Not Recognizing Jesus: John 21:1-14

Focus Passage: John 21:1-14 (NIV)

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.

Read John 21:1-14 in context and/or in other translations on!

When we look at the fishing trip the disciples took after Jesus’ resurrection, we can see an amazing picture of how God moves, and how He may choose to work in our lives. When everything has been finished, there is no question left in our minds whether it was God working or not – we just know it.

After this miracle, John tells us that Jesus invites them for breakfast. John also adds that, “None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord.” (v. 12b)

With the massive catch of fish after a night filled with disappointment, every disciple who was present at that breakfast meal had no doubt that the person sitting with them was Jesus. They may not have recognized Jesus as clearly in His resurrected body, but there was no doubt in their minds that it was Him.

This detail John includes in this event is important for us to remember. With this detail, we can learn that just because we don’t recognize Jesus moving in an event, this does not mean that He is absent. Just because an event does not line up with our picture of God, we should not discount the possibility that God has a purpose in mind through what happened.

This even is the case in horrible events as well. Note that God does not cause bad events to happen, but in every bad event that He allows to happen, I believe that He has a way of bringing good from it. What happened may not have been our first choice, and it definitely was not His first choice, but if He allowed it, He can use it for His glory.

In this miracle, none of the disciples truly recognized Jesus like they knew Him before. Following the catch of fish, an unnamed disciple (assumed to be John), identified that the man on the shore must have been Jesus. Prior to that, none of the disciples recognized Him.

Even sitting on the shore next to Jesus, it seems as though the disciples didn’t recognize Him clearly. It seems as though John tells us that each disciple had the question in their minds to ask Jesus who He is, but none of them were brave enough to actually ask – and also because they all believed the man to be Jesus.

This brings us back to this big idea: Just because we don’t recognize Jesus moving in an event does not mean that He is absent. Just because an event does not line up with our picture of God, we should not discount the possibility that God has a purpose in mind through what happened.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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