Summary: Trying harder may not be the answer. Used movie clip from "The Pink Panther Strikes Again" to illustrate this. Expository sermon examines three experiences of the disciples (1)Failure (2) Success (3)Companionship with Jesus.

Breakfast at Tiberias

Fortifying the Foundation # 46

John 21:1-14[1]



The video clip you are about to see is from the movie, The Pink Panther Strikes Again[2]. Peter Sellers stars as the bungling Chief Inspector Clouseau who has set out to stop a mad man and save the world. The mad man, Charles Dreyfus has escaped from the mental asylum and is in possession of a Doom’s Day machine that can wipe out the world. When Clouseau learns that Dreyfus is holding up in certain old castle he goes there disguised as a professor of ancient castles. Watch the clip and see how determined he is to get into that castle and stop this mad man.

Play CLIP (01:19:18 to 01:23:55)

If tenacity alone would have gotten Clouseau into that castle he would have had it done by the end of that clip.

In our text[3] this morning in John 21 the disciples also had a frustrating experience. We begin with their

1. Experience of Failure (verses 1-3).

The story begins with the disciples obediently waiting for the Lord in Galilee. Even before his death Jesus had said to the disciples in the upper room (Matt. 26:32) “But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” That’s directive was confirmed by the angels who appeared to the women at Jesus’ tomb in Matthew 28. In verse 7 they told the women, “Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” Later, in verse 10 Jesus himself told these ladies to tell the disciples to go to Galilee. The Customs of the Passover Feast forbade their instant compliance with that command. And the Lord accommodated that even appearing to the group twice in Jerusalem[4] as recorded in John 20.

So here they are in Galilee—waiting and waiting and waiting—just as they were told to do. Nothing was happening. No one seemed to know exactly how long they were supposed to wait there. Some may have begun to wonder if they had misunderstood the instructions. Surely he would have come by now. These disciples are no longer depressed and defeated as they had been right after Calvary. The tragedy of the cross had been turned to the triumph of the resurrection. They have seen the resurrected Christ. Their recent experiences with the Lord had been wonderful. But what exactly did all this mean? What were they supposed to do? I think they were very uncertain as to what they should do next.[5]

Have you ever been in a place like that when it seemed like something needed to be done? You were tired of doing nothing so you did something. Back in 1982 I was briefly without a job. God had provided a season of rest and even told me not to look for a job. I did that for a few days and then couldn’t take it anymore. So I went out looking for work. I finally found a job transporting railroad crews in the middle of the night. Jeanie kept reminding me what the Lord had told us to do. I wasn’t purposefully being disobedient. It just didn’t seem reasonable to sit there doing nothing. So I managed to get the worst job in town. When it was all said and done I didn’t even make minimum wages. And when God opened the door for my next assignment I sure wished I had rested when I could. I think my mental state during that experience may have been a little like what these disciples were experiencing. I don’t think they were directly rebelling against God’s calling on their lives. But they were a little confused about what God was doing and perhaps very restless.

So Peter just blurts it out, “I’m going out to fish.” An amplified version of that statement might sound something like this, “I can’t take this sitting around any longer. Do whatever you want to do but I’m going to work. At least something productive will be going on. I’ve got a family to feed[6] and I’m going to feed them.” There were at least six others feeling the same thing so off they went.

The place they went is called in our text the Lake of Tiberias. Luke 5:1 refers to it as the Lake of Gennesaret. But you and I know it best as The Sea of Galilee—13 miles long and 7 miles wide.[7] These disciples knew this lake very well. James and John had probably grown up helping their dad fish on these waters. If they could do nothing else they could fish. And they certainly knew how to fish in these waters.

Then what I call “a miracle in reverse happened”. To their absolute amazement they were catching nothing at all. They were fishing during the night, which was the best time to fish. They were working hard at what they had done successfully many times in the past. But nothing is working. What I picture going on in that boat is a bit humorous. Can’t you just see these disciples about 2:00 am in the morning pulling the empty net in one more time? With a puzzled expression on his face, John looks at Peter and asks, “What in the world is going on?” They inspect the net closely to make sure the fish are not somehow slipping through an unobserved tear somewhere. They try again and still the net comes up empty. They pick up the pace and work even harder. Nothing is working. By 5:00 am they are totally frustrated and baffled. The sun is beginning to come up in the east but still they have not caught one fish.

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