Redeemed for a Reason [4-26-20]

Updated: Jul 8


We're at the end of John's gospel. I trust we've remembered more than we've forgotten. We're going to spend the next several weeks wrapping things up with chapter 21.


John 21 is as great a chapter as John 1, or John 3, or any of the others. This is a transformational chapter.


John 21 takes place by the Sea of Tiberias. Sea of Galilee and Lake Tiberias are used interchangeably for the same body of water. Herod Antipas built the city of Tiberias and named it in honor of the Roman Emperor Tiberias. It is a freshwater lake. It is the lowest freshwater lake in the world and second lowest lake in the world. It is 13 miles long and 8 miles wide, with a circumference of approximately 32 miles. It's a big lake.


Even 2000 years ago, the Sea of Tiberias was a popular tourist attraction. The fishing was good. It had mineral hot springs. That's where seven of the disciples went on a little fishing trip.


Most of the disciples had been here before meeting Jesus. Many of them were fishermen. They had been to this area with Jesus. This is where Jesus walked on water. These were the stormy seas Jesus calmed. Jesus fed over 5,000 people in this area. This was very familiar territory that held shared memories for the disciples.


We're at the end of John's gospel. I trust we've remembered more than we've forgotten. We're going to spend the next several weeks wrapping things up with chapter 21.John 21 is as great a chapter as John 1, or John 3, or any of the others. This is a transformational chapter.John 21 takes place by the Sea of Tiberias. Sea of Galilee and Lake Tiberias are used interchangeably for the same body of water. Herod Antipas built the city of Tiberias and named it in honor of the Roman Emperor Tiberias. It is a freshwater lake. It is the lowest freshwater lake in the world and second lowest lake in the world. It is 13 miles long and 8 miles wide, with a circumference of approximately 32 miles. It's a big lake.Even 2000 years ago, the Sea of Tiberias was a popular tourist attraction. The fishing was good. It had mineral hot springs. That's where seven of the disciples went on a little fishing trip.Most of the disciples had been here before meeting Jesus. Many of them were fishermen. They had been to this area with Jesus. This is where Jesus walked on water. These were the stormy seas Jesus calmed. Jesus fed over 5,000 people in this area. This was very familiar territory that held shared memories for the disciples.I see their fishing trip as a step backward in their lives. Think about the context. They're disciples. They've been with Jesus three years. Everything he's said and done has been affirmed by his resurrection. They have already seen the Risen Lord. He once said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." And what are they doing? Fishing. Regular fishing. In light of extraordinary events, they've gone back to what's familiar and ordinary in their lives.Here's something to consider up front. Let's look at John 21:1-3:After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 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. Here's what I noticed after I noticed that I didn't notice it at first. When Peter decided to go fishing, he took six others with him. Remember, Jesus told Peter he was a rock and he was going to build his church on him. The others are looking to him. That's why they agree to join him on this little fishing trip. Remember, this fishing trip represents a sense of aimlessness about them right now. Here's what we're going to see about how God works in our situations - even when life seems aimless - to bring about His purpose. Keep in mind two promises from Scripture:God doesn't call the equipped. He equips the called.God works for good for those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.So these guys are still aimless. They don't know what to do next. So they are simply meandering through these moments in their lives. We're going to see something incredible happen at the Sea of Tiberias. Jesus is going to lead them to discover real purpose in their lives. Real purpose. And I think most of us could use a shot of that right now. How many of you are feeling like you're going through the day-to-day, same-old-same-old right now? How many of us feel like we need some purpose in our lives right now? When Jesus met the disciples at the end of a long night of fruitless fishing, he gave them three specific commands. Those three commands form the foundation of the new purpose God wants to pour into their lives. And we should always remember, Jesus wants that to happen in our lives, too. We're going to look at those for the next few weeks. After a full night of fruitless fishing, we pick things up at verse 4:Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 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. 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. 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. - John 21:4-8Did you catch the first command? It's a simple one. "Cast the net on the right side of the boat." Here are some things we know within that command:Because of the clarity of the waters on the Sea of Galilee, sometimes you can see where the fish are from a different angle, even from the shore.The word in verse 5, translated as "children" is better translated as "lads," a word used when addressing a group you are less familiar with.When Simon Peter heard it was Jesus, why did he put his shirt back on? Real simple answer. He took his shirt off for the hard work at hand, but he put it back on because he was going to greet Jesus. It would be rude to greet anyone without being fully clothed.Finally, pay attention to the way Jesus asked the question in verse 5 - "Do you have any fish?" The text tells us that by the way the question was asked, Jesus already knew the answer. So, here's the meaning behind the simple command, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat."WE SEE JESUS BRINGING THE DISCIPLES FROM A LACK OF PURPOSE TO AN ABUNDANCE OF PURPOSE IN JUST A FEW MINUTES.How good and simple is that?The seven disciples start with a lack of purpose. The whole thing feels kind of aimless to me. They head out to fish and come back empty. During this time of unsettledness, they return to what's familiar and secure. They're fumbling around for some sort of renewed purpose. They're returning to the way they always did things. But that rarely works; it never works well all the time. How many times do people say, to rediscover purpose and motivation, I'll go back to my old town, my old job, my old relationship? I'm not saying you can't learn from your past. Of course you can and you should. But God's purpose isn't found looking in the rear-view mirror. God's purpose is always out in front of us. There's always something new up ahead that God has for our lives. Amen? That's what the disciples discovered. They fished that night and caught nothing. Zero. Zip. Nada. Instead of finding purpose, they found frustration. Emptiness. Have you ever been there? Then you understand how the disciples felt. They went fishing for nothing. What do you call it when you do the same thing, over and over and over? Right…stuck in a rut. It's something that's familiar. You make it work. But instead of looking ahead to God's plan, you trudge deeper and deeper in the rut. And the thing about a rut is, it's easy to steer. You don't get sidetracked or off-track. You're there and it's easy. You can only go where the rut goes. There are no surprise in the rut. But the question is, is the rut your purpose at that time in your life or is the rut simply a rut? It's easy to lose purpose in the rut. You hardly have to think about what you're doing. The purpose is long forgotten. Joy…not there. Can you imagine the frustration of the disciples being expert fishermen coming up empty? Now, remember the two huge Biblical principles we already touched on:God doesn't call the equipped. He equips the called.God works for good for those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.Verse 4 sets the scene. It's now morning. The sun is coming up. Someone is on the shore, but the disciples can't quite make out who it is. Unexpectedly, this shadowy figure says to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some fish." The catch is so great, they can't haul it all in. The lack of purpose becomes an abundance of purpose. I'm reminded here of when Jesus said, "I came that you might have life in all its abundance." {Not prosperity gospel; think instead of a Galatians 5:22-23 kind of abundance.} Can you imagine? Peter now sees new direction and renewed purpose. And the thing is…this is what we get from Peter's actions…the thing is the new purpose and direction aren't in the huge haul of fish. The huge haul of fish is symbolic of where Peter's new purpose and direction will take him. Peter now knows that his purpose and direction in life is standing there on the shore. That's why he throws his shirt on, abandons the catch, and jumps into the sea in order to get to Jesus. His real purpose isn't in the boat or in the net. Jesus Christ is the One he needs to be with. That's who gives direction and purpose to his life. We're going to end today with a statement of a harsh but true reality. At one time or another in our lives, we have all lost our purpose. The disciples' experience is our experience. We get caught up in routine. We get overcome by fear and doubt. There have been times in our lives when we've all struggled for purpose. Here's what I know. We see it in John 21. God wants to do great things in our lives. When we're discouraged; when we're in a rut, He doesn't hold it against us. Even when we're feeling directionless, God doesn't count us out. Jesus stands on the shore of our lives, to give us new direction. Jesus re-purposes who we are and where we're at in our lives. How amazing is that? As we close, here's something you might want to write down:FAILURE AND DISCOURAGEMENT DO NOT MEAN YOU HAVE LOST GOD'S PURPOSE FOR YOUR LIFE.Come back next week as we explore how God moves us deeper into His purpose for our lives.Important to our understanding of John 21 is the reason why these seven disciples came here.


