Finding Jesus in Unexpected Places
Imagine the scene depicted for us in John 21. Six men are out fishing all night on the Sea of Galilee. This is their domain, where they made their living for so many years before a dramatic event three years earlier pulled them away and set them on a journey with a young rabbi who claimed to be the Messiah. After following him to a brutal death on the cross, they have experienced two times his resurrected form, but they have no idea what to do with this radical revelation of the power of God. So, confused and directionless, they go back to doing what they’ve always done. They go fishing.
John tells us they fished all night and caught nothing. We can imagine that as they sat out on the lake and looked around so many memories came back to them. They remember where they were on the lake when they saw Jesus walking to them on the water. They recalled another place where a storm almost swamped their boat before a word from Jesus calmed the wind and waves. They looked at the shore to where 5,000 families gathered and were fed by two loaves and five fish. They saw the hillside where he stood and taught people that the meek will inherit the earth. They could see the temple in Capernaum, and the other direction across to where a herd of pigs was filled with an evil spirit and ran into the sea and drowned. And they recalled how so many times Jesus had sat right here, on their boat, and taught them about the coming of the kingdom of God. All of these memories were so vivid, and yet here they were, back on the boat, wondering what was next.
It was in this context, in their vocation, that they received their answer. Morning had come, and they hear a voice shouting from the beach. They don’t recognize the person, but he instructs them to throw their nets over one more time. For some reason, without question, they obey. When the nets strain under a miraculous load of fish, we are told that John turns to Peter shouting, “it’s the Lord!” Without hesitation Peter ties on his outer garment and jumps into the water. The prospect of being back in the presence of Jesus was so compelling that even nets full of fish couldn’t hold him back.
What do we learn from this encounter, the third one between the resurrected Christ and his followers? Let me posit three important teachings for us today.
First, Jesus enters into the life of his disciples in the midst of their vocation. He honors their work by using it as a vehicle to reveal himself in his glory. Rather than rebuking them for fishing when they should be preparing to proclaim the truth of his resurrection, Jesus acknowledges their vocation and uses it as a way back to him. In what way might Jesus be revealing himself in and through your work? God created us for work. All the way back to Genesis chapter 2, we understand that we were created to put our hand to the plow and be engaged in meaningful vocation. Here Jesus uses that very vocation for his own glory. Do we look to find God in other places than our work, or do we expect him to show up and reveal himself to us right in the midst of our daily occupation?
Second, God‘s abundant provision immediately brought a recognition that he was indeed the one who provided. The disciples did not pat themselves on the back and take the credit for their great fishing skills. They immediately recognized the hand of God on their work and John’s proclamation that ‘it is the Lord’ was the appropriate response to such a demonstration of God‘s faithful provision. Of course, they had seen this before, at the beginning of their journey with Jesus. Now, here before the ascension, Jesus uses the same miracle to reveal his glory once again and call them to him. How about us in our work? When God provides in abundant ways is our immediate response to point to the shore and cry out, ‘it is the Lord’? Does he immediately get the glory for all the ways in which he provides for us every day? Do we look for his provision in our work as a way for him to reveal his ongoing love, care and provision for all of our needs?
Finally, we have Peter jumping in the water and swimming to Jesus. The prospect of being once again in the presence of his master was so overpowering to him that he left everything behind to come near to Jesus. What about us? How passionate are we about being in the presence of Jesus? Is abiding in him our highest calling or do we allow the distractions of work to draw us away from opportunities to be in his presence? What would it mean for you for the presence of Jesus to be so compelling that you will leave everything behind to be near him at every opportunity?
As we press into the work that God has called us to do, regardless of our job or location, may we steward every day in these three wonderful ways revealed to us in John 21. May we look to our work as the place where God can reveal himself in fresh and new ways to us. May we give him the glory, seeing every success as one more opportunity to shout to the world that it is the Lord who is the provider of all we need. And may we thirst and yearn for his presence to such a degree that nothing will keep us from it or distract us from pursuing it.
Steward these post resurrection days in these ways and watch God fill your nets to the full in every area of life.