Here is a true saying about history – it tends to repeat itself. Babylon arose, attained, decayed and fell. Persia arose, attained, decayed and fell; and so did Israel, Greece, Rome and a hundred other societies. Our own nation is in the late “decay” stage and is ready to fall. Certainly history is history, and Biblical history, although special, is still history.
About 3 years before the events of this scripture, Peter, James & John had been fishing on this same lake. History was in the process of repeating itself. I wonder why they didn’t think about that as they labored all night without catching anything? Their hearts should have been filled with warm memories of their Saviour. Perhaps fishing without catching was common – so they didn’t give any consideration to the Lord. The Sea of Galilee or Tiberias, is a good sized lake, but it’s definitely not huge. It is roughly the size, and similar to the shape, of Priest Lake, but it’s not nearly as deep. (If you aren’t familiar with Priest Lake, all that I can say is that I feel sorry for you.) If you are familiar with Priest Lake, you can probably imagine that everywhere those disciples looked they could have seen the shadow of the Lord Jesus. On one side Jesus stood and said, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And over there He fed the 5,000, and over there He fed the 4,000. Over on that side He healed the man called “Legion,” & from that direction He walked on the water. On that hill up there Jesus preached one His great sermons. The disciples could have seen the lights of Capernaum. And as the sun rose, perhaps they might have seen the top of Mount Hermon off in the distant north. Again and again those men should have heard the voice and seen the shadow of the Lord. They had loved Him, but they had lost Him – or so they thought. He had left and returned to His Father in Heaven. They had hoped He would establish His kingdom and redeem Israel, but the cross ended all that. They were disappointed, if not dejected and depressed.
You would think that their minds would have been filled with Christ, but apparently they weren’t. They had returned to the rough work in which they had been engaged before Christ called them. They were more concerned with fish than with divine fellowship. They were more worried about their catch more than they were with their Christ.
In other words, they were just like most of us at this very moment. We have mouths to feed, a spouse to keep happy, and neighbors to placate. We have fences to mend, businesses to build, tasks to complete, errands to run, relatives to appease. We have politics to police; toys to toy with, retirement funds to build, and plans to perfect. We have weddings and funerals; interviews and appointments. Not to mention colds to cure, flus to make flee, and joints to adjust.
But then through the grey morning mist they heard a familiar voice. And in responding to that voice a miracle of history was repeated. At first none of the seven men on board that fishing boat perceived that it was the Lord Jesus. But John’s heart began to wax warm as it had so often in the past three years. The Apostle John was noted for his great love for Christ. And that love burst into a flame as the epicenter of that fire drew near. “Hey, brethren, it is the Lord; it is the Lord!”
The simple thought that I’d like you to grasp this morning is this: No matter where you may be in today’s morning mist, Christ is nearby. You may think that He has returned to His Father, and in a sense He has, but not entirely. In all likelihood He is approaching you today, and in fact He may even be calling your name. Furthermore, with empty souls and mis-directed lives, we need him very badly. Sometimes it’s when we are working that He approaches; smetimes when we are at rest or at worship. As a rule it is those who are nearest to Christ, who see Him first. Sadly, those who need Him the most hear Him the last and the least.
Those with 20/20 spiritual vision see Christ in everything.
But very few of US are so clear visioned. We’ve worn our eyes out staring at the things of the world. And with time our eyes have been covered over with cataracts of the flesh. We may need optical surgery and we certainly require spiritual lenses.
As I have told you before, I used to be a typesetter for print shops and publishing companies in Calgary. After working in that industry for a few months, my eye became trained to see things others overlook. For example, I began to recognize type-styles on signs, business cards and letter heads. I’d drive down the road and note lettering styles on billboards and store fronts. When advertizing arrived in my mailbox, I cared more for their appearance than what was said. Soon I learned that some styles of lettering worked together well; they accomplished certain things in people’s minds even before they said something specific. In other words, I became professional typesetter. On the other hand there were some things in that business which eluded me. So when I’d finish designing a business card or a brochure, I’d give it to my wife to proof read. Quite often, I’d be so focused on the appearance of a piece that I’d forget to double check spellings or I would miss some aspect of what it was supposed to say. Judy would have to spot my mistakes – my misspellings and my omitted words. And still today, nobody can spot a misspelled word more quickly than Judy. She has an eye for that; it’s one of her talents.
Just as the typesetter can spot type, the Christian should be able to see Christ. Just as the proof-reader can spot a typo, the Christian should be aware of the presence of the Saviour. When he looks at the beauty of a cloud, or a flower, or a mountain stream, he should see the Creator. When the hurricane wipes a flood plain more cleanly than a wash rag wipes a dish, he should recognize the power of the Lord – the divine Judge. And when an 7.9 earthquake strikes the north Pacific, but the resulting tsunami is less than two feet high, that Christian should see the grace of the Lord. When a business man falls into a really healthy business situation, he should thank the Lord. And when a mother gives birth to her baby, she should say, “I have received a gift from the Lord!”
No one truly understands the world who can not say, “It is of the Lord.” Nature is the mirror of God, and its natural laws reflect the laws of Heaven. Acts 14:17 says: “Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” Romans 1:20 adds: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” I can say with the authority of Scripture that you ought to see Christ in this world. “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.”
