The History of Simon Peter: 8. Service and Food

John 21:1‑14  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 7
1After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise showed he himself. 2There 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. 3Simon 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. 4But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. 5Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. 6And 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. 7Therefore 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. 8And 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. 9As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. 10Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. 11Simon 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. 12Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. 13Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise. 14This is now the third time that Jesus showed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead. (John 21:1‑14)We have in this passage some instruction with regard to the service and food of the Lord's servants, which we will examine in detail.
After Peter's many experiences, it would seem as if he were henceforth qualified for service. He went forth, followed by six other disciples, to fish in the Sea of Tiberias. What characterized this undertaking was that Peter took the initiative himself of setting to work to obtain the results of his labor. It was in vain, and the night waned before he and his companions had seen their efforts crowned with any success. Peter employed the same means as on a corresponding occasion, previous to his conversion. How often when God entrusts us with active service we set about it like men in the flesh, and our work is barren. It is important to understand that in ministry, all, absolutely all, must be of God, and nothing of man.
The scene changed as soon as Jesus stood on the shore; His presence ushered in the dawn of a day of blessing. His presence was what was most needed. As long as they had toiled without Him, their efforts were fruitless. It was daybreak when this scene took place. There is a special moment determined of God for service, and the disciples, unmindful of it, had lost their time during the whole night. They found the fish the right side of the ship, in a special place only known to Jesus, and Peter had to trust to this knowledge before his activity could be crowned with success. The disciples cast their net at His word, having nothing else to depend on, and they captured one hundred and fifty-three great fishes; their fishing in this place closed with a number determined and known only by the Lord. From this moment they had something else to do; they brought the result of their labor to Jesus. (v. 10) They did not fish for themselves or for others, but for the Lord alone.
Oh that our hearts, dear servants of Christ, might all learn this lesson When, where, with whom, by whom, and for whom, are we working? Does our life consist in one long night of human activity directed by the will of man? or is it like an aurora illuminated by the Lord's presence? and do we see our nets filled because we work in dependence on Him?
As to the food, Jesus stood on the shore and said, "Children, have ye any meat? They answered Him, No." Doubtless they thought that this stranger, whom they had not yet recognized, was in need of food. But the question forced them to avow that until now all their labor had given nothing to Christ. Then came the words, "Cast the net." It was as if He said to them, " If you would give me something, you must receive it from me." From that moment John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, could no longer be mistaken; for to him the Lord was One who gave, and to whom nothing was given.
Here another point comes out; the disciples themselves had nothing to eat. Labor does not feed, it causes hunger. Even fruitful labor, a miraculous catch of fish, left the disciples a prey to hunger. How many souls there are in the present day of activity who remain barren, in spite of their work, because they delude themselves as to the profit accruing to their spiritual life from their activity I It was not on the sea amidst all the surrounding effort and agitation, but on the shore where all was still, that the disciples heard the Lord saying unto them, " Come and dine." The meal was not prepared with fish taken from their net, but provided by the Lord Himself, who distributed it to them. They fed on the result of Christ's work, what He alone had done for them.*
(* I do not mean this in any way as a typical explanation of this scene. Others have entered upon it in this way, and I can only refer the reader to their writings)
May it be so with us, beloved. When we have brought the result of our service to the Lord that He may do as He thinks best with it, let us sit down, invited by Him to feed on Him in the retirement of the shore. Let us return not only for others, but above all for ourselves, to the holy Word which reveals Christ. Having eaten, Peter was led on a step farther in his service, and enabled to feed the lambs and sheep of the Lord.