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By the Sea Once More
JESUS had appointed to meet His disciples in Galilee; and soon after the Passover week was
ended, they bent their steps thither. Their absence from Jerusalem during the feast would
have been interpreted as disaffection and heresy, therefore they remained till its close;
but this over, they gladly turned homeward to meet the Saviour as He had directed.
Seven of the disciples were in company. They were clad in the humble garb of fishermen;
they were poor in worldly goods, but rich in the knowledge and practice of the truth,
which in the sight of Heaven gave them the highest rank as teachers. They had not been
students in the schools of the prophets, but for three years they had been taught by the
greatest Educator the world has ever known. Under His instruction they had become
elevated, intelligent, and refined, agents through whom men might be led to a knowledge of
Much of the time of Christ's ministry had been passed near the Sea of Galilee. As the
disciples gathered in a place where they were not likely to be disturbed, they found
themselves surrounded by reminders of Jesus and His mighty works. On this sea, when their
hearts were filled with terror, and the fierce storm was hurrying them to destruction,
Jesus had walked upon the billows to their rescue. Here the tempest had been hushed by His
word. Within sight was the beach where above ten thousand persons had been fed from a few
small loaves and fishes. Not far distant was Capernaum, the scene of so many miracles. As
the disciples looked upon the scene, their minds were full of the words and deeds of their Saviour.
The evening was pleasant, and Peter, who still had much of his old love for boats and
fishing, proposed that they should go out upon the sea and cast their nets. In this plan
all were ready to join; they were in need of food and clothing, which the proceeds of a
successful night's fishing would supply. So they went out in their boat, but they caught
nothing. All night they toiled, without success. Through the weary hours they talked of
their absent Lord, and recalled the wonderful events they had witnessed in His ministry
beside the sea. They questioned as to their own future, and grew sad at the prospect
All the while a lone watcher upon the shore followed them with His eye, while He Himself
was unseen. At length the morning dawned. The boat was but a little way from the shore,
and the disciples saw a stranger standing upon the beach, who accosted them with the
question, "Children, have ye any meat?" When they answered, "No,"
"He said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find.
They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of
John recognized the stranger, and exclaimed to Peter, "It is the Lord." Peter
was so elated and so glad that in his eagerness he cast himself into the water and was
soon standing by the side of his Master. The other disciples came in their boat, dragging
the net with fishes. "As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of
coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread."
They were too much amazed to question whence came the fire and the food. "Jesus saith
unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught." Peter rushed for the net,
which he had dropped, and helped his brethren drag it to the shore. After the work was
done, and the preparation made, Jesus bade the disciples come and dine. He broke the food,
and divided it among them, and was known and acknowledged by all the seven. The miracle of
feeding the five thousand on the mountainside was now brought to their minds; but a
mysterious awe was upon them, and in silence they gazed upon the risen Saviour.
Vividly they recalled the scene beside the sea when Jesus had bidden them follow Him. They
remembered how, at His command, they had launched out into the deep, and had let down
their net, and the catch had been so abundant as to fill the net, even to breaking. Then
Jesus had called them to leave their fishing boats, and had promised to make them
fishers of men. It was to bring this scene to their minds, and to deepen its impression,
that He had again performed the miracle. His act was a renewal of the commission to the
disciples. It showed them that the death of their Master had not lessened their obligation
to do the work He had assigned them. Though they were to be deprived of His personal
companionship, and of the means of support by their former employment, the risen Saviour
would still have a care for them. While they were doing His work, He would provide for
their needs. And Jesus had a purpose in bidding them cast their net on the right side of
the ship. On that side He stood upon the shore. That was the side of faith. If they
labored in connection with Him,--His divine power combining with their human effort,--they
could not fail of success.
Another lesson Christ had to give, relating especially to Peter. Peter's denial of his
Lord had been in shameful contrast to his former professions of loyalty. He had dishonored
Christ, and had incurred the distrust of his brethren. They thought he would not be
allowed to take his former position among them, and he himself felt that he had forfeited
his trust. Before being called to take up again his apostolic work, he must before them
all give evidence of his repentance. Without this, his sin, though repented of, might have
destroyed his influence as a minister of Christ. The Saviour gave him opportunity to
regain the confidence of his brethren, and, so far as possible, to remove the reproach he
had brought upon the gospel.
