April 18, 2021 | Fishing, Following, and So Much Grace • John 21:1-19

Scripture Reading • John 21:1-19 (NIV)

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 

3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” 

As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 

11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 

12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”



Have you ever heard someone say, “You are too hard on yourself?” Or maybe someone has said, “You are your hardest critic?” 

It would be awesome if no one has ever said that to you.

But, I would bet many of us have heard it … or have, at least, noticed it in our lives. 

We can be so hard on ourselves. We can be so slow and resistant to offering ourselves a little grace. I read a devotion recently that asked, a hard question, “If we can’t give grace to ourselves, how can we give grace to other people?” 

If we can’t hold up to the pressure we put on ourselves, can other people hold up to the pressure we put on them? Maybe this has something to say about loving our neighbors as we love ourselves? Maybe it even has to do with loving each other the way Christ has loved us?

We find ourselves making our way through yet another series of pandemic adjustments … how many “new normals” have we gotten used to and then been shaken out of? It seems like the institutions around us, the structures and bureaucracies we have built to help and support us, aren’t slowing down and aren’t giving us much grace … so maybe we need to do something ourselves to inject some grace into our lives and communities?

One of the things I really appreciate about the Gospel of John is that it has so much to say about God’s grace. 

In the first chapter of John’s Gospel (1:16-17) we read:

16 From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace;
17     as the Law was given through Moses,
    so grace and truth came into being through Jesus Christ. (John 1:16-17 CEB)


“Grace upon grace.”


As John introduces us to Jesus and invites us to have faith in Jesus, he tells us about grace. His gospel, begins and ends with vivid pictures of abundant grace. 

Do you all remember the first miracle John tells us about? It shows up in the second chapter of John’s gospel. It was the wedding in Cana where Jesus turned water into wine.

Jesus showed the hosts of that wedding so much grace. Someone had made a mistake … they didn’t have enough wine on hand for the guests at that wedding. It would have been a serious hospitality blunder. Jesus provided an overwhelming amount of wine … not just any wine … good wine … it is a picture of what to expect from Jesus – “Grace upon grace.” 

Then at the end of John’s gospel, we see another picture of abundant grace … 153 fish worth of overwhelming grace. 

Do you ever wonder what kind of headspace Peter was in when he told those other disciples he was going fishing? 

Yes, when Peter heard the news Jesus’ body wasn’t in that tomb he ran as fast as he could to see it for himself. Yes, Peter must have been there with the other disciples when Jesus appeared … when Jesus somehow passed through a locked door, stood among the disciples, and said, “Peace be with you.” Yes, Peter must have been there when Thomas touched Jesus’ hands and side and saw for himself and confessed for himself, “Jesus is Lord and God.”

Yeah, Peter saw all that, but I wonder how he was feeling about it all? 

Peter had denied Jesus three times. 

Did that weigh on him? Was Peter burdened by guilt … by feeling like he had let his friend down?

Did he feel like he was carrying a heavy weight around in his chest? 

Did he feel like he had a debt to pay? Maybe like he had an obligation to get things right no matter how hard it was or how much time it would take? 

Did he feel like he was living into the fullness of grace upon grace?

I don’t know … I’m curious about it … I know I wouldn’t feel that great if I was in a similar situation. 

Peter was the first one out of the boat on his way to meet Jesus. 

I think it is actually kind of funny … that picture of Peter putting on his clothes to jump out of the boat and into the water. The kind of fishing Peter and the other disciples were doing was pretty involved … they would throw nets into the water and then dive into the water to haul the nets back to the boat. It was probably a huge pain to try to swim with clothes on, so to make things easier, fishermen back then wouldn’t wear much clothes when they were in a boat … but at the same time, no one in their right mind would greet their teacher not wearing clothes. In a hurry, Peter scrambles, pulling on his clothes and diving into the water, swimming toward Jesus with everything he’s got. In a rush to greet and show Jesus the welcome and respect he knows Jesus deserves. 

In grace Jesus approaches the disciples. In grace Jesus provides an amazing catch of fish. Did you notice a strange detail in the story? Jesus already had fish cooking on that charcoal fire when he asked the disciples to bring the fish they had caught to shore. Jesus provides them with fish, but doesn’t even need those fish. He provides even more fish. Jesus has them covered. “Grace upon grace.”

Throughout his life … through his words and actions … his miracles … his lessons … washing his disciples’ feet … giving himself on the cross … rising from the tomb … Jesus reveals God to us … Jesus shows us how powerful … how amazing … how full and abundant God’s grace is. 

Do we trust in that grace? Do we put our full weight on it? Do we make decisions based on it?  Do we treat ourselves and others like we are receivers of God’s grace? 

Jesus goes to these great lengths to approach Peter … three times Jesus reinstates Peter as a disciple … as a leader in Jesus’ community … as someone called and equipped to care for Christ’s people. Grace upon grace … chipping away at guilt … lifting whatever burden Peter was carrying. 

Grace upon grace? Can we trust it? Can we let that be the word that carries the most weight in our lives … can that be the most important thing anyone says about us?

I have been wondering what can it look like to recognize grace in our lives these days? What could it look like to let ourselves … to let our church … and our community … experience that grace when so many of us are working harder and harder and things are weirder and weirder?

I read an article a pastor wrote that had two ideas.

First, he said we can give ourselves grace by letting ourselves rest.

The second was to give ourselves grace by putting people first. 

I think that could lift a weight from us. Things are harder and more complicated right now and it is ok that we aren’t getting as much done. I don’t know that we could ever get all the stuff we want to get done, done right now. Even if our to do lists aren’t finished, we can give ourselves some grace by allowing ourselves to rest. 

And what if in the midst of all the stuff we need to do and the stuff we want to do, we decide to put people first? What if we prioritize caring for people? That might give us some grace so we can let some things go. 

16 From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace;
17     as the Law was given through Moses,
    so grace and truth came into being through Jesus Christ. (John 1:16-17 CEB)