1 After 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.
— John 21:1-14, ESV
Churches in the liturgical tradition enjoy two extraordinary seasons of the year. There is Christmas Time, preceded by four weeks of Advent. There is Easter Time preceded by forty days of Lent and Holy Week. The other time on the liturgical calendar, which is most of the time, is called Ordinary Time.
Reformed and Puritan churches prefer to package time in weeks rather than years or seasons. We put a high and holy emphasis on every Sunday, we call it the Lord’s Day. We do our work and have our meetings on the other, ordinary days of the week. Therefore, most of our time, too, is spent in Ordinary Time.
The last chapter in the Gospel of John reveals Jesus with His disciples in ordinary time, when they were working, wandering, wondering, waiting. There is no special service. There is no outstanding miracle. But the Lord is there, ever present, ever watchful, always giving, always guiding. Jesus Christ, our extraordinary God and Savior, seems to really enjoy the ordinary.
Jesus Loves Ordinary People
This is the third resurrection appearance recorded by John. It does not happen on the Jewish Sabbath, because we find people working. It is probably not another Sunday, either, like the first two. It is apparently an ordinary weekday. Ordinary, even though the disciples have just returned to Galilee from the breathtaking and life-changing events in Jerusalem.
Jesus has completed there years of extraordinary ministry with the people in this story. Jesus has recently died in an extraordinarily shocking and substitutionary way. Jesus has then appeared to them alive afterwords, having extraordinarily risen from the dead. An extraordinary ascension into Heaven awaits. The extraordinary events of Pentecost are on the horizon. So much extraordinary!
But this is an ordinary day, with ordinary men, doing ordinary things, in ordinary time. Let’s focus for a moment on the people. There were seven of them, seven of the eleven (twelve minus Judas Iscariot), five named — Simon Peter, James and John (sons of Zebedee), Thomas the Twin, and Nathaniel Bartholomew — and two whose identities are speculative — probably Andrew, Peter’s brother, and either Philip (who was always near Nathaniel) or Matthew (who was usually associated with Thomas). This they had in common, they were all quite ordinary men (note John MacArthur’s book on the first disciples, Twelve Ordinary Men).
They were mostly fishermen, but not very good ones on this day. The spokesman, Simon Peter, was a bit goofy. Past gaffs aside, who puts their clothes on to jump into the water? They were Galileans, not Judeans. They were fishermen, not businessmen. They were ordinary.
And Jesus just loved them. He had chosen them as followers. He had trained them as leaders. After dying for the sins of the world, before ascending back to the right hand of the Father in Heaven, with the propagation of the New Testament gospel and the salvation of souls at stake, Jesus wanted to spend time with and have His mission carried out by these extremely ordinary people.
He still does. Occasionally some highfalutin person will repent and believe the gospel and lend a famous name to a church roll. But the vast majority of Christians through the ages have come to Christ from ordinary families, ordinary vocations, ordinary ways and means. That’s what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote:
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
So the next time you feel a tinge of jealousy towards the rich, or famous, or both, count your blessed stars. God has chosen you, ordinary Christian, to bring Him worship and bear witness to His gospel. God has lavished His love upon you in ways words cannot describe. The abundant life you enjoy now and the eternal life you will enjoy forever will rock your ordinary world into the most extraordinary life imaginable, even unimaginable. You just have to wait for it, as ordinary people doing ordinary things in ordinary time, with the Lord.
Jesus Loves Ordinary Things
Jesus loves His ordinary people and He loves to watch over us while we do ordinary things. That’s what He is doing here, even though the disciples don’t recognize Him at first. It is barely daylight, and they first spot Jesus from about a hundred yards away. There is much haze surrounding Jesus’ attitude at the time.
Some say the Lord is angry that the fishers of men have gone back to being fisherman. Shocked by the crucifixion, confused by the resurrection, some suggest they were about to quit the ministry. This is unfair. They had been instructed to return to Galilee and wait for their marching orders. They still had to eat, and fishing was the way they fed themselves and their families.
I so not think the Lord was angry at all, rather He was laughing and loving. He laughed at their momentary ineptitude. How can seven men fish all night and catch nothing? He loved them for their effort, though, for God honors work. Working and eating were directly connected in pre-modern times, and the Bible even says those not willing to work shouldn’t even eat (ref. 2 Thessalonians 3:10). So, the Lord decides to help them in their work by giving them a fishing tip that results in a great catch of 153 fish (some claim this as another miracle, but I think Jesus just omnisciently knew where the fish were)!
People mistakenly think that God is most interested in the work being done by famous evangelists and pastors of large churches. The greatest influence on my Christian and pastoral life was a man in my hometown who co-owned a fish market with his brother. As the late Tom T. Hall wrote, “God’s got a lot of poor people out doing His work.”
All work done by Christians is God’s work, and God is with us in it. He is pleased when we do it with honesty and integrity, with service to others, with a view towards glorifying Him. I suppose even a retirement schedule can be viewed in the same light. Our vocation, all Christians’, is to glorify God and spread the gospel. Our avocations differ, from religion to education to fishing to parenting to retiring. God is present to help us to do them well, and to bear witness for Him while doing it. We just need to recognize Him and listen to His advice.
Jesus Loves Ordinary Time
Jesus had been there for a while, as it was a “charcoal fire” by the time the disciples joined Him. God seldom gets in any hurry. He enjoys being with us in the humdrum, in the mundane, in the ordinary time.
Often we don’t recognize Him, at first, like these first disciples. Upon closer proximity and examination, however, “They knew it was the Lord.” His appearance was different, glorified, but the voice was the same. Perhaps they saw the scars when He reached out and handed them the bread. His nail-scarred hands reach out to us today.
You would think the King of the universe, recently crucified and resurrected, would have better things to do than sit idle on the shore, then make breakfast for such ordinary fellows. But Jesus was exactly where Jesus wanted to be. You will find Him in such places every day, loving His ordinary people, watching over our ordinary things, sharing with us ordinary time.
So, my fellow Christians, if for any reason you feel unimportant, that you do not matter to most people, remember that you matter to the most important person of all. If you feel your workaday existence is not significant, it is, to the most significant person in the world. If you feel alone or worthless, you are not, you are never alone and you are of infinite worth to God. Jesus loves you, and the Lord is with you, even in, and especially in, ordinary time.