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“On this wise showed he himself.”
“After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself. There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea. And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes. As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken. Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise. This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.” (John 21:1-14)
How does the Lord Jesus show himself? How does our blessed Savior make himself known to his people? When does he come to his own? When does he make himself known? We should always come to the house of God and to the Word of God desiring to see our blessed Savior and hear his voice. — “He standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, showing himself through the lattice” (Song of Solomon 2:9). We come here to his Word, and come to his house in public worship with his saints, hoping that our Lord Jesus will be pleased to look forth at the window of his Word and show himself through the lattice of his ordinances, as we gather in his name for prayer, praise, and the preaching of the gospel.
Did he not promise, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20)? Did he not tell us, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21)? Yet, how often we are compelled to ask, “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” (John 14:22).
How does the Lord Jesus show himself? We might find some answers to that question in this closing chapter of John’s Gospel. “On this wise showed he himself.” After our Lord arose from the dead, he appeared to Mary and twice to his disciples, and showed himself to seven of the disciples who had gone to Galilee according to his instructions (Matthew 28:10, 16). These appearances were more than just physical appearances in order that they could see him and know that he lives. They were more than mere proofs of his resurrection. In these post-resurrection appearances our blessed Savior manifested himself in his divine majesty, his resurrected glory, his love and compassion for his people, and his finished redemptive work, showing forth his glory as our risen, triumphant Savior.
There are the twelve recorded appearances of our Lord Jesus Christ after his resurrection in the New Testament. There may have been many more; we do not know (Acts 1:3). These twelve are recorded for us in the Book of God.
1. To Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18).
2. To the women (Matthew 28:9-10).
3. To Cleopas and His Companion (Luke 24:13-35).
4. To Simon (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5).
5. To the Disciples, Thomas being Absent (John 20:19-23).
6. To the Disciples, Thomas being Present (John 20:24-29).
7. To the Seven at the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-14).
8. To the Disciples on the Mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20).
9. To the Five Hundred (1 Corinthians 15:6).
10. To James, the Lord’s Brother (1 Corinthians 15:7).
11. To the Eleven Disciples on Olivet, Near Jerusalem (Acts 1:4-11; Luke 24:50-51).
12. To Paul on the Road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-7).
But after his resurrection, our Lord Jesus never showed himself to anyone except his disciples. And they saw him only as he made himself known to them. Though he stood before them and spoke to them, though they saw him physically, none could see him and know who he was except by special revelation, except Christ reveal himself to them. So it is now.
This fact is important. By it we see that the resurrection was never intended to be a proof of anything to unbelievers. This fact also teaches us that any profitable sight of our Lord Jesus Christ, any sight of him that is beneficial to our souls, any saving, sight and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ is spiritual. — Not Carnal — Not Academic — Not Visionary — But Spiritual! We cannot see the Lord Jesus, at any time, or know his presence, or hear his voice, except as he is pleased to make himself known to us. All who are yet without Christ, without life, without faith, without God, and without hope, must forever remain as they are unless the Lord Jesus makes himself known to them by the mighty operations of his grace (2 Corinthians 4:6; Genesis 1:1-3).
The same thing is true of us who are the Lord’s. Though we are born gain, though we live by faith in Christ, though we live in the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, and are filled with the Holy Ghost, as all heaven-born souls are, we cannot (at any time, in any circumstances, or under any conditions) see and know our blessed Savior, except he make himself known to us by the wonderful, mighty operations of his grace on our behalf. Though the Lord Jesus stood before Mary and talked to her, she did not see him and did not know him until he made himself known to her. Though the risen Savior walked with and taught those disciples on the road to Emmaus, they did not see him and did not know him until he made himself known to them. Though the blessed Savior miraculously stepped into their midst on that first day, that first Sunday evening after he was risen, they did not see him and did not know him until he made himself known to them. The same is true of us today! O blessed Savior, graciously make yourself known to our souls day by day, and hour by hour, that we may walk joyfully with you!
The only way we can see the Lord Jesus Christ, the only way we can behold the glory of God in the Person and work of his dear Son is by faith in Christ; and that faith by which we behold him is his own gift of grace. — “On this wise showed he himself.” This appearance of our Lord Jesus to his disciples at the sea of Tiberias indicates that there are specific times when the Savior comes to his own; and that he always comes to us for a specific reason, to give us grace to help in our time of need. Here are seven specific seasons when we may expect our dear Savior to show himself to us as he does not to the world.
First, the Lord Jesus shows himself to his chosen when we are most undeserving. He came to these poor disciples after a night of great fault and of sad failure (vv. 2-3).
