April 17, 1988
The breakfast beside the Sea of Galilee recorded in John 21 is a lovely picture of Jesus’ care and concern for His disciples. We aren’t told why Peter and the others decided to go fishing—only that these seasoned fishermen came up empty. Jesus’ question, “Haven’t you caught any fish?” caused them to honestly confront their poverty. Alistair Begg reminds us that without Jesus we can do nothing, but in Him we will discover Christ’s abundant provision.
Sermon Transcript: Print
I invite you to take your Bibles as we turn together to the Scripture that was read for us earlier in John chapter 21, the final chapter of John’s Gospel.
As far as I can recall, it was in 1972 that I had my first experience of eating breakfast “out.” I guess perhaps from being a child, I must have eaten it out somewhere sometime, but not eating out, eating out properly. It was in Dallas, Texas, that I had my first breakfast in America. I never have forgotten it. It was a fascinating experience. They brought iced water at seven o’clock in the morning. And you can’t get iced water in Great Britain at any time of day or night, as those of you who’ve visited there will know. And that was me, ushered into this whole exciting lifestyle of breakfasts.
Now, this morning we have an account of breakfast in Galilee. This is a breakfast with a difference: it’s a different place, a different group, and a quite dynamic encounter involving the Lord Jesus Christ with his disciples. Indeed, John tells us that this is “the third time that Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised.” Now, you will take this in light of the Synoptic Gospels; he says that, incidentally, in verse 14. When you piece together what we’re told of Jesus meeting with individuals, of meeting with the women, in point of fact, this is probably about the seventh time—the seventh appearance in a whole course of appearances—that Jesus made following his resurrection. But when you take it in terms of Christ appearing just, as it were, to the inner circle, to the disciple band, then you understand why John records it as the third time he appeared to his disciples per se. He’s recorded the first of his appearances in John 20:19–23: “On the evening of [the] first day of the week…” He records the second appearance a week later—John 20:26. And now, here in the opening verse of chapter 21, he records this third appearance to his disciples.
Now, one of the questions that might strike the thoughtful reader, the careful student, in coming to chapter 21, especially after the conclusive nature of the statement we considered last time in John 20:30–31, is simply this: Why do we have John 21? When it appears as though John has reached the apex of things, wrapped it all up very conclusively with the statement of purpose in verses 30 and 31 of the previous chapter, why is there a John chapter 21? Well, the bottom-line answer, of course, is there is a John 21 because the Holy Spirit decided that there should be. But what is there in 21 that is brought to the place of clarification that, if 21 were not there, we might have questions about?
Well, there’re actually a number of things. I don’t want to delay on them, but I would like to note them for you. I want you to realize that John chapter 21, this final chapter, stresses once again, unmistakably, the reality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was not a hallucination. It was not a phantom who prepared and ate breakfast with these men.
Not only that, but this chapter stresses the continued care of Jesus for those who were his own. After his resurrection, when the question might have been, “Well, I wonder how we’ll be looked after,” here comes Christ to make it perfectly clear that his watchcare over his children, that his desire to provide for them, is as strong now as ever it was.
In the same way, this chapter establishes for us once and for all the reinstatement of Peter. If we didn’t have chapter 21, there would be a number of loose ends in relation to “I wonder what happened to Peter.” But in this beautiful section which we’ll come to, God willing, next time, we’re left in no doubt. Peter was put right back into the mainstream of things. Peter was strategic still in Christ’s purposes.
Also, John chapter 21 clears up a rumor which was soon to spread concerning “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” You’ll find this in verse 22 of the chapter, where the dialogue takes place concerning John. Peter asks about John; Jesus answers, “If I want John, him, the disciple that I love, to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” And then we’re told by John—verse 23—“Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die.” And then John clears it up: “But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what[’s] that to you?’” Well, John 21 clears that up. If we didn’t have that, the rumor would have spread and continued for some time.
Also, John chapter 21 would be a clear reminder to the disciples of an experience that they had had before on the Sea of Galilee, where you remember they had another tremendous catch of fish, having toiled for a long time and caught nothing. And on that occasion, Jesus had reminded them that their activity was to be fishers of men. And in this scene in John 21, there is a clear reminder that the disciples were now to continue with the work of the kingdom.
