"Sun of my soul! O Savior dear,
It is not night if You are near;
Oh! may no earthborn cloud arise
To hide You from Your servant's eyes.
Abide with me from morn to eve,
For without You I cannot live;
Abide with me when night is nigh,
For without You I dare not die.
O Framer of the light and dark,
Steer through the tempest Your own ark;
Amid the howling wintry sea,
We are in port if we have Thee.
Come near and bless us when we wake,
Ere through the world our way we take,
Till in the ocean of Your love
We lose ourselves in heaven above."

"Afterward Jesus appeared again to His disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way . . ."  John 21:1-14

We are once more summoned in thought, in this beautiful closing chapter of John's Gospel, to the Lake of Gennesaret. Since we last followed the footsteps of Jesus there, the great event had been accomplished. That Adorable Being, whose miracles of love and power had hallowed its shores, had expired in anguish on the cross, and risen in triumph from the tomb. The mighty debt of ransomed myriads had been paid; glory had been secured to God in the highest; peace on earth, and good-will had been granted to men!

We do not wonder to find that the Disciples have returned again to their native sea, when we recall the announcement referred to in the preceding chapter, made first by the angels and repeated by the Lord Himself, that He was "to go before them into Galilee," and that there they were to see Him.

We naturally love those localities which have been specially consecrated to us by early and hallowed associations. No spot is so dear to a hero, on his return from the scene of his triumphs, as the village where he was born, or the banks of the stream where childhood, in its young morning of joy and hope, delighted to wander. More cherished still is the place associated with spiritual blessings—the room sanctified by a father's counsels and a mother's prayers—the dwelling where we held endeared communion and fellowship with Christian and congenial hearts—the House of God where we first listened to the joyous word which brought life and peace to our souls.

Might not Jesus, as MAN, participate to some degree in such feelings, when we find Him now seeking out once more His beloved and honored haunts on Tiberias before He ascended to glory? Every creek and bay, every hamlet and mountain slope, had some memorial of mingled majesty and love. There poverty, disease, demon fury, death itself, had surrendered and succumbed at His word. The very sea and storm had conceded to His might, and crouched submissive at His omnipotent mandate.

And if these scenes were sacred and hallowed to the Master, equally sacred would they be to the Disciples. There they had listened to His utterances of matchless wisdom—there they had been summoned by Him to undertake their Great Embassy. Busy as they were now once more at their old occupation on the Lake, wherever they turned their eye, its undulating shores must have been fragrant with His name and presence. Capernaum rose before them with its crowded memories of power and mercy. Yonder were the bifurcated peaks of the Mount, where the most wondrous of discourses was uttered—yonder was the plain, flushed now with the loveliness of spring, where the Sower had sowed—yonder, in the far north, was the green tableland where the barley loaves were dealt out as emblems of mightier spiritual blessings—yonder, hiding itself amid sterner nature, was the scene of demoniacal conquest—there, yet again, the bleak mountain oratory, where the Lord of all this wondrous Panorama poured out His soul in the ear of His Father. And when night fell, and the stars looked down, at one moment, from their silent thrones, and the next were swept from the heavens by the sudden storm, the Apostle fishermen would remember the majestic form of Him who walked before on these very waters, and the Voice that mingled with the moanings of the tempest, saying, "Peace, be still"—"Fear not, it is I, do not be afraid."

Can we doubt that these solemn and manifold remembrances would now often tune their lips on their lonely night watch—that day after day they would be thus interrogating one another, "Where shall we see Him?" "When shall we again hear His longed-for voice? He is faithful who promised that He would meet us here again. Even so; come, Lord Jesus, come quickly."

Seven of them—James and John, Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, and probably Andrew and Philip—have been out on the Lake all night long; but their toil, as on a former occasion, is unrecompensed. Morning begins to streak the mountains of Naphtali—distant Hermon is unveiling his diadem of snow. As they approach within a few cubits of the shore, in the grey dawn of that morning light, a solitary figure attracts their eye—"they did not know that it was Jesus!" The first word He uttered might have told them all!—"Children!" Yet still they recognize Him not! He appears but as a passing wayfarer whom curiosity has drawn to watch the mooring of the boat on the shingle. He inquires if they have any fish captured that might serve for a morning meal? They answer despondingly that they had none!

