Jesus Appears to His Disciples - John 21:1-14

Expositions by H. A. Wilson

Taken from Grace and Truth Magazine 1923


Memory Verse — Matthew 4:19

The normal Christian life is a life of Christ-directed activity. It is a life of endeavor to win souls, and in order for that endeavor to be fruitful it must be done by His direction. It is hard for us to learn this lesson. We recognize the need of activity but we many times fail to keep in touch with Him Who should direct our activity, and in consequence of this negligence we find that the service becomes tiresome and that the effort which we put forth fails to accomplish what it should. And after we have labored long and earnestly and our souls are wearied we need to rest. We need to receive the ministration of loving hands. The Saviour is graciously inviting us to come to Him to find rest, and to permit Him to minister to our needs. It seems strange that it should be so, but it is hard for the believer to cease from his works and to rest in that of Christ. The secret of fruitful endeavor for the Master, and His gracious willingness to provide for our needed rest and refreshment may be seen in the Lord's meeting with His disciples at the sea of Tiberias.


John 21:1-3

The disciples went fishing on the sea of Tiberias, but though they labored all night they caught nothing. They had gone fishing without consulting Jesus and without asking Him for His will in the matter. Their fishing was not wrong, as Jesus showed by blessing them in it later, but their endeavor without seeking to know the will and to obtain the blessing of Jesus upon it was wrong. Because of this failure they toiled all night but their efforts were unavailing. They caught nothing. The disciples in this are typical of many Christian men and women who recognize the need of activity but who fail to realize that they need the guidance and blessing of God in their activity. Many sermons are preached and many meetings are held without any fruit being produced because there has been a failure to seek the will of God and to seek His power for the contemplated service. And what a danger there is in such fleshly activity that the Christian will do something which is not in accordance with the will of God at all. Perhaps if Christian workers would seek to know His will and to obtain His blessing there would be less of the social reform movements and educational movements and more of the old-fashioned preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and of personal endeavor to win men to Him. Unquestionably too the message of many would deal less with politics and social problems and other trivialities, and more with the Word of God. As Christians we should be constantly active in His service, but our activity can produce fruit only as He directs it. Psa. 127:1; Jno. 15:5.


John 21:4-5

But after the disciples had labored all night in vain they lifted up their eyes to the shore and saw One standing there Who was willing and able to direct their efforts in a fruitful manner. The Saviour was waiting to bless them and to direct them. So He is waiting to direct and to bless all of His children. When we do not receive His guidance and blessing in our service it is not because of His unwillingness but because of something in our lives which hinders Him. So long as we are wrapped up in our activity and do not take time to look to Him He cannot help us. Some fail to receive His blessing because they do not ask. Should they ask they would receive, for the Saviour is waiting, but failing to ask their efforts are in vain. Still others ask and fail to receive because they ask amiss. Perhaps they ask for His direction and blessing in order that they personally may receive some honor or glory for a fruitful ministry. God delights to honor those who honor Him, but He cannot honor those who selfishly seek their own honor, consequently He is unable to answer the prayer which is praved in such an attitude of heart. Many other things may enter into our lives which h'nder Him from blessing us, but let us remember that (iod is always ready and willing to bless, and He will do so when we seek His blessing and when we seek it according to His will. Phil. 4:19; Jas. 4:2-3, 6; I Jno. 5:14-15; Jas. 1:5-7.


John 21:6

When the disciples heeded the voice of Jesus and submitted themselves to His leading their efforts were immediately fruitful. So it is with the believer who yields to Him and who after learning His will submits himself to it. Such a man is described in the first Psalm. "He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that bringeth forth his fruit in his season. His leaf also shall not wither and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper" (Psa. 1:3). Yes, the Christian who yields to God and who follows His leading finds that all that he does is fruitful because he is in the will of God. The yielded life is a fruitful life. Jno. 15:5; Rom. 12:1-2; Prov. 11:30; Jer. 17:7-8.