Here is given a lesson for all Christ's followers. The gospel makes no compromise with
evil. It cannot excuse sin. Secret sins are to be confessed in secret to God; but, for
open sin, open confession is required. The reproach of the disciple's sin is cast upon
Christ. It causes Satan to triumph, and wavering souls to stumble. By giving proof of
repentance, the disciple, so far as lies in his power, is to remove this reproach.
While Christ and the disciples were eating together by the seaside, the Saviour said to
Peter, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?" referring to his
brethren. Peter had once declared, "Though all men shall be offended because of Thee,
yet will I never be offended." Matt. 26:33. But he now put a truer estimate upon
himself. "Yea, Lord," he said, "Thou knowest that I love Thee." There
is no vehement assurance that his love is greater than that of his brethren. He does not
express his own opinion of his devotion. To Him who can read all the motives of the heart
he appeals to judge as to his sincerity,--"Thou knowest that I love Thee." And
Jesus bids him, "Feed My lambs."
Again Jesus applied the test to Peter, repeating His former words: "Simon, son of
Jonas, lovest thou Me?" This time He did not ask Peter whether he loved Him better
than did his brethren. The second response was like the first, free from extravagant
assurance: "Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee." Jesus said to him,
"Feed My sheep." Once more the Saviour put the trying question: "Simon, son
of Jonas, lovest thou Me?" Peter was grieved; he thought that Jesus doubted his love.
He knew that his Lord had cause to distrust him, and with an aching heart he answered,
"Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee." Again Jesus said
to him, "Feed My sheep."
Three times Peter had openly denied his Lord, and three times Jesus drew from him the
assurance of his love and loyalty, pressing home that pointed question, like a barbed
arrow to his wounded heart. Before the assembled disciples Jesus revealed the depth of
Peter's repentance, and showed how thoroughly humbled was the once boasting disciple.
Peter was naturally forward and impulsive, and Satan had taken advantage of these
characteristics to overthrow him. Just before the fall of Peter, Jesus had said to him,
"Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for
thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."
Luke 22:31, 32. That time had now come, and the transformation in Peter was evident. The
close, testing questions of the Lord had not called out one forward, self-sufficient
reply; and because of his humiliation and repentance, Peter was better prepared than ever
before to act as shepherd to the flock.
The first work that Christ entrusted to Peter on restoring him to the ministry was to feed
the lambs. This was a work in which Peter had little experience. It would require great
care and tenderness, much patience and perseverance. It called him to minister to those
who were young in the faith, to teach the ignorant, to open the Scriptures to them, and to
educate them for usefulness in Christ's service. Heretofore Peter had not been fitted to
do this, or even to understand its importance. But this was the work which Jesus now
called upon him to do. For this work his own experience of suffering and repentance had
Before his fall, Peter was always speaking unadvisedly, from the impulse of the moment. He
was always ready to correct others, and to express his mind, before he had a clear
comprehension of himself or of what he had to say. But the converted Peter was very
different. He retained his former fervor, but the grace of Christ regulated his zeal. He
was no longer impetuous, self-confident, and self-exalted, but calm, self-possessed, and teachable. He could then feed the lambs as well as the sheep of
The Saviour's manner of dealing with Peter had a lesson for him and for his brethren. It
taught them to meet the transgressor with patience, sympathy, and forgiving love. Although
Peter had denied his Lord, the love which Jesus bore him never faltered. Just such love
should the undershepherd feel for the sheep and lambs committed to his care. Remembering
his own weakness and failure, Peter was to deal with his flock as tenderly as Christ had
dealt with him.
The question that Christ had put to Peter was significant. He mentioned only one condition
of discipleship and service. "Lovest thou Me?" He said. This is the essential
qualification. Though Peter might possess every other, yet without the love of Christ he
could not be a faithful shepherd over the Lord's flock. Knowledge, benevolence, eloquence,
gratitude, and zeal are all aids in the good work; but without the love of Jesus in the
heart, the work of the Christian minister is a failure.