The mysterious Stranger bids them "cast out on the right side of the ship." The result was so vast an enclosure of fish that they were unable to draw it to land. The quick-sightedness of love discerns the divine Presence—the similarity of the present with a former occasion has led the Beloved John to scrutinize more closely the person of the Speaker. Catching up the sweet music of that well-known voice, he is the first to reveal the joyous secret, whispering it first with half-trembling lips into the ear of his chief associate—"It is the Lord!" Peter, with characteristic impetuosity and fervor, wraps around him his coarse fisherman's tunic, springs into the sea and swims a hundred yards to shore, in order that he may cast himself soonest at the feet of his Great and Good Master. The other disciples follow behind, dragging with them the net with its encumbering load!

Who can describe the profound emotion of that meeting at that calm hour when all nature was hushed and still? It is simply and artlessly told in the Gospel narrative. No strong or exaggerated effects are inserted by the Apostle to mutilate the simple grandeur of the picture. Not a tear, not a word, not a question is recorded. No, in significant silence they confront the Holy One—"None of the disciples dared ask him, Who are You? knowing that it was the Lord!" But there was an unusual—it may be a miraculous—provision ready for them at that landing place—"a fire of coals, fish laid thereon, and bread." The feast had been prepared by their adorable Lord. Before inviting to partake of it, however, He bade them drag their nets to land. Peter in a moment complied with the request, and it is specially noted that, as full as the net was, and that too of "large fish," it was brought on shore unbroken.

"Come and dine" was the brief invitation given and accepted. The Master and his seven disciples surround that lowly table. "Jesus came, and took the bread, and gave it to them, and fish likewise."

Strange and mysterious transaction! We are at once led to inquire as to its signification and meaning. A feast of the kind did not seem in itself necessary at that spot or hour. The fishermen disciples were near their own Bethsaida dwellings, and the risen body of the great Redeemer, we have reason to believe, was not dependent, as it was before the Resurrection, on the "bread which perishes" to sustain it. We have already found that many of our Lord's actions around these shores were symbolic of some great spiritual truths. We cannot for a moment doubt that the present is to be classified with these, and that that morning hour and morning meal were fraught with momentous lessons to the disciple-guests, and to the Church in every age. Let us seek, with God's blessing, to gather from this detailed narration some of that SOLEMN INSTRUCTION it was designed to impart, specially to the disciples and in the main also to ourselves.

I. Before speaking of the Feast, let us, for a moment, advert to the same general lesson, which a previous similar incident furnished, that God honors and consecrates daily toil.

The disciples met their Lord while they were engaged with their nets and boats, prosecuting their former calling. A risen Jesus would thus teach us, that instead of worldly industry proving a hindrance and impediment to the religious life, it may rather, if not perverted and abused, become the very channel through which God delights to meet His people.

It is a healthful and encouraging lesson in this everyday working world of ours—to the merchant at his desk and the apprentice at his counter, the artisan at his hammer, the ploughman at his field, and the cottager at her wheel. It tells that that tear and wear—that "loud stunning tide" of human care and incessant toil so far from being incompatible with the service of God, may be made by Him the very medium for higher and more exalted revelations of Himself.

There are times, indeed, when worldly work—the grinding wheels of business—must be hushed, and we are alone with God. There are solemn seasons when the din of earth dare not intrude; Closet hours—Sabbath hours—Sanctuary hours, without which the spiritual life would languish and die. Jesus had met the Disciples lately, in "an upper chamber in Jerusalem." It was their solemn convocation on the first day of the week—Gennesaret, with its nets and fishing vessels, was forgotten then—it was the Day and the Place of prayer and communion. Jesus met them as He delights to meet His people still in their Sabbath assembly, and "breathed upon them, and said, Peace be unto you, receive the Holy Spirit!" But having shown us these, His own disciples, in their Sabbath attire, he would seek to show us them also in the rough attire of everyday life.

