The following, is the first part of a sermon preached on the 8th May 2013, at Crosslanes Chapel. The Text was John 21 verse 4 & 7.
Tonight, we have a few verses, found in the Gospel according to John, John 21 : 4, 7: "But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus." "Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea."
These were now better days for Peter. After His resurrection, our Lord made Himself known to His disciples, having a special concern for Peter. Those two who had come from Emmaus brought news to brethren who were at gathered in Jerusalem. "The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon," Luke 24 : 34.
There was still sorrow in Peter's heart, as the day had began: he had failed his Lord, he had sinned grievously against Him, but now, what joy in meeting with Him, knowing that all was well:
Peter would be not a little comforted in that, Christ had revealed afresh His love to him, that he was forgiven, and that now he enjoyed sweet communion with Him. However, soon, as we see here in this chapter, when our Lord was near, he and the other disciples did not recognize Christ: they did not sense His presence. Sometimes we do not recognize Him, and we are not aware of His presence, yet in time, have we not like these disciples: suddenly become aware of Him!
Consider here the scene. We have, in this chapter the appearance of Christ to His disciples, at the Sea of Tiberius after His resurrection. In verse 14 we read, "This is now the third time that Jesus shewed Himself to His disciples, after that He was risen from the dead.". In verses 1 ‚Äî 4 we read, "After these things Jesus shewed Himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias: and on this wise shewed He Himself. There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, we also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately: and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus." They had a long fruitless night, and were tired as they came in. On the shore, the Lord was waiting for them, but they did not discern that it was Him.
Tonight, consider two things,
lstly Christ not recognised
These close disciples knew our Lord so well, yet they did not recognize Him on this occasion. Dear brethren, Christ can be near, yet it is possible for believers, even some very godly believers not to recognize Him. Matthew Henry wrote, commenting on these words, "Christ is often nearer to us than we think."
Particularly, consider those times when we gather for worship. In Matthew 18:20 we read: "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them." Over in, Hebrews 2 : 12, the apostle writes, concerning Christ, in reference to Psalm 22: 22, "Saying, I will declare Thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee." In the midst! In heaven we will know His immediate presence: we will see Him, and we will never be not conscious of His presence, how wonderful, how precious that will be! There we shall know His immediate presence, here upon earth we know His presence, which is seen as special, when we gather together, in that public way. Our Lord is in the midst: that is an amazing thing, Christ is here! He was watching as we came in, He was singing with us, as we sang the Psalms: "in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee." John Owen wrote, "...the mediator, sets forth the praise of God in the midst of the congregation,' Christ is here, and He sings from His own hymn book.
The Lord graciously draws near, and yet there may be times when we do not recognise His presence. In the presence of Christ, but not aware of it. You recall that occasion recorded in Genesis 28, when Jacob laid down to sleep and had a dream of, that which is commonly called "Jacob's ladder," in verses 16 & 17 we read, "And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place: and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." To begin with, however, when he had stopped on his journey, and laid down, he was not aware. This can be the situation we find ourselves in.
Dear brethren, there can be a number of reasons for this.
lstly Forgetfulness. This can be a frequent problem. We come in, we sit down, and our minds can wander, and we forget.
2ndly Tiredness. The disciples were tired as they came in, and when Christ was near. The previous week was long, in which there was much hard toil. Maybe there was upset, or difficulties, and now it has all caught up on us. As a result we may begin to slumber in the services, and we are unaware of Him.
3rdly Distraction. We must be careful, for it easy to be distracted. The mind can wander, and we can be fixed on something else, which, may be something that is lawful in and of itself. On the Sabbath mornings, we may have thoughts of what happened in the past week, or, simply the dinner that awaits: hunger can strike! On Sabbath evenings, the things of the next day can come upon us. Distractions can easily arise, and as a result, we can struggle to concentrate. Here in countryside animals have often been a cause of distraction: mice coming through holes in the skirting boards in the hall, (thankfully now they have all been sealed!), Hornets diving around the congregation. We have, at times, been not a little distracted, such distraction can cause us to forget. Consider further that pain and sickness can cause difficulties in the worship of God.
4thly Actual sin. This is most serious, one can be engaged in some sin, it has gripped them, even in the worship of God, and has resulted in them being unaware of the Lord's presence. Beware of 'thought sins'. It may be bitterness welling up in the heart against someone. What a solemn and fearful thing to be the presence of Christ, and not to be aware of it, because of some sin.
As we have see, there are times when Christ is near, but we do not recognize Him.
We have confined our thoughts particularly to public worship, but now, let us consider further, that in our lives we can forget that the Lord is with us. Not always are we conscious of this. Sometimes, but not always, in a great trial we do not realise how near Christ is, that; "His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me," Song of Solomon 2 : 6. We may not be aware of Him, and that He is about to help and deliver. As a child at night, I was not always aware of my parents being in the house even though they were. We as God's children may, at times even though He may be so near, be unaware of this wonderful truth.
Now, before we move on, let us consider that Christ can be near, and then withdraw. Turn we with to Song of Solomon 5 : 2 - 6 "I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night. I have put off my coat: how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet: how shall I defile them? My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him. I rose up to open to my beloved: and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock. I opened to my beloved: but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him: I called him, but he gave me no answer. The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me: the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me." Note those words "My beloved had withdrawn himself." Some Christians think this will never happen, take note, it has, and may happen! We are not talking about a complete withdrawal, that is impossible, blessings are lodged in His hand, He will never leave us, nor forsake us, but Christ may withdraw to some distance. Now why may this happen? Come with me to verse 3.
"I have put off my coat: how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet: how shall I defile them?" Spiritual declension, coldness has taken its grip. I have no time for Him. A withdrawal then takes place.
Dear brethren, through this He will chastise us, and further, in time, because of His pity, cause us to long for Him, having now missed Him . Dr John Gill wrote: " a sad disappointment this! She expected to have seen him, and been received in his arms and embraced in his bosom: but instead of that, He was gone out of sight and hearing: this withdrawing was to chastise her for her former carriage, and to show her more the evil of her sin." Rev John Brown of Haddington writes, "to humble my soul , to endear His presence, to try and execise my grace, to inflame my love, He had justly and quickly and fearfully withdrawn."
So quickly He can withdraw to a distance, and we may not to realise it. How solemn it is for a believer not to realise that the Lord has withdrawn and is at a distance. However, in time, suddenly the believer begins to question, Where is He? Turn with me to Song of Solomon 3 : 1 "By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not." O where, O where is Emmanuel! Take comfort brethren in time, in a io
gracious and merciful way, He will draw near. At times there can be a withdrawal because of some sin. However particularly consider, that other possibility, as we see in this chapter, we may not sense the Lord's presence, and yet He is so near
To be continued