Going Deeper

Going Deeper

John 21-Acts 4 (10-6-18)

Grab your Bibles, and let’s dig into the first part of John 21.

John 21:1 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way.

“After this” is in reference to the weeklong Feast of the Unleavened Bread. It had concluded, and the disciples left Jerusalem to return to Galilee. The Sea of Tiberius is another name for the Sea of Galilee. John also tells us here that Jesus would reveal His resurrected self again to the disciples here. We need be oh-so mindful to never miss the wonder and power of the resurrected Messiah because “… if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17).

Jonathan Edwards speaks of the importance of the resurrected Christ this way:

For if Christ were not risen, it would be evidence that God was not yet satisfied for [our] sins. Now the resurrection is God declaring his satisfaction; he thereby declared that it was enough; Christ was thereby released from his work; Christ, as he was Mediator, is thereby justified.

If Christ is NOT resurrected, our faith in God’s saving grace is futile, for He didn’t even raise the Son He sent to accomplish victory over death.

Without resurrection of our hearts by His sovereign regeneration, we are dead forever.

Without Jesus’ resurrection, His atoning work for our sin on our behalf is not satisfied, and we are still in our sin and have no hope for eternal life. The news that Jesus is GOD, the great I Am, and that He is the resurrection is the only way there is eternal life for any of us.

John 11:25a Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.”

Praise God for His good gift of grace–the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. AMEN.

John 21:2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together.

Let’s take a moment and review who each of these guys are, since John takes the time to list them by name. As I review each of them, I want to remind you what history tells us about their death.

  1. Name: SIMON PETER (son of John)

When the soldiers came to lead Peter to death, he said, “I want to be crucified head downward. I am not worthy to die in the same way as my Lord.” That wish was granted.

  1. Name: THOMAS (the twin)

Called Didymus, he preached the gospel in Parthia and India. It was there that the rage of the pagan priests came against him. He was martyred by being thrust through with a spear.

  1. Name: BARTHOLOMEW (Nathanael), from Cana (not mentioned in John by name since chapter 1:45-51)

He preached in several countries and translated the Gospel of Matthew into the language of India. He was cruelly beaten and then crucified by idolaters there.

  1. Name: JAMES (son of Zebedee), he and his brother John were called the “Sons of Thunder”

The Scriptures inform us that James was the first of the disciples to die a martyr’s death, and indeed the only one whose manner of death is exactly known. Acts 12:2 informs us that James was martyred for the faith by way of a sword.

  1. Name: JOHN (son of Zebedee), James’s brother and “the disciple whom Jesus loved”

The only disciple that did not die a martyr’s death.

6-7. And two others:

Those not mentioned that could have been the other two disciples are:


-THADDAEUS (a.k.a. Judas, the son of James)

-JAMES (son of Alphaeus)

-MATTHEW (a.k.a. Levi)

-ANDREW (Peter’s brother)


(*Matthias has not yet been chosen to replace Judas Iscariot)

So, the disciples are in a unique time, in that Jesus has died and risen again but has not yet commissioned them, ascended, or sent the Holy Spirit to begin His special work in and through them to start the church. What is coming for them is amazing: the work they will do, the people who will be saved, all the way to their faith in Jesus leading to death for all but John.

So, what do a bunch of fishermen do with a little down time? They go fishing.

John 21:3 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.

Verse two tells us that a smaller group of the disciples “were together.”

Not all of the disciples but some of the 11 got together to spend time together in this in-between time.

Do we have to always all do everything together? No. This is an important clarity in the life of the body of Christ. It is simply impractical to do everything all together. It is also hard to really know each other and really do life together in big groups.

That means there will be natural gatherings of smaller groups in different ways.

  1. Realize it is just practical that there will be varying degrees of “life together,” and that’s ok.
  2. Don’t wait, initiate. I have heard many people say over the years, “I, too, would like to be invited to gatherings.” To this, I say, “Don’t wait, initiate. Invite them to coffee or a dinner get together.”
  3. Instead of making it about you and what you are not getting, rejoice in others getting together.

Our time together and unity as the body of Christ are some of the major witnesses we have for the watching world. People long for authentic community, and because the world is so selfish and will use people and then toss them aside when they are done with them, the body of Christ stands out as unique; in that we love each other, not based on our performance, but on Christ’s performance.

Remember Jesus’ words:

John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

And also His prayer for us to the Father:

John 17:20-23 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

Let us see here in our text the seven brothers in Christ coming together to spend time together as a wonderful thing.

Look with me at what happens next. It says in verse three they didn’t catch anything all night.

While I am sure they are baffled and bummed, the truth i, a bad night of fishing is not bad if you are with great friends in the Lord!