And finally—and this is all by way of introduction—John 21 explains why other events weren’t recorded. Verse 25: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would [have to] be written.” Because you can be sure that people would have gone around saying, “I wonder why this was in and that wasn’t in.” So John says, “Let’s just get it clear: not everything’s in. If everything were in, we couldn’t even write it down.”
John 21, looked at carefully, provides thoughtful answers to thoughtful questions.
Now, with all that by way of introduction, let me endeavor to trace our way through the first fourteen verses this morning as John unfolds them for us, paying attention first of all to a decision. That is the first main heading: “The Decision,” or “A Decision.” There will be two subheadings, if you want them: the reason for it, the result of it. The decision: the reason for it, the result of it.
The decision is there for us in verse 3. It’s a decision made by Simon Peter; he says straightforwardly, “I’m going out to fish.”
Now, notice the context in which this takes place. First of all, in terms of the geography, the place: “Afterward[s] Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias.” Now, if we know our Bibles at all, we ought not to be surprised that the disciples were there. Why? Because Jesus had told his disciples that he would meet them in Galilee—Mark 16:7, in terms of the resurrection appearance, where the angels give indication of the fact that Christ is not there, he’s risen: “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” So Jesus wanted them to know, “You’ll see me in Galilee.” Where are they? They’re in Galilee. They’re on the Sea of Tiberias, the Sea of Galilee.
Who’s there? Seven people are there. Interestingly enough, when you consider this with the opening chapter of John’s Gospel, you discover that four of the five who were present at the outset of Christ’s ministry—and you’ll find that in John 1:35 and following—are noted as being here now. When you consider John chapter 1, you discover that both Andrew and Philip were also mentioned at that time, and it is at least possible that the “two other disciples” who are mentioned at the end of verse 2 are in fact Andrew and Philip. But, of course, we don’t know, and speculation is ultimately idle.
So, the place: Galilee. Jesus said he’d see him there. The personnel: seven of them, some whose names we have and others whose we don’t have.
The reason for the decision, “I’m going out to fish.” Question: What motivated Peter to say this and to do this? Well, I think the first thing we need to say is this: recall the Scripture which says, “Who knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of a man that is in him?” We are not told what motivated Peter on this instance. And therefore, when you’re not told something in the Bible, it is a principle of interpretation not to be dogmatic about why you think it took place in the way that it did. And yet some of our greatest problems are caused by being dogmatic about that about which the Scriptures are not themselves dogmatic and being vague about the things that the Scriptures are manifestly clear.
We can perhaps wonder at it, profitably so—ask ourselves the question, Did Peter say “I’m going fishing” out of a sense of purposelessness, as it were, since the events that had all unfolded, in light of all the expectation that he’d had? Is he now just aimless, a man without a clear mission amongst men without a clear mission? And not knowing what to do, he takes a sign, he writes it, as it were, on the door, he hangs it on the handle, and when you go around to call on him, it just says, “Gone fishing. I’m out of here.” Possibly.
Did they go fishing—for the others joined him, you will note—on account of economic pressures? If you can’t eat, you better work, and if you don’t work, you can’t eat. They had to do something. It was natural for them to respond in this way.
Perhaps it was on account of Peter’s desire to redeem the time, not to “eat the bread of idleness.” “I’m not just gonna sit around,” Peter says. “Let’s do something productive. I’m going fishing.” What else was he gonna do? He’s a fisherman. “I’m off! I’m not just gonna waste time.” Possibly.
Or was it on account of a strong compulsion, a desire to say goodbye to all that he’d known of following Christ? A desire to go back to his old haunts, to his old places, to his old routines—to go, as it were, and get the boat that he’d once dragged up on the shore and said, “All for Jesus Christ,” and now he wants to go back up on the shore, drag the boat down, and say, “I’m going back to what I once knew”? Was he so disillusioned, was he so discouraged, that he could not be restored to usefulness again, perhaps?