“There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the [sons] of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.”
Seven of the disciples were assembled together in a certain place not far from the Sea of Galilee (Tiberias). Peter said, “Boys, I’m going back to my fishing business.” Fishing was his business and occupation before he met the Master. Peter, having denied the Savior, unsure of his Master’s purpose for him, and being a man of action more than contemplation and waiting, decided to go back to the boats and nets. It seems clear to me that Peter turned his back on preaching the gospel, and made up his mind to return to his former occupation, fishing.
The other disciples were ready to follow where Peter led, and they said, “Wait up, we’ll go with you.” Obviously, they still owned their boats and nets. Why they kept them, we are not told; but they did; and those boats and nets became a snare to their souls. — Let every preacher be warned. Sell all and follow Christ. Make it your business to disentangle yourself with the cares of this world. Make it your relentless determination to be continually “separated unto the Gospel of God” (Romans 1:1).
Those poor, fallen preachers (All had forsaken the Savior. Peter had denied him.) went back to their fishing business, entered one of their ships, as they had done all their lives, and fished all night. But on this night something very unusual happened. — They caught nothing!
Our Lord Jesus is sovereign over the fish of the sea; and he graciously kept his fallen disciples from having any success that night. “They had been called,” Pastor Henry Mahan wrote, “to be fishers of men, not fishermen of this sort.” Failure and disappointment are often instruments our God uses to prepare us for some blessed, sweet experience of his grace. If the Lord permits his own to fall, it is that he might lift us up and, in the lift, reveal himself the more gracious and glorious.
Second, our dear Savior shows himself to his chosen at daybreak. — “But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus” (v. 4). In the Revised Version those words are translated, — “When the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the shore.” Whenever the Lord Jesus comes to us and shows himself to us, it is the breaking of a fresh, new day to our souls (Isaiah 12:1-6; 25:9)!
When Christ first appears to his elect in conversion, the daybreak of Grace is begun in the heaven-born soul! When the Day Star (2 Peter 1:19) arises in our hearts, when the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2) arises in our souls, with healing in his wings, a new day begins! And when the Savior shows himself after a season of darkness, it is the breaking of day to our souls. Sorrow may endure for the night; but joy comes in the morning when he appears!
Third, the Son of God shows himself to his chosen, sweetly forcing us to make confession of our need of him (vv. 4-5). Morning dawned and the Lord Jesus stood on the shore. The disciples were only about one hundred yards offshore. They could both see him and hear him; but they did not know that it was the Lord. He asked if they had caught any fish; and they said, “No.”
He did not ask this question for information, or because he did not know the answer. He asked, “Children, have ye taken any meat?” to draw their attention to the fact that their return to their old occupation was a total failure, to sweetly and graciously force them to confess their complete failure and inability, and to make them attentive to the miracle he was about to perform, to prepare them for the great revelation of his goodness. Robert Hawker calls our attention to the fact that…
“The want of success in those fishers, and the Lord Jesus early in the morning standing on the shore, formed a blessed occasion for the manifestation of his person and grace, which were to follow. When the Lord is about to reveal himself to his people, how graciously he sometimes prepares the way for the greater display of his love!”
Have we not proved, again and again, that our dear Savior can and does supply all the needs of his redeemed (Philippians 4:19)?
Fourth, our Lord Jesus Christ shows himself to his chosen to display his greatness as God our Savior. — “And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find” (v. 6).
I have no idea how to adequately explain this. Experienced fishermen are not likely to obey the instructions of a stranger standing on the shore. Yet, at the command of the Lord Jesus to “cast the net on the right side of the ship,” they obeyed without hesitation. They had toiled all night to no purpose, and now that the day was breaking, they had given up all hope. But the authoritative voice of that stranger on the shore, so full of promise, was heard and immediately obeyed.
This is an obvious display of our Lord’s absolute sovereignty. He never commands anything that is not done! The disciples had no idea who it was that spoke to them; but they obeyed his voice as readily and quickly as the angels of heaven obey the voice of the Almighty.
Our Lord will sometimes leave us to ourselves, not only to show us how utterly impotent we are, but also to make us know more fully his divine greatness as God our Savior, and to teach us to look to him, not to ourselves, for everything.
Fifth, our gracious Master shows himself to his chosen to give us success. Look at verse 6 again. — “They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes!” By this great display of his power, the Lord Jesus made himself known to these disciples he so dearly loved (vv. 7-8).
“Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt [his] fisher’s coat [unto him], (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea. And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.”
