John 21:1-14 | Jesus is Our Provider | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: John 21:1–21:14
Here’s our text for the morning, verses 1 through 14 in John 21. Follow along as I read:
1After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
I entitled this message “Jesus is Our Provider.” It’s interesting, a lot of commentators wonder, what is this portion of Scripture really trying to teach? Next week, you’ll see about Peter’s restoration. That’s a huge part of the Gospel of John: Peter and, ultimately, his restoration back to Christ. We know why that’s in the Scriptures. We need the full story to be told on Peter. We need him restored back, because right now, the last thing he’s known for is denying Jesus Christ.
But often, people wonder, why these first details leading up to that? What’s it teaching? Jesus doesn’t really sit there and preach a sermon to them at this point. He just shows up and makes a breakfast of fish and bread. Why is this in here? Why does John include this? I think there are a number of reasons. He highlights the fact that Jesus appeared to the disciples. This resurrected Christ has appeared to them, and it’s showing that he appeared to them on the shore. He’s physical. He’s real. He’s making food. They’re eating food.
Earlier when he met with them previously, he actually was hungry and asked them for food. They gave him some fish to eat. So Jesus’ resurrection is not some spiritual resurrection. It’s also a physical resurrection. I believe if we just take this at face value (and not look for any secret and hidden meaning because the Lord has revealed his Word clearly), if we just take this at face value, you’ll come away knowing Jesus provides. Jesus provides for his disciples. He shows up and takes care of their needs. This is what this text is teaching us. Jesus is our provider.
Now, if I was preaching this in some other part of the world, many of our brothers’ and sisters’ hearts would immediately resonate and be comforted with this message. The challenge to us in 21st century Prescott here is that we let this message preach to our souls when we’re around so much affluence. I mean how many of you woke up asking the Lord, because you were nervous about whether it was going to happen or not, really asking the Lord that he would provide you a meal today. Probably none of us. We often confuse our wants and our needs. I need the iPhone 55! No, we don’t need the iPhone 55; we want the iPhone 55. We get our wants and needs mixed up. We actually need very, very, very little. And Jesus sees to it that those needs will be met. So I believe that this is an important message for us. Jesus is our Provider.
There are two reasons this text gives—two reasons that we can trust Jesus to provide for us. And I want to draw out really two characteristics of Christ. Two reasons we can trust Jesus to provide for us, and they’re found in who he is. The first is this: Jesus possesses the resources.
1. Jesus Possesses the Resources
He owns everything! Jesus possesses the resources to provide for us. Jesus actually ignites the resources, moves the resources, namely the fish. He moves them to the right side of the boat and causes them to swim into the nets to provide for his disciples whom he loves. Jesus possesses the resources, and he sees to it that they will be mobilized to be used for his disciples.
Verse 1 says this: “After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way.” So John’s setting the stage here. John is insistent that we know that Jesus is alive. “After this Jesus revealed himself again ...” John’s already told us of a couple other times that Jesus revealed himself after he rose from the dead. John wants us to know that this man is alive, and he does this in Galilee or near the Sea of Galilee or the Sea of Tiberius (same sea). Sea of Galilee, Sea of Tiberius, or the Lake of Gennesaret, all three names speaking of the same body of water in the Scriptures. This is where this takes place.
And John indicates this is the way Jesus revealed himself, and he’s going to go on to show that Jesus is a provider for the disciples. And it was seven disciples, in this case, whom he provided for, and they are listed in verse 2. “ Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee [there’s 4 and 5], and two others of his disciples were together [there’s 6 and 7].
Now, we don’t know who the other two were, but you could probably make a pretty good guess that it was Andrew and Phillip. Why? Because Andrew and Phillip were from this area. We know Andrew, at least, was a fisherman. Andrew was Simon Peter’s brother. Andrew was actually the one the Lord found first in John 1, and then Andrew went and told his brother that we found the Messiah, and he told Simon Peter about Jesus the Messiah. So it’s probably Andrew with Peter still. And in John 1 Nathanael and Phillip are together, so Nathanael’s mentioned. It’s probable that Phillip was the other one. Not going to stake my life on it, but there we go. Seven disciples here at the Sea of Galilee, where they were in John 1 when they were called by Christ (at least the four of them mentioned in John 1).
