Sermon for the week

Peter Goes Fishing

The Apostle John related a story about seven men who were very close.  Over the last few years they had experienced many highs and lows together.  However, none had been as turbulent as the last three weeks.  First, they had become convinced that Jesus was the promised King of prophetic Scripture.  They grew so ecstatic about that truth that their main topic of conversation was which one would sit on His right hand in the kingdom.  Then Jesus seemed to put a wet blanket on their excitement by saying such things as, "...Whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.  And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all."  (Mark 10:43, 44)

The next major event came when Jesus chose to present Himself to Israel by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey.  It seemed that He had barely begun His journey when people came running from all directions.  They cut down palm branches and lay them on the pathway the donkey would walk.  Others took off their outer garments and lay them down for the donkey to walk on.  The growing crowd became a multitude that was shouting, "Hosanna!  Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the LORD!  The King of Israel!"  (John 12:13).  It seemed that the hundreds of thousands of Israelites who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover were accepting Him and proclaiming Him their king.  All this was reversed four days later when the high priest, the religious leaders and the Roman governor sentenced Him to death.  This was followed by what seemed like everyone whipped into a frenzy of rejection shouting, "Crucify Him!"  (Luke 23:21).  After a brutal beating with the cat-of-nine-tails by a Roman soldier and inhuman abuse by his comrades, Jesus was ordered to carry His cross along the way of sorrow.  With the waning of His last physical strength He faltered and Simon of Cyrenia was conscripted to bear the cross to Calvary.  It was there that Jesus was crucified between two thieves.  After He died He was laid in the borrowed grave of Joseph of Arimathea.

For three days the disciples of Jesus were almost crushed under the heavy burden of blighted hopes.  There had been so much about Jesus that had convinced them that He was God's promised Christ:  His love and compassion, countless miracles, supernatural healings, incomparable teachings and His godly purity.  But now, He was dead and gone and all their fondest hopes lay in ruins.

Then Sunday came.  With the first rays of morning light the women whose lives He touched come with spices to properly prepare His body for a long sleep in the tomb.  Instead, they found the stone rolled away from the mouth of the tomb and only angels in residence.  The angels told them that Jesus had risen.  Throughout the day Jesus appeared at various times to Mary Magdalene, Peter, His step brother James, the two disciples of Emmaus and ten of His apostles.

The following Sunday evening Jesus appeared to the eleven remaining disciples which included Thomas.  It seems that the emotions of those who say Jesus contained elements of awe, fear, and joy,---all at the same time.

The eleven apostles traveled northward to Galilee as directed by the angels and by Jesus.  While they anxiously wait for Jesus to meet with them they labor to make sense of the turbulent events of the last few weeks.  They find no way to understand or fit into their belief system all the things that have happened in the last few weeks.  As Peter feels the pressure reaching the bursting point he blurts out, "I am going fishing!" (John 21:3).

Did Peter mean that he was just going on a single fishing outing to relieve mental and emotional pressure, or was he saying that he was returning to his old fishing business?  We are not told and so the subject is open to debate.  My conjecture is that Peter was thinking, "I'm going to do something I know I can do, and if I can't get everything sorted out in being a disciple of Jesus then I'll spend the rest of my life in the fishing business.

PETER SUBSTITUTED HIS REASONING FOR DIVINE REVELATION

Jesus had personally chosen Peter and eleven others to be full time followers and learners.  He had taught them all of the written word of God and given all new revelation that they needed to know up to that point in time.  More so, He was the living word of God Who could say, ""...He who has seen Me has seen the Father...".

Peter was still brooding over how he had been so confident that he was willing to follow Jesus into prison or death and then denied that he even knew Jesus with the foulest cursing he could muster.    Peter concluded, "I have been a miserable failure at the disciple business but I know I can be a success at the fishing business.  I am a descendant of several generations of fisherman and I have been fishing the sea of Galilee from my childhood."

One truth Peter had failed to grasp was the pitfall of putting all our confidence in the fleshly nature---ours, or that of anyone else.  The prophet Jeremiah was inspired to write over six hundred years previous, "Thus says the LORD: 'Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD.  For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited.'"  (Jeremiah 17:5, 6).  Only a few hours before Peter's denial Jesus had said in the upper room, "...Without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5).

Jesus was not through with Peter.  Even after Peter had denied Jesus, Jesus loved him as much as ever and His plans for Peter had not changed one iota.  Would Peter need to change his way of thinking?  Yes.  Would Peter need to place total faith in Jesus to enable him to be what he needed to be and do what Jesus wanted him to do? Yes.  Would Peter need to learn that no matter what he thought he would need to abandon his thoughts when they were not in conformity with God's word"  Yes.  Headstrong Peter would have some difficult times learning this truth but he would learn.  (See Acts 10 and Galatians 2:11-21).

It is probable that this is a lesson that all believers must painfully learn .  By nature, culture, and training we are pressured to put our confidence totally in our thinking and our abilities.  This attitude tends to follow us into our life as a believer in Christ.  As long as we cling to this attitude we are destined to failure after failure.  What a blessed day it is when we totally commit to ordering our lives by the word of God and placing our total confidence in Jesus to enable us and equip us to be what we should be and do what we should do.

PETER INFLUENCED OTHERS TO FOLLOW THE FLESHLY WAY

"We are going with you also."  (John 21:3)  Not only Peter, but Andrew, James, and John had grown up as professional fisherman.  They were especially responsive to the example set by Peter.  We are not sure about the occupation of the others but their respect for Peter led them to immediately decide to go along.

When we decide to go our own way without any consideration as to whether it is the LORD'S way it is a personal decision and we shall reap the fruit of the seed we sow.  We sometimes forget that we are also answerable for leading other believers to walk after the flesh by our example.  The following words were written about Peter at a later time, "Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.  And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy."  (Galatians 2:11-13); full account 2:11-21).

I will never forget how sad I felt when a new convert on fire for God said to me as a young pastor still in my 20's, "Pastor, a new Christian would never go on visitation if he followed the example of the older Christians."

LABOR WITHOUT CHRIST'S BLESSING IS DOOMED TO FAILURE

"...And that night they caught nothing."  (John 21:3)

By all rational standards these men should have had a successful fishing trip.  They possessed the accumulated knowledge of several generations of fisherman.  By experience they knew the location of the fish; the best time to fish, and the best method to catch the fish---but after fishing all night they had caught nothing.  This is a perfect picture of a Christian laboring in the flesh without the blessing of God.

Please forgive me when I say that this was a wonderful experience for them and for everybody else since.  If they had been successful in their fishing trip that night it is possible that they might have said goodbye to being ministers of Christ and gone back to their old lifestyles.  The result would have been no Pentecost, no Bible, no churches, no gospel outreach to the world and untold millions left in spiritual darkness to live and die without hope.  There are always sad consequences when Christians are successful going through life doing things their way instead of God's way.


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