But oh, how thick-headed we are as a rule; how slow to perceive, to believe and receive. So what has God often done to catch our attention? From time to time He has broken the laws He established and performed “miracles.” Things like shepherding a school of fish into the nets of a group of dejected fishermen. Every miracle ever worked has been a testimony that there is a God over nature. Every inexplicable twist of life which results in something really good should remind the saint that there is a God over this creation.
But do we praise God when good things are put into our hands? When we are restored to health do we say, “It is the Lord”? When a check comes in the mail and allows us to replace our bald tires, do we say, “It is the Lord?” Do we honestly and genuinely thank God for the bread that He puts on our tables? “Oh, I put that turkey in my Thanksgiving feast, and those potatoes came from my garden.” Yes, you may have had a part, but ultimately they came by way of the grace of the Lord. And how blind we are to the Lord’s hand of safety – sheltering us. How many potentially fatal accidents have we barely missed sometime in 2017? How easily could that cold have turned into pneumonia? You say that it’s been too wet here in the Great Northwest? Perhaps you’d prefer the droughts of the Southwest or the monsoons of the orient? The Lord is so kind to us. “It is the Lord.”
The unbelievers around us; even the educated and pseudo-intellectual, attribute the good things in their lives to fate or accident. How many of our neighbors study the stupidity of their daily horoscope. As Christians we reject such things, but at the same time we don’t honor the Lord for His personal and loving control of all things. Why don’t we often say, “It is the Lord”? Is it because our hearts are not as warm and responsive as John’s was?
The problem is not with our eyes; it is with hearts.
But that does not mean we shall not see Christ with our eyes once again. Just like the disciples, who hadn’t seen the Lord for a while, they did again, and so shall we. As the Lord Jesus ascended into Heaven, an angel spoke to His astonished disciples and said, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” Some day, Christ will not only walk with us in this world, but He will reign over every inch of it. But today He is not here, and our eyes cannot reach His throne. But hearts, like that of John, certainly can.
Compare John with the other disciples in that fishing boat that day. There was a man whose nick-name is one of infamy and shame – “Doubting Thomas.” Thomas didn’t recognize the Lord. Nathaniel, the great soul-winner, didn’t see the Lord either. Nor did James the brother of John. And then there was Peter, the epitome of zeal and energy. The statement that he was “naked,” doesn’t mean that he had no clothes. It means that he was improperly clothed for meeting the God of Heaven. He meant business when it came to fishing. But he certainly was not dressed in a manner befitting the Lord. Nevertheless, when he was told that the voice belonged to Christ, he wrapped his clothes around him, jumped into the water, and swam to the Saviour’s side. But the zeal of Peter was too busy to recognize Him without the help of a more tender heart. No, it is not zeal or strength that sees the Lord, it is love and faith which have eye for the King of Kings.
“The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.” “He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love.” Isn’t it possible for a mother to see the talents and genius of her child when no one else can? Doesn’t mother hear her baby’s voice in the other room, when no one else does? Can’t the skilled musician recognize the raw, but untrained abilities of another? Christian love longs for the presence of the object of that love. Christian love leads into the likeness of Christ, and there grows an echo in the heart of the child of God. Love makes us want to be the best that worthless sinners can be for Him.
May the Lord teach us to love as we have been loved. May the Lord give us eyes to see the blessings of our God.
And again, from where does that love and knowledge come from?
It is not mustered up by the strength of the will, or of the mind. I John 4:10 says that we can truly love only as we know and experience the Lord’s love. “We love him because He first loved us.” If I had a clear plastic tube bent into the shape of the letter “U.” And if I poured some red liquid into one end, it would run down, bounce up and down a couple of times and then level off. If I wanted one side to be higher than the other, I could try pouring in more liquid, but in just a moment, the one side would always be just as high as the other. Our love for God, our love for other Christians, and going back to John, our ability to recognize the Lord will be only as high as the love which we have received – and appreciated – from the Lord.
So here is a lady whose family-life is in shambles. She has been fishing all night trying to fix things at home, but she has come up empty. She brings home money from her little part-time job to augment the income of her husband. She tries to please him, and his mother, and their children. She cooks, and gardens, and smiles, and works. But her fishing net is empty. Yet, there on the shore is the Christ who created the family, and who is the source of genuine love. Will she recognize him, or just keep right on fishing, steeped in despair?
And there is the man worrying himself into an early grave. Can he hear the voice from the shore?
There is only one place to learn of the love of Christ and His Father. “Greater love hath no man than this, than that a man lay down his life for his friend.” And “God commendeth his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” The world has a spurious thing which it calls “love.” There is the evil love, the pseudo love that prompts a girl to take her clothes off for her boy friend. There is the love that is vowed at the wedding ceremony, but which is voided 15 months later. There is the kind of love which is focused on self and self alone. These are not really love at all. Genuine love is found in the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is righteous. It is generous and giving. It is eternal. When we possess this, and all that it brings, then we can learn to love others.
You and I are sinners before God; we are not worthy of His love. But the Lord loves because it is His nature to love. He has proven that love over and over again, but most particularly on the bloody cross of Calvary. Most of the world looks toward that cross and says, “It is history, or it is “interesting,” or it is “a shame.” Only by the grace of the Lord can we learn to say, “It is the Lord.”
Without Christ Jesus, our lives will always be as futile and empty as the fishing nets of those disciples. Without Christ Jesus, we are as dry as tinder and ready for the eternal flames. Would you be able to recognize Christ, if he was standing on your shore? Have you ever humbled yourself before Him and asked to see Him? It is never too late to start.