Last week I asked the question, “Why did Jesus have to die?” After all, He is the King and should have right to do anything He wants. Why could He not simply show grace and justify His people without redeeming them through His death on the cross? The answer is that God is also just and, consequently, the only way He could justify His people and remain just was to go through the cross as Christ was the propitiation for our sins (Romans 3:24-26).
This week, however, we move on from the crucifixion to the resurrection. Jesus has died, but He has been raised from the dead and proven Himself to be that descendant of David who will reign on the throne of His everlasting kingdom. He proves Himself as Messiah. He is the King.
The question I want to ask us this week is, “What does the King do now?” He has taken the road of the cross and proven triumphant over death. Now, what does he do? It would make sense that to receive the glory He deserves, He would simply sit Himself on the throne there in Jerusalem and let everyone know He is King and that they can come and worship Him. It would make sense to have the entire city come and serve Him. They could bring Him food, wash His feet, and meet His every need. He could order them to do whatever, and they could act promptly. He could demonstrate His reign, and all the city and the world could serve His every desire. It would seem this should be the state of a resurrected King of the Jews (and the rest of the world for that matter.)
In John 21:1-14, however, we see a completely different scene.
Peter, James, and John have gone fishing. They have spent time in Jerusalem celebrating all the historic feasts, but now they have returned to Galilee. And they find themselves in what appears to be a pretty familiar position. They have fished all night and have caught nothing. Christ has appeared to them a few times already but their joy is met by frustration on this night.
Finally, a voice yells from the shore, “Guys, haven’t you caught anything?” For people who are experienced fishermen, the answer had to be humiliating as they answer, “No.” Then, pushing their frustration a little further, the stranger yells, “Cast your nets on the right side of the boat and you will find a catch.”
The scene reminds me of children who would tell even a professional fisherman who is having no luck, “Cast over here and you will catch some fish.” These men were the fisherman, and, though they did not know it, this man was a simple carpenter. But they cast their nets on the side of the boat and catch so many fish that they cannot pull the net onto the boat.
It is at this point that John (possibly remembering a similar earlier experience) says, “It is the Lord.” And Peter, putting his clothes on (go figure), jumps into the water after Him. He wants, once again, to see the resurrected Lord.
Now the interesting thing (besides Peter clothing himself to jump into water) is what they find the resurrected Christ doing on the shore. Scripture tells us, “They saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it” and Jesus said, “Come and have breakfast.” What was the risen King of the Jews, the Messiah, the one who would reign forever, who had triumphed over death doing? He was cooking His disciples some breakfast.
Jesus Christ, even after His resurrection, longs to serve His disciples.
He longs to serve us. In the days while He was with them He washed their feet (John 13), and now He is cooking them breakfast. He came to serve. This should boggle our minds. I mean, there is nothing left to prove. He is the King. He can start acting like it. But He is a king who has come to serve. And let me assure you the same is true today.
We would assume that service should be no part of His work now. Rather we should be the ones serving Him, but that is not the way it works with our Lord. Jesus Christ was risen from the dead that He might serve His people?
There are a couple of answers to this question, and I want to give both of them, commenting from the text. Then I want to make one final observation from the text that we might see what we are to do in light of this understanding.
The first reason I can see for why Jesus has risen to serve rather than to be served is in verse 6. “And He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you will find a catch.’ They cast therefore, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.”
Now let me respond to this text by asking us a question. Who is better at fishing: Peter, James, and John or Jesus? The obvious answer is Jesus. These guys fished all night and caught nothing while He simply tells them what to do from the shore, and they catch 153. Now let me ask us another question. Who is better at doing what you do every day—whether parenting, or engineering, or chiropractics, or working at whatever kind of store, or being a student—you or Jesus? The answer is the same. The carpenter does not simply know more about fishing than these fishermen. He knows more about anything than anyone.
Thus, we see our first reason for why Jesus was raised that He might serve. He can do things much better than we can. In fact, apart from Him we can do nothing. Maybe these disciples had not yet realized this. Possibly the reason they are unsuccessful in their fishing is that though “coming to grips with the resurrection … they still have not learned the profound truth that apart from Christ they can do nothing, and so that night they caught nothing" (1). Maybe many of us have not realized this yet.