These men are mostly, if not all, from this region. These men are mostly, if not all, fishermen by trade. So Simon Peter says this in verse 3. “Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.” Simon Peter leads the way. They agree to go fishing with him, to accompany him. Maybe, as many have conjectured, they’re going to go back to their previous lifestyle, because if they’re going to be used by Jesus to represent him on the Earth (remember he had just breathed on them the promise of the Holy Spirit)—if they’re going to go and be his disciples, and be his messengers, they’re going to need some income to do that, so many think that they’re going back here to earn some income.
Before, when they were with Jesus, travelling around, people would give them money. They would keep it in a money bag. Judas is the one that kept the money bag. And they would have enough food for their daily meals. They’re used to that being their lifestyle for the last three years. Now Jesus is not with them currently, and they’re not going from town to town preaching the gospel yet. So they’re here fishing, looking to receive a little bit of income. I think that’s a great guess as to why they’re fishing. I don’t think there’s any rejection of Christ here. No, we don’t believe in Him, we’re not going to follow Him, we’re going back to our old lifestyle. I don’t think it’s that. I think they need money. These men weren’t wealthy. This is what they knew. The money had stopped coming in as they were going around preaching with Jesus. They need money.
And verse 3 says, “They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.” Now you would think that I was there, because it seems that every time I fish no one catches anything. But I wasn’t. They don’t catch anything. And they would have done there fishing normally at night at this time. This is when the professional fishermen would go fishing, at night; but evidently, this night they don’t catch anything. And these men are experts! This is their trade. They know this. They know this job. They know where to go. They know when to go. And they still go and catch nothing.
Verse 4: “Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.” Daylight’s coming. Jesus is standing on the shore, and they don’t know it’s Jesus. Now, why don’t they know that it’s Jesus? Well, we learn later that they were about a hundred yards from him. So if you go to a football field and stand one person on one end and another person on the other, you can’t always make out the face and you can’t really tell, so maybe it’s just the distance is the reason they don’t know him. But remember, many saw the resurrected Christ and immediately didn’t recognize Him. Martha, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Cleopus, and the other man that’s not named—they didn’t recognize him immediately, so it’s not inconsistent that people wouldn’t recognize Jesus immediately even though they had been with him for some of the three years. So maybe it’s because of his new glorified body, maybe it’s the distance, maybe it’s a combination of the two, but they don’t recognize that it’s Jesus.
Verse 5: “Jesus said to them, ‘Children, do you have any fish?’ They answered him, ‘No.’” Children: You can translate that “boys.” You can even translate it “sirs.” It’s just a greeting. The best way to think of this is, “Guys, do you have any fish?” That’s what he’s saying. “Guys, do you have any fish?” And they answer, “No.” They’re the pros. They’re supposed to have fish. They don’t have any. “No.” It’s not in here, but I wonder if there was a “Thanks for asking.” No, no fish; therefore, no money, no income, no breakfast.
Verse 6: [He did something that they really might not have wanted to do if Luke 5 is any indication.] “He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’” So here is someone who evidently isn’t an expert at fishing telling these experts of fishing, who haven’t caught anything, how to fish. So they do it. So they cast it, and now they’re not able to haul it in because of the quantity of fish. Evidently, this man on shore knows what he’s talking about.
Just throw the net on the other side? I mean, honestly, what’s the distance of the boat? If there aren’t any fish over here, then why will there be over here? But their friend on shore tells them what to do, and they do it, and they have trouble hauling it in because of the quantity of the fish. He gives them advice because he’s certain. He gives them the advice because he, in fact, is the creator of the fish. He’s ultimately the creator of the boat. He’s the creator of the water. He’s the creator of their muscular abilities. He’s the creator of it all.
