Items posted on 1 February 2011
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John 21 – Co-operating with God
Posted: 1 February 2011 in John

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. (John 21.1-6)

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. (John 21.9-10)

There are more parallels between John 21, and other passages in the gospels, than immediately jumped out at me on a first reading, many years ago. The draught of fishes is obviously paralleled by similar passages in the synoptic gospels, but it is also paralleled by Jesus’ discourse about himself as the true vine, elsewhere in John’s Gospel. In both passages the point being made is that, without Jesus we can achieve nothing – or at least very little. The disciples had been fishing all night, and they had caught nothing, but Jesus comes on the scene, and all of a sudden there is a graught of fishes.

The passage also reminds me of Jesus’ description of his disciples as fishers of men.

Verses 9-10 hark back to the feeding of the five thousand with two small fishes. The point here being made is (again) that by ourselves we can accomplish little, but, if we surrender our meagre resources to God, much can be achieved.

On a similar note, when Jesus gives his disciples their great commision, at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, they are told to go out and preach the Gospel to all the world. But note that they are not told to go out and make converts, because conversion is exclusively the work of the Holy Spirit, and he alone can change the hearts of men. It is very common to hear enthusiastic evangelicals talking about “winning souls for Christ”, and forgetting that their role is only to preach the Gospel. Everything else depends upon God.

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