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first-neglecting for a moment the difference between shore and sea-here we have the fact of Christ's providing, even by doing menial offices, for His servants.
These seven men were wet and weary, cold and hungry. The first thing they wanted when they came out of the fishing-boat was their breakfast.
If they had been at home, their wives and children would have got it ready for them. Jesus had a great deal to say to them that day, a great deal to teach them, much to do for them, and for the whole world, by the words that followed; but the first thing that He thinks about is to feed them. And so, cherishing no overstrained contempt for material necessities and temporal mercies, let us remember that it is His hand that feeds us still, and let us be glad to think that this Christ, risen from the dead and with His heart full of the large blessings that He was going to bestow, yet paused to consider: They are coming on shore after a night's hard toil, they will be faint and weary; let Me feed their bodies before I begin to deal with their hearts and spirits.'
And He will take care of you, brother! and of us all. The bread will be given’us, at any rate, and the water made sure.' It was a modest meal that He with His infinite resources thought enough for toiling fishermen. One fish,' as the original shows us, 'one loaf of bread.' No more! He could as easily have spread a sumptuous table for them. There is no covenant for superfluities, necessaries will be given. Let us bring down our wishes to His gifts and promises, and recognise the fact that he who needs least is the nearest the gods,' and he that needs least is surest of getting from Christ what he needs.
But then, besides that, the supply of all other deeper and loftier necessities is here guaranteed. The symbol
ism of our text divides, necessarily, the two things which in fact are not divided. It is not all toiling on the restless sea here, any more than it is all rest and fruition yonder; but all that your spirit needs, for wisdom, patience, heroism, righteousness, growth, Christ will give you in your work; and that is better than giving it to you after your work, and the very work which is blessed by Him, and furthered and prospered by Him, the very work itself will come to be meat and nourishment. Out of the eater will come forth meat,' and the slain lions' of past struggles and sorrows, the next time we come to them, will be full of honey.'
Finally, there is a great symbolical prophecy here if we emphasise the distinction between the night and the morning, between the shore and the sea.
We can scarcely fail to catch this meaning in the incident which sets forth the old blessed assurance that the risen Lord is preparing a feast on the shore while His servants are toiling on the darkling sea.
All the details, such as the solid shore in contrast with the changeful sea, the increasing morning in contrast with the toilsome night, the feast prepared, have been from of old consecrated to shadow forth the differences between earth and heaven. It would be blindness not to see here a prophecy of the glad hour when Christ shall welcome to their stable home, amid the brightness of unsetting day, the souls that have served Him amidst the fluctuations and storms of life, and seen Him in its darkness, and shall satisfy all their desires with the bread of heaven.'
Our poor work which He deigns to accept forms part of the feast which is spread at the end of our toil, when there shall be no more sea. He adds the results
of our toil to the feast which He has prepared. The consequences of what we have done here on earth make no small part of the blessedness of heaven.
Their works and alms and all their good endeavour
The souls which a Paul or a John has won for the Master, in their vocation as 'fishers of men,' are their hope and joy and crown of rejoicing, in the presence of our Lord Jesus.' The great benediction which the Spirit bade the Apocalyptic seer write over the dead which die in the Lord,' is anticipated in both its parts by this mysterious meal on the beach. “They rest from their labours' inasmuch as they find the food prepared for them, and sit down to partake; Their works do follow them'inasmuch as they bring of the fish which they have caught.'
Finally, Christ Himself waits on them, therein fulfilling in symbol what He has told us in great words that dimly shadow wonders unintelligible until experienced: Verily I say unto you, He shall gird Himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth, and serve them.'
So here is a vision to cheer us all. Life must be full of toil and of failure. We are on the midnight sea, and have to tug, weary and wet, at a heavy oar, and to haul an often empty net. But we do not labour alone. He comes to us across the storm, and is with us in the night, a most real, because unseen Presence. accept the guidance of His directing word, His indwelling Spirit, and His all-sufficient example, and seek to ascertain His will in outward Providences, we shall not be left to waste our strength in blunders, nor shall our labour be in vain. In the morning light we shall
see Him standing serene on the steadfast shore. The Pilot of the Galilean lake' will guide our frail boat through the wild surf that marks the breaking of the sea of life on the shore of eternity; and when the sun rises over the Eastern hills we shall land on the solid beach, bringing our 'few small fishes' with us, which He will accept. And there we shall rest, nor need to ask who He is that serves us, for we shall know that • It is the Lord!'
IT IS THE LORD!'
*Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord.' JOHN xxi. 7.
It seems a very strange thing that these disciples had not, at an earlier period of this incident, discovered the presence of Christ, inasmuch as the whole was so manifestly a repetition of that former event by which the commencement of their ministry had been signalised, when He called them to become 'fishers of men.' We are apt to suppose that when once again they embarked on the lake, and went back to their old trade, it must have been with many a thought of Him busy at their hearts. Yonder-perhaps we fancy them thinking—is the very point where we saw Him coming out of the shadows of the mountains, that night when He walked on the water; yonder is the little patch of grass where He made them all sit down whilst we bore the bread to them: there is the very spot where we were mending our nets when He came up to us and called us to Himself; and now it is all over. We have loved and lost Him; He has been with us, and has left us. • We trusted that it
had been He who should have redeemed Israel,' and the Cross has ended it all! So, we are apt to think, they must have spoken; but there does not seem to have been about them any such sentimental remembrance. John takes pains in this narrative, I think, to show them to us as plain, rough men, busy about their night's work, and thinking a great deal more of their want of success in fishing, than about the old associations which we are apt to put into their minds. Then through the darkness He comes, as they had seen Him come once before, when they know Him not; and He speaks to them as He had spoken before, and they do not detect His voice yet; and He repeats the old miracle, and their eyes are all holden, excepting the eyes of him who loved, and he first says, 'It is the Lord!' Now, besides all the other features of this incident by which it becomes the revelation of the Lord's presence with His Church, and the exhibition of the work of the Church during all the course of the world's history, it contains valuable lessons on other points, such as these which I shall try to bring
Now and always, as in that morning twilight on the Galilean lake, Christ comes to men. Everywhere He is present, everywhere revealing Himself. Now, as then, our eyes are ‘holden' by our own fault, so that we recognise not the merciful Presence which is all around us. Now, as then, it is they who are nearest to Christ by love who see Him first. Now, as then, they who are nearest to Him by love, are so because He loves them, and because they know and believe the love which He has to them. I find, then, in this part of the story three thoughts,-First, they only see aright who see Christ in everything. Secondly,