And he’s not just the creator, according to Colossians 1, he’s also the sustainer of all things. He makes things happen. He’s not, as the deists say, the one who simply winds the watch and then steps back and sees what happens. He doesn’t just create the world and step back and watch to see what happens. He is actively involved in all of his creation. Every single atom that needed to function appropriately and rightly, every single cell, every single muscle—not just in the disciples, but also in the fish—is being worked out for God’s purposes—for Jesus Christ’s purposes.
And Jesus is a hundred yards away. He probably couldn’t see into the water to see, oh, there’s a bunch of fish here. Trust me, guys; just throw over there. He knew exactly where he was going to make the fish swim. This is Jesus providing for his people because he has all the resources. All the resources. And Jesus wants us to know, wants them to know, that he has the resources. God wants us to know that he has all resources.
Remember when the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness and about to enter the Promised Land. Deuteronomy is the sermons that Moses is preaching to them. And he’s preaching these sermons to them, and one of the things God’s intent on them knowing is that when you get into this land, it’s going to be a wonderful land, and I’m providing it for you, and you need to remember all the time that I provided it for you. It’s not that you were so great to do this on your own. I mean, you didn’t even want to come out of Egypt. I brought you out of Egypt. I provided for you in the wilderness, and I will provide for you in the Promised Land. Don’t forget that it’s always me.
Deuteronomy 8:18: “You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth.” The only reason any of us have any of what we have is because the Lord God is the one who gives us the power to get wealth. Maybe some our wealth was accumulated because of our physical ability. Maybe for some of us our wealth was accumulated because of our intellectual ability. Maybe we were just born in the right family. Whatever it is, he’s the one that is to receive credit for giving us the ability to get wealth, to get income, to get what we need.
Now, this situation is similar to what happened back in Luke 5. In Luke 5, Jesus is preaching on the shore. Again, the men had been fishing all night. Jesus is preaching in the morning. Crowds are crowding in on him. He asks the fishermen, who are coming in from their night of not catching fish again, to get into their boat so that he can adequately preach to the people without being surrounded. So they let him get in the boat and preach. And then he says something very interesting. He says, let’s go fishing.
Now again, the last thing these men probably wanted to do back in Luke 5, after not catching anything all night and then coming back in and having some man get in their boat, is to go back out and go fishing during the daytime. But they do it. He tells them where to throw their net. They throw it, and they need help with their other friends from the boats around them to come because the fish are sinking the boats. The fish are just coming in. This is like the dream. And this would have been, not just, oh, this is a wonderful hobby; look at all the fish we got. This is connected to their livelihood. This is money coming into the boat. What does Peter do in that moment? Falls down and says, depart from me. Peter knew he was a sinful man. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.”
He knows that the man in his boat, Christ the Messiah, who called him a little bit earlier—he knows this man is different. Depart from me—which is the right response for any person coming into contact with Jesus Christ. I don’t belong here. And I love what Jesus does after that. He says, “Do not be afraid.” Peter should be afraid of the Holy God of the universe. We all should be afraid of Him. And he says to Peter, “Do not be afraid.” This type of thing, fishing advice from Jesus, has happened before. So as the fish are being hauled up in the net, so many of them, and they’re big fish according to this text, they start to realize who this man is.
Verse 7: [It’s John who first indicates who the man is.] “That disciple whom Jesus loved [as we know, this is John referring to himself] therefore said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.” John tells Peter, it is the Lord. This is the normal thing. John’s the first to report, and Peter’s the first to respond. John sees it. Peter goes and grabs it. John sees the empty tomb and believes. Peter runs into the empty tomb. This is classic for these men—John and Peter.
