“After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’
They said to him, ‘We are going with you also.’ They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Children, have you any food?’
They answered Him, ‘No.’
6 And He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.
7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. 9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.’
11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. 12 Jesus said to them, ‘Come and eat breakfast.’ Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, ‘Who are You?’—knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish. —John 21:1-13
This is one of the memorable appearances of Jesus before he ascended back to heaven. He was at the shore of the sea of Galilee, where he had three years earlier called his first disciples. It was nearly a carbon copy of that scene three years earlier (Luke 5).
Peter and his crew had been fishing all night but had no fish. Jesus asked them to cast the nets on the other side of the boat—something that made little sense to professional fishermen. But they did as Jesus said, secretly wondering if it was really Jesus. After all, they couldn’t really see who it was standing and calling to them from the shore.
Then it happened, just as it happened three years before. Their nets were suddenly filled with an impossible load of fish. They struggled to get the nets into the boat and finally dragged them with the boat up onto the shore. “It is the Lord!” exclaimed John. Peter immediately knew it was true, so he jumped into the sea and swam to shore to see for sure that it was Jesus.
There was Jesus, cooking fish and bread on a fire of coals. Jesus invited the disciples, “Come and eat breakfast,” but none of them dared ask him “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord, but they could hardly believe they would find him cooking their breakfast on the shore. All doubt was removed as Jesus gave them bread and fish to eat.
Who wouldn’t enjoy a shore breakfast served by Jesus? But there was more to it than that. Peter and his fellow fishermen-disciples had decided to go back to work as fishermen. They were confused, at best, about what they should do regarding Jesus. But Jesus had other plans for them. Just as in the beginning, three years earlier, he called the fishermen to be his disciples. “I will make you fishers of men.” And at that time they gave up their profession, parked their boats on the shore, stowed away their gear, and became Jesus’ first disciples. Now Jesus was repeating that scene. He was calling them to return to their work as fishers of men. They put away their boats again and came back to Jesus to follow his plan. And how tenderly and lovingly Jesus did so! There was no scolding the men for their confusion and reluctance to believe. No harsh words. No reprimands. Just a huge catch of fish, breakfast on the beach, and a renewed call to follow.
That was quite a crew that Jesus called to be Apostles. Peter had denied that he even knew Jesus three times with oaths and curses. Thomas had refused to believe in the resurrection until he could put his fingers in the nail holes in Jesus’ hands. The others had all abandoned Jesus and hidden themselves away during his trial and crucifixion. Yes, Jesus called vey imperfect men to be his first disciples and Apostles. There is a lesson in that. Jesus could find no perfect men to call. These men had obvious faults, weaknesses, and flaws. But it didn’t matter. Jesus didn’t want men who relied on their own talents, abilities, and strengths to do the work of the Gospel. Instead, these men would learn to rely on Jesus’ power, Jesus’ ability, Jesus’ talent, Jesus’ strengths. That’s exactly what happened. On Pentecost Sunday these weak, confused, frightened men became strong, courageous, missionary evangelists, equipped by God to take the Gospel to the nations of the world.
That should never be lost on us. God gets his work done through imperfect, sinful, people. He does it so that we do not begin to admire the appearance or talents or personal strengths of a man and attribute those qualities to success in the Gospel. The work is God’s. The success of the work is God’s. We confess ourselves, and we recognize others, to be weak sinners without strength of our own. We learn to trust God to empower us and gift us with what we need in order to be his witnesses to the world.
Are you a weak, imperfect, sinful, self-proclaimed untalented, ungifted ordinary person? Has that made you, reluctant to engage as a witness for Christ? Watch out. You are just the kind of person God wants. God will bless you with power and talents and strengths you never knew you had. And through people just like you, God will continue to take his Gospel around the world to all who still need to hear it.