He had left them for a while with the indefinite assurance—"I go before you into Galilee, there shall you see Me." How, meanwhile, are they to employ themselves? are they to remain in listless inactivity at their native village? are their boats to be anchored on the beach, and their old means of honest industry abandoned? No; if there be no immediate apostolic work ready for them, like their "beloved brother Paul," at a future day, when, side by side with the tentmakers of Corinth, he plied his busy task, they will teach a great lesson, to the world and the Church, of how God loves honest earnestness in our lawful worldly callings; and how, moreover, diligence in business may be combined with fervency in spirit serving the Lord! Jesus tells us He is to meet us again; but we are not, meanwhile, with hermit spirits, to abandon life's great duties. We are to carry out these with unabated ardor. Let us never forget that it was while the disciples were out formerly with their fishing craft, toiling all night, and returning faint and weary in the morning light, that Jesus met them and put honor on their laborious efforts by bidding them, "let down once more for a catch"—and filling their empty net with a multitude of fishes!

II. The disciples were reminded, by this renewed miraculous capture, of their former call and consecration as FISHERS OF MEN.

Their Lord had put signal honor upon them; constituting them His companions, and apportioning for them a work of unparalleled magnitude, responsibility, and honor. But during an interval of time fraught with momentous consequences to the world, they had proved unworthy of their distinguished trust—they had become traitors to their Master—cowards in adversity. Might He not transfer the apostolate to others? How could He still confide to the trembling band that had cowered in terror when the Shepherd was smitten (one of their number basely denying Him!)—how could He still confide to them a vast commission which, in the first hour when their heroism had been tested, they had basely trampled under foot?

No! they had fainted and grown weary of Him—might He not justly have grown weary of them? But "the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, faints not, neither is weary. He gives power to the faint; and to those who have no might He increases strength." The gospel-net is still to be entrusted to their hands. At His word myriads of immortal souls should, through their instrumentality, be enclosed in it. He would, moreover, comfort them with the assurance of His continual presence and blessing—that, in the darkest night of their worldly or spiritual toil, they might think of a Great and Wise Provider—a wakeful eye of Heavenly love that would never allow them to toil unowned and unrecompensed. While, on the one hand, He would seek them to feel their utter impotency without His presence and blessing, He would also assure them of the triumphant success which should follow, and must ever follow, His omnipotent word and prompt obedience to it—that, being "steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord," their labor in the Lord should not be in vain!

III. Another truth this Gennesaret scene was designed to teach, is the victorious and safe ingathering of the Church of God at the Resurrection morning.

On the occasion of the former Miraculous Catch, the nets had been broken. These nets, on that previous occasion, have been supposed by commentators, from the days of Augustine downwards, figuratively, to represent the Church of God in its present condition. The boats, you will remember, when our Lord then spoke to Peter, were still out on the deep, they were "ready to sink"—the weight and struggles of the fish broke the meshes of the net, and many of the enclosed escaped into their old element. Fit type of the visible Church in its militant state—still on the stormy sea, often threatening to sink, the net rent with unholy and unhappy divisions, enclosing indiscriminately both "bad and good"—believers and professors—saints and hypocrites—those having the form without the power of godliness, who are arrested for a season only to return once more to their sinful element.

But in this second miraculous enclosure all is different—the net is not hauled in, while the boats are still on the sea—the fishermen are now done with the sea of life, its storms and toils, and night-watchings; they have planted their own footsteps on the Heavenly shore, and brought their net along with them.

It is a lovely picture of the Resurrection Morn, when all divisions and separations among Churches and Christians shall be at an end—when every fish in the sea of immortal being, "all the children of God scattered abroad," shall be gathered in. Notwithstanding the vast aggregate, not one shall be missing. Over the unbroken net the glorified Redeemer will be able to repeat the declaration of His last intercessory prayer—"Those whom You gave Me I have kept, and none of them is lost."

IV. Another object Christ had in view, in this morning feast and meeting, was to demonstrate His own real and undoubted Humanity.

He wished to convince the disciples that it was no shadowy apparition which, at that morning hour, saluted them and then vanished away. It was the Man Christ Jesus—the same Adorable Being who had been known to them often before on these same shores in "the breaking of bread."

True it is, indeed, we are fully warranted in believing that His bodily form had undergone some mysterious change since the Resurrection. The term here employed is significant—"He showed Himself." "His body, after the Resurrection, was only visible by a distinct act of His will." It is possible, too, there may have been some alteration in feature; perhaps the weary, toil-worn, wasted countenance of the Man of Sorrows, those furrowed lines of deep woe, which had imprinted themselves on the disciples' last memories in the Garden—these may have been exchanged for an aspect of calm elevated joy, befitting the Risen Conqueror.

