“He showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days” (Acts 1:3) “After these things Yeshua showed Himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias” (John 21:1).
In the above verse, “these things” refers to the things that occurred in the previous chapters of John’s Gospel - the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the risen Lord’s appearance to Mary Magdalene, then His appearance that same evening to all the disciples except Thomas, and His appearance eight days later, this time with Thomas present. And now, this appearance on the seashore.
The appearances of the risen Lord recorded in the four Gospels were unannounced, unpredictable, and unexpected at the time. Yeshua’s disciples never knew when or where or even how He was going to show up in His resurrected body during those forty days between the Resurrection and the Ascension.
He might appear as a gardener, like He did to Mary Magdalene, unrecognized by her until He spoke her name. He might appear as a stranger on the road, like He did to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, giving them the best Bible study ever. And then, after being seen for who He was, He suddenly vanished from their sight. He might appear as a hungry man, like He did to the disciples inside a closed room, asking for something to eat. “And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb, and He took it, and did eat before them” (Luke 24:42f). He might appear to seven exhausted disciples in a boat as a stranger on the shore, asking if they caught anything, then telling them to cast the net on the right side of the ship, resulting in a haul of one hundred and fifty-three fish. “As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread” (John 21:9).
During those forty days, the risen Lord was full of surprises. Those must have been exciting days, days filled with eager anticipation. The disciples never knew when or where the Lord might show up, or even what form He might initially take in one of these Resurrection appearances. The disciples had to stay alert and watch for Him. Otherwise they might be taken off guard and miss Him when He showed up, and then feel foolish for not immediately recognizing Him when He was right there in their midst.
Yes, those forty days must have been very exciting. But let’s not just experience excitement vicariously by thinking about how thrilling those forty days were for Yeshua’s disciples way back then. Let’s experience some real excitement in our own lives.
A.W. Tozer wrote, “The God of the modern evangelical rarely astonishes anyone.” I don’t know about you, but I’m not content to get all my excitement and astonishment vicariously by reading about famous saints who lived exciting lives in the past. I want to experience some spiritual excitement and astonishment in the present, and I hope you do, too!
We can experience spiritual excitement today. Yeshua’s resurrected, glorified body ascended to heaven, but the risen Lord still walks this earth. His person is still present in the Holy Spirit that He sent, and the Holy Spirit can surprise us and astonish us. Just as the disciples never knew when the Lord might show up in His resurrected body, we never know when the Lord might show up in the power of His Holy Spirit.
Just as the risen Lord sometimes showed up as a gardener, or as a stranger walking along the road, or as a stranger at a campfire on the seashore, so the Holy Spirit sometimes shows up and works among us in ways that we do not immediately recognize. Just as the disciples had to stay alert and watch for the risen Lord to appear at any time during those forty days, so we have to stay alert and watch for the Holy Spirit to move among us at any time during these days. And just as the disciples probably felt foolish for not immediately recognizing the risen Lord when He was right there among them, so we sometimes feel foolish for not immediately recognizing the moving of the Holy Spirit among us.
After the Resurrection, Yeshua’s disciples could not predict or schedule or force a visit from the risen Lord. He showed up whenever and wherever and in whatever form He pleased. In like manner, we cannot predict or schedule or force a visitation from the Holy Spirit. People try though: “Next week we’re having revival at our church.”
Don’t misunderstand; I’m not being critical of Christians who plan revival meetings. People who announce a revival have good intentions. But it would be more accurate for them to say: “Next week we’re having meetings every evening, and we hope and pray that these meetings will somehow result in people being revived by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.”
And there’s nothing wrong with that. Even though we cannot predict or schedule or demand a visitation from the Holy Spirit, or demand how the Spirit will move, or what sorts of manifestations will come forth, we can do things to make the Holy Spirit welcome. We can repent of our sins and begin living righteously. We can humble ourselves before the Lord. We can seek the Lord in prayer. And we can even schedule special meetings and pray that those meetings will result in people being revived by the presence and power of the Spirit. As a matter of fact, the big annual HRN conference that I attend every year is called REVIVE.
