February 2019   
Bible Search
Sermon March 26, 2017

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1295

March 26, 2017 John 21:1-19

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript. This series is based on the Book Jesus Speaks by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola)


“The Voice of Jesus: To Peter”


The disciples have been to the upper room. They have seen Jesus two times there. They have been waiting, perhaps even patient for whatever Jesus has in store for them. But Peter is not known for his patience. He is most often depicted as a quick tempered and quick to respond kind of guy. Maybe he is getting impatient by the time we get to John 21. Peter tells the disciples he is going fishing. Peter is not used to waiting around. He needs to take action, any action will do, so he returns to the familiar, fishing. “I’m going fishing.” But Peter was not alone as six of the other disciples were with him and they decide to join him on the boat. They fished all night, which was common in that time so that the catch would be fresh the next morning in the market.


  • The Voice of Jesus: Heard in Obedience


The fishing does not go well. Like many fishermen have experienced, there was not a single fish caught. Is it just a bad night, or perhaps there is more going on here. Perhaps it is a sign that things are not going back to normal for these fishermen. Perhaps Jesus was right and they would no longer be fishing for fish, but for people. As they are returning to the beach, they see Jesus but they do not recognize him. He yells out, “Did you catch anything?” “No.” “Toss the net out on the right side of the boat.” This must have been one of the silliest things the disciples could have heard. Why does it matter on which side we cast the net? Fish are either swimming all around or not at all. But we don’t know what they were thinking. The story does not say. What we know is that they immediately cast the net off the right side of the boat.


The catch is bigger than their nets could usually handle, but it did not rip. God’s plans push the limits sometimes, but they invite us to count on God rather than ourselves in every plan. What the disciples do is obey. No fish through the night, but when commanded by someone to try the right side of the boat, they do it. Just do it and see what happens. Do we think God may be saying that to us sometimes? Just do it and see what happens. See what God can do. See what kind of fisherman Jesus Christ really is. This is the voice of Jesus heard in obedience. What if we listened to Jesus telling us to take a chance, just do it, just share our story of faith...just share the gospel with one person and see what happens.

On their own they could not catch anything, but in obedience to Jesus they have almost more than they could handle.

153 fish, a record haul, perhaps a count was done, both for the sale and for the taxes! It was certainly a miraculous catch.


The verb in verse 6 and 11 for “haul” is the same verb for “draw” in John 6:44 and 12:32. Jesus hauled up these fish just as he draws up people to himself and the significance in this story is that the disciples will now be joining Jesus in a new fishing trip that will last the rest of their lives.



  • The Voice of Jesus: Heard in Service


This story includes an example of Jesus exemplifying service. He hosts a meal for the disciples. We hear the voice of Jesus when we serve, actually in two ways. In a similar manner to how Jesus washed their feet earlier in John’s gospel, now he serves them again through a meal. Not only does Jesus have a nice fish breakfast available but he invites them to bring some of their fresh catch and he would cook that too. Peter is the one who goes back to the boat to get more fish. He is now participating in the haul. John is the one who identified Jesus and Peter has agreed and is all in, so much so that he threw himself into the water to go to Jesus. Reminds me of that scene in Forrest Gump when Forrest threw himself into the water when he saw lieutenant Dan on the pier. Jesus uses these fish and the bread to bring them back from the job of fishing to the vocation of fishing for people and feeding them with the bread of life, Jesus himself. Jesus served them and in so doing he meets both hungers they have, hungry for food and hungry for the Christ. Jesus feeds the physical and the spiritual. He is the host of bread and fish and word and mission. We are his guests and like any good guest we listen to the host. Jesus calls us to service by his service. Jesus speaks to us in our service. So the voice of Jesus is heard in two ways related to service, in the initial call to serve God and one another as well as in the act of serving itself.




