Anyone who knows me well knows that I enjoy fishing. A general practice of mine is that I drive my old Chevy pickup anywhere I go – a meeting, an appointment, or an event. If I’m in my truck, I have access to my fishing gear, which means you may see me pull over beside a lake, a river or an interesting mountain stream. If I’m traveling, I like to get up early in the morning, find a lake or a stream and grab my fly rod, reel and vest just to do a little fishing. For me, there is joy in casting a fly line across the water, searching out a likely spot to hook a bream, sunfish, bass or trout with a fly lure. It’s no small wonder that I am drawn to Chapter 21 of the Gospel of John. After His crucifixion, death and resurrection, Jesus stood on the shore of the Tiberias Sea and challenged his disciples, “Haven’t you any fish?”
Let me set the stage for you. It is early in the morning, and the disciples have gotten up early, grabbed the nets, loaded the boat and are off shore trying to catch some fish to sell.
John 21: 4-17
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. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved 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. 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.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Givers and Takers
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). As the old hymn reminds us, “Jesus gave it all” that we will be saved. We are His, royal priesthood called to proclaim!
Where was John, Peter and the other disciples that morning at sunrise?
Peter got back in his fishing boat and took the other disciples with him after Jesus was crucified. Business as usual, they were up early and had gone out to earn a living. So when Jesus called from the shore, “Are you catching anything?” wasn’t he really asking the disciples, “What in the world are you doing back in the boat? You have a ministry I called you to.” Peter led all of the Disciples back into the “kingdom of me.” “Let’s get back in the boat.” They had became takers again.
What do I mean about becoming takers again? We are all sinful, selfish, possessive and absorbed in ourselves. Like Peter, we want to look after the kingdom of me; like Peter we trust in me; like Peter our whole life is looking after and caring for me. Jesus’ ministry to Peter and the call to the disciples was for them to present Jesus to the world that they too may be set free. Free from the bondage of sin, to have victory over pride and self and have a true relationship with God in Christ Jesus. Jesus paid the price for Peter’s sin, my sin, your sin and their sin. He set us free from self and pride by conquering sin and Mark 12:29-31 – Heart, Soul, Mind, Strength giving all so that we too can be free to be givers not takers.
A taker simply put is described in Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
The Kingdom of Me lives by the works of the flesh: self, pride and no relationship with Jesus Christ. It is all about me, how I feel, what I want, what I get and what I think.
Let’s go back to Peter and Jesus by the lake.
There is no condemnation from Jesus, not a word in front of the brothers. As the two walked away from the rest. I imagine the conversation started out with a simple question like, “Why did you get back in the boat? I came and saved you from all this. I gave you a calling. The bonds of sin (self and pride) are broken, and you have me. I called you and sent you out to tell my children that they are set free. It’s not for you to go back to your old ways. I called you to give of what I gave you. Be a giver; it’s time to give of what I gave you.“ Jesus makes his point to us all as he asks Peter if he loves Him. He makes it clear what He wants each of us to have as our priority.
“Peter, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” “Feed my lambs. Peter do you really love me?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” “Tend my Sheep.” You are called; the fields are ripe; the harvest is waiting.
I imagine a long pause as Jesus repeated it for the third time. “Peter, do you love me more than anything? Do you ‘love me with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your soul and with all your strength’” (Mark 12:30). “Lord, you know everything,” Peter responded. “You know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.“
Like Peter, each of us should be grieved if we have gotten back into our boat and rowed away from the shore and from the children of God to whom we are called to proclaim Christ. Give of what has been given you. Be a giver, not a taker. Be Christlike, a chosen race, a royal priesthood. Get out of your comfort zone (the boat). Leave the kingdom of me and tend His sheep; seek them out; invite them to meet your Savior. This isn’t a pastor-only command; it is a command to you and me, all who are followers of the one true living God. People won’t care how much you know until they see how much you care. Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.