Now, in all that I’ve ever read and all that I’ve heard preached on this passage, that latter view has been the most widely held for the longest time. But I think we ought to be humble enough to acknowledge the fact that the passage before us does not allow us to provide a categorical answer to the reason. There’s no way to really know. Those are possibilities, but that is all they are. The reason for his decision—when we get to heaven and we manage to find him, this is a dead-certain question I will ask him: “Peter, you know when you said, ‘I’m going fishing’? What was it made you say that and do that?” And that day, and only that day, the mystery will be cleared up.
Now, if we need to be vague about the reason for it, we need not be vague as to the result of it.
The result of his decision first of all caused others to join him. Will you notice the continued leadership of Simon Peter? Will you notice that despite the fact of his dreadful failure, here we have him a little later, still a leader? Will you notice, significantly, the impact of leadership? Will you notice, if you’ve been entrusted with leadership, the responsibilities that it brings? Do you see the impact that you have if God has given you leadership capabilities?
You will know you are a leader if other people follow you. And if you are a leader, then people will follow you almost no matter where you go. That is why it is so very important that those entrusted with the responsibility of leadership find themselves to be on the right track, so that those who follow in their wake are walking also on the pathway of faith and of obedience. And incidentally, the test of getting on the right track is not the preferences of men, which vary with the wind, but it rather is the principles of God’s Word, which are absolutely constant. The result of his decision was that not only he but others joined him.
Secondly, the result of their expedition is recorded for us there in verse 3: “‘We’ll go with you.’ So they went out … got into the boat.” It’s interestingly the definite article. It’s not “a boat.” It’s “the boat.” Whose boat? Was it Peter’s boat? Did he go get his boat again? I don’t know. They “got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.”
Now, will you notice: despite local knowledge, despite technical expertise, despite years of experience, they came up empty. If there were one area that we might expect from a human perspective that these men would be absolutely successful, it would be this. If they’d said, “Okay, let’s try another venture,” and it had flopped, we might be surprised. But for them to go out fishing and to come up with nothing is unbelievably remarkable. And three words sum it up—the last three words of verse 3: “They caught nothing.” “They caught nothing.” Now, to this we’ll return.
But let’s move on from the decision to the question. The question comes in verse 5. The question is asked by the Lord Jesus.
Once again, there is something that we might easily overlook here, but we mustn’t. The word which is used for appearance in verse 1 is actually used twice in verse 1. It’s used again in verse 14. If you have an NIV, it’s not there for you twice, and in this case, the New American Standard translates verse 1 more helpfully, truer than the NIV. Let me read it in the NASB: “After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way.” That is accurate. That is right.
And the word that is used of his appearance is a very significant word, and John uses it guardedly, and he uses it purposefully. It denotes a concrete revelation of the heavenly on the earth. It is, if you like, that John uses the word so as to reinforce that which we discover in Acts chapter 1, as Luke records for us in verse 3, that after his sufferings, Jesus “showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs.” Okay? So what we have here in the arrival of Christ, the appearance of Jesus, is a manifestation. And the whole impetus of what takes place needs to be understood in light of this. Remember, they weren’t quite sure what was going on. Sure, they had the word of Christ. Sure, they had met here and there. But it must always have been in their minds, “Do you think that’s the last time we’ll see him? Do you think it’s over now? Do you think this, that?” And here, again, John says, “After these things Jesus manifests himself to them, and this is how he manifested himself to them.”
Now, the interesting thing is that they did not fully recognize him. Their lack of recognition may be very surprising to us. And yet, when you think it through, it ought not to be so.
Was it that unbelief had closed their eyes? Verse 4: “The disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.” You say, “Well, how could unbelief close their eyes?” Turn back to Mark chapter 6, where you have the account, following the feeding of the five thousand, of Jesus walking out to the disciples on the water. He walks out to them on the water, he gets in the boat beside them, and it’s recorded for us in the Gospel that they didn’t fully understand what was going on: “They had[n’t] understood about the loaves” and the fish. Why? Because “their hearts were hardened.” And hard hearts and closed eyes in the spiritual realm go together. If you find yourself constantly saying, “I get nothing out of the Word, I don’t see this, I don’t understand that,” take a check on your heart. ’Cause a hard heart and blind eyes shut out the manifestations of God.