  • The Voice of Jesus: Heard in Discipleship


I want to jump ahead for just a moment to the last thing Jesus says to them in this section. “Follow me”. This is the same command given when he first called the disciples and he repeats it now post-resurrection. “Follow me” is the command to discipleship. But here it is not the first words Jesus has spoken to the disciples as he did once in the very beginning of their life together, but the end of this beach scene with fishing, hospitality, and challenge. With Peter it is especially moving. As we know, Peter denied Jesus three times after Jesus had been arrested. It was an action that Jesus had told Peter he would do and that made it all the more disappointing and painful for Peter when it was all said and done. The scene here on the beach has some common elements with Peter’s denials. In John 18:18 we read that there was a charcoal fire in the courtyard where Peter denied Jesus. Jesus has a charcoal fire on the beach. Peter denies Jesus three times, and here at the beach Jesus asks Peter three times if he loved Jesus. Three times there is also the command to shepherd the flock: feed my lambs, tend my sheep, and feed my sheep.

We might conclude that doing what Jesus says to do is the way to discipleship. We might also note that what Jesus commands us to do is based on our love for Jesus. Do you love me? Feed my sheep. Do you love me? Tend to the flock. Do you love me? Shepherd my children. It is all in the verbs: love, tend, feed, and as we look through the Bible it is in action, in the verbs. Do justice, love kindness, walk with the Lord, delight in the word, praise the Lord, and so forth. This is how we hear Jesus’ voice, by doing his will. Jesus says in John 14:15, If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” In John 15:10, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.” This is the essence of discipleship and it is how Peter heard Jesus and it is still one of the ways we still hear the voice of Jesus, by following Him.


  • The Voice of Jesus: Heard in Forgiveness


It is throughout this same beach scene where Peter experiences forgiveness. Charcoal fire, three questions of love, and the commands to shepherd the church. In these actions, without saying it outright, Jesus offers Peter new life. Peter runs, for a moment, right back to his old profession of fishing, perhaps in guilt for all his transgressions. Jesus calls him right back to the new life that Peter once betrayed. He made his mistakes yet Jesus still wants him to participate in a significant way in the ministry of Christ. He wants him to be in a relationship with Jesus through love. This is how we have heard and still hear the voice of Jesus, through forgiveness.



  • Hearing Aids



*In the morning.


Isaiah 50:4, The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.

One way that we might attune our ears to Jesus’ voice is by starting our day in prayer. The Psalms speak of morning as a time to seek Jesus, like Psalm 5:3, “O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” Jesus himself rose early in the morning for prayer and we can trust that that was his pattern (Mark 1:35). I’ve never been much of a morning person, but in recent years I do one thing first in the morning with a Bible app, I think I’ve told you about it before. The app gives a verse reference and I try to remember what the verse is before I tap the reference and the verse is revealed. It is my way of beginning the day with scripture. I know some of you may do morning devotions or some other spiritual activity first thing in the morning. It can be a quiet time to hear Jesus speak to us. When we begin the day listening for Jesus it can set a tone for the day of listening.


**In the walk.


Walking is a common metaphor in the Bible for fellowship with God or for living in relationship with God. But it can also be literally taking a walk with the purpose of listening for the voice of Jesus. Remember the story of the road to Emmaus as the two disciples walked down the road? This kind of walking is not a hurried pace but a slow prayerful time of thought and attention and listening. A good verse to meditate on for such a walk is Psalm 62:8, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” Walking is a good time to pour out our hearts to Jesus precisely because it is one of the slower forms of movement. When we walk we can take the time to give thanks, to notice what God has given us, to converse in prayer, and to see what God has created all around us. In the walk we may be able to hear Jesus more clearly.


***In worship.


The last hearing aid for today is worship. My favorite Psalm about hearing God in worship is Psalm 73. The Psalm begins with the conundrum about why the wicked seem to get all the goodies of life and seem to have their way no matter how evil their actions. The pivot of the Psalm is in verses 16-17,


But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end (Psalm 73:16-17).


When the Psalmist comes into the sanctuary, that is, when he comes into worship, he hears the voice of God through this discernment, in worship. The rest of the Psalm is transformed from complaints about the prosperity of the wicked to the joy of fellowship with God. The Psalm ends with this: But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works” (73:28). Worship is a hearing aid for hearing the voice of Jesus. The more we participate in worship, the better we will hear.



Obedience, service, discipleship, and forgiveness – all ways we can hear the voice of Jesus. Morning, walking, and worship – all ways to help our hearing. Make all the hearing aids a common experience and listen closely through the story of Peter and Jesus on the beach. Amen.