Jesus Christ is able to do your job better than you can. In fact, the reason you can do anything at all is because of His grace. He has risen so that He might serve you. He knows what next step you need to take in your business. He is God, and He wants to serve you.
The second reason that He wants to serve is that in serving He is most glorified, and God’s passion is to exalt Himself above all things. This may sound a little weird, but let’s look for exegetical warrant in the following passages:
Psalm 50:12,15—“If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world and all that is in it
is mine … Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and
you shall glorify me.”
Isaiah 64:4—“From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen
besides Thee, who works for those who wait for him”
Do you see how God has told the people to call upon Him in the day of trouble, and He will serve them? However, it is He who will receive glory. Also, Isaiah says that God works for those who wait for Him. Jesus Christ receives glory not simply by being served but by serving His people.
Is this something that was limited to His time on earth, however? We may note that Jesus was resurrected in John 21, but He had not yet ascended. Maybe, we might then conclude, Jesus served on earth, but now that He is in heaven and sitting at the Father’s right hand we are to serve Him now and in the age to come.
In Luke 12:35-37, however, we find an astounding teaching of Christ about His second coming. “Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps alight. And be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master shall find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them.” Isn’t that incredible? Be ready because Jesus is returning in order that His people might sit at a table and be served by Him. He truly is the same yesterday today and forever. Jesus Christ is more glorified in serving than in being served.
One might ask, however, how it is that we are then supposed to serve as Romans 12:11 among other passages tells us? The answer is in 1 Peter 4:11. “Let him who serves serve in the strength which God supplies in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and power forever and ever.” In everything you do, ask Jesus Christ to serve Himself through you. If you do this, you will be serving in His power and He will be glorified.
Now, I know our tendency is to think that Jesus does not want to fool with us. We think he would rather show His power through someone on the mission field or preaching or singing or whatever, not the person doing what we are doing. But let me point out something. Everything we do is to be done to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31—“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God). And God is glorified when He is serving you in doing whatever you are doing. Therefore, whatever you do, ask God to empower you, to serve you, to help you do what you’re doing in His might and His knowledge instead of your own, and He will be glorified. Not to mention, you will do it better. We think God doesn’t care about serving us while Scripture says, “The eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show his might on behalf of those whose heart is whole toward him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). God is wanting to serve you more than you are wanting Him to, for He is passionate about His glory.
The risen Christ came to serve these disciples in the boat that day and He has come to serve us as well, for in doing so, He is most glorified.
The final observation I want to make from the text is this. When combined with His voice and the great catch of fish, John recognized it was the Lord.
Instead of asking how, we are probably tempted to ask why it took so long? Similar events had happened in an earlier account and they had already seen the resurrected Lord. But let me ask you this question. How many of us have heard the Lord speak to us and direct us and yet we still have trouble recognizing His voice? I would say many of us. The answer is in seeking to know His voice and His ways more. And this comes from hearing Him and obeying Him often. Once you do this, you will begin to recognize, as John did, “It is the Lord,” and you can obey Him.
What does all this mean precisely that we are to do? I pray that we would all begin to do five simple things I will give you quickly.
1) Settle in your heart that Jesus (the resurrected King) is more glorified in serving than being served, and He wants to serve you.
2) Begin to seek His power and wisdom in everything you do. He knows how to do what you need to do better than anyone, and He wants you to seek Him. Tell Him what you’re doing at work and ask Him to direct and empower you in what you need to do next.
3) Act on what He’s told you. I do this all the time in praying through what I should preach. You are no different. I told my dad recently in a conversation that he needs to ask God what to do in developing software. God knows these things. He knew how Peter and John could catch fish.
4) Begin, as you do these things, to try to recognize the voice and ways of God. He wants us to know Him, but too many of us don’t take time to try to recognize His voice. I bet anyone who has sat and asked God to speak and direct them and thinks He hasn’t has simply failed to recognize His voice.
5) And finally, tell God at the end of your day how it went. Michael Card pointed out that the 70, when they returned, told Jesus how things went. As you seek to hear and obey Him working in His power and wisdom; let Him know the results. He is your Father and He is concerned about how you may most glorify Him. He knows the number of hairs on your head. He knows where the fish are. He wants to serve you.