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The Gospel of John: Manifesting God’s Glory Book 5

Jesus manifested God's glory through 8 miraculous signs in the gospel of John. These are a revelation of the feast of tabernacles.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 16

Fishers of Men

Jesus’ second visit with the eleven disciples on the eighth day from His ascension was what we call a Divine Council meeting. It was what the Sanhedrin was supposed to do, if they had been believers in agreement with the heavenly Father. A Divine Council includes both a heavenly and an earthly witness and are pictured briefly as those receiving “thrones” in Dan. 7:9 and Rev. 20:4.

Hence, when Jesus made His appearance on the eighth day of the New Creation Man’s birth, it was a Divine council, for it included both an earthly witness and a heavenly witness. Such is it also today when we gather together in fellowship (agreement) with Christ. Anyone can be a member of the Divine Council, as long as he or she is in agreement with Christ in whatever matter is to be discussed, decreed, or declared.

The purpose of such declarations are designed to establish the will of God in the earth—the same purpose that the eight signs in John’s gospel were designed to do. When one is called to a Divine Council, one is being asked to bear an earthly witness to the will of heaven. Jesus showed us how to do this in the first seven signs that are recorded in the Gospel of John. The eighth was separated by His death and resurrection, which finally brought the disciples into agreement with this same purpose and made it possible for all of them to participate. This included not only the eleven but also the seventy and anyone who knows the will of God and is in agreement with it.

Practical Training

In the 1980’s I began to see how we ourselves were being trained in this, though I did not understand at the time what the Divine Council was. Yet we often gathered as a small group to pray so that we might discern the mind and will of the Father. It could take two or three hours to know what God was telling us, but when we finally arrived at that point, we made official declarations that were in full agreement with His will. Then we went home.

Notice that we did not meet to tell God our own will or to fast mightily until He agreed with us. We left our wishes, needs, and opinions at the door. It was always “not my will but Thine be done.” Hence, we wanted to know His will, and we were aware that the Holy Spirit had been sent to guide us into all the truth (John 16:13). This is the only way to fulfill Jesus’ words in John 14:12-14, saying,

12 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

To ask in His name means to ask according to His own nature, for He revealed Himself under many names in order to convey to us His nature.

Having said that, it is alright to make petitions as well, wherein we make our requests known to God (Phil. 4:6). But such requests are made before the Throne of Grace (Heb. 4:16) or even before the Divine Court. The Divine Council, however, serves a different purpose. These three courts were reflected in the three courts in Jerusalem.

The Throne of Grace was the mercy seat in the Most Holy Place. The Divine Court was situated outside the gate at the base of the Mount of Olives, where the priestly community of Bethpage kept the ashes of the red heifer. The Council was the Sanhedrin. Though men often misused these in the attempt to establish the will of man, even so, the courts themselves provide the biblical patterns for us today. We do not cast aside these three courts but are called to use them properly.

The three courts were revealed to us in 2001, at which time we saw the third court as the Holy Sanhedrin. More recently, we saw it as the Divine Council.

Returning to Galilee

The angel had conveyed a message to the disciples through the women who visited the empty tomb, saying in Matt. 28:7, “He is going ahead of you into Galilee; there you will see Him.” The disciples, however, remained in Jerusalem for at least a week, and during that time, Jesus appeared to them on the first and eighth days.

We are not told precisely when the disciples returned to Galilee, but it was after the eighth day. Jesus appeared to various individuals for the next few weeks until the time came for Him to ascend on the 40th day (Acts 1:3). In my view, as the people each day counted the 49 portions of the omer of barley, they prophesied of Jesus’ appearance to the overcomers, who are represented in Scripture as barley.

John 21:1 says,

1 After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way:

The Sea of Tiberias (like the city of Tiberias on the north side of the lake) was a more recent name for the Sea of Galilee. It was named in honor of Tiberias Caesar who ruled the empire at the time that Jesus was crucified.

The Fishing Trip

John then tells us the manner in which Jesus appeared to the disciples “the third time” (John 21:14). It appears that the disciples did not know just when Jesus would appear to them, so instead of waiting idly, they decided to go fishing.

John 21:2 says,

2 Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus [“Twin”], and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together.

These seven disciples went fishing: Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John, and two other unnamed disciples.

John 21:3 continues,

3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.

Some have criticized the disciples for returning to their old profession, as if they were doing something wrong by fishing. Undoubtably, the disciples were unaware that their decision to go fishing was part of the divine plan, but this was Simon Peter’s idea—or should I say, it was his revelation.

John’s use of the name Simon (“hearing”) suggests that he was responding to God’s voice. Those whose hearts are in agreement with the Father make most of their decisions in accordance with His will both unconsciously and effortlessly. At this point, Peter did not have to get on his knees and pray to know God’s will. He just did it naturally.

The divine purpose was to illustrate prophetically the fact that they had been called from the beginning to be fishers of men. The eighth sign was about showing them how to be successful as fishers of men under the anointing of Pentecost in the age that lay ahead.

The disciples took one or two lamps with them to provide light for themselves and also to attract the fish, for fish are attracted to light. They could then cast their nets out from the boat and catch fish as they drew near to the boat.

The story illustrated John’s message in John 1:4, 5,

4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

In other words, the disciples were to fish for men by using Christ as “live bait.” In Christ is “life,” and this life is also the light that shines into the darkness. If Christ abides in us, His light is in us, and we are then able to follow His instruction in Matt. 5:16,

16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

The age ahead was full of darkness. The disciples were being called to do night fishing. Their efforts would glorify their heavenly Father if the light of Christ attracted the “fish” that were swimming in the darkness.

However, “they caught nothing” until the dawn of the new day.

Returning to Shore

As the disappointed disciples returned to shore, a stranger stood on the shore, and in the stillness of the early morning, he called to them, saying, “Any luck?” John 21:4, 5 says,

4 But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 So Jesus said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.”

Sound travels far on a lake, especially when there is no wind and the water is like glass. So the disciples may have been quite far from the shore, certainly far enough so that they would not recognize the stranger on shore. John 21:6 then says,

6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.

In biblical symbolism, the left hand speaks of weakness or judgment; the right hand speaks of strength or mercy. Recall that Benjamin means “son of my right hand,” and that Jesus was to ascend to the right hand of the Father. The left side was a lesser position. This alone shows the symbolic importance of left and right.

In this case, it appears that the disciples had been casting their nets on the left-hand side of the boat. They caught nothing, because their message was one of judgment and condemnation, which speaks from a position of weakness and inadequacy. I believe this prophesied of the Pentecostal Age, which was dominated by a message of fear and judgment, which was not at all attractive to the “fish.” Its effect is limited.

At the dawn of the Tabernacles Age, Jesus reveals a “right-hand” message which we call the Restoration of All Things. It is not a message of judgment but of divine love and mercy. It is the positive message given to the ambassadors for Christ, “that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor. 5:18).

When Jesus prophesied of His death on the cross, He said in John 12:32, 33,

32 And I, if I am lifted up from this earth, will draw [helko, “to draw, drag”] all men to Myself.” 33 But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which he was to die.

I believe that this is how we are to be fishers of men. The message of reconciliation says that if Jesus Christ is lifted up on the cross, He will die for the sin of the whole world. He will then use the fishers of men to “drag” (as with a dragnet) all men to Himself with the message of reconciliation, peace, and mercy.