They didn’t recognize him. Perhaps it was because their unbelief was closing their eyes. Perhaps it was because supernaturally their eyes were being kept from recognizing him. Luke 24:16, the account of the manifestation of Christ to the two men on the Emmaus road. Remember what it says? It says that they didn’t know who he was. Why? Because their eyes “were kept” from seeing him. And that may have been in the purposes of God. We do not know.
It may be because of the nature and appearance of his resurrection body. There was certainly something about his body that, while it was obviously recognizable, there was a dimension to it that was otherworldly. His ability to reappear in rooms without doors being opened, with coming through walls, his ability one moment not to be by the Sea of Galilee and the next moment to be on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, says there is something different about this body.
And it may be quite simply that because of the density of the early morning mist, looking out on the shoreline, they were unable to recognize that the one who spoke was in fact the Christ.
Now, notice his question in verse 5: “He called out to them, ‘Friends…’” The word is actually variously translated “children.” Perhaps the word would be helpfully translated “lads,” in the way it might take place in Yorkshire: “Lads, haven’t you caught any fish?” That’s the sense of it. It’s a sense of endearment. It’s a sense of familiarity. It’s a sense of speaking down to, in the right sense.
Now, I’m not a fisherman. I acknowledged that before in an attempt at honesty. But I must imagine that for those of you who are fishermen, this is the one question you don’t ever want to hear as you come down the road with your fishing rod and an empty basket, as you pull the boat back into the harbor absolutely void. You’re just waiting for somebody on the dock to say, “Any fish?” No you’re not! You’re hoping you can come in under cover of darkness. You’re hoping that your wife has already gone to sleep. You’re hoping you can stash the fishing rod away in the garage and hope that nobody ever knew you went fishing, because the last thing the world you want to do as a fisherman is say, “I caught nothing.” But that was their condition, and that was the condition that Christ wanted them to recognize—hence the question: “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
Two subpoints, brief ones. The question, one, demanded their honesty. The question demanded their honesty. And in their monosyllabic response, we can only but agree that such brevity is natural in such a conversation, shouted by disappointed men over a distance of about a hundred yards. They might have wanted to get into various explanations, but they looked at one another as they heard the question come and decided, “Let’s just be honest. No!” That’s all.
Hold that in your mind. For Christ has questions for us in our emptiness this morning also. And he’s not interested in our excuses, and he’s not interested in our dialogues and in our debates. His question demands our total honesty.
Secondly, the question confronted their poverty. It demanded their honesty; it confronted their poverty. It was a clear indication of the fulfillment of what Jesus had taught them in John chapter 15, in the Upper Room Discourse, where in the teaching on the vine and the branches, you remember he had said to them, in verse 5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.” And then in these words: “Apart from me you can do nothing.” “Nothing.”
Now, here he is. He calls out to them, and he reveals the poverty of their condition. And the poverty of their condition epitomizes the poverty of some of our conditions this morning. We cannot even do that which we’re good at without the Lord’s help. We can neither preach nor listen. We can neither sing nor write. We can neither go to the activities of our work tomorrow in the marketplace of life and be a success without the enablement of God in heaven. John 15:5 is right, and John 21:6 makes it perfectly plain: “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
And we should take note in passing that the same Lord was in control of their emptiness just as he was to be in their fullness. He was as much in control of the Sea of Galilee when they caught nothing as he was in control of the Sea of Galilee when they caught everything. And if you are aware of your nothingness this morning, realize this: God is in control of that too. And if he has brought you to a place of poverty and honesty, realize that he has purposes in that also:
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the [waves]
And rides upon the storm,
says the hymn writer. And Christ would have his disciples see their poverty in order that they might bow in wonder at his provision.
That’s our third word: a decision, a question, a provision. Yes, there are two subheadings. They are these: a matter of obedience and a measure of abundance.