John 21:7-8

When the disciples had cast their net as Jesus directed and it was filled with fish they recognized Him. So many a Christian worker has toiled through many weary days without seeing the fruit of his labor, and finally being sick and tired of his own efforts has turned to the Lord in the hour of prayer, submitting himself consciously to Him and asking His blessing. Then when the blessing comes in a fresh manifestation of power and liberty in service that Christian worker lifts his heart in worship and gratitude and says, "It is the Lord." Some soul which has tried to carry a heart-crushing burden of grief or of concern for a loved one finds the load lifted and becomes conscious of a new strength. He then bows in thanksgiving, saying: "It is the Lord." We recognize the Lord in His works and in the blessing which He bestows upon us. Psa. 118:23; Matt. 21:42.


John 21:9-12

When the disciples had come to land they saw a fire with fish laid upon it and bread, and they heard the Saviour's invitations, "Come and dine." Though Jesus had instructed them to bring their fish with them yet He did not invite them to partake of their own catch, but of food which He had provided for them. This gracious invitation reminds us that when the Lord's servant has toiled until he is weary the Lord invites him to come to Him and to find the rest and refreshment which his soul so sorely needs. All of the Saviour's invitations are invitations of grace. To the lost man He cries: "Whosoever will let him take of the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17). To the believer He offers the bread of life and the meat of the deeper teaching of the Word, but all in grace. We must partake of His provision if we are to find the satisfaction which we yearn for. We must feed on God's faithfulness. So as the Saviour invited the toil-worn disciples to come and dine, He invites the weary Christian to step aside for a time and to know the joy and delight of fellowship with Himself. Malt. 11:28-29; Rev. 3:20.


John 21:13-14

The disciples found the food all ready for them and when they responded to the invitation the Lord took the fish and bread and gave them to eat. They found the full provision for their needs. And so it is with the Christian. When he is willing and ready to heed the persistent and tender invitation which the Lord is constantly giving him, and to turn to Him for His provision, he finds that all his needs have been anticipated. God provides abundantly for the needs of His children, and the Christian can conceive of no need in his life for which He has not already made loving provision. How faithfully and regularly we feed our bodies. Should we be any less faithful and regular in the feeding of our souls? Surely the spiritual is more important than the physical and we are foolish when we neglect our souls and surfeit our bodies. Let us feed faithfully on the provision which God has made for us. (Phil. 4:19; Prov. 23:1-6). Let us prove the Lord and enjoy the experience of which one of His children has written so beautifully:

"He came one day to my poor door, and knocked and called to me,

'Beloved, let Me in, that I may sit and sup with thee.'

Though I had nought to give Him, for my house and board were bare.

My heart could not refuse His plea, nor keep Him waiting there.

"And so I opened Him the door, and told my case, though loth,

He smiled and answered lovingly, 'I have enough for both.'

And from that blessed hour to this His friendship has not Ceased'

Each day He sits and sups with me, but He provides the feast."

          — By Ruth G. Robinson, from S. S. Times.


Not only are the disciples representative of the experience of the believer, but they also are representative of the nation Israel, and of her dispensational experiences. The nation Israel has been persisting in her own course, and rejecting the Lord Jesus, spurning His will, and refusing to look to Him for guidance and blessing. Her efforts have been and must be fruitless until she shall turn to the Lord. There is coming a time when she will do this, and when under His direction she will reap a great harvest of souls. This is during the great tribulation, and is through the testimony of the hundred and forty-four thousand sealed messengers. As a result of their testimony a great multitude which no man can number will be saved and will enter into the Kingdom of the Lord. Following the night of the great tribulation they will look upon the Lord Jesus, and will hear His gracious invitation: "Come and dine." They will then enter into the fellowship and blessing of the Kingdom which He has prepared for them. Thus the story of the disciples' experience is typical of Israel's future experience when her Lord shall manifest Himself unto her. Rev. 7:9-14; Rev. 19: 1-16; Ezek. 37:21-28.