By Jerry Vines
What is my life supposed to look like if Jesus is my Lord every moment of every day? The final chapter in the Gospel of John will assist believers with living life every day with the Lord Jesus.
1. We Must Examine Our Daily Routine (21:1–14)
Matthew records that Jesus told the disciples to go and wait for Him in Galilee (Matt. 28:10, 16).
Apparently they grew impatient, or perhaps bored, waiting on Jesus, and here in John we find them back at their old job of fishing. They didn’t realize that God often makes us wait on Him in order to advance our faith.
These fishermen were not used to fishing all night without catching fish. That was their trade, and they were good at it.
But something was missing on this night: a call! Peter and the others were not called to be fishermen any longer.
Consider your personal vocation. Do you feel successful in it? Without the call of God, your work might be summed up with “they caught nothing” (John 21:3).
However, even failure teaches us some valuable lessons.
First, we learn that the Lord is with us always (21:4). The disciples didn’t know He was there. How often we forget that God is never far from us, even in our failure.
Even more, as mysterious as it sounds, sometimes our Lord arranges failures to teach us His sweetest and deepest lessons. Amidst your failures, look for Jesus.
Failure also reminds us that we are utterly helpless without Jesus. The disciples thought they would catch fish just as before. But unless Jesus has called us to the task, we’ll end up making a mess out of things.
All night long the disciples were out, with not a single fish caught, but as soon as Jesus got involved, the net was so full that it almost broke under the weight (21:6).
Just a few minutes with Jesus in control accomplished more than a whole night of their own efforts. No matter what you do for a livelihood, you’ll never have real, lasting success until you allow Jesus to take over.
Wherever Jesus calls you, He equips you for the task at hand. But we must allow Jesus to give the success. Our job is to look to Him, listen to His instructions, and leave the results to Him.
2. We Must Evaluate Our Devotional Reflections (21:15–25)
After landing safely ashore, Jesus greeted the disciples and invited them to dine with Him—a beautiful picture of the communion He invites us to each day (21:12).
In the final conversation between Jesus and Peter are three ingredients that are indispensable in evaluating our devotional reflections as we commune with Jesus.
The first ingredient is examination.
Jesus often asked His disciples questions in order to reveal what was in their hearts.
Devotions are a time for us to talk to God and tell Him what’s on our hearts, but they are also a time to allow Him to ask questions of us. Peter must have thought Jesus was asking a strange question (21:15).
But Jesus was posing a fundamental question, basic to Christianity itself, because the Christian faith is not essentially a set of beliefs about a person, but a loving relationship with a Person.
Note the qualifier Jesus added: “more than these” (21:15). Jesus asks us whether we love Him more than anything or anyone else.
Do you love Him more than pleasure (2 Tim. 3:4)? More than the world (2 Tim. 4:10)?
Until this extensive question is considered, our devotional reflections cannot bring the full presence of Jesus into our everyday lives.
Peter was grieved that the Lord continued to ask him if he loved Him (21:17). Yet, recall, Peter is the one who so boldly pronounced that even if all the other disciples abandoned Him, he would never do so.
Peter needed to be probed deeply and pointedly, and so do we. Sometimes our devotions can be piercing moments when the Lord deeply convicts us of our failures.
The second ingredient that is necessary in our devotional reflections is exclamation.
Peter finally appealed to the Lord’s knowledge of his heart (21:17), and he was right to do so. God’s knowledge of us is not meant to be a threat to us, but a comfort.
After all, Jesus knew Peter’s failures even before Peter did! Moreover, He was dining with Peter after he had thrice denied Him.
What a comfort to know that the holy God knows we are sinners but desires fellowship with us nonetheless!
Though not brought out in the English versions, Jesus and Peter used different words for love. The word for love Jesus used the first two times refers to the highest expression of love—agapē.
In Peter’s first two responses, Peter replied with a much more “human” response, a love linked more to emotional affection.
When Jesus spoke a third time (21:17), Jesus dropped His word and picked up Peter’s. Jesus meets us where we are and begins to work in our lives to take us where He wants us to be.
The third ingredient necessary in devotional reflections is exhortation.
Jesus’ instruction to Peter was simple but profound: “Feed My lambs” (21:15–17). If love is real, it really acts.
Love is more than theory and goes beyond abstract propositions. Love demands service, equips you for that service, and produces results from that service.
God’s design for us is to seek the presence of Jesus day in, day out. Each person has daily routines that must be examined.
Are we where God has called us? Are we doing what God has called us to do?
But even more, without a commitment to evaluate our devotional reflections—that is, our personal communion with Jesus—our calling will remain empty and our hearts unfulfilled.
JERRY VINES (@JerryVines) is a former President of the Southern Baptist Convention and has been a Baptist pastor and preacher for over 60 years, including 24 years at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida until retiring in 2006.