I see their fishing trip as a step backward in their lives. Think about the context. They're disciples. They've been with Jesus three years. Everything he's said and done has been affirmed by his resurrection. They have already seen the Risen Lord. He once said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." And what are they doing? Fishing. Regular fishing. In light of extraordinary events, they've gone back to what's familiar and ordinary in their lives.


Here's something to consider up front. Let's look at John 21:1-3:

After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 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.

Here's what I noticed after I noticed that I didn't notice it at first. When Peter decided to go fishing, he took six others with him. Remember, Jesus told Peter he was a rock and he was going to build his church on him. The others are looking to him. That's why they agree to join him on this little fishing trip. Remember, this fishing trip represents a sense of aimlessness about them right now.

Here's what we're going to see about how God works in our situations - even when life seems aimless - to bring about His purpose. Keep in mind two promises from Scripture:


  • God doesn't call the equipped. He equips the called.

  • God works for good for those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.


So these guys are still aimless. They don't know what to do next. So they are simply meandering through these moments in their lives.

We're going to see something incredible happen at the Sea of Tiberias. Jesus is going to lead them to discover real purpose in their lives. Real purpose. And I think most of us could use a shot of that right now. How many of you are feeling like you're going through the day-to-day, same-old-same-old right now? How many of us feel like we need some purpose in our lives right now?

