TEXT: John 21:1-19
1 After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.
2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.
3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.
4 But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.
5 Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.
6 And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.
7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.
8 And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.
9 As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.
10 Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.
11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.
12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.
13 Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.
14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.
15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
The Power of the Resurrection and the Backslidden Believer
Our passage starts out with the words “after these things.” The things that the writer is referring to are the events of John chapter 20 which tell of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, His appearance to Mary Magdalene, and then His two appearances to the disciples — one where Thomas was not present, and one where he was present. Several Bible scholars believe that our passage for today serves primarily as an appendix to the book of John. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck state, “Some critics have argued that this chapter is anticlimactic after the great conclusion in chapter 20…” However, one of John’s purposes in this chapter is “to reveal how Jesus reinstated Peter after his great fall.” It is probably not in chronological order, and was tacked on to the end of the book in order to show Peter’s restoration to the group of disciples.
Simon Peter — one of the more prominent disciples, a member of Jesus’ inner circle, who had loudly and boldly proclaimed that he would never abandon Jesus Christ — not only abandoned Jesus when He was arrested and taken to be crucified, but he denied Him three times and said that he didn’t even know Him. I believe it is safe for us to call Peter a backslidden believer. Not only had he gone back on his word to the Lord, but now he was ready to go back on the occupation that Jesus Christ had called him and the other disciples to. He is ready to give up being a fisher of men and go back to being just a fisherman. The Bible tells us that he called Thomas, Nathaniel, James, John, and two other disciples, and said, “I go a fishing.”
Have you ever been at this place in your Christian life? Have you ever been a backslidden believer? Are you one now?
You made the decision to follow Jesus Christ, and you began to walk the straight and narrow way. But, somewhere along the way, you decide that you want to throw in the towel. Maybe it is because, like Peter, you feel like you let the Lord down. Maybe you feel like you cannot continue living as a Christian because of something terrible that you have done. Maybe you had different expectations about the Christian life and you are now discouraged and disappointed. Whatever the case, you either already have thrown in the towel or you are about to throw in the towel and go back to your old lifestyle. Either you already are or you are about to become a backslidden believer.
If you are that person today, please pay close attention, as I share with you what the resurrection of Jesus Christ means for the backslidden believer.
First, the resurrection lets us know that Jesus is the only one who can provide everything we need. The Bible reads, “But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.” Even though Peter and some of the other disciples had gone back to their old occupation so that they could feed their physical hunger, Jesus Christ wanted to let them know that not only could He fulfill their physical needs, but also their deepest spiritual needs and desires.
When Jesus showed up on the shore, He knew that the disciples had not caught any fish. The construction of His question in Greek — “Children, have ye any meat?” — assumes a negative answer. The disciples had failed at the one thing they knew well how to do. Jesus then commands the disciples to throw out the net on the other side of the boat and they bring up a huge catch of fish — so large that they could not bring it up into the boat by themselves. This scenario is, of course, a duplication of a previous miracle, and when the disciples realize this, they know for sure that it is Jesus standing on the shore.
Through this miracle, Jesus demonstrates that His previous words to them are true — “without me, ye can do nothing.” They fished all night and were not even able to catch a single fish. Yet, as soon as Jesus showed up, they found success. It wasn’t fishing that they needed. It wasn’t something to do to pass the time while they awaited further instructions. No, they needed Jesus Himself — the One who could supply all their needs — physical and spiritual. Robert Deffinbaugh of Dallas Theological Seminary said, These professional fishermen were not able to catch anything on their own, even though they were laboring in the area of their expertise. Jesus taught them that He is the source of their success, He is the One Who, when obeyed, makes men fruitful fishermen.”
When we backslide, we tend to turn to old habits to fulfill our needs. But, Jesus Christ wants to let us know that only He can supply everything we need — from something as simple as providing fish for breakfast to something as important as winning souls to Him.
Second, the resurrection lets us know that Jesus still loves us and accepts us despite our sins and failures. When Jesus arrives on the shore, the Bible tells us that He “saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.” You might think that Jesus would have had harsh words of reprimand or rebuke for Peter. He could have easily chided him for not keeping his promise to stay with him until the very end. But, he didn’t do that. The only thing He showed Peter was love and acceptance, letting him know that despite his mistakes, he was still a disciple.
Some scholars believe, based on the harmonized accounts of Jesus’ appearances after the resurrection, that Jesus met with Peter before the events mentioned in John 21 and dealt with him about his three denials. However, that part of the story is not revealed to us in Scripture. What we see here is that Jesus treats Peter the same as he did before the crucifixion. Now, Peter himself may have understandably felt nervous. Maybe he couldn’t look Jesus in the eye as they talked. But, there is nothing in Jesus’ interaction with Peter that indicates that He is less than any of the other disciples. He was willing to sit beside him, provide food for him, and eat with him.
