Flashback Episode — When We Have Given Up: John 21:1-14

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It seems like such a long time ago since we began our year focusing on Jesus’ miracles. So much has happened, and we have discovered so much. At this point in our journey, according to most lists of miracles, we have just one miracle left to cover, and this miracle happens to be the only one that is recorded following Jesus’ resurrection and prior to His return to heaven.

This miracle is almost like a repeat miracle, because it is very similar to one of Jesus’ earlier miracles, though this second time around we discover some pretty amazing truths about Jesus’ character and His love for all of us.

After Jesus had been resurrected and had visited the disciples two times in the upper room, we learn that at least half of the disciples returned to Galilee, and while they were there, Jesus appeared to them again.

Let’s discover what happened, and the miracle that Jesus wanted to surprise His followers with. Our passage is found in the gospel of John, chapter 21, and we will read it from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 1, John tells us that:

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.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

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.

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. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

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.

In this passage and in this miracle, we remember the earlier miracle surrounding the first disciples and their official call into being disciples, or followers, of Jesus. Perhaps Peter and his fishing buddies had heard of Jesus or heard Him speak prior to their first personal encounter with Jesus as He asks to preach from their boat, but the foundation leading up to both the original miracle and this last miracle are the same. In both cases, the disciples had fished all night and caught nothing.

Following the original fishing miracle, Jesus invited Peter, Andrew, James, and John to be His disciples. From this point forward, these four men were among the closest and most well known of the group of disciples. Andrew, more than any other disciple, is portrayed as bringing individuals to Jesus, and the other three disciples formed Jesus’ inner circle of disciples.

Looking at this second fishing miracle, I wonder if these disciples were confused or discouraged. They had spent over three years with Jesus and had expected His kingdom to follow a certain path that the religious leaders had been describing the Messiah to walk for as long as they could remember. They knew Jesus was special and that Jesus was sent by God, but Jesus simply didn’t fit the role they were expecting.

Not only that, but Jesus also had died, and leading up to His death, they all had abandoned Him to the cross. According to the religious leaders, and the expectation of the disciples, the Messiah wouldn’t die and He would last forever. While they got the second part right, those in the first century missed the sacrificial portions of the scripture predicting Jesus’ death. Even the sanctuary service pointed forward to the death of the One God would send.

In this last official miracle, we discover a second chance. Part of me believes that these disciples believed they had failed God beyond what was forgivable. At the one point when Jesus needed them the most, they had run away. While things turned out well for Jesus, they likely wondered if Jesus would forgive them for what they had done. Peter was probably the most discouraged out of the group, because he had been the most vocal about staying by Jesus’ side, and he had fallen exactly like Jesus had predicted he would.

However, while the disciples may have given up hope of being the champions they believed Jesus wanted them to be, Jesus steps up with a surprise. Jesus comes to them and He repeats the miracle that prompted their first invitation. With this miracle, Jesus invites the disciples back into being His followers, and with this miracle, we discover a second chance for all of us.

When we fail God, and when we are tempted to believe that we have turned too far away from God for Him to be willing to take us back, remember that at least we didn’t reject Jesus leading up to the cross like His first followers did. And even with their rejection, Jesus invited them back. This means that no matter how far we have fallen away from God, He is willing to invite us back. No matter how badly we have messed up, while we have breath, we have been given the chance to return. Even if we think God no longer loves us, know that Jesus came to redeem sinners – and that includes whatever you feel you have done that isn’t forgivable. God wants to forgive you, and He is more than willing to invite you back into being one of His followers.

However, we have run out of time for this episode, so next week, leading up to our finale-wrap-up episodes, we’ll expand on where we have left off here, and focus in on probably the greatest miracle we have, which is a gift from God to us. Most people don’t realize the miraculous nature of this gift, and dedicating a whole episode to it seems like the best way to finish off our year of podcasting Jesus’ miracles.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always remember to seek God first and when we mess up, don’t delay returning to Him. The worst thing we can do is to leave God when we feel we don’t deserve forgiveness. It is for people who don’t deserve forgiveness that Jesus came to give forgiveness to. Forgiveness is freely given to those who come back to God and acknowledge their sin and their need for a Savior.

Also, always pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow personally closer to God. While listening to others can be helpful, never let someone else’s experience or relationship with God get in the way of your personal relationship with God. A personal relationship with God is too important to let someone else into.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or walk away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year of Miracles – Episode 49: After the crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus appears to a group of disciples with a miracle that resembles a miracle leading up to their first invitation to be disciples. Is Jesus giving these disciples a second chance, and if so, do we have a second chance when we have failed or given up hope?

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