But one thing they could not mistake—His heart of hearts was unchanged! They would not wound Him by questioning His personal identity. This seems to be the meaning of the Evangelist's singular statement—"None of the disciples dared ask him, Who are You? Knowing Him to be the Lord." They saw, perhaps, some external alteration (they must have done so, else why so slow to recognize Him as they were); but they knew Him from His words, His looks, His loving soul—they knew Him to be the Lord.

He Himself, by the most significant act, confirms the joyful assurance. He reveals Himself as an unchanged Savior. Though risen and exalted, and with untold honors in prospect, He still condescends to lowly offices of love and mercy. He meets His fishermen-apostles in the chill damps of a spring morning on the Lakeshore. He who, before His decease, washed their feet, and "wiped them with the towel with which he was girded," has risen from the grave with the same loving heart which He ever had! He meets them at the frugal meal—He prepares that meal with His own hands—He partakes with them—He calls the lowly guests His "Children!" He would proclaim, as His name and memorial to all generations—"Jesus in His life of humiliation—Jesus in His state of exaltation—Jesus risen—Jesus glorified—Jesus crucified—Jesus crowned—is the same yesterday, and today, and forever!"

V. In this Feast, Jesus would seem to speak, by anticipation, of a nobler and better festival He was then on His way to prepare for His Church in glory.

After the night of toil, and the miraculous catch, came the joyous Banquet. Glad must have been the surprise to these weary jaded men, after their discouraging labors, to find their Greatest and best Friend ready to welcome them on shore, with provided pledges of temporal and spiritual blessings. It told a joyous story of the future—it forewarned, in the first instance, of a possible (no more, a certain) night of discouragement—baffled labors—work impeded—souls uncaptured and unsaved. But all at once, in the hour of utter hopelessness, the Lord gives the word—the nets are lowered and filled—the elect are gathered in—the great gospel net with its priceless enclosures is brought safely to the Heavenly shore!

Better than all, Jesus Is There!—the world's long night-season is over—the eternal morning dawns and the first sight which catches the eye of the triumphant and glorified Church is—her Glorified Lord. Faithful to His own promise, He has come again to receive them to Himself, that where He is, there they may be also. They who have faithfully and manfully toiled through the night of earthly disaster and discouragement, shall then "sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob," in His Father's kingdom.

Let us rejoice in the prospect of this glorious meeting—May we be among the number of those who "love His appearing!" Some of you may be out now amid the darkness of the earthly sea—the lights in your earthly firmament may be dimmed—one star after another, that cheered you over the waves, may be mysteriously extinguished. But soon shall daybreak appear; and, standing on the Heavenly shores, in His own peerless ineffable love, Jesus will be waiting to greet you with the welcome—"Enter into the Joy of your Lord."

And finally, we must regard this whole scene as an encouragement to devoted work in the Lord's service.

That Feast was the reward of labor. Had there been no night of toil, no mutual invitations to "go fishing," that Holy Stranger would not have met them at day-dawn with so gracious a meal and so rich a blessing. "God is not unmindful of your work of faith, and your labor of love;" your services to His people and His cause shall not go unrecompensed by Him on the Great Day, when "He will give to every man according as his work has been." Each, remember, has His net of influence and responsibility; forbid that we should confront our Lord, at last, on the shores of eternity, with the woeful confession—"My time is done, and my work is not done!"

But while there is a word of exhortation and encouragement to all, there seems to be a special one for Christ's special Servants—Ministers of the gospel—for the Apostles of Gennesaret, and the true "Successors of the Apostles"—successors in their faith and zeal, their self-sacrifice and devotion, who are "wise to win souls"—faithfully letting down the gospel net for the catch.

Their work is concluded. Their Lord himself is standing waiting to receive them at the everlasting Feast of His own presence and love. The banquet is prepared—shall He issue the invitation, "Come, all things are ready?" No, something still is needed! the Almighty Provider has yet some element of bliss to add, before the feast is complete. "Bring," He says, "of the fish that YOU have caught!"

Oh, wondrous thought! the faithful Servants of Christ—the "Fishers of men"—are told by their Lord, on that joyous morn, to bring with them the immortal souls they have captured! Assembled at the heavenly feast—with the Savior before them, and the white-robed band of immortals saved through their instrumentality, seated by His side—they shall be enabled, in Paul's burning words of triumph, to exclaim, "What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not YOU in the presence of the Lord Jesus?"