And again, I told you earlier, from the upper room on, you see John and Peter together in so many situations. Some of the times, they’re acting the same. Some of the times they’re to be contrasted, but it’s interesting—John and Peter. John sees and announces it; Peter throws himself into the sea—first to respond. Peter was nearly naked, as these men would be as they were working through the night, so he throws on his outer garment, and he throws himself into the sea. The verb denotes that this was an act of impulse. This was impulsive. Of course, it was; it’s Peter. This is how he lives. And you know what? Give me impulsive Peter any time, rather than an apathetic disciple of Jesus. I mean, we can work with reigning you in and giving you some tact and wisdom and how to do things right, but this is much better than just apathy.
So Peter throws himself in. Why would Peter throw himself in? Peter denied him three times. The guilt that must have been in the mind and the heart of Peter would have been staggering. Now we know that Jesus revealed himself to Peter after the resurrection, before this happened. But apparently, they had not been restored yet. Apparently, they had not had a meaningful conversation yet, because that’s going to happen later on here. So there’s this sense that all is not right. If you’ve ever done something wrong to a person that you love, and they know it and you know it, and you’re thinking rightly, you want to get back to them. You want to make it right. You want to own it. You can’t wait to see them. You go to them. You say, we need to talk. I love you. I’ve sinned against you. This is Peter—throws himself into the sea and swims.
Verse 8: “The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.” So Peter is evidently already on the shore, wet, standing before the Lord. The disciples follow up, apparently, pretty quickly after. And it says they were dragging the net full of fish. This probably means that the boat was going, and they were dragging the fish still in the water, but in the net, in the boat. They’re not dragging it to the shore yet. We know that because later on Peter is going to go back to the boat and get the fish and bring them himself. So they are going in the boat, dragging the net, probably because it’s so heavy, and coming to the shore. They are about a hundred yards off.
Now again, at this point, what do we know about Jesus Christ? We know that he is the one who controls the sea. We know he’s the one that controls everything. We know that he has caused the fish to go into the net. He, the creator of the fish, the creator of everything in this setting, has caused the fish to go in the net, and he is providing his resources—he’s giving his resources that he owns to his disciples. That’s what Jesus is doing. And that’s what Jesus does. That’s who he is. That’s who God is. And this God can be trusted to mobilize his resources when we are in need. Did you hear that? This God who can be trusted—he can be trusted to mobilize His resources when we are in need. Jesus is still providing for His disciples.
In the past few years, he is providing for them by preaching, and crowds would follow and they would give money for him to give to the poor and even provide for his disciples and himself to eat. They’re used to having Jesus be the guy that their income is derived from. They’re used to that. Now, he’s apparently gone. He’s raised again. He’s alive again. We’ve seen him, but he’s not around us right now. So we need to go back and go fishing. And they go back, and evidently, on their first night of fishing—nothing. And Jesus shows up immediately and is going to see to it that they have what they need. This is our Lord. This is our Lord, not just for these seven men back in the first century; this is our Lord for us too. He provides what we need. I would encourage you to trust God. Trust the God of all resources to provide for your needs—and maybe your wants sometimes. But he will provide for your needs.
High school student, thinking about college, wondering about where to go, wanting to get into a certain career, wanting to get into a certain college, you’ve got all these wants and these hopes and these dreams. But you have these basic needs, and he promises to supply those if you are his child. He promises to supply certain needs. Food and clothing (Matthew 6). Above and beyond that, look at all the wants that we’ve ever had that he’s provided for us. Not all of our wants; some of our wants. We want and he thinks you shouldn’t be wanting that. He doesn’t provide it. He not only provides all of our needs, like he says he will, he provides many of our wants. The key for us is to remember what are truly needs and what are wants. When we don’t get our wants—okay. He wants something different for us. He’s the guy to trust for that. But Jesus provides for his disciples’ needs.
