And so it ends where it began. It seems fitting that the Jesus initiated Peter’s call on a beach, confirmed his call on a beach and now is finalizing his call on the beach. And not just any beach, the same beach.
But before we start today’s message, a story.
It was the year after we had moved into the building and I was having a conversation with A.J. Thomas who was then the assistant pastor at Hillside Wesleyan. And we were talking about the growth we had seen over the previous year since we had moved into the building. And AJ made the comment, “It’s incredible, all you did was move to the other side of the Bedford Hammonds Plains sign, you just went to the other side.” And being a professional communicator I responded by saying “Wow, the other side.”
And then I told AJ this story. Two years previous when Franklin Graham came to Halifax I had been asked to organize a pastor’s prayer time for Bedford Sackville. So every couple of weeks a group of us gathered at the Pentecostal Church on Stokil Drive in Sackville.
Well this one occasion I arrived and it was just me and the pastor, who told me he had another meeting to attend and asked me to lock the doors when I left. And then there was just me. Normally there would have been four or five of us. And then another guy showed up and introduced himself as the Pastor of the Victory Church in Fall River. I had never met the man before and haven’t seen him since. Just a one-time meeting, I can’t even remember his name.
But as we chatted he told me that he had a Word from The Lord for me.
Now to be truthful, I am thinking “You’ve never met me before and you have a word for The Lord for me.” But being polite I said, Ok, go ahead.
And he said “This morning I was having my quiet time with God and was reading from John chapter 21 and when I got to the part where Jesus told Peter to cast his net on the other side God told me that he wanted me to come to this meeting and to give that message to a pastor that I would meet here. So I asked him, ‘how will I know which pastor?’ to which he replied ‘Oh, you’ll know.’ and here we are. So I am supposed to tell you, ‘Cast your net on the other side’.” And so I asked “What is that supposed to mean?” and he said “I have no idea, I’m just doing what was told to do.”
And that was it, we had prayer and I’ve never seen him again. Now it would be really cool to say that I immediately realized the significance of what he was saying, that I focused my attention on this side of the sign and here we are today. But seriously I didn’t have a clue. That evening at supper I told Angela the story, we bounced around some ideas, did it mean we should redefine the style of Cornerstone? That didn’t seem right. Did it mean we should resign and go somewhere else? That didn’t seem to be the answer either. And eventually I stopped thinking about it until AJ mentioned about how we had simply moved to the other side. Wild!
And has nothing to do with today’s message, but it’s a cool story.
This is week five of our ‘A Day at the Beach’ series. We have taken the past few weeks to look at parts of the Jesus story that have happened in and around the Sea of Galilee.
It was at the Sea of Galilee that Jesus first called Peter and his brother Andrew, James and his brother John. It was at the Sea of Galilee that Jesus found the guys fishing again and reaffirmed his call on their lives. It was on the Sea of Galilee that Jesus calmed the storm and walked on the water.
And here he meets with his closest friends once again. In the account that was read for us earlier John wrote that Jesus met with seven of his remaining eleven apostles on the beach of the Sea of Galilee.
Now some of you might be looking in your bible and you are saying “Oh no Pastor in my Bible it says it was the Sea of Tiberias.”
Simple reason, an old name and a new name. Recognize this? It’s Ayers Rock, well actually it used to be called Ayers Rock now it’s called Uluru, well actually it used to be called Uluru, then it was called Ayers Rock and now it’s called Uluru again. And if you were to go to Australia you would hear some people call it Ayers Rock, and some would call it Uluru and some people just refer to it as the “Red Centre”.
Kind of like what used to be Hammonds Plains became a part of Halifax County and then just a part of the Halifax Regional Municipality, and now it’s just Halifax, but let’s not go there. To really confuse the issue the name Gennesaret was used at another point in history to describe the same body of water. And it isn’t actually a sea it’s just a big lake.
It wasn’t all of the disciples who were there but it was most of them; we are told that there were John 21:2 Several of the disciples were there—Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples. If we wanted to speculate on who the other two disciples were one good guess would be Andrew, cause he was Peter’s brother and fishing partner and maybe Phillip because he had been listed alongside of Andrew before. And they were kind of hanging out, talking, today if they were doing that in a church we’d say they were “Fellowshipping”. It seems like today Christians get guilt feelings if they aren’t doing something churchy, so they don’t just hang out and have fun they fellowship.