John 21:4-6 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 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.

They couldn’t tell it was Jesus from afar. Jesus calls out to them and calls them children. This is not a swipe at them but more of an affectionate slang. like the English terms “sirs” or “lads,” or the Irish term “boys,” or the American term “guys.”

The fact that Jesus asks them what they caught is not to embarrass them but to make central their insufficiency alone. So in making them answer that they didn’t catch any fish, they testify that they have nothing to show of their own efforts for their night of labor. This is a great reminder that the efforts of our flesh are always lacking, and even when they do produce, it is a temporary provision that is still utterly lacking.

We need to see how tempting it is to get caught up doing life by our power and provision. We need to see how quickly we can set aside our spiritual highs and then just get back to living life. But God is omnipresent and at work in every detail, far beyond our ability to even comprehend, so why would we do anything without Him?

After Jesus gives them simple instructions as to where to throw their nets, they go from catching nothing to catching so much they can’t pull the net onto the boat, because it is so full of fish.

WOW! What an amazing testimony of the power of God to not only create the fish in the sea and all the creation we know but to sustain and control it, too.

This is Jesus’ way of showing the disciples that success in their coming ministry is going to be due not to their eloquence, their power of persuasion, or their anything, but due alone to His sovereign, drawing power. Do we know this, too? It is a truth we must never lose sight of.

The fact that Jesus is the One who by His power provides all that we have and do is a reality that we must see far more centrally than we do.

One of the interesting points of the Gospel narratives is that these professional fishermen never catch a single fish in any of the Gospel accounts without Jesus’ help.

What do you do without Jesus’ help? Here is the thing: We don’t exist without the Lord. He is sustaining us and working in all things. Despite His hatred for sin and His love for God-honoring righteousness, He is at work in all things.

Do you see the hand of the Lord in all things? Do you see Him using hurts and struggles for refining and gospel testimony? Do you see Him bringing conviction for sin and reason for praise in His provisions?

Now, let’s observe the power of God in this great provision of His. Think about the power of God on display for the disciples again as their net all the sudden is so full they can’t lift it into the boat. Jesus has performed many miracles and signs before them throughout John’s narrative:

  1. Changing water into wineat Cana in John 2:1-11.
  2. Healing the royal official’s sonin Capernaum in John 4:46-54.
  3. Healing the paralytic at Bethesdain John 5:1-15.
  4. Feeding the 5000in John 6:5-14.
  5. Jesus walking on waterin John 6:16-24.
  6. Healing the man blind from birthin John 9:1-7.
  7. Theraising of Lazarus in John 11:1-45.

So many evidences of the power of God are shown by Jesus in the presence of the disciples. The provision of this massive haul of fish is yet another reminder to these guys of who Jesus is and why they will follow Him faithfully. It is His power and provision that draws the attention of John. For until this moment, they could not see or recognize Him. Look what happens next:

John 21:7 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.

John shows spiritual discernment to recognize it is not just a discerning fisherman or a passerby, but it is the Lord, and so he quickly points Jesus out to Peter. Peter is a man of action, so he jumps into the water after throwing on his outer garment. I love how quick Peter is to long to be near or with his Master.

Does your faith in Jesus cause you to long for Him this same way? While He is not physically present in your day to run to Him and talk and walk with, is it your joy to run to Him in prayer when you see Him at work in the little things of your day?

The same faith and joy to be near Him can be a true reality for any of us as we navigate our days. I often catch myself being so busy with my stuff that I miss the beautiful opportunity to really walk with Him. It is like, “Oh, Lord. I am so sorry; you are here with me and I have been ignoring you,” or “I have not been enjoying your holy presence and want to talk with you and worship you and testify of you in these coming moments and parts of my day.”

As much as it is a joy to be together, it is also a joy to jump out of the boat and be with our Master. Consider how goofy Peter looks here–fully clothed, wading to the shore. Think of how goofy we must look to a watching world to see us so excited to be with our Lord–to pray and to read His word, to just be with Him as we drive, eat, watch football or anything else.

Now, let’s look at the last part of today’s passage. It is a special part of John’s narrative in my opinion:

John 21:8-14 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. When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 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. 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. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

I absolutely love the insight this scene gives us first into our Lord and second into what life with Christ while still on earth can be like. First, notice how this scene tells us of the Lord’s care for His servants and the concrete pledge that He will supply all their needs.

They come in from a long night of fishing, by which they have no fresh catch to speak of or to eat themselves. But the Lord provides. I mean how amazing must it have been to see their Master tending to the hot coals and the smell of fresh fish on the fire for them to enjoy. This is the good Shepherd. This is our God who provides for our every need. This is a God who loves His sheep. I can’t help but think of Psalm 23:

Psalm 23:1-3 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.

