The account of Jesus' disciples returning to fishing and then Jesus appearing to them is one I've read often. But, as God does so often, when I read John's account of it recently, God had something to say through the familiar words.
I've summarized the account here, but you can also read it for yourself by clicking here: John 21:1-25.
The scene is familiar. The disciples know Jesus has risen. They've seen Him already. But, they still seem a bit unsure about what they're supposed to do next.
Peter decides to go fishing. Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two other disciples decide to join him. They spend the whole night fishing and catch nothing.
In the morning, Jesus is on the shore. He tells them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat and when they do, they catch an abundance of fish. The disciples return to shore and have breakfast on the beach with Jesus.
I've always been struck by how the disciples returned to what they know when they are unsure of what else to do. They returned to their old ways and to what was comfortable and familiar to them.
Learning from the Disciples' Encounter with Jesus
At first glance, it would be easy to get down on the disciples for doing this, and I have in the past. But then I realize just how often I have done the same thing - how often we all have.
Very often after a significant time in our lives of being with Jesus, we simply go back to doing what we have always done. It feels familiar, comfortable, and safe, so we go back to it, because we don't know what else to do.
It's in those moments when Jesus shows up again to remind us that he had something different in mind for us, just like He did for His disciples.
The disciples had spent a night doing what was familiar and safe - but doing in unsuccessfully. After a life-changing encounter with Jesus, it's often unsuccessful for us if we try to go back to what we used to do. Because it's not what we're supposed to be doing anymore.
A Reminder of What we Should be Doing Now
When the disciples are still out unsuccessfully trying to fish, they are met by Jesus. Jesus will meet us in the middle of our unsuccessful attempts to do what we used to do as well.
It's something truly simple. Jesus meets them for breakfast. But I think in that simple act, Jesus reminded them that He had something more for them now.
It's a reminder we often need too, because after the excitement of our life-changing encounter with Jesus wears off, we're tempted to forget about what we're supposed to do and go back to what we used to do.
An Invitation of Significance
When I read of this encounter of Jesus and His disciples, I'm reminded of the significance of what Jesus has invited us into. Jesus' invitation in our lives to join Him means we don't get to go back to what was comfortable and safe. He's invited us into something new and it won't be possible for us to go back and have it be what it once was. And Jesus will show up to remind us of that when we need it - our eyes have to be open to see Him and our ears to hear Him.
In His conversation with Peter during this time, Jesus reminds Peter of what he was called to and reminds him that following his call won't be easy. Jesus indicates what Peter's life would be like and how it will end.
Just because something you fee you've been called to is hard doesn't mean it wasn't from God and we should go back to what is safe, familiar, and comfortable. Jesus' life is an example of a calling that was hard. Here, Jesus tells Peter that his calling will also be hard.
That means our callings may be hard sometimes too, but that doesn't mean we got it wrong and we should go back to what feels familiar, safe, and comfortable.
In those times when what we are called to do after our life-changing encounter with Jesus gets hard, we might be tempted to do back to the familiar place, the safe place, the comfortable place we were in before Jesus called us.
But, we can't go back - it won't be the same. The call we each have will be different. But when it's from God, He will give us what we need to persevere even when it gets difficult. He will show up to remind us of the call on our lives when we need it.