Jesus walked alone with Peter, for there was something which He wished to communicate to
him only. Before His death, Jesus had said to him, "Whither I go, thou canst not
follow Me now; but thou shalt follow Me afterwards." To this Peter had replied,
"Lord, why cannot I follow Thee now? I will lay down my life for Thy sake." John
13:36, 37. When he said this, he little knew to what heights and depths Christ's feet
would lead the way. Peter had failed when the test came, but again he was to have
opportunity to prove his love for Christ. That he might be strengthened for the final test
of his faith, the Saviour opened to him his future. He told him that after living a life
of usefulness, when age was telling upon his strength, he would indeed follow his Lord.
Jesus said, "When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou
wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another
shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake He, signifying by
what death he should glorify God."
Jesus thus made known to Peter the very manner of his death; He even foretold the
stretching forth of his hands upon the cross. Again He bade His disciple, "Follow
Me." Peter was not disheartened by the revelation. He felt willing to suffer any
death for his Lord.
Heretofore Peter had known Christ after the flesh, as many know Him now; but he was no
more to be thus limited. He knew Him no more as he had known Him in his association with
Him in humanity.
He had loved Him as a man, as a heaven-sent teacher; he now loved Him as God. He had been
learning the lesson that to him Christ was all in all. Now he was prepared to share in his
Lord's mission of sacrifice. When at last brought to the cross, he was, at his own
request, crucified with his head downward. He thought it too great an honor to suffer in
the same way as his Master did.
To Peter the words "Follow Me" were full of instruction. Not only for his death,
but for every step of his life, was the lesson given. Hitherto Peter had been inclined to
act independently. He had tried to plan for the work of God, instead of waiting to follow
out God's plan. But he could gain nothing by rushing on before the Lord. Jesus bids him,
"Follow Me." Do not run ahead of Me. Then you will not have the hosts of Satan
to meet alone. Let Me go before you, and you will not be overcome by the enemy.
As Peter walked beside Jesus, he saw that John was following. A desire came over him to
know his future, and he "saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus
saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou
Me." Peter should have considered that his Lord would reveal to him all that it was
best for him to know. It is the duty of everyone to follow Christ, without undue anxiety
as to the work assigned to others. In saying of John, "If I will that he tarry till I
come," Jesus gave no assurance that this disciple should live until the Lord's second
coming. He merely asserted His own supreme power, and that even if He should will this to
be so, it would in no way affect Peter's work. The future of both John and Peter was in
the hands of their Lord. Obedience in following Him was the duty required of each.
How many today are like Peter! They are interested in the affairs of others, and anxious
to know their duty, while they are in danger of neglecting their own. It is our work to
look to Christ and follow Him. We shall see mistakes in the lives of others, and defects
in their character. Humanity is encompassed with infirmity. But in Christ we shall find
perfection. Beholding Him, we shall become transformed.
John lived to be very aged. He witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem, and the ruin of the
stately temple,--a symbol of the final ruin of the world. To his latest days John closely
followed his Lord. The burden of his testimony to the churches was, "Beloved, let us
love one another;" "he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in
him." 1 John 4:7, 16.
Peter had been restored to his apostleship, but the honor and authority he received from
Christ had not given him supremacy over his brethren. This Christ had made plain when in
answer to Peter's question, "What shall this man do?" He had said, "What is
that to thee? follow thou Me." Peter was not honored as the head of the church. The
favor which Christ had shown him in forgiving his apostasy, and entrusting him with the
feeding of the flock, and Peter's own faithfulness in following Christ, won for him the
confidence of his brethren. He had much influence in the church. But the lesson which
Christ had taught him by the Sea of Galilee Peter carried with him throughout his life.
Writing by the Holy Spirit to the churches, he said:
"The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the
sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the
flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but
willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's
heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye
shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." 1 Peter 5:1-4.
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