If you are backslidden, if you are running away from God, if you have turned your back on the Christian life, please understand that Jesus wants you back. Yes, even with your sins, failures, and faults, Jesus wants you to turn back to Him. Steven Halter said, “There is good news for the backslider. God does not condemn him. God’s loving concern for the backslider is steadfast and sure. The Lord calls that person back to Himself through the work of the Holy Spirit…Do not let doubt or guilt hold you back, for He promises, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.'”
When Jesus died on the cross, He died for Peter’s sin of lying and betrayal. Now, Jesus did not hold that against him. He does not hold your backsliding against you either. He died for all of your sins. And, if you turn back to Him, He will accept you with open arms.
Third and finally today, the resurrection lets us know that Jesus still has a plan for our lives. In Jesus’ discussion with Peter in which He asks him three times, “Peter, do you love me?” and then commands him to “Feed my sheep”, we see that Jesus still wanted to use Peter for His glory. He still wanted Peter to be a part of the team. Jesus Christ does not just toss aside those who turn their backs on Him or those who backslide from the faith. Like a Good Shepherd, He does not stop searching until the final lamb is brought back to the fold.
The Bible tells us that when Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” for the third time, Peter was “was grieved.” Certainly, Peter felt convicted as he was reminded of his three-fold denial. But, yet, we see in this passage that Jesus invited, even commanded, Peter to engage once again in the ministry that he had been called to. Jesus said, “Feed my lambs,” “Feed my sheep,” “Feed my sheep.”
Why did Jesus ask three times if Peter loved Him? Jesus knew all things, but as Alexander Maclaren stated, “Jesus doesn’t ask ‘are you sorry?’ nor ‘will you promise never to do that again?’ Jesus Christ asks each one of us, not for obedience primarily, not for repentance, not for vows, not for conduct, but for a heart; and that being given, all the rest will follow.” Jesus simply wanted to make sure that Peter’s heart was in the right place because He had a plan for Peter’s life.
In verses 18-19, Jesus reveals that plan: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.” This verse predicts that Peter would one day die for His Lord. And, it is said that he died upside down on a cross because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as the Lord. But before he died, he became the leader of the apostles. On the day of Pentecost, he was filled with the Holy Spirit, preached in Jerusalem, and over 3,000 people were saved. He continued to preach to both Jews and Gentiles, and eventually went to Rome where helped to establish and encourage the fledgling churches there.
Despite his backsliding and failure, Jesus still saw fit to use Peter for His glory, praise and honor.
If you are a backslidden believer today, you can rest assured in three things that the resurrection means for you: (1) Jesus Christ alone can supply your needs. Don’t continue looking for fulfillment in the world because whatever you are searching for, you will not find it there. (2) Jesus Christ still loves you and accepts you. Nothing you have done or could do will ever separate you from the love of God which we have in Christ Jesus our Lord. Jesus is not like some human beings who forsake you as soon as you stumble or don’t live up to their expectations. And, (3) Jesus Christ still has a plan for you. He still wants to use you for His glory.
His command to you is the same as His command to Peter: “Follow me!” Don’t give up on the Christian faith, because the resurrection of Jesus Christ let’s us know that Jesus Christ has not given up on you.
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If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, allow me to share with you briefly how you can be saved from your sins and be guaranteed a home in Heaven with God today.
First, please understand that you are a sinner, just as I am, and that you have broken God’s laws. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Please understand that because of your sins, you deserve eternal punishment in hell. Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death…This is both physical death and spiritual death in hell. That is the bad news.
But here is the good news. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. I am sorry for my sins, and today I choose to turn from my sins. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. I trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and I choose to follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.
If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on doing the most important thing in life and that is receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door.” Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.
Daniel Whyte III has spoken in meetings across the United States and in over twenty-five foreign countries. He is the author of over forty books. He is also the president of Gospel Light Society International, a worldwide evangelistic ministry that reaches thousands with the Gospel each week, as well as president of Torch Ministries International, a Christian literature ministry which publishes a monthly magazine called The Torch Leader. He is heard by thousands each week on his radio broadcasts/podcasts, which include: The Prayer Motivator Devotional, The Prayer Motivator Minute, as well as Gospel Light Minute X, the Gospel Light Minute, the Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message, the Prophet Daniel’s Report, the Second Coming Watch Update and the Soul-Winning Motivator, among others. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology from Bethany Divinity College, a Bachelor’s degree in Religion from Texas Wesleyan University, a Master’s degree in Religion, a Master of Divinity degree, and a Master of Theology degree from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been married to the former Meriqua Althea Dixon, of Christiana, Jamaica for over twenty-seven years. God has blessed their union with seven children. Find out more at www.danielwhyte3.com. Follow Daniel Whyte III on Twitter @prophetdaniel3 or on Facebook.