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VII

Another Tryst

A Story of Fishing, of Guests at Breakfast, and of a Walk and Talk by the Edge of Blue Galilee

"I come unto you."—John xiv. 18.

"Lo, I am with you all the days."—Matthew xxviii. 20.

VII

Another Tryst

(John xxi.)

Jesus Unrecognised.

John's story is done. And it is well done. With the skill of a tried jurist he has drawn up a clear full line of evidence and presented it in a vigorous straightforward way. And he plainly states his case. His whole purpose is that those who read his little book shall come into warm personal touch of life with the Lord Jesus. That ties the knot on tight at the end of chapter twenty. John's case has gone to the jury of his readers.

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!136136Luke v. 1-11. 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! _every_thing'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.

The Same Jesus Here Now.

An unrecognized Stranger who turns out to be Jesus; an unusual haul of fish gotten in a very unusual way; a warm fire and tasty breakfast for cold hungry men; a tender talk about love and service and sacrifice, and about Jesus' return;—all this is a moving-picture illustration of the meaning of a word, one word.

It is a word Jesus used in that last long quiet talk. It's the key-word to this added chapter, occurring three times. In the old version it is the word "shew"; in the revision "manifest." "After these things Jesus manifested Himself again … and He manifested Himself on this wise." "This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples after that He was risen from the dead."137137xxi. 1, 14.

The word used underneath literally means "to make manifest or visible or know, what has been hidden or unknown."138138So Thayer. Then each time it is used it gets its local colouring from its connection. The simple tremendous meaning here clearly is this: Jesus let Himself be seen and known. He did not come. He was there.

But their eyes couldn't see Him. In effect He was hidden, not seeable. Now the change that comes is this: He is seen. And He is seen in His true native character; so certain results follow. He had said, "I will manifest Myself."139139xiv. 21, 1. c. And this was now the third time that He did it, to the disciples, after that He was risen.

This is the advance illustration of the Book of Acts. This is the tremendous thing He is burning into their hearts through eyes and ears:—He is always present. He, whose power they had felt so stupendously, and whose warm sympathy so tenderly, He is always with them. The coming of the Holy Spirit meant just this. The Spirit would be as Jesus' other self, as Jesus Himself. The one thing the Spirit would do would be to manifest, to shew openly, the power of Jesus.

Then four pictures pass before their eyes to illustrate the meaning, a fishing picture and a breakfast picture in action; then in words, a love-service-suffering picture, and a picture of Jesus returning in person seen by all to take an advance-step.

The fishing picture clearly meant this: great numbers of people, surprisingly great numbers, coming, drawn not by any human skill, but by the supernatural power of Jesus manifesting Himself in that way. The breakfast picture meant this: that this wondrous Jesus would take tender personal care of those in this blessed gathering ministry, even to their bodily needs and strength.

And the love-service-suffering word-picture said so plainly this: true service grows out of love. The chief thing is the loyal tender attachment to the person of Jesus. Then out of this will naturally come service, and willingness to suffer. The touchstone won't be service but personal love. The service will simply be an expression of the love.

And the Jesus-return word-picture fills their vision with this same Jesus coming in open glory before all eyes to carry out the kingdom plan. As these men learned to live always in the presence of a Jesus whom their outer eyes saw not, these pictures would become living pictures seen in open daily life.

So this is a further bit of the tryst appointment. This is the fuller tryst, the greater, the yet more wondrous tryst. Not only would He rise up out of death, and appear to them in person seen by the outer eyes, but He would be with them continually manifesting Himself in rarest power of action, in tenderest personal care, in talking and walking with them.

They would see the power plainly at work; then they would say with a soft hush, "He is here." They would find new bodily strength, new guidance in perplexity, new peace in the midst of confusion, and they would say to each other in awed tones, "He is here: it's the Master's touch."

And so it would come to be a habit to anticipate His presence. They would figure Him in, and figure Him in big, as big as He is, in all sorts of circumstances and planning and meeting of difficulties.

It is most striking that John closes his Gospel so differently from the others. They close with the Master rising up and disappearing on a cloud into the upper blue. John closes with Jesus walking along the beach, talking with the little group of trusted ones. Jesus did ascend up into the blue whence He shall some day descend. But the Holy Spirit sends John back to his pen to give us this as the last picture, impressed on the sensitive plate of the eyes of our heart. This: Jesus present with us all the while walking along the shore of our common round of life, clothed with matchless power, and devoting Himself to us as we to Him.

Along about the middle of the eighteenth century there came to England a young French-Swiss, named De la Fléchère, hungry hearted for the truth. He was so helped by John Wesley that he cast in his lot with the new Methodist movement and John Williams Fletcher became one of Wesley's most faithful co-labourers. Late in life he married a woman of unusual mental and spiritual attainment.

I ran across a simple story over there of this Mrs. John Fletcher which interested and helped me much. This saintly gifted woman told of a dream which came to her with such vividness as to seem to her mature mind more than a common passing vagary of sleep. In her dream she was engaged in an intense struggle with an evil spirit. She was having a most difficult fight.

She noticed some one standing a little bit to one side watching the fight but taking no active part in it. The fighting became so intense and her strength so sorely strained that she was on the point of giving up. Then this one came over near and touched her gently and said, "Be strong." Instantly a wondrous strength came to her and she held on.

Again the evil one attacked her viciously. She wondered why this helping friend did not come to her assistance in the fight. Then she was moved to say to her enemy, "Depart, in Jesus' Name." And instantly he fled. And she was free and victorious. That was her dream. As she awoke there came to her the most real sense of the presence of her Lord.

This is only one simple illustration from life. I have run across many of the same, wholly different each from the other, but each emphasizing the one simple tremendous fact of the constant presence with us of this same mighty Jesus.

It is of keenest help to mark that humanly the initiative of action is in our hands. The fight is ours. We decide our stand. We choose, and we bear the brunt or result of our choice. We step out as the need comes. Prayer and a spirit of humblest dependence on Another guides our decision and action. But we take the action. The initiative is ours.

And always alongside is One standing close up, putting all His limitless power at our disposal, in our action. All He did in living and dying and rising up out of death was done on our behalf. And now all the tremendous result of His victory is at our command. All the power native in Him is for our use.

This is the other tryst our Lover-Lord makes with us. "Lo! I am with you all the days, sunny days and shadowy, bright days and dark, all the days clear to the end." This is the sacred tryst He has made with us.

And He keeps the tryst. We may count on Him, And as we do we shall cast nets into hopeless waters and get a great haul. We shall find His presence anticipating all our personal needs. We shall rejoice to serve and—if so it prove to be—to suffer for the One we love with tenderest devotion.

And we shall look eagerly forward to seeing Him who is always in touch with us, here and now, to seeing Him with these outer eyes of ours, coming in glory with His resistless power, to make some blessed changes.


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