Wondering if you have enough money for retirement. Maybe the stock market’s taken a hit and maybe you got not as much as you thought you would. Jesus provides for his followers’ needs. I know you wanted more. I know you’re hoping for more, so that you have a little more security. But your security is not found in how well the market does. Your security is found in the owner of all things and his heart toward you. Jesus provides for all of our needs. This is what he does. Trust God. Trust the God of all resources.
And I would say this just by way of application. I think this is a great place—after you read these verses (specifically, 1-8) and realize that he owns all the resources and that he mobilizes them for his disciples—it’s a great time to thank the Lord. We so often think about the wants that we don’t have, and we forget about all the needs that we do have. He is such a good God. He is so good to us.
Just reflecting on this passage, I like to think about that night. They’re without fish. These men probably didn’t go many nights without a catch. They’re pros. But the reason they now have fish is not because of their expertise; it’s because of his grace. It’s not because of their expertise. It’s not because they’re pros. They have fish because he’s gracious.
I love what Calvin says here. He says this: “God often tries believers …” They had a mini-trial that night. Calvin says, “God often tries believers that he may lead them the more highly to value his blessing. If we were always prosperous, whenever we put our hand to labor, scarcely any man would attribute to the blessing of God the success of his exertions. All would boast of their industry and would kiss their hands.” Calvin’s right. It’s not always bad to be in need. Do you believe the song we sang earlier? “Lord I need you; every hour I need you,” because that’s true; and he’s the one who provides for our needs.
Turn to Matthew 6. Listen to Jesus preach to people. It’s the Sermon on the Mount. Listen to Jesus preach. Matthew 6:25:
25 Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
The answer implied, by the way, is yes. Heaven is saying you’re more valuable than them.
27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
Anxiety never helped solve any problem.
28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore [again, the command] do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 Therefore do not be anxious [repetition here] about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Jesus is calling his people not to be anxious about the things they need because of his character. You’re more valuable to me than the birds and the lilies. If they have what they need, why are you anxious? A reason not to be anxious about anything is found in the character of God. God is a God of love and provision—always. I think often we’re anxious because we’re anxious about wants. He knows what we need and tells us not to be anxious. We can trust Christ because he possesses all resources and provides them when we need them, in his timing.
2. Jesus Possesses the Empathy
There’s a second reason we can trust in Christ. First, Jesus possesses all resources. Secondly here, Jesus possesses the empathy. I want to show you that from verses 9 through 14.
The disciples are about to eat breakfast. The fact that they are eating breakfast, that he’s the one that makes it and serves it—the fact that that’s happening shows his empathetic heart. Jesus is concerned about their next meal. And that’s not a spiritual statement. He is literally concerned that they get something in their stomach.
And the reason I use the word empathy and not sympathy is because of what the words mean. I didn’t say Jesus possesses the sympathy, like he has compassion and feels bad for the disciples. The word sympathy: to feel compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardship of another. Jesus is better than that.
He feels empathy. Empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another. The fact that Jesus is actually on the Sea of Galilee and not enthroned in the heavens receiving glory from angels and Old Testament saints at this point shows that he has empathy. He left that heaven to come to earth and to be hungry himself. He was hungry earlier on after his resurrection. He left that heaven to come not to Jerusalem and not to Rome; he went to Nazareth.
This man came to live as a poor man, as a slave, in the words of Philippians 2. A servant. Jesus told his own disciples in Mark 10:45 that he didn’t come to be served but to serve. If there’s anyone that should ever be served for all times, by all people, it’s Jesus Christ; and he didn’t come to receive that. He came to serve. He literally put his feet in the shoes, in the sandals, of another. He came to experience all the hardships that we’ve ever experienced, all the trials. Jesus, this Lord, has empathy, not just sympathy. He’s empathetic.
Verse 9: “When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread.” They walk up to a fire. And by the way, the fish and bread laying there—the fish are not part of the 153. There are already fish there. He just is giving them more fish. These are Jesus’ fish. I don’t know if he created them and put them on the fire immediately, if he actually had a net himself. Somehow, some way Jesus already had fish. They’re on the charcoal fire.