And it was at that point that John 21:3 Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” “We’ll come, too,” they all said.
It Started When Peter Looked Back
So there it was, Jesus had risen from the dead, appeared to the disciples, had commissioned them to his service and given them a vital task but nothing was happening, for whatever reason Christ didn’t have them doing anything and it was getting on Peter’s nerves. From everything we know about Peter we’d have to say he was a type “A” personality. I was in traffic with a friend of mine one day and I mentioned that in relation to the traffic that I was a type “A” personality. So my friend asked what other types there were and the response was that in the eyes of a type “A” there were Type “A’s” and the people who are in the way. Well that was definitely Peter, and if there wasn’t something to do then he was going to make something to do
And so there they were, doing nothing, watching the boats getting ready, the sails going up, the nets being prepared and I can almost hear Peter say, “I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of sitting around here twiddling my thumbs, I’m going fishing.” And it was just the spark they needed. “You’re right, count me in Peter” “I’m coming to, what are we waiting for?”
Now I don’t know what it is about fishing, have never been able to figure it out. I came out of High School with fairly high marks, I’d been accepted at Kings, could have stepped into management training with Tip Top, instead I joined a rag tag collection of would be adventurers on the Rali 2, a mid-water trawler based out of Paspebeac Quebec. I mean we all had experience in selling clothes, and advertising, running hotels and renting cars, managing restaurants, driving dump truck, being policeman and digging graves. We weren’t short on experience we were just short on fishing experience.
But fishing we went. At the end of our first summer the boat went to dry dock for some modifications, and we all went back to some semi respectable professions.
But whenever you saw one of the boys they had a gleam in their eyes and they would talk about sailing in the spring. I’d occasionally catch Dad muttering, “Just sitting here a wishing, I could go a fishing.” We were all making as good, if not better money, we weren’t seasick, we were home, we weren’t cold and wet, and yet when the call came in the spring we all gave up what we were doing to go a fishing. How come, I don’t know, maybe the independence, or the sense of conquering nature, I really don’t know, but there was some type of hold. And so the story continues
John 21:3 Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” “We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.
There are a couple of things that strike me about this scripture. The first thing is that spiritual decision seldom affect only us. Peter said “I’m going fishing.” And the rest of them joined him.
When you make the decision to not go to church or to go deeper in your faith you will take others with you.
The second thing that struck me was that it says They went out in their boat The New King James version is a little different because it says “They went out and immediately got into their boat.” There hasn’t been any mention of them fishing now for a couple of years and the boat was already to sail, whata you know about that.
Whenever we went back to go fishing it took the ten of us 2-3 days to get the equipment ready to use, and these guys go down jump in the boat and sail away. To me, it tells me only one thing, this wasn’t spontaneous. He was no longer just looking back, Peter Went Back.
During the days while Peter was waiting he must have been mending twine, fixing equipment, getting the boat ready for the water. But he wasn’t just thinking about doing it, now he was doing it. I’m sure that he thought it was harmless, he was just passing time, it was just giving him something to do. Billy Sunday was the Billy Graham in the early years of the 1900s, and he made this statement, “When a man, after starting to be a Christian looks back, it’s only a question of time until he goes back.” Kind of remind you of what Jesus said in Luke 9:62 But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
The day that Peter dug out his boat, he stated that he wasn’t happy with the present. The day that Peter began getting his gear ready, was the day that he showed his intentions that he planned on returning to yesterday. Whether he knew it or not, it was only a matter of time until he sailed. And the day that Peter sailed he stepped back into yesterday, and stated that he couldn’t or wouldn’t accept what today had to offer.
People do that today, maybe not in the physical sense, but they do it in the emotional sense and a spiritual sense. Why I remember back in ’04, why back then Rev. So and So was the Pastor here and we used to have hundreds of people, things sure aren’t the way they used to be. We don’t have that problem yet, but someday the temptation will be there.
Yes the Holy Spirit moved yesterday, and yes wonderful things happened yesterday, but this is now and we need to stay focused on that. In the book of 1 John we read 1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. Not sit in the light or stand in the light, or meditate on the light, but walk. Movement, progression, going forward. You ever hear “Still water runs deep”? Not always, sometimes still water is just plain stagnant, and so are immovable Christians.
