The Benefits of Obedience & Complexities of God’s Providence
“And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you will find a catch.” They cast therefore, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.” St. John 21:6.
The familiar picture of the seven disciples out all night without catching a single fish is contrasted with the multitude of fish instantly caught when they followed Jesus’ instructions.
This incident is a fulfillment of a promise that Jesus made before his resurrection as well as on the day of resurrection. In the Garden of Gethsemane he had said to his disciples: ‘You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee’ (St. Mathew 26:31-32). On the resurrection day he told the women that they were to tell his ‘brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me’ (St. Mathew 28:10). Both these predictions were met by unbelief initially in the disciples, although by now the disciples knew that Jesus was alive.
This is the first of at least two appearances of the risen Savior in Galilee. The second is mentioned in St. Mathew 28:16: ‘Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.’ We can tell that this appearance at the lake was the first in Galilee because John tells us that it was the third appearance of Jesus to his disciples as a group (the previous two had occurred in Jerusalem). Unlike the previous two appearances to the group of disciples, this third appearance was not on a Lord’s Day.
It is also worth noting that both Jesus’ first and last recorded miracles were done in Galilee. The first was the turning of water into wine at Cana and the second was this miraculous catch of fish. Galilee was therefore a highly favored location that had known many of the Savior’s miracles. In both the first and the final miracles, Jesus gave abundantly more than was expected.
I cannot even begin to imagine the emotional roller-coaster on which the disciples had ridden between Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and His Trials, Passion, and Crucifixion, and the resurrection. What incredible swings from highs to lows and back again, several times. Just try to put yourself there for a moment: 1) The fear and turmoil at His arrest, torture, and death; then, the euphoric joy at seeing Him alive several times, still bearing the scars of the wounds He had suffered; and, 2) the anxiety of being separated from Him in between those post-resurrection appearances. But now, during one of the lulls or downtimes in this frenzy of amazing events, seven of Jesus’ disciples find themselves back on familiar ground—gathered together on the shores of the lake they knew so well.
It was here that some of them had made their living at fishermen, up until three years before. It was here Jesus had called some of them to “follow me,” and they obeyed. Along its shores He had taught and healed, fed and forgiven. Upon its surface He had walked. Despite having all the right equipment, and plenty of knowledge, skills, and experience, their efforts at catching anything turned out quite futile.
Tired and frustrated, they head back to the shore, perhaps wondering if their fishing abilities—like the presence of Jesus—was now something that they would only see and have occasionally. But just when their hopes were near their lowest, Jesus stands before them. “Haven’t you any fish?” He asks. He offers some clear direction and quiet confidence: “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” This time, there is no, “If it is really you, Lord, command me to walk across the water to you.” This time, there is not any, “Get away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” No, this time Peter’s doubts and fears have completely vanished, and his desire to be with the Lord drives him headlong into the headwaters of the Jordan. A confidence born of faith and sealed in his witnessing of the resurrected Christ brought Peter through the waters and placed him before His Savior.
When we do not feel or see the Lord directly involved in our lives in a very visible way, we are prone to fall into old, worldly habits. We get distracted by what we know and what we feel comfortable doing, rather than hearing His words, “As the Father has sent me, even so, I am sending you.” We strive so hard to provide for ourselves, casting our nets aimlessly here and there across the desolate surface of the deep, or fruitlessly fishing in the same spot over and over, rather than trusting that the Lord will provide all that we need, and more.
For all these shortcomings, whether from weakness of faith or selfish ambition, repent: 1) for failing to see how the Lord works clearly in your life, every day in countless ways; 2) for forgetting to give thanks for the even more countless ways in which He works that are unknown to you; 3) of letting the world lead you toward choosing what to do, rather than letting God’s word of guidance rule in your heart, your mind, and your actions; 4) of not trusting that He will provide for your every need according to His good and gracious will; 5) for thinking that your survival and success depends on what you alone do; and, 6) that you have often turned away from your responsibilities to be a good neighbor to your brothers and sisters in Christ, refusing to take up your share of the burdens of this fellowship—with your time, your efforts, your finances.
Having worked so hard in the darkness and gaining nothing of worth, come into the light of the new Easter dawn. See your Savior standing, awaiting you. Cast your net on the right side, and He will give you what you have been looking for. Bring the catch that He has provided you to the place where He is.
And as the culmination of it all, receive the meal that your Savior has prepared for you—His body and blood, given into death on the cross, but raised again to new life so that you may believe. It is the foretaste of the heavenly banquet that He provides for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith. Please, You are NOT alone facing those various challenges of this world. Put your heavy burdens and all worldly challenges on His shoulder as He is eagerly, lovingly, and compassionately waiting to carry it on your behalf. Obey Him and Enjoy His Heavenly Providence.