Peter would have been the first to walk up to the charcoal fire. The last time we know about Peter at a charcoal fire, he walked away after denying Christ. Now he walks up to a charcoal fire with Christ standing there with things that Peter needs: fish and bread laid out on a charcoal fire.
Remember when Jesus fed the multitude. He actually did it twice. Jesus fed the multitude with fish and bread. Where? Sea of Galilee. This is not a new thing for Jesus to do and it’s not even a new location for Jesus to do it in. This is Jesus doing this type of thing regularly. Why? Because he cares. He cares about people eating.
Verse 10: “Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’” For some reason, he wants them to put some of their fish on the fire. Why? Don’t know. It’s just what he said. So, Simon Peter, first to obey, went aboard and hauled the net ashore. I don’t know if he had help, but Simon Peter is given credit here for going and hauling the net ashore full of large fish.
When Jesus does a miracle, I mean he’s gonna do a miracle. This isn’t little things that most people would throw back. Well, we’re kinda hungry; we need some money. No, no, no, these are large fish. These are the fish Mel Hamilton catches. These are large fish. Full of large fish, and don’t you love this: 153 of them. How many fish did you guys catch? Oh, about 150. No, no, no, no. Not about anything. 153! Why the specifics? Because they caught 153. They didn’t catch 150. They did not catch 160. They caught 153.
People try to spiritualize this all the time. Augustine, who has given us so much good material, said that this 153 is a picture of the law and the gospel. Come on, Augustine, you’re just … I mean, no. It’s just 153 because it’s literally 153. That’s all there is to it.
John also wants us to know something else. He doesn’t just want us to know exactly how many fish there were; he also wants us to know that the net didn’t break. Why would you throw that in there, unless most people would expect that the net would break? Jesus’ power isn’t just limited. Like, I can get the fish to swim in the net. I can get 153 of them to swim in. I can get 153 large ones to swim in, but that’s where my power ends and hopefully the net stays. No, he’ll make sure that they get what they need.
Verse 12: “Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’” Again, be careful of over-spiritualizing everything. Don’t try to find some hidden meaning. Jesus simply invites them to eat. He invites them to eat. “Now none of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord.”
Apparently, it was kind of quiet. They knew it was the Lord. He knew that they knew who he was, and they don’t talk about it. This is par for the course for the disciples. They oftentimes were thinking something together and not saying it. In other places in Scripture, we know that he knows their thoughts and he draws them out. They don’t say anything. There’s some sort of fear or awe here, and they’re quiet, but they know it’s Him.
Verse 13: “Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish.” I love this. He makes the fire. He sees to it that the bread and the fish are there. And this says that he came and took the bread and gave it to them. Jesus doesn’t just make it. He serves them. He brings it to them. He doesn’t say, buffet style, come on and get it. My work’s done. No, no, no. Jesus is serving until the end. He makes it; he goes and serves it.
And John separates the steps. He didn’t just serve the bread and give it to them. He also got the fish and went and gave it to them. Jesus is serving, over and over and over and over and over and over again. He’s serving! The one to be served keeps serving his disciples. Why? Because this is who he is in nature. He is a servant.
Verse 14: “This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.” John indicates this is the third time Jesus revealed himself to the disciples. Now if you go back and count, you can actually find seven times that he appeared to people, but this is the third time he’s appeared to a group of disciples, and John’s highlighting that.
He came once resurrection Sunday night. Remember, he rose from the dead and appeared to Mary and evidently Peter (we don’t have an account of that). He appeared to Mary, Peter, and then he travelled on the road to Emmaus about 7 ½ miles and appeared to two disciples. They were amazed when they found out it was Jesus once they got to their destination. So they actually went back to Jerusalem—went 7.5 miles back that evening. It was probably dark at that point. They come into the upper room, and they tell the disciples, “We’ve seen Jesus!” And then, Jesus appears in the room. First time Jesus appeared to a group of disciples.
