It is the popular old Yankees baseball player who was famous for his one-liners that stated an obvious truth in a unique way, and his quotes have become legendary … such as “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” And again, talking about frequent back-to-back homers hit by Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, “It’s like déjà vu all over again!”
In this 21st and final chapter of John’s gospel, and in today’s and tomorrow’s last two devotional readings, we are going to see how the Apostle Peter had two déjà vu experiences that would serve as faith builders for the rest of his life and ministry.
The scene today has the disciples now back in Galilee, sometime soon after their incredible experiences in Jerusalem of witnessing the death, burial, and resurrected person of Jesus Christ. Peter is not sure what is coming next in life, and so he reverts to doing the thing he knew how to do best before his life was rearranged by meeting the Messiah – “Let’s go fishing!” … So six of the other disciples (including John) join with him.
21:1 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
So, their fishing experience on this evening was like almost every experience I’ve ever had with fishing in my life – nothing caught! My son Ben could catch a fish in a rain puddle in the middle of town, but not me! The disciples were more like Ben – not used to getting shut out.
4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
The figure on the shore was not discernible apparently because of the distance and low light, but his voice carried out to them across the water. Calling them “friends” is a translation of a word that might be an endearing way of saying “boys” or “lads.”
Now really, in a large lake, what difference does it make whether you fish from the right side of the boat or the left side (I know there are some boat words for that, but I’m a land-lubber and can’t remember them.). But, what is there to lose when you are batting .000?
And sure enough, there are so many fish that they cannot pull in the nets. This is incredible! This is beyond anything they’ve ever seen! Or is it? NO! There was one other time when Peter, James and John (fishing business partners) had an experience like this, just three years before. Luke tells that story in Luke 5:4-11…
4 When Jesus had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
This was like déjà vu all over again. Peter must have looked up and thought, “This is just like that day when Jesus called me to be his disciple and follow him!” (Back to John 21…)
7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
Peter’s impulsive personality is again on display … forget the fish, he was going to swim to shore to see Jesus. What an amazing experience! And Christ has breakfast already cooking for them.
And though amazing, it must have been a bit awkward as well. Most of us have not hung out with someone who was previously dead. I haven’t, have you? And there is the issue also of Peter having denied Christ just recently … that is still certainly a bit “in the air.”
10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
The story of the fish is an illustration for the disciples of their task, as well as their empowerment for success in the task. The commission they had was to go and be fishers of men. But they must remember that their empowerment was by Christ’s divine enablement through the authority of the Holy Spirit in them.
We today sometimes today use the phrase “So, how’d that work out for ya?” to ask about something someone tried. So, how does serving God work out when you do it in the flesh? How does anything work out when we attempt to do it in our own power? Jesus said, “Without me, you can do nothing.” Nothing – Let me put that in Yogi Berra terms: “Nothing means when you add all the somethings together you still don’t got anything!”
But we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. That’s the truth of the resurrection life of Christ in us.
So, does this maybe help you with some thoughts about why something may not be working out just right in your life?
Come back tomorrow for another déjà vu all over again.