We cannot arrogantly demand that the Lord show up at a certain time and in a certain way in the power of His Holy Spirit. He is the Lion of Judah, and lions do whatever they want. As they said of Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, “He’s not a tame lion.” The Lord will not be bossed around by His disciples. However, there are things we can do to make the Lord want to move among us. We cannot demand manifestations of His Spirit, but we can show Him that we desire His presence so much that we thirst for Him as the deer panteth for the waters, that we yearn and pine for His presence, that we crave the reality of the living God more than anything else on earth. We can plead with the Lord like the Bride in the Song of Solomon, saying:
“Tell me, O Thou whom my soul loveth, where Thou feedest, where Thou makest Thy flock to rest?” (Song 1:7).
And if we have an ear to hear, we will hear our Bridegroom’s reply to our plea:
“My love, My dove, My undefiled... thou hast ravished My heart, My sister, My spouse, thou hast ravished My heart with one of thine eyes... shuvi shuvi ha-shulamit, Return, return, O Shulamite” (Song 5:2, 4:6, 6:13).
If we have neglected the Lover of our soul and grieved Him, causing His presence to withdraw from our midst, we can return to Him as a repentant Shulamite:
“By night on my bed I sought Him whom my soul loveth: I sought Him, but I found Him not” (Song 3:1). We can rise up from our bed of spiritual slothfulness and seek Him: “I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways will I seek Him whom my soul loveth: I sought Him, but I found Him not” (Song 3:2), because He is not found on the broad way. He is only found on the narrow way that leads to life.
As we seek Him, the Lord’s faithful watchmen can help direct us to the One whose presence we seek:
“The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw ye Him whom my soul loveth?” (Song 3:3). If we follow the instructions of the Lord’s faithful watchmen, we will soon find the One we seek: “It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found Him whom my soul loveth: I held Him, and would not let Him go” (Song 3:4).
I believe the Lord wants to surprise us and delight us with unannounced, unexpected visitations of His Spirit, just as He surprised the disciples with unannounced, unexpected visits during those forty days between the Resurrection and the Ascension. Maybe I’m reading too much into these Resurrection appearances, but it looks to me like the Lord gets a kick out of occasionally surprising His people at random times, sometimes even disguising Himself before revealing who He is. Kind of like a parent playing “peek-a-boo” with a baby, and watching with joy as the baby reacts with squeals of delight and excitement. (“Whe-e-e-e-r-r-re’s the Lord? There He is! ”)
Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I don’t think so. Why else would the risen Lord have unexpectedly shown up at random unannounced times, and in forms which disguised who He was, before revealing His identity?
Of all the Resurrection appearances recorded in the Gospels, this one on the shore of the sea of Tiberias is one of my favorites. Think what it must have been like for the disciples that day. They had seen Yeshua alive on the day when Mary Magdalene had seen Him, then again eight days later. Then they had gone to Galilee in response to the angel’s instructions: “Behold, He goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see Him: lo, I have told you” (Matt. 28:7).
They were told that they would see Him somewhere in Galilee. But Galilee is a big area. They were not told which part of Galilee, or when or how He would appear to them. Only that “there shall ye see Him.”
So put yourself in the disciples’ sandals. If an angel had told you that the risen Lord was going to Galilee and that you would see Him there, would you not be watching and praying and yearning for His presence with eager anticipation? Of course you would!
Just as the disciples had a promise that the Lord would appear to them, so we have a promise that the Holy Spirit will come to us. “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39). Therefore we should be watching and praying and yearning for visitations from the Holy Spirit, just as the disciples watched and prayed and yearned for visits from the risen Lord during those forty days.
As they waited in Galilee, “Simon Peter saith to them, I go a fishing” (John 21:3). Some people have criticized Peter for going fishing at this time. “Peter got tired of waiting for Jesus to show up,” they say. “Peter decided to go back to his old career, the fishing business that the Lord had called him to leave. The fact that they fished all night and caught nothing proves that it was a bad decision.”