Second time was the week after—by the way, Thomas wasn’t at that meeting—the Sunday night after that, a week after he rose from the dead, and Thomas is there at that meeting. We read about that and studied that in John 20. So that’s the second time he appeared to a group of disciples.
This is the third time he appears to a group of disciples—these seven men. John wants us to know that this man is alive and he’s appearing to people. 1 Corinthians 15 tells us he appeared to five hundred at one time. Five hundred at one time. Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. He is not only alive, he also cares. Jesus is alive, and Jesus cares. Jesus is alive, and Jesus provides. Jesus is alive, and his work is not done. He’s still going to make sure that we have food.
I think oftentimes people think that things are just below Jesus. Why is he concerning himself with all these things? Because he’s concerned about these things. He wants to know that his disciples are cared for.
In Mark 8, before one of these feedings of the multitude, Mark begins the chapter by saying this as he recounts what Jesus says. Mark 8:1-3:
1 In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him …
So he’s the one that brings up this problem of them not having food. It wasn’t the disciples; it was Jesus.
… and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.”
Do you hear Jesus’ concern all throughout those verses? First, he talks about why he has a concern. I have compassion. My heart comes out for another person. I have compassion because they’ve been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they’ll faint. I have compassion; something bad could happen to them.
And then: “And some of them have come from far away.” And he knows where they’ve come from. So he’s not just concerned about the ones that came from across the street—he wants them to have food—but some of them have come from a long distance. Jesus cares and he knows our circumstances. He knows where these people came from, how long they’ve been with him, how long they’ve been without food. He knows what will happen if they don’t have it. Jesus cares for His own!
Why does Jesus care for his own? Because Jesus is God, and God cares for his own. Always has. Back in the Old Testament, 1 Kings 19, it’s a fascinating story about Elijah defeating the prophets of Baal. Go read that account. Elijah defeats the prophets of Baal. Has his men soak this altar three times in water and cries out for God to consume the sacrifice with fire to prove that this Yahweh, this personal covenant-keeping God of Israel, is the God of all the nations. That’s literally what Elijah prays before the sacrifice comes down. Let these people know that you are the God over all nations. The sacrifice is burned from heaven. It happens. Elijah’s prayer request is answered immediately.
Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab, then threatens Elijah because he then killed the prophets of Baal. Jezebel threatens Elijah, and you would think Elijah would say, “phht ... You can say whatever you want. My God is the God over everything. Did you see what he did to that sacrifice?” That’s not what Elijah did. The text says that he was afraid and got up and ran for his life. Elijah, do you remember what happened ten minutes ago?
Elijah was afraid, went off and ran for his life. Left his servant and went a day’s travel in the wilderness. He spent a day afraid, running. And he actually, at one point in the wilderness, asks the Lord to take his life. This is depression language—even after seeing the wonderful work of God.
What does God do when Elijah says that? Well, it must be some huge spiritual thing he does. He must have put a sign in the sky. No. You know what God did? Had him sleep; sent an angel to give him a cake and a jar of water (bread and a jar of water). What did heaven do when Elijah was in need and depressed? Heaven fed Elijah, provided for Elijah’s needs. Did Elijah need a sermon? Yes, he did. Did he need to remember what just happened? Yes, he did. But heaven also knew that Elijah needed to eat, and Elijah needed to sleep.
Heaven doesn’t just care about the spiritual; heaven cares about the physical. God has cared about the physical wellbeing and nourishment of his people. And you see this here in John 21. Jesus actually cares about every single meal.
I’ve heard it said before by some people things like, you know, I see athletes praying that God will help them win a game, and God’s got too many other important things than to worry about a football game. Well, okay, let’s just theologically dissect that statement. Okay? God is not worried about who wins a football game, but God does care about every single thing that happens associated with every single event. And he’s not just rooting for a team. He’s working a plan in every single person in the stadium, every single person on TV. He’s working his perfect plan and intersecting all sorts of things to bring about what he wants to happen in not just a football game, but also just some little job situation.
