Fishing In the Ocean of Doubt
By Minister Gbenga Ajanaku
New Wine Church, London
Foundation Scripture: John 20:19-23; 20:1-5
Sunday 27th April 2014
Today is the first Sunday after Easter, a day which in some circles is termed as Octave Sunday, a reference to the eighth day after the resurrection or alternatively, St Thomas' Sunday, being a reference to the first Sunday after Thomas put his hands into the risen Jesus' side and saw his hands. The bible records that Jesus showed Himself to His disciples on a number of occasions prior to His ascension and whilst the bible does not state explicitly how long He stayed on earth in bodily form, the general consensus amongst bible scholars is that Jesus remained on earth for around 40 days prior to returning to heaven.
If we look at the events which precede the resurrection closely, we observe that following His arrest on Thursday, He was tried, condemned and scourged on the Friday. He was crucified, and it is of importance and worth re-stating that He died, rather than lost consciousness, as if He had not died, not one of us would be saved from sin and therefore I am proud to say that I am glad that He died. His body was taken down from the cross and buried in a public cemetery; the grave purchased by Joseph of Arimathea was in a public location and in attestation to the truth that He died and was buried, Roman soldiers were positioned to guard the grave. It is against the backdrop of these events that we find the disciples in John 20 and 21 in a state of utter despondency, confusion and fear. These are the men that had accompanied Jesus for the years of His public ministry, whom had left everything in commitment to Jesus and whom could never have possibly envisaged that it would all end on Calvary in apparent defeat. They knew that Jesus having been crucified, they, His closest followers, were now in the frame and possibly next in line for similar treatment. They, utterly brokenhearted, were a mixed bag of emotions and paranoia. It could be said as they sat behind closed doors, they were in a sorrier state than when Jesus first met them. It is in this scene that John 20 records that Jesus showed up and declares 'Peace be with you'. The appearance of Jesus amongst them on this occasion brought about gladness but had only limited effect as shortly after this event, Simon Peter, no doubt having assessed the situation, declared "I am going fishing" to which other disciples responded, "We are going also". Peter and his colleagues could not see an alternative; their hopes for the future had been dashed and there appeared to be no better alternative than go back to what they knew.
This represents the dilemma of leadership, and it is worth remembering that these men were leaders. It was they that Jesus had equipped with His power and sent out in pairs. As leaders, they were facing challenges that they had never encountered before; the responsibility for continuity from where Jesus had left off was too great and having left all to follow Him, they now longed only for what was comfortable and familiar.
Simon Peter had, having encountered Jesus, made two key definite decisions which cemented his commitment. When he first encountered Jesus, Peter had been fishing. Luke 5 records that Jesus had been teaching by the Lake of Gennasaret and having made use of his boat, instructed Peter to launch out for a miraculous catch of fish. Jesus told him to follow Him and that He would make Peter a 'fisher of men' and immediately, Peter left all and signed up to the assignment. In John 6 we are told that after Jesus offended His hearers by making reference to the need to eat his flesh and drink His blood, 'many of his disciples went back and walked with Him no more'. Jesus gave his twelve disciples the option of departing also asking, "Do you also want to go away?" to which Peter replied, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also, we have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God." More so than any of the other disciples, Peter had demonstrated and articulated his seemingly unswerving commitment to Jesus. How then did he so effortlessly lose his focus and turn his back on the hope that represented the truth?
Life has a habit of taking you on a rollercoaster ride; there are exhilarating ups in which life is good and everything is wonderful and devastating and debilitating downs. Difficulties are a fact of life but how do you handle it when your life is in the frame? When life takes a downward turn, we tend to look for a cause, usually concluding as was done with the man born blind, that either there is sin in the life of the individual or sin in his lineage. The truth is however that difficulties and struggles have been part of the process since the fall of Adam. For each of us, there is a hope that represents the only truth that we know. When the storms of life come, we must ensure that we are anchored to the truth.
Mark 1: 11 records that when Jesus was baptized He experienced God's public validation by way of a voice from heaven declaring "You are my Son with whom I am well pleased." Matthew 3 records that the heavens opened up and the Spirit of God descended like a dove and alighted on Jesus. This was a unique spectacular audio-visual display of God the Father and God the Spirit's indisputable public affirmation of Jesus, the Son of God. All the resources of heaven came together to confirm the divine identification of Jesus. I can still recall the feeling having overheard my earthly father speaking about me in glowing terms, just knowing that he was proud of me made me feel as if I was walking on water for the rest of the day. Life, however, as I have stated, can be a rollercoaster. Shortly after this event, we learn that the Spirit of God, the gentle, kind, supportive and loving Spirit, led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. I had always imagined the wilderness as being overgrown forest-land however, flying over northern Africa, I realized that the wilderness is in fact desert-land with nothing but blazing heat from above and scorching hot sand below. It is here that the Spirit of God led Jesus; it is here that He fasted continuously for 40 days and 40 nights. He prepared His body for denial as He knew that He was going to be tempted.
Peter had lost sight of the bigger picture and very nearly missed his eternal purpose by turning back on destiny and the destiny of the countless millions to whom his destiny was tied, in favour of going fishing. It was imperative for Jesus to be tempted so that He could sympathise with Peter's weakness and my weakness. He could understand what Peter was going through and the struggles that we face, so that, as Hebrews 4: 15 confirms, He could be the High Priest who could 'sympathise with our weaknesses' who 'was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.' The wilderness was Jesus' preparation for the cross. Preparation is never time wasted; if you fail at preparation you will fail at execution.
And so in John 21, the disciples, having gone back fishing, caught nothing. This is the second time that their toil and all-night fishing efforts had been fruitless. The first time was at the beginning of Peter's relationship with Jesus and now, again, they had caught nothing. Jesus met them on the shore and called out, "Children, having you any food?" to which the disciples replied in despondence, "No". The way in which Jesus addressed the disciples is interesting: these were His apostles, the ones to whom He had entrusted the Kingdom and yet for the very first time, He addressed them, "Children". The question as to whether they had any food, represented an invitation to them to accept the path that they had chosen to return to or the path that He had called them to and accept that until and unless they abide in Him, they can achieve nothing.
Jesus never discards people. We often do but Jesus never does. He refused to allow them to discard the plan of God and path to which they had been called and had been committed. Notwithstanding Peter's attempt to abandon the purpose of God, Jesus began determinedly to restore him. He asked Peter a series of questions, providing the opportunity for Peter to confirm his love for Him and instructing him, "Feed my sheep."
I do not know where this message finds you but there is a plan of God for your life. It may not be obvious, even to the most discerning but there is something that God wants to do with your life. The value of the soul of a man cannot be quantified. Very few of us would gather precious jewels in a house and leave the house unsecured. However, the soul of a man, priceless though it is has been placed in a vessel of zero eternal value. The body houses that which is of supreme eternal importance and is such that it disguises the value of that which it carries. The body also carries the poison that can kill the soul. Something is locked up inside you which will never be comprehended or released when you only operate and relate in the physical or natural realm. When you allow the reborn spirit to feed your soul rather than permitting your physical body to lead you, you can begin to understand the precious value that lies within, which makes everything else pale into insignificance. If you only look at the packaging and operate in the realm in which packaging is everything, you will miss it. Jesus stepped in to interrupt the plans of His disciples and reconfigured them to enable them to carry out God's eternal purpose. I challenge you to discover and stir up that which is within so that you can do likewise.
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