally is? All of us need to be more dependent on Christ. In what area of life are you relying on your own strength?
In the final verses, we see the disciples back on shore, eating breakfast with Jesus. They are enjoying fellowship with him – an aspect of our spiritual lives we cannot forget. Christianity isn’t just about what we do (although that is vital), it is about a relationship with Christ. After all, Jesus himself said that our love for God was the most important commandment in the law. If we are loving God as we should, then we will be living as we should as well. Are you cultivating a relationship with Christ? Are you spending time in his Word? Are you reading it like a school assignment, or are you pouring over and thinking about what you read as you go about your day? Are you praying? Are you praying for the things that God is most concerned about? Are you praying for your own spiritual growth, and for that of your friends? Through prayer, our attitudes are brought more in line with the attitude of Christ. Are you spending that time with him? As we look at John 21, we see a picture of the way that we need to approach our daily lives. It’s the answer to the question that must be central to all Christians - if Christ is alive, then now what?
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