Notice that the provision was first a matter of obedience: “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” H. V. Morton, writing on the events of fishing in the Galilee area, tells of seeing a fisherman casting a hand net with a friend on the shore watching him. And as the man cast his hand net with the little metal pellets, which sent it out in a ring and down into the water, he was coming up with nothing. And the friend on the shore called to him, “Throw it on the other side,” and he did, and he caught. And Morton says, “It happens very often that the man with the hand-net must rely on the advice of someone on shore” who can see from a different vantage point.
Now, whether there is relevance in that or not—because we’re talking here about a distance of a hundred yards—there is relevance in this: that what we cannot see and what we cannot affect, Christ can see and Christ can do. And this morning, it is a matter of obedience in many of our lives. “Do this,” says Jesus. How sad that we waste so much time in our excuses and in our debates, when all that Christ is asking of us is childlike trust and the soldier’s obedience. Ask yourself this question: “Would my Christian pilgrimage be any different if I were to cut out much of the debate and display the trust of a child and the obedience of a soldier?” For that is what Christ asked of these men as he gave to them this phenomenal provision.
It was a matter of obedience, and you will notice, secondly, that it can only be understood in terms of a measure of abundance. Put together verse 6 with verse 11, and there you see it. Christ did not provide for them in the realm of adequacy; he provided for them in the realm of abundance. Reminds us of Ephesians 3: “Now unto him who is able to do immeasurably more than you can ask or even imagine…” When Christ comes and intervenes in our lives and takes that sense of emptiness, he doesn’t merely run a trickle in to tease, but he promises that out of our hearts will flow rivers of living water. And if we are living in the realm of trickles and dribs and drabs, the issue is not with Christ, for his provision is an abundant provision.
And so, in their extremity they discover Christ’s generosity. Verse 11 tells us that the net, when it finally reached the shore, although they couldn’t get it in the boat, had 153 fish in it. How many times have you been at a small group Bible study and someone started on the “153”? You haven’t? Well, watch out for it. And let me safeguard you against it. You’ll be in the Bible study, and somebody’ll say, “And what do you think ‘153’ means? Aha! It’s gotta be significant, hasn’t it? I mean, after all, he wrote it down: ‘153.’ What can we do with that?” Well, let me tell you what you can do with it, and then what you should do with it.
First of all, 153 equals 153 variations of fish; therefore, it signifies “the universal appeal of the gospel.” Like it? No? That’s encouraging. Secondly, 153 was not counted until the net was dragged ashore, which is there to teach us that the exact number of the elect will remain unknown until we reach the shores of heaven. Well, that is true, but that’s not why “153” is here in John 21. Thirdly, “153” refers to a very important date in church history. These are answers that people have given. Fourthly, for those of you with a mathematical inclination, 153 equals the sum of all the numbers from 1 to 17. Good. Fifthly, 153 means 100 for the gentiles, 50 for the Jews, and 3 for the Trinity. A hundred and fifty-three dots can be compressed into an equilateral triangle.
Now, I’m just making a point here in passing. One of the things that happens to us when we turn to the Scriptures is we do not apply the principles of interpretation in the way we should. And I think Leon Morris, one of the commentators on John, makes the most helpful statement when he says, “Such explanations of the number may carry conviction to some, but I must confess to [remaining] completely unimpressed.” Amen!
Do you know what I think? I think this is what fishermen do. I’m not a fisherman, but I have been with fishermen. And they can tell me to the centimeter what they caught: “I’m telling you, this thing was this long, and there were seven of them.” The friend says, “No, no. Six.” The guy says, “No, there were seven. We counted them. Don’t you remember? We counted every one.” You think they went out there, they got zero? And then they got so many and so many big ones that they couldn’t get it in the boat. And then Peter drags it up on the shore, and someone says, “That’s unbelievable.” They said to one another, “Hey, let’s count it, to see how unbelievable it really is.” They counted it out: 153. John never forgot. That’s why he wrote it down. So, there are miracles in the Bible, but don’t let’s try and make it more miraculous on account of our interpretations.
Quickly, to the reaction. What was the reaction to this? Notice two things: John’s discovery, Peter’s activity.
