(Editors Note: Christiaan here, William has returned home from the hospital, he’s working on an update for everyone, so this will be my last time posting for him for a bit).
“Simon Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing.’John 21:3 (NLT)
‘We’ll come too,’ they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.”
We’ve arrived at the end of our journey in John 21. And with it being my last time writing for a time, I thought it may be good to finish this exploration where it began at the beginning of the chapter. If you’d like to catch up on what we’ve explored so far you can click on the following links. John 21:22 we saw Jesus’s response when Peter was concerned about what other people’s callings were. In John 21:7 we saw how Peter zealously swam towards Jesus upon realizing it was him. John 21:9 we saw the lengths that Jesus went to restore Peter. Lastly, in John 21:11 we saw how God gave Peter strength to do what God called him to do.
Today in our passage, I wanted to look at what happened before all four of our previous verses. Jesus has died. Peter has denied. Jesus has shown up to Peter, individually once, and the disciples all together twice before. Lots of people have argued very different things to account for Peter’s going fishing after seeing the resurrected Jesus. Some argue that it was a move out of frustration, while others believe it was ‘unthinkable’ if not ‘one of complete apostasy’. Some see it as simple as an, ‘even disciples need to eat.’ Some argue that he was told or lead to do this because God wanted them to be ready for Jesus to act. I’m going to go from the point of view of: Peter a fisherman, after all he’s gone through, decides to return to being a fisherman. This is an extremely non-spiritual reaction, but it’s a very human reaction, and illustrates a very real truth.
When we don’t know what to do, we tend to do what we’ve always done.
Peter and the rest of the disciples are have been with Jesus for the last three years, following his lead. They haven’t been worrying about where to go and what to do, because Jesus has always told them. Jesus had told them of all the things they would do, he told them of the Paraclete (Holy Spirit) coming after he (Jesus) left, and they had to wait for it. I don’t necessarily blame them. I think they were operating in, “Let’s just survive until tomorrow” mode. The only problem with that is while you survive, you don’t take the opportunities to thrive. Us Christians today, who may write about this, have never known what it was like to not have Holy Spirit with us, so I think we have to give a special grace to Peter. He didn’t have the spirit to lead him in his next direction.
But what can we do? What should they have done? I think to answer this, we can take a cue from Princess Anna of Arendelle. In Frozen 2, Anna finds herself alone, separated from everyone that she’s known and loved, with no direction of what to do. While Peter and the Disciples weren’t in this position yet. In the song, “The Next Right Thing” she struggles with what to do (you can watch the video by clicking here):
I follow you around, I always haveThe Next Right Thing – Frozen 2
But you’ve gone to a place I cannot find
This grief has a gravity, It pulls me down
But a tiny voice whispers in my mind
“You are lost, hope is gone, But you must go on
And do the next right thing”
More often than not, God gives tells us what we will do, we’ll have a calling on our lives, or something that we’ve pushed for, but he doesn’t tell us how we’ll do it or the steps to accomplish it. We may have people in our lives who can give us wise counsel, but outside of God directly telling us how to get there, we have to make a choice and like Anna, do the next right thing.
I’ve mentioned before about how it took 35 years for me to walk in my calling to be in full time vocational ministry, but until I got to do that, I had been volunteering, serving where I could, taking the advice of others to broaden my horizons. I went to school, prepared myself, and then pursued it. I cannot tell you how often I talked to my parents and lamented to them how I wish that God would just tell me what I should do, because I was pretty sure I was making all sorts of terrible choices, and I made decisions out of fear, or greed of some sort (choosing a high paying job, outside of my field) and it stunted my ability to serve God (required me to work weekends, and made my ability to serve in a church inconsistent). But I’ve seen God redeem those choices.
That may be it. Maybe, I don’t want to jump on the Peter is a heretic for going fishing because I’ve been in his situation. I know Jesus has a calling on me. I know God wants me to do X or Y, but I don’t know how to go about it, so I’m going to go and do something I know how to do and make money so that whatever I end up doing, I’ll be in a better place financially.
It’s also interesting to note that Peter made the statement about himself, that he was going fishing, and the rest of the disciples followed along. We don’t have any indication in the verbiage that Peter was trying to conscript them or anything, just that he was making an individual choice and others followed him. And it’s a good thing, in this case, that they did, because, whether by God calling Peter to go fishing or by Peter just choosing to go fishing himself, all the disciples got to see Jesus again, and witness the reconciliation, restoration, and re-commision of Peter in a way that changed the world.
When you’re stuck with what to do and where to go, remember that as Proverbs 15:22 (ESV) says, “Without counsel, plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” so make sure you ask your trusted friends, relatives, and pastors for their counsel. They may have opportunities or ideas you may not have thought of. Pray about it, ask Holy Spirit what you should do, and listen for the small voice. And when all else fails, follow the example of Princess Anna, and do the next right thing.
To finish out my tenure writing these verses of the day, I hope that through this, you’ve been able to learn some new things about Jesus, Peter, and John. I hope that you’ve been able to see how much depth even some of the seemingly most benign verses could have. And I hope that I’ve accomplished my mission in that I wanted to encourage you all to take heart by John’s account of what happened with Peter. If Jesus would do it for Peter, I have no doubt he can and will do the same things in your life.