However, I do not criticize Peter for going fishing at this time. Notice the angel did not say to go to Galilee and just sit there in idleness waiting for the Lord to appear. Peter and the other disciples in the boat were at least trying to do something worthwhile with their time while waiting for the Lord to show up. And if they had not gone a fishing that night, they would not have been in a position the next morning to cast the net over the right side of the boat to catch all those fish.
If you just “wait on the Lord” in lazy idleness, don’t expect very many marvelous manifestations of the Spirit. To “wait on the Lord” means to be alert and expectant while going about your daily activities. It means to be a good steward of your time while you watch and wait for the Spirit to move in your life. “Waiting on the Lord” is not passive. It is an active form of waiting, like waiters waiting on tables at a restaurant. It is serving the Lord with eager expectation and anticipation.
For me, the most touching part of this Resurrection appearance is the bread and fish upon the fire and the Lord’s invitation “Come and dine.” The disciples had toiled all through the night and caught nothing. They were tired, disappointed, hungry, and lonely for the Lord. The Lord remedied their disappointment by sending one hundred and fifty-three fish into their net. He satisfied their hunger for food with freshly-baked bread and fish upon the fire. He satisfied their longing for His presence by appearing to them. And even though the Bible does not say this, I suspect the Lord’s presence also drove away their tiredness. I know that seeing the risen Lord would certainly have perked me up!
Like those disciples, we might sometimes go through a season that is a spiritual “night” for us. We toil and see no results. We experience disappointment and we hunger and yearn for the presence of the Lord. We feel tired and weary of life. But if we keep our spiritual eyes and ears open, and scan the spiritual horizon, we will soon see a Stranger standing on the seashore. We might not recognize Him at first. We might not realize right away that the Spirit is at work. We might attribute unusual events and circumstances to only chance, or to happenstance, or maybe even to the Devil. But if we look closely, we will soon see that the Lord’s hand is in the situation. The Holy Spirit is moving. Even if the Devil is at work, the Lord is in control, and even the Devil’s work is part of God’s plan.
Like John said to Peter after the net filled with fish, “It is the Lord,” we realize that it is the Lord orchestrating the events around us. And just as Peter cast himself into the sea and eagerly swam to shore, we might “abandon ship” and run to the Lord. There we find that He has prepared a feast of bread and fish upon the fire, something to satisfy our spiritual hunger. We hear His voice bid us “Come and dine.” As we dine in His presence, our disappointment and discouragement and loneliness melts away.
After they had dined, Yeshua had something special for Peter. This was now “the third time that Yeshua showed Himself to His disciples, after that He was risen from the dead” (John 21:14). Peter had denied the Lord a first, a second, and a third time. Now, at this third Resurrection appearance, Yeshua gave Peter an opportunity to express his love for Him a first, a second, and a third time, to undo his three-fold denial of the Lord. Three times Yeshua asked Peter, “Lovest thou Me?” Each time Peter responded affirmatively, and each time the Lord said, “Feed My lambs,” “Feed My sheep,” “Feed My sheep.”
Yeshua then spoke to Peter concerning the death Peter would someday die to glorify God. “And when He had spoken this, He saith unto him, Follow Me” (John 21:19).
Then Peter, turning about, saw John and asked Yeshua about His plans for John. “Lord, and what shall this man do?” (John 21:21).
Yeshua’s reply to Peter was: “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou Me” (John 21:22).
In other words, MYOB. Mind Your Own Business. Don’t be nosy about the Lord’s plans for other brothers and sisters. Don’t worry about what Brother X or Sister Y or Pastor Z is supposed to be doing for the Lord. Focus on finding out what the Lord wants you to do.
Follow thou Him. Seek the presence of the Lord. Come into His presence and dine. Fellowship with Him alone in prayer and with others in the assembly. Feed His sheep. Even if you are not a shepherd, you can help feed other sheep by sharing words of edification, exhortation, and comfort. And don’t interfere with the Lord’s plans for your brothers and sisters. Find His plan for your life and walk in it. Follow thou Him.
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