Yesterday is gone, it’s done, you can’t change even one aspect of it by replaying it over and over in your mind, and it will not come back. As Lee Iacocca said “Yesterday ended at midnight.” I’m not saying that we have to give up our memories; I’m just saying we ought not live there.
The story continues, John 21:3-6 Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” “We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night. At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?” “No,” they replied. Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.
And Then Peter Came Back
They didn’t catch a thing, man, as a former commercial fisherman let me try to put this as eloquent as possible; There ain’t nothing more depressing than catching nothing. Now a lot of things happen all of a sudden, Jesus is standing on the shore looking out at them, nothing miraculous here, the fisherman of that area often fished close to the shore and so Jesus would have no problem hollering out to them.
Why didn’t they recognize him? Maybe it wasn’t fully light yet, or maybe there was a mist in the air or maybe they were just tired but regardless of the why they didn’t recognize him, they didn’t. And he hollers out to them, “Let your net down on the other side”. You have to wonder, “Did he see the fish?” It’s possible, there is nothing here to indicate that it was a miracle, but then again maybe it was, maybe Christ created these fish just for the disciples to catch. It really isn’t all that important or that relevant.
What is relevant is that he provided for them, wheter through a natural means or a supernatural means the end result was still the same. At this point I don’t know if it was catching all the fish and John remembered that it happen before, maybe he looked at his friends and said, “Hey guys this is like Déjà vu all over again. This is just like back in Luke chapter 5 verse 7.” And that made him realize that it was Jesus. Or maybe the fog lifted or the dawn began to break through, whatever it was John turned to Peter and said “It’s the Lord!” Well that was all Peter needed to hear, he grabbed his tunic, pulled it on and jumped overboard, and swam the hundred yards to shore.
Now it may seem a little strange to us that he put on his outer garment before he jumped over the side, but it was a show of respect. He had probably been working in just a loincloth and that wasn’t enough to wear when you approach a teacher. This was so like Peter, good old impetuous Peter, leaving the other six to do all the work. But when Jesus commanded him to bring some fish he rushed down to the beach to drag the net in all by himself.
Now if we were to have kept reading in the story we would have discovered , John 21:11 So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn. If you’ve ever read this passage did you ever wonder about the significance of the 153 fish? No, well others have.
Through the centuries there have been all kinds of theories about why that specific number of fish was mentioned, but it doesn’t matter.
You see we can get so caught up in really trivial stuff and miss the fact that we need to be obedient to Christ, today. When Peter saw Jesus he was willing to come back to the present and to leave the past behind him. We need to recognize that Jesus is here today, February 9, 2014. Not yesterday, or last month or last year but here today. And today is when he wants you to serve him.
And here comes the question, everyone has finished their breakfast and Jesus looked at Peter and this is what he said, John 21:15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
I've talked about this before, do you know who I think Jesus meant when he said "Do you love me more than these?" Nobody, I don’t think he was talking about a “who” I think he was talking about a what. He wasn’t asking Peter if he loved him more than he loved John or Andrew, that’s a little juvenile. And I don’t think he was asking Peter if he loved him more than the other guys loved him.
I think that what Jesus was saying to Peter was, “Once I called you from a scene very much like this, way back in Mark chapter 1 and then again in Luke chapter 5 verse 3 and you followed me. But here you are back in your old life. So Peter are you going to abandon me? Are you leaving the adventure, do the old ties still tug at your heart? Peter, why are you here? Do you want to stay fishing, or is your love for me greater than your love for your boat, and your net, and your independence? Is your love for me greater than these, greater than yesterday, greater then all of these things that represent your past, greater than your boat and all your gear, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” And Peter looked at Jesus and said “Yes, Lord, you know I do!” and Jesus said “Peter is that your final answer?” You say no he didn’t, oh yes he did, maybe not in those words, but he asked Peter the question 2 more times.
Peter had denied Jesus three times and here Jesus is allowing him the chance to confess his love three times. Aren’t you glad we serve a God of the second chance?
Jesus is asking you the very same question today “Will you serve me today?” Not “Did you serve me yesterday?” or “Will you serve me tomorrow?” But “Will you serve me today?”
Remember we learn from yesterday and we can dream for tomorrow but we need to live for today. Isaiah 43:19 For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.