Verse 7: “Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’” Do you remember back in chapter 20, when John goes into the tomb? Peter and John go to the tomb, John looks in, Peter goes in, Peter comes out, John goes in, and we’re told that John saw the graveclothes and he believed. You build a picture of John throughout this Gospel of a kind of contemplative individual, a man of vision, a man of insight, a man who didn’t just take things very quickly and very loosely, but he pondered, and in his pondering he came to faith. And here, as the incident hits all seven in the boat and as the dialogue takes place, brief as it is, John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” looks out on the shore and sees with eyes, and he says to the folks—in fact, we’re told he said to Peter specifically—“It is the Lord!”
His personal discovery of the presence of Christ was not so that he could feel good, but it was so that he could share it with others. And so the leader Peter receives the word. I can but imagine that Peter and John had often spoken. Perhaps Peter with a sense of dreadful defeat had mentioned to John, “You know, if Jesus ever comes back again, I need to ask him once and for all whether I have a place in his purposes. I need to know. If he comes again, I need to find out if I’m still going to be useful to him.” And some of you may be here this morning, and out of the wreckage of your past life you’re saying the very same thing: “Oh, I need to know if I might be useful to him again.” And here we’re going to discover next time how God is in the business of reinstatement, how is he is in the business of restoration, how he is in the place of renewal, how he takes wreckage and brings glory, how he takes emptiness and fills us.
And so it’s hardly surprising that John’s discovery is then matched by Peter’s activity. And so, “as soon as [he] heard,” verse 7, “he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off).” Notice all these little eyewitness details. See, if you were writing a gospel and just making it up 150 years later, you don’t fiddle around with all these little things. You don’t do that. You just try and get it done as best as you can with the broadest piece of information. No, no! One of the signs of the integrity of the Gospels are all these details along the way. There were 153. He wrapped his garment around him. Why did he wrap it around him? Because he took it off. How would he know he had taken it off if he wasn’t an eyewitness of the account?
And why did he wrap it around him to jump in the water? I mean, you were in the boat, you would take something off and then jump in the water, right? But he put it on and then jumped in the water. The only possible explanation that I can discover is that in Jewish law, to greet somebody was a religious act. And you could not engage in a religious act unclothed. And so, Peter was about to greet the stranger on the shore, and so he puts his cloak on him, and then he splashes into the water. And he wades, or he swims, and he thrashes through it. You can just imagine him—you know, that in-between swimming and walking as you stumble on your way.
Notice his activity also in verse 10, jumping forward: when Jesus said, “Bring some of the fish,” verse 11, “Simon Peter climbed aboard,” and he “dragged the net ashore.” You have this picture of John, the contemplative. You have this one of Peter: you can’t settle him down. I mean, you can’t stop the guy! “It’s the Lord!” He’s in the water. “We need the fish.” “I’ve got ’em!”
Now, will you notice something as we begin to wrap this up? (I say that as a way of encouragement to you.) Don’t miss the lesson that’s inherent in this—that is, the partnership, the diversity in the cause of serving Christ. You know, without the contemplative, insightful nature of John, the Peters of this world will burn out in feverish activity. And without the boldness of Peter, the Johns of this world will waste away in contemplative irrelevance. And that is why God takes the Johns and takes the Peters and puts them together, so that in the partnership they may be what they cannot be in isolation—so that the church may be in diversity what it cannot be in a kind of cloned Christianity.
And there is “a work for Jesus” that “none but you can do.” He made you as you are. He has purposes for you in the place in which he set you. And you don’t need to be a Peter if you’re a John, nor vice versa. But if you’re a John, don’t try and make all the Peters like you. And if you’re a Peter, don’t try and get everybody doing the same as you. Think about it: If everyone had done what Peter did at this point, who in the world would have got the fish and the boat down into the shore? What would have happened to it? So when Peter jumped, the others stayed, and just as well; otherwise, the story couldn’t have been finished, right?