God’s got too many busy things happening. So much is going on. I mean, North Korea, ahh. He doesn’t really care about my meeting today. No, no, no. God cares about what you might think is a little meeting, or the world might think is a little meeting. God cares about it all. He cares about the person you’re meeting with. He cares about you. He is going to providentially organize everything for his own plan, ultimately for his own glory. God’s not too busy for anything. God cares about little, tiny details.
God does not only care about what’s happening in Washington D.C., New York, Tokyo, London; he cares what’s happening in your next meal, the rest of your day. He cares about it all. That is a God you want to trust and give your life to and trust. That’s the kind of God you want. If you just say, God’s so sovereign; he’s in control of all the big things. Yeah, okay, well, I mean, I’ll trust him. If he’s in control of politics, then I’ll trust Him. If he’s in control of economics, then I’ll trust him, because after all, I mean, who has figured this whole thing out? Okay, fine, I’ll trust him. But I just don’t feel like he really cares about little old me.
The Bible paints a different picture of God. God cares about seemingly insignificant situations. Why? Because he cares perfectly. So he cares about things—little things … high—they’re all important to him. And by the way, he’s got enough capability to care for it all plus much more. He’s got plenty of time, plenty of intellect. He can care about everything at once. That’s a God you want to trust.
I say this a lot. God is not only sovereign and in charge of everything; he’s also near. He’s not just big; he cares. He’s not just in control; he loves. That’s our God. Jesus can identify with what it’s like to have needs. He knows exactly what we go through in our struggles.
Jesus possesses all resources. He possesses empathy as well. He doesn’t just own resources. He cares that they are mobilized for his own whom he loves. Why? Jesus is a Savior by nature. Even Jesus providing points to the fact that he is a Savior. He doesn’t just save our souls from eternal destruction and torment because of rejecting him. Yes, he saves us from that—those of us who trust in him—but he also makes sure that physically we are being cared for.
Yes, we’re in a cursed world and our outward body is decaying. We’re dying. But Jesus, even as we are dying, is caring for us and nourishing us. He shows us his saving nature. And one day when our bodies actually do die—absent from the body, present with the Lord—immediate healing. Jesus cares about the physical because he is a caring Savior by nature.
There’s a professor, an inventor, named James Simpson, and he actually discovered chloroform. Chloroform was the early form of anesthesia which would help people before they went into surgery. This man invented a number of things. And one day (James Boyce recounts this story) his students asked him about his greatest discovery that he ever made. The students said, “What do you consider to be the most outstanding discovery you’ve ever made?” Simpson replied, “Young men, the greatest discovery I ever made is that Jesus Christ is my Savior.” And that is by far the most important thing a person can ever come to know. Boyce says this, “It is true. Finding Jesus Christ may mean a life of poverty, hardship, and even acute physical suffering, but it also means finding the One who alone is totally faithful as our Savior, Companion, Friend.” And I would add “Provider.”
It’s one thing that Jesus cares about our meals and our wellbeing, but do you know Jesus Christ as the one who saves you from the wrath of God whom you’ve sinned against? That’s the greatest need that we all have. Being rescued from the wrath of God by the gift of God himself—his own Son. This gift of God took the punishment for sinners, rose again to prove he has life, and life conquers death. His life conquers sin. And he calls everyone. And the whole purpose of the Gospel of John is for you to believe in him. Trust in this Savior. Trust in this provider.
Lord, you are better to us than we even realize. That is clear from this passage. You care about your own. You not only care about big things in our lives, you care about little, seemingly insignificant matters in our lives. You care about things that we take for granted. You’re such a good Savior to us. You’re such a good provider. Father, draw out from our hearts gratitude. Draw out from our hearts trust based on your character and the character of your Son. We pray this in his name. Amen.
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