Immersed and Intertwined

John 21: 1 – 8

Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way. Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and 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 also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.

But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish.

After Jesus died and was resurrected, he appeared, or manifested himself, in the flesh, to his disciples. That is an interesting study in itself, but not where I am going today. What I wish to point out today is the difference in John and Peter. Both are renowned disciples who are two of Jesus’ best friends but their approach to him and to the world is vastly different.

First, let me clarify something which tends to challenge people. In good writing, the author never uses personal pronouns. In other words, they don’t use “I”. The author is not supposed to be writing about himself or herself but rather about a larger context. In truth, this has changed with blogs and social media. It is one of the changes I had to embrace, though hesitantly, in writing a personal devotional. So, John refers to himself as the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” Okay, proprieties taken care of.

Second, people think this is an arrogant moniker. No, it is just the opposite. John is saying to his readership, and every other person, that his only value in the world is that Jesus loves him. It is a statement, or rather a reference, of great humility. “It’s little old me. I am no one but for the grace of Jesus’ love which is unearned for I am unworthy of his kind intention towards me. It is only by his benevolence that he loves me, nothing of my doing.”

Okay, now you begin to see inside John’s heart. Though he entered the ministry of Jesus as a Son of Thunder, he became the love apostle. He is the apex teacher on the relationship aspect of Christianity, teaching us that our love relationship with the Trinity and, indeed, with each other, marks our faith above all else. When you compare his letters with those of the other writers you will find they are unique. They reveal the integration with Father, Son and Spirit which I write about frequently. I got it from John.

So, John’s heart became tender. He learned to live and walk with Jesus. He learned to engage his heart even above his mind. His spirit became sensitive to the Holy Spirit and he received remarkable revelation out of that intertwined relationship with the Trinity. The whole book of Revelation is one remarkable experience that John enjoyed with the Holy Spirit. So, all this is to show you who this man became. I guess in a few words I would say of him, he became one with the Spirit.

In this story you see the sensitivity of his spirit to the things of the Holy Spirit and Jesus. When Jesus was standing on the shore, it was John whose spirit recognized him. Of all the disciples, it would be John who knew Jesus when others did not.

Now Peter, Peter was a man of action. He was strong willed, perhaps a little hard-headed, and his faith had feet. He did something. He was the one who jumped out of the boat to walk on the water with Jesus (Matthew 14: 29). When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword and removed the ear of one of the soldiers (John 18: 10). This story finds Peter jumping out of a boat again. When John said to him, “It is the Lord,” Peter bailed out.

Both men leave us with good examples. John transformed himself into a spiritually sensitive person who could see and hear the Holy Spirit. Though Peter lacked John’s spiritual sensitivity, he was always quick to take action. That action may have at times been rash, but Peter was not going to be found sitting on his hands. If nothing else, he was going fishing.

Two models of faith – both give us insight and hope for who we may become in Christ.

Burn ‘em

Luke 9: 51 – 56

And it came about, when the days were approaching for His ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him. And they went, and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make arrangements for Him. And they did not receive Him, because He was journeying with His face toward Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” And they went on to another village.

James and John had a real zeal for the Lord. They were offended that someone would reject their Lord and they were willing to do something about it. They would have wiped out that whole town if Jesus would have allowed them. But Jesus rebuked them. He said you don’t get it guys. I came to save people, not condemn and judge them. 

According to Bible Commentaries there were significant theological and cultural conflicts between Samaritans and Jews. These differences showed themselves when Jesus’ disciples went into the Samaritan village to make arrangements for their stay there. It is apparent that the arguments between these groups were of no small consequence to either group. In the case of the Samaritans it was significant enough to deny Jesus and his group to stay in their village. To James and John, that rejection was worthy of complete annihilation.

But Jesus apparently did not take exception with the Samaritans views or he would have never sought to stay in a Samaritan town. He certainly did not accept James and John’s view of needful and justifiable action. No, he rejected their reaction completely. Why is this important?

We all are faced with the same opportunities today that James and John faced 2000 years ago. While we are called to be zealous for the Lord and we applaud that zeal when we find it in others, we must have a care how we express our zeal. One commentary said that James and John failed to see the behavior of the Samaritans in the light of the social and cultural fabric. They did not recognize the national prejudices and bigotry at play (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible.). The commentary goes on to say that the Samaritans were not rejecting God, the message or the messenger of God but that is all that James and John could see. It might even be that it was something missing in James and John that caused their strong reaction, something broken in their hearts. We must be careful that we don’t burn others because we do not understand them or their beliefs. We should be careful that we do not condemn whole groups of peoples to hell because of our beliefs. 

Jesus rebuked those two disciples. He said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of.” What kind of spirit are they and all of us a part of? It is the spirit of love which is why Jesus gave us the one commandment, that we should love one another as he himself has loved us. Instead of criticizing and condemning others, we are truly to love them and pray for them. And by pray for them I do not mean to pray for God to change them to agree with us or our doctrine. For we might find, like James and John, that it is we who are wrong rather than they. Furthermore, it just is not our job to judge others. Jesus didn’t even judge and if Jesus didn’t then we certainly shouldn’t. Our job is to love everyone right into heaven and then we can let our Father sort it all out. 

Don’t let your zeal for what you think is right cause you to violate the love commandment. Don’t let your ideas condemn others else you might find that Jesus is not rebuking them but rather rebuking you. Be zealous in love and invite all peoples into the Kingdom of God.