Sure, some BBQ fresh fish is so good, but see the rest and satisfaction in Jesus is the true prize to be had here. While good BBQ is so good, we need to be sure not to miss the GREATER provision here. We only truly have rest and satisfaction in this life when it is Jesus who is nourishing and restoring us!

Notice that the rest David speaks of under the care of his Shepherd comes as he lays on “green pastures”! In Psalm 23, the picture is that after the noon-time grazing. The Shepherd leads His flock to another grassy oasis with a spring of fresh, clean water amidst a dry and thirsty land. Here the sheep lie down in restful security. It is restful because they don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from: They are laying on it!

Now, consider the fact that next week we will hear Jesus commission His disciples to feed His sheep, but first He reminds them who is the One who feeds them.

Church. the nourishment and feeding that Jesus gives is always more than food. While Jesus blesses us with the food and care we need to live the days He has determined for us, He provides so much more. For example, He provides His living word:

Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but shall live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 NIV).

We should never forget that while food helps nourish us for physical life, the word of God gives spiritual nourishment and life that never ends. This is what David sees when he says, “He restores my soul” (Psalm 23:3a).

Just a few chapters back to Psalm 19:7-10 David says, “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.”

So, first may we see that the good Shepherd is always with us and will give us all we need on our earthly pilgrimage.

Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

The second thing we see here is the Lord is modeling once again for the disciples why “life together” is so important. Think about it: Jesus is just resurrected and is only still on earth a short time before His ascension, but in His sovereign wisdom, He slows down to model for the disciples the value of life together over a simple BBQ.

Life together is both corporate worship and different forms of Christian fellowship, discipleship, and service. These are the beautiful pictures we see in the early church that is an essential part of the DNA of the body of Christ. Listen and really consider what we see in Acts as this reality unfolds in our brothers and sisters in Christ:

Acts 2:42-44 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common.

This is a picture of the corporate worship and regular gathering of the saints. They are devoted to their pastor’s teachings. They are good and devoted students. Not right in their own eyes but trusting the ones who are qualified by God to teach His word to His sheep and help them grow. They regularly practice the Lord’s Supper and pray.

It says, “… awe came upon every soul.” That’s worship for God. It is the awe of the work of God in their lives–the testimony of lives that are maturing and being sanctified and changing in ways they never had before.

“And all who believed were together and had all things in common.” The believers were together–spending time together and valuing unity and togetherness. Even though the body was very diverse as it is today, they had an amazing common unity in Christ among them that transcended their differences. Do you see it?

Acts 2:45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.

They served others. They gave their lives away of the sake of the gospel. They learned to live on less so they could give away more and make their number one goal the mission of God and the witness of the gospel as they served those in need.

Jesus is providing for the disciples in our passage today as He is getting them ready to go and do likewise–to serve others and tend to their needs. How are you serving others? How are you opening up your life to serve others? Do you count it a burden to give up your time to serve? Or is it a joy to give up your evening or your weekend or your home to serve others?

And finally, we see the simple daily time the body shares and grows and edifies each other in everyday ways:

Acts 2:46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts

It is so simple: They met at church, in their homes, and along the way. This is the BBQ moment–the breaking bread together. The coffee shop visit. The weekend excursion. It is families getting together. It is one-on-one time. It is knowing and walking with our God-given family.

Listen again to John’s testimony of this holy BBQ:

John 21:9-10 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”

John 21:12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” …

John 21:13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish.

Oh, how sweet it is to be the Lord’s and to be with the Lord and with each other who are in the Lord.


I pray you see this as no different today. When we gather–one on one, in small-group settings, for group activities, or for family excursions–it is a sweet aroma of the fellowship of the body of Christ. We are a redeemed people of different make ups, backgrounds, ages, looks, intelligence, skills, and interests. But we love each other in Christ, and we love being together. We are to worship God, to study His word, to encourage and admonish each other, to be discipled, and to tell the watching world, “Look at Jesus. See what He has done and is doing.”

Jesus didn’t have a big lesson to teach them here, but the lesson was the BBQ. It was the life together. It was the sweet rejoicing in who they were in Christ.

Church, God has redeemed us out of our individualism and our retreat from each other to do life together. May we grow in our simple exchanges and see Christ in the daily ebb and flow of life and BBQ’s. AMEN.

The next verse in the Acts 2 passage concludes with this:

Acts 2:47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

May it be so as we steward all these things well unto the Lord unto the glory of God through lives that are being transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

By His grace and for His glory,


Soldiers for Jesus MC