When Jesus met the disciples at the end of a long night of fruitless fishing, he gave them three specific commands. Those three commands form the foundation of the new purpose God wants to pour into their lives. And we should always remember, Jesus wants that to happen in our lives, too. We're going to look at those for the next few weeks. After a full night of fruitless fishing, we pick things up at verse 4:

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 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. 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. 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. - John 21:4-8

Did you catch the first command? It's a simple one. "Cast the net on the right side of the boat." Here are some things we know within that command:


  • Because of the clarity of the waters on the Sea of Galilee, sometimes you can see where the fish are from a different angle, even from the shore.

  • The word in verse 5, translated as "children" is better translated as "lads," a word used when addressing a group you are less familiar with.

  • When Simon Peter heard it was Jesus, why did he put his shirt back on? Real simple answer. He took his shirt off for the hard work at hand, but he put it back on because he was going to greet Jesus. It would be rude to greet anyone without being fully clothed.

  • Finally, pay attention to the way Jesus asked the question in verse 5 - "Do you have any fish?" The text tells us that by the way the question was asked, Jesus already knew the answer.

So, here's the meaning behind the simple command, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat."

WE SEE JESUS BRINGING THE DISCIPLES FROM A LACK OF PURPOSE TO AN ABUNDANCE OF PURPOSE IN JUST A FEW MINUTES.

How good and simple is that?


The seven disciples start with a lack of purpose. The whole thing feels kind of aimless to me. They head out to fish and come back empty. During this time of unsettledness, they return to what's familiar and secure. They're fumbling around for some sort of renewed purpose. They're returning to the way they always did things. But that rarely works; it never works well all the time. How many times do people say, to rediscover purpose and motivation, I'll go back to my old town, my old job, my old relationship? I'm not saying you can't learn from your past. Of course you can and you should. But God's purpose isn't found looking in the rear-view mirror. God's purpose is always out in front of us. There's always something new up ahead that God has for our lives. Amen?

That's what the disciples discovered. They fished that night and caught nothing. Zero. Zip. Nada. Instead of finding purpose, they found frustration. Emptiness. Have you ever been there? Then you understand how the disciples felt. They went fishing for nothing.

What do you call it when you do the same thing, over and over and over?


Right…stuck in a rut. It's something that's familiar. You make it work. But instead of looking ahead to God's plan, you trudge deeper and deeper in the rut. And the thing about a rut is, it's easy to steer. You don't get sidetracked or off-track. You're there and it's easy. You can only go where the rut goes. There are no surprise in the rut. But the question is, is the rut your purpose at that time in your life or is the rut simply a rut? It's easy to lose purpose in the rut. You hardly have to think about what you're doing. The purpose is long forgotten. Joy…not there. Can you imagine the frustration of the disciples being expert fishermen coming up empty?

Now, remember the two huge Biblical principles we already touched on:


  • God doesn't call the equipped. He equips the called.

  • God works for good for those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.


Verse 4 sets the scene. It's now morning. The sun is coming up. Someone is on the shore, but the disciples can't quite make out who it is. Unexpectedly, this shadowy figure says to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some fish." The catch is so great, they can't haul it all in. The lack of purpose becomes an abundance of purpose. I'm reminded here of when Jesus said, "I came that you might have life in all its abundance." {Not prosperity gospel; think instead of a Galatians 5:22-23 kind of abundance.}

Can you imagine? Peter now sees new direction and renewed purpose. And the thing is…this is what we get from Peter's actions…the thing is the new purpose and direction aren't in the huge haul of fish. The huge haul of fish is symbolic of where Peter's new purpose and direction will take him. Peter now knows that his purpose and direction in life is standing there on the shore. That's why he throws his shirt on, abandons the catch, and jumps into the sea in order to get to Jesus. His real purpose isn't in the boat or in the net. Jesus Christ is the One he needs to be with. That's who gives direction and purpose to his life.

We're going to end today with a statement of a harsh but true reality. At one time or another in our lives, we have all lost our purpose. The disciples' experience is our experience. We get caught up in routine. We get overcome by fear and doubt. There have been times in our lives when we've all struggled for purpose.

Here's what I know. We see it in John 21. God wants to do great things in our lives. When we're discouraged; when we're in a rut, He doesn't hold it against us. Even when we're feeling directionless, God doesn't count us out. Jesus stands on the shore of our lives, to give us new direction. Jesus re-purposes who we are and where we're at in our lives. How amazing is that? As we close, here's something you might want to write down:

FAILURE AND DISCOURAGEMENT DO NOT MEAN YOU HAVE LOST GOD'S PURPOSE FOR YOUR LIFE.

Come back next week as we explore how God moves us deeper into His purpose for our lives.