But now John reaches for his pen again. The guiding Spirit has put another bit into his heart to write down. This time it is a special bit, not for all to whom the book is sent, but for a selected class of his readers, namely, for those of them who have given John a favourable verdict on the evidence presented. It grows out of chapter xx.31 as rose out of bud, and fruit out of blossom. It is for those who "believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God," and so "have life in His Name."
And a very tender precious bit it is, more wondrous in its sheer simplicity than any of us seem to suspect. It is simply this: this Jesus is with us all the time. This same Jesus who was so swayed by the need of the crowd, who burned His life out day by day warmly responding to their sore need -- He is here.
This Jesus who fed the hungry, healed the sick of every sort, and freed men from devilish power, who convicted men so tremendously of their wrong, restrained their evil power to hurt, wooed the hearts of all so irresistibly, and led them into changed lives; this Jesus who died and then did the stupendously mighty thing of rising up out of death, -- this Jesus is with us now by your side and mine.
And He is just the same Jesus in His warm love and resistless power. The words are rather familiar. The fact -- no one of us seems to have gotten hold of it yet. This is the thing that makes John eagerly reach for his pen again before his little book-messenger goes out on its errand.
The thing isn't new in information, but in actual living experience it seems to be so new as to be an unknown thing to some of us. The Master had spoken of this that betrayal-night around the supper board. It was really a continuation of that trysting appointment He had made with them that evening, a wonderful continuation.
Clearly they didn't understand Him that night. But during those after-Pentecost days they were given a continuous graphic unforgetable illustration of its meaning. We to-day seem able to explain the part they didn't understand, the teaching that betrayal-night. We don't seem to get hold of the part they did understand and experience, the real presence of the risen Jesus in the midst actively at work.
That night Jesus said: "I will make request of the Father, and He will send you another unfailing powerful Friend to be always at your side." Then He added: "He abides with you now (in My presence) and shall be in you (after I send Him)." Then He said, "I come unto you. Yet a little while and the world seeth Me no more but ye see Me."
And again, "He that hath My commandments and keepeth them he it is that (in that sheweth that he) loveth Me and ... I will manifest or shew Myself unto him." Here is the simple teaching: He would send the Holy Spirit; in the Holy Spirit's coming Jesus Himself, the new risen exalted empowered enthroned Jesus, He came; and He would let them see Himself with them.
Now this added chapter of John's is the illustration in advance to these men of what these words mean. The great standing illustration is that Book of Acts which, will you notice, doesn't end. It only breaks off, abruptly, without even a punctuation point. It wasn't meant to end. We are supposed to be living in it yet. But these men haven't come to the experience of the Pentecostal Acts yet. This is an illustration in advance to them. And it remains an illustration to us of what we seem a bit slow in taking in.
But let us get at the simple bit of story itself. There's a little group of the inner circle, seven including the leaders. These men haven't found their feet yet. The stupendous events of those days, coming in such startling succession, have left them dazed. The crucifixion left them stupidly dazed; the resurrection left them joyous, but still dazed. They don't know just where they are, nor what to do.
So Peter proposes fishing; an ideal proposition, when you want to get off and think things through and out. Any fisherman knows that. And the others readily join in. They see the good sense of it. But the fish don't catch. And the morning finds them tired in body and more tired in the spiritless uncertainty that hangs over them like a clinging damp fog.
Yonder is some One standing on the beach. But that's nothing unusual. They barely notice Him. And now this Stranger calls out to them a cheery common question, "Caught anything?" And now He gives a -- no, it can hardly be called a command, so quietly is it said. Yet they are subtly conscious of a something in the word that makes them obey, though it's the last sort of thing to do.
And now at once the net-ropes pull so hard; astonishing this! Then John's keen spirit detects Who it is. Is he thinking of the other big unexpected haul in those same waters! And Peter's over the side of the boat shoreward. Fishing has lost all attraction for him.
And when they all got ashore with their haul, tired, wet, chilled to the marrow, hungry, what's this? A blazing fire of coals burning cheerfully on the sands. And some fish dexterously poised, doing to a brown turn, and some bread. And the Stranger, no, Jesus, He's no longer a stranger, Jesus says quietly, "Boys, better bring the haul up on the beach."
And the old fishing habit still strong on them counts the fish. It's such an unusual haul, they must know how many. John must be thinking again about that earlier haul. The net couldn't stand the strain then. But now it's different. Ah! everything's blessedly different now. "The net was not rent."
Then the gracious call to breakfast by their Host. Was ever fish done to such a fine turn? Did ever any fish have such an exquisite flavour? or taste so good? Did ever men eat so gladly and yet quietly with a distinct touch of awe in their spirits? For they know it is the Master, though no word of that has been spoken. Words were needless.
Now they're walking along the beach, Jesus and Peter in the lead but the others quite near. And there's the bit of talk between the two. Very gently Jesus says, "Do you love Me, Peter?" And Peter feels he hardly dare use the sacred word for "love" that the Master has used. He had made such an awful break at just that point. And with breaking voice he says, "Yea, Lord, Thou knowest I have the highest regard for Thee."
And again the question, and the answer, with Peter still humbly clinging to his more modest word. And now Jesus says, "Do you really love Me even as you yourself say?" And Peter with his heart in his face says passionately, "Lord, Thou knowest better than I can tell Thee."
And because he loves, Peter is given the full privilege of shepherding the whole flock, from feeding little lambkins on to feeding all, and guiding, through the hard places, even the wayward ones. And more yet and higher, because Peter loves, he will be privileged to suffer, even as his Master had suffered. The fellowship would extend even to that.
And Peter's eye falls on John. And apparently he is thinking of the contrast between John's faithfulness and his own break that betrayal-night. If poor faulty Peter may be so privileged how John would be rewarded. But Jesus quietly turns Peter, and all Peter's numerous kinsfolk of this sort, away from human comparisons. And instead He seeks to turn their hearts to this: He is coming back in person some day for an advance step in the kingdom program. And there they are, walking and talking, along the beach by the blue Galilean waters.