No doubt they remembered another incident similar to this (Luke 5:4-11). No doubt they also remembered the parable by which the Lord Jesus had taught them (Matthew 13:47-51). Gospel preaching is compared to fishing, but with a net, never with a hook and line. If you fish with a hook, you have to cover the hook and deceive the fish. If you fish with a hook and bait, the catch depends in some measure on the skill of the fisherman. But, if you fish with a net, everything depends on God. — You have to wait for God to put the fish in the net!
Both the disciples and the fish obeyed the Lord Jesus. At his command, the disciples cast the net on the right side of the ship; and 153 fish swam into the net on the right side of the ship!
As I read this story I cannot help thinking, “How near and dear to his heart the Lord’s people must be!” He says now as much as he did then, “Children, have ye any meat? Cast on the right side, and ye shall find.” If we fail to seek our spiritual sustenance from him, he will be found of them that seek him not. Oh, how often the Lord Jesus makes himself known by his gracious acts as well as by his Word! He makes himself known by his providence and by his grace in countless instances where we least expected him.
Surely, these gospel preachers were taught by this experience, and we should be, that the success of our labor in the gospel is the Lord’s doing alone. Nothing depends on us. Everything depends on him!
Sixth, our ever gracious Savior, Jehovah-Jesus, Jehovah-jireh, shows himself to his chosen to provide our needs (vv. 9-11).
“As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.”
Even in his resurrection body, the Lord Jesus was not unmindful of the bodies of his cold and hungry disciples. This is another manifestation of his love and care for his own. The meal provided was not a sumptuous feast; but it was according to his manner as the Shepherd of his flock and according to their need. And it was miraculously provided.
The Son of God always goes before us in his providential arrangements for our souls. How we ought to rejoice in every token of his eternal purpose, his sovereign providence, and his special prevenient grace, all exercised on our behalf!
Seventh, the Lord Jesus shows himself to his chosen to give us the joy of sweet communion with himself (vv. 12-14).
“Jesus saith unto them, Come [and] dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise. This is now the third time that Jesus showed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.”
Our dear Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, has a way of giving, whereby he makes himself known. — “And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight” (Luke 24:30-31). Here are these poor, sinful, fallen disciples sitting with the risen Lord of Glory. As they sat down to breakfast with the Master, they must have recalled how he had once fed the multitudes with the same fare as he now fed them, a few fish and a loaf of bread (John 6:1-14). They were awestruck in his presence. How utterly unworthy they must have felt, yet how welcome!
We usually have the most conscious, humbling sense of ourselves when the Lord Jesus makes himself known to us in his most bounteous and free acts of mercy, love, and grace. When the all gracious Christ of God and the poor, needy sinner meet, the sweetest fellowship known to man on this earth commences! None of the disciples asked any questions, for they knew that it was the Lord. Their doubts, unbelief, and questions about his resurrection were all resolved by his presence!
The disciples came from their defeat, frustration, and failure at sea to find a fire kindled and a meal of bread and fish prepared for them by the Son of God. What a lesson there is in this for those who preach the gospel! We are unable to provide anything in our own strength, but by his grace, he will fully meet all our needs. His grace is sufficient! The Savior’s provisions are so complete that nothing of ours need be added. The command, when he provides, is simply, “Come and dine, for all things are ready.”
So it is in redemption. —– “Christ is all and in all.” All we bring to him is our emptiness, our need, and our sin. We stand before him and his spiritual blessings as these weary, hungry disciples stood before that meal. It was all provided by their loving Lord. The law demands; but Christ gives (1 Corinthians 1:30-31; Colossians 2:9-10; Ephesians 1:3-6).
“Jesus has a table spread
Where poor, needy souls are fed,
He invites His chosen people,
Come and dine;
With His manna He does feed
And supplies our every need.
O ‘tis sweet to sup with Jesus —
Come and dine!
The disciples came to land,
Thus obeying Christ’s command,
For the Master called unto them,
Come and dine;
There they found their heart’s desire,
Bread and fish upon the fire;
Thus He satisfies the hungry every time! —
Come and dine!
Soon the Lamb will take His bride
To be ever at His side,
All the host of Heaven will assembled be;
Come and dine;
O twill be a glorious sight,
All the saints in spotless white;
And with Jesus they will feast eternally. —
Come and dine!
Come and dine, the Master calleth, Come and dine;
You may feast at Jesus’ table, Come and dine!
He Who fed the multitude, turned the water into wine,
To the hungry calleth now, Come and dine!”
Eat, O friends! Come and dine. “Behold, all things are now ready!” — Come and dine!