Jesus chose the beautiful setting near the Sea of Galilee to teach His disciples important lessons about the work they were to do.
[Darris McNeely] This COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has separated us from human contact. Apart from the virus itself, the shutdown, the quarantine of so much of society has taught me a very big lesson, I need to be with others. As much as I like my space, my quiet time, and to be alone, I need to talk to family, coworkers, and other people. As I prepared this episode of the Path to Pentecost, it's come at a time as we begin to break out of this period, businesses are beginning to reopen and we're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, so it's appropriate in the segment that we focus on Christ showing his disciples the need to work together to fulfill his mission, relationships with others of like mind feed and encourage us.
The gospel is preached by the church united in deep bonds of love and fellowship. Christ would have that in His disciples as the foundation for the church. He would drive from their hearts the doubt and fear and mistrust that could cripple their effort. When the disciples saw the empty tomb, the angel had said, "He's not here for He's risen," as he said, "And He indeed is going before you into Galilee, there you will see Him." They had seen Him when He appeared through the walls into the room where they had shut themselves waiting in doubt and in fear. All but Thomas had seen Him and days went by, there was more discussion.
After eight days, they were once again together in their common room, this time Thomas was with them. For whatever reason, Thomas had decided to grieve alone apart from his friends. It was not for lack of courage for Thomas had been one who earlier strongly desired to go to Jerusalem with Jesus despite the danger. Thomas was one who had to withdraw into solitude and work out a difficult and emotional period. He had not abandoned his friends or his calling, but he did withdraw for a time. He was with the others now when Jesus again came through the walls and the shut door and stood in their midst. "Peace to you," He said, then turning to Thomas, He told him, "Reach your finger here, look at My hands, reach your hands here, and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing." Thomas answered, "My Lord and my God." To which the Lord said, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." While Thomas was alone and apart from the other disciples, Jesus did not appear to Him. Jesus waited till Thomas was with his friends then to confront his struggle with his unbelief.
We miss something when we take ourselves away from others and the body of Christ. While there are times we must work out our salvation through a period of seclusion, with prayer and with fasting, ultimately we must come back together with others and the body of Christ.
It is in fellowship with other disciples we see Christ working. It is in the fellowship of others, we will see the real Jesus and the meaning of His suffering. Jesus told Thomas to reach his finger to his hand and into His side to feel the marks of His suffering and death. Alone, we cannot know nor understand the depth of the suffering of the Lord. Each of us has our part in the sufferings of this life and it's only when we place those in the context of Christ suffering on the cross that understanding will come. That understanding comes so often within the fellowship with other disciples. There we see Christ working in the body, knitting it together for every part to do its job.
Thomas had to come back into the room with his brothers and sisters to see what they had seen, the risen Christ with the marks of the suffering still evident. As he touched that body, Thomas knew it was his Lord and God. We touch each other in fellowship. We form bonds of care, concern and love. There's no substitute for the individual members of the body of Christ developing close knit relationships. Thomas saw that when he came back with his friends. It was an important lesson for all. In that moment, their band of disciples began coming back together. But there was more to learn. They would learn those lessons in the setting where so many of Christ's vital lessons had been taught. To Galilee they went.
Jesus wanted to meet with His disciples at a favorite spot, the shores of Galilee. The water, and the low hills falling to the lake where the setting of most of His teaching during His ministry. In the villages around the lake, He had performed many miracles of healing and feeding the people. Galilee was a region of great need. Thousands had come out to hear His teaching and to be both spiritually and physically fed. The people of Galilee knew they needed the Kingdom of God, they were hungry for hope. Jesus chose this spot to teach the disciples they were to feed the sheep. They were to care for the disciples God would add to the church. Seven of the disciples gathered in Galilee. Peter said, "I'm going fishing." The other six said, "We are going also." So into the boat they went. After a night of fishing, they'd caught nothing, and when the morning dawned, Jesus called to them from the shore asking if they had caught any fish. "No," they answered Him. "Cast your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some," He instructed. They did as told. And they filled the net with so many fish they could not draw it in. It was John who first recognized it was Jesus. "It is the Lord," he shouted. Peter was so excited that he put on his garment and plunged into the sea and began swimming, leaving the others to bring the boat to shore, dragging the net full of fish with him. But Jesus had anticipated this event and had prepared a fire with fish and bread cooking on the hot coals. After the net was dragged to shore containing 153 fish, Jesus passed around the fish and the bread to the disciples who by now were stunned into silence at the scene before them. They recognized Him, but no doubt wondered what this was all about. They knew Jesus did nothing like this without a purpose.
What follows is a profound picture of restoration. Like Thomas, Peter had to be brought back into the fold. Remember Peter had denied Jesus three times the night He was arrested. It was a personally humiliating moment for Peter, but the large lesson was for the others and for us as we read what is said. Here the great shepherd gave Peter his life's theme, is best read as John was inspired to write it. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." He said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, do you love me? And he said to Him, "Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you." And Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Truly, truly I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go. This He said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God. And after saying this, He said to him, 'Follow me.'" And then Jesus gave a final word for both Peter and John. Peter saw John standing and turned back to Jesus asking, "'But Lord, what about this man?' Jesus answered, 'If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow me.'"
A final word to Peter and John. Each of us has a distinct life, each a distinct calling from God and a purpose in His plan. We have to walk our own path and let others walk theirs. The disciples had to be restored to one another, forged into a close-knit body to go to the world with the gospel. The bread of life chose the serene setting of the Sea of Galilee to serve a meal of fish and bread to those who had become fishers of men.
Today, as the church cast the net of the gospel upon the waters of the world, people are caught by the words of life and hope. The gospel of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God goes to the world with power, it turns lives upside down today. The gospel can turn your world upside down when you let it change your life. When the gospel is accepted as truth, it leaves you with no other choice, but to forsake everything and to follow Christ.
We've had our world shaken by this pandemic, the idols of government, wealth, and power have been shown to have feet of clay. God is measuring the world as the nations have been jolted by this crisis. Take this opportunity, all of us, to measure our lives against the gospel. Before Jesus ascended to heaven, he left them with the unmistakable conviction that He would be with them and their mission would be a success. That's the next step on the Path to Pentecost.