Finding Jesus By R. Scott Rodin
Finding Jesus in Unexpected Places
Imagine the scene with Jesus depicted for us in John 21. Six men are out fishing all night on the sea of Galilee. This is their domain, where they made their living for so many years before a dramatic event three years earlier pulled them away and set them on a journey with a young rabbi who claimed to be the Messiah. After following him to a brutal death on the cross, they have experienced two times his resurrected form, but they have no idea what to do with this radical revelation of the power of God. So, confused and directionless, they return to doing what they’ve always done. They go fishing.
John tells us they fished all night and caught nothing. We can imagine that as they sat out on the lake and looked around, many memories returned to them. They remember where they were on the lake when they saw Jesus walking to them on the water. They recalled another place where a storm almost swamped their boat before a word from Jesus calmed the wind and waves. They looked at the shore where 5,000 families gathered and were fed by two loaves and five fish. They saw the hillside where he stood and taught people that the meek will inherit the earth. They could see the temple in Capernaum and the other direction across to where a herd of pigs was filled with an evil spirit and ran into the sea and drowned. And they recalled how so many times Jesus had sat right here, on their boat, and taught them about the coming of the kingdom of God. All of these memories were so vivid, yet here they were, back on the boat, wondering what was next.
In this context, in their vocation, they received their answer. The morning had come, and they heard a voice shouting from the beach. They don’t recognize the person, but he instructs them to throw their nets repeatedly. For some reason, without question, they obey. When the nets strain under a miraculous load of fish, we are told that John turns to Peter, shouting, “It’s the Lord!” Without hesitation, Peter ties on his outer garment and jumps into the water. The prospect of being back in the presence of Jesus was so compelling that even nets full of fish couldn’t hold him back.
What do we learn from the third encounter between the resurrected Christ and his followers? Let me posit three important teachings for us today.
Jesus enters into the life of his disciples amid their vocation. He honors their work by using it as a vehicle to reveal himself in his glory. Rather than rebuking them for fishing when they should be preparing to proclaim the truth of his resurrection, Jesus acknowledges their vocation and uses it as a way back to him. In what way might Jesus be revealing himself in and through your work? God created us for work. Back to Genesis chapter 2 we understand that we were created to put our hand to the plow and be engaged in meaningful vocation. Here, Jesus uses that very vocation for his own glory. Do we look to find God in other places than our work, or do we expect him to show up and reveal himself to us right amid our daily occupation?
God‘s abundant provision immediately brought a recognition that he was indeed the one who provided. The disciples did not pat themselves on the back and take credit for their great fishing skills. They immediately recognized the hand of God on their work, and John’s proclamation that ‘it is the Lord’ was the appropriate response to such a demonstration of God‘s faithful provision. Of course, they had seen this before at the beginning of their journey with Jesus. Now, before the ascension, Jesus uses the same miracle to reveal his glory again and call them to him. How about us in our work? When God provides in abundant ways is our immediate response to point to the shore and cry out, ‘it is the Lord’? Does He immediately get the glory for all that he provides for us every day? Do we look for his provision in our work as a way for him to reveal his ongoing love, care, and provision for all of our needs?
We have Peter jumping in the water and swimming to Jesus. The prospect of being once again in the presence of his master was so overpowering to him that he left everything behind to come near to Jesus. What about us? How passionate are we about being in the presence of Jesus? Is abiding in him our highest calling, or do we allow the distractions of work to draw us away from opportunities to be in his presence? What would it mean for you for the presence of Jesus to be so compelling that you will leave everything behind to be near him at every opportunity?
As we press into the work that God has called us to do, regardless of our job or vocation, may we steward every day in these three wonderful ways revealed to us in John 21. May we look to our work as where God can reveal himself in fresh and new ways to us. May we give him the glory, seeing every success as one more opportunity to shout to the world that the Lord is the provider of all we need. May we thirst and yearn for his presence to such a degree that nothing will keep us from it or distract us from pursuing it.
R. Scott Rodin is the Senior Consultant/Chief Strategy Officer for The Focus Group. He also serves as a Senior Fellow of the Association of Biblical Higher Education and as board chair for ChinaSource. Over the past thirty-eight years, Scott Rodin has helped hundreds of organizations improve their effectiveness in leadership, fund development, strategic planning, and board development. Be sure to read Dr. Rodin’s newest book titled The Greater Mission.
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