Notice also that there are those whose names aren’t mentioned. Realize this: that in the pilgrimage of time, some will be distinguished, other names will never be mentioned, but in glory each of us will receive the commendation of Christ. The issue is not obscurity. The issue is not prominence. The issue is faithfulness. It doesn’t matter a dime whether your name is well known. It doesn’t matter at all whether you are apparently successful. What matters is that in the motivation of your heart, you are serving Jesus Christ. Do you understand that? So, as you go back to your work tomorrow, you lay up for yourself treasure in heaven—not because you went off somewhere but because you went there and you did it as unto the Lord, and not unto man.
The last word—which has to end in -ion, as you will notice—is the word conclusion, which is good for a last word, I’m sure you’ll agree. Notice the breakfast Christ prepared, and finally, the blessing Christ provides. Just a thought on each.
The breakfast is a lovely scene. It hits all our senses. There’s a sense of being drawn into it. You’d love to be there. Doubtless we would have shared the hesitancy of the disciples: unsure about the appearance of Christ, caught, as it were, in between curiosity and faith. And Jesus in verse 12 issues this lovely invitation: “Come and have breakfast.” Now, notice in verse 13 the two words that begin it. Notice carefully: Jesus said, “Come and have breakfast.” Now, verse 13 you expect to begin, “So they came and had breakfast.” It doesn’t. How does it begin? “Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.”
Now, there was a hesitancy on the part of these men that was right. And I, for one, believe that John, who has been perfectly plain about the initiative of Christ all the way through his Gospel, gives us just another glimpse of this wonder: in inviting us to come to him, he comes to us. He says, “Come and have breakfast,” and as we are on our way, he meets us, and he provides. And so the description is left at this point.
I’ve endeavored to apply it as best I’m able all the way through, but the overwhelming sense that I’m left with, simply stated, is this… And mark it and mark it well; we need to mark it individually, and certainly as a congregation. It is this: if we would know the overflowing benefits of Christ’s provision, we must first own ourselves empty and needy. Until we are prepared to acknowledge that we cannot do anything without his help, we will never know the significant, abundant provision of God in Christ. For as we said at the outset, it is those who hunger and thirst after righteousness who are filled.
It was to a church that thought itself rich, that did not require a thing, that Jesus spoke. And this is what he said; this is to a church: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’” Okay? “But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” So he says, “We are at an impasse now, church. What you perceive and what is actual are a million miles apart. You think you’re rich. You think you’ve got it down. You think you can do it. You don’t realize you’re wretched, you’re poor, you’re blind, you’re naked.” And to that church he said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and [will sup] with him, and he with me.” And while we use that verse evangelistically, and without doing discredit to it, we often have so unearthed it from its context as to miss the impact at all. Do you see what happened to the disciples? “Here’s an area we can handle.” “Any fish?” “No.” “Over here!” “Fine.” They can’t pull it out.
When Christ speaks to his church to confront it in its poverty, the wrong answer in that moment will have relevance not only for time but also for eternity. I urge you personally to consider your place before God in relation to these things this morning, even as we must in terms of our fellowship with one another.
A breakfast meeting with a radical difference and a phenomenal impact.
Let’s bow together in prayer:
O Lord our God, once again from our hearts we thank you for your Word. We thank you that you know us as surely as you knew your disciples on the Sea of Galilee in that day. We pray that you will come and do in us and for us what we so desperately need—and, if it please you, do through us that which will bring glory to your name. To this end we commit ourselves to your care and all whom we love.
We pray that grace and mercy and peace from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit may rest upon and remain with each one, today and forevermore. Amen.
 1 Corinthians 2:11 (paraphrased).
 Proverbs 31:27 (NIV 1984).
 See Mark 6:52.
 William Cowper, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” (1774).
 H. V. Morton, In the Steps of the Master (London: Rich and Cowan, 1934), 199.
 Ephesians 3:20 (paraphrased).
 See John 7:38.
 Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, rev. ed., The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 765.
 Morris, 765.
 See John 20:8.
 Elsie Duncan Yale, “There’s a Work for Jesus” (1912).
 See Matthew 6:20.
 See Colossians 3:23.
 See Matthew 5:6.
 Revelation 3:17 (NIV 1984).
 Revelation 3:20 (RSV).
Copyright © 2023, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.