Monday, May 30, 2011

Transformations: The Commissioning, Part 7

By Brenda Cathcart

After this, the disciples went down to the Sea of Gallilee. The Feast of Unleavened Bread has ended and all the pilgrims who came up for the Feast have returned to their homes. They will come up to Jerusalem again at the conclusion of the counting of the Omer for the Feast of Weeks. Like the Feast of Unleavened Bread, all male Israelites were to appear before God at His temple on the Feast of Weeks.

Deuteronomy 16:16 NKJV 16 "Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed.

So John chapter 21 tells us the disciples return to Galilee. This is after all where many of them are from and the place where Jesus called home. Most of His teaching for the past three and a half years took place there by the Sea of Galilee.

I think the disciples may have been getting a little antsy. What is going to happen next? Just sitting around waiting is the hardest thing to do. Peter, who was known for being impetuous couldn’t stand it anymore. He declares, “I’m going fishing!” I can just hear the next sentence, “All this sitting around waiting is driving me crazy!” The other disciples jumped at the chance to do something, too. They reply, “We’ll go with you.”

Now, the fishing described takes place at night. They were probably using trammel nets which basically form a wall as they drag it along the sea floor. They fish at night so the fish don’t see the net coming. The net gets filled with silt and other debris along with the fish as it is dragged along the sea floor. As morning comes Jesus calls out to them.

John 21:4-6 NKJV 4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any food?" They answered Him, "No." 6 And He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

There is no reason they should have followed this man’s instructions who is standing there on the shore. Number one, they didn’t have any success at night when the fish couldn’t see the net, it is now daylight and the fish will see the net coming and swim away! Why would they have success now? Number two, they have to clean the net first! But for some reason they decide to go ahead and try again. Maybe they didn’t like the thought of waiting around for one more day as they counted up to the Feast of Weeks. But they clean their nets and throw them down on the right side. When they begin to haul in the catch of fish, John recognizes Jesus and impetuous Peter jumps in the lake!

John 21:7-11 NKJV 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. 9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish which you have just caught." 11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken.

Not only does Peter bring some of the fish, he counts them! Why would the Bible tell us that they caught exactly 153 fish? It doesn’t tell us there were about 150 fish or just a lot of fish; John records that there were 153 fish. Now the Bible doesn’t contain irrelevant details so what is the significance of 153?

What clues do we have for the meaning of this number? First, notice that their efforts were unsuccessful before Jesus came on the scene. Remember Jacob and his struggles to attain the blessing? He was not very successful on his own either. It was only after he recognized that the blessing could only come from God that he prevailed and received his new name Israel; he struggled with God and man and prevailed. The disciples faced the same situation. They were unsuccessful in catching fish even in the best conditions without God’s help. With God’s help, they were hugely successful even in the worst of conditions.

In Luke, we see another incident when Peter, John and James were fishing and they didn’t catch any fish until Jesus came along. This incident ended in Jesus calling them to be fishers of men.

Luke 5:5-6 NKJV 5 But Simon answered and said to Him, "Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net." 6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.

Luke 5:9-10 NKJV 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men."

These are the disciples along with two others who are present this day on the Sea of Galilee. The fish that they caught then represent the men they are to reach with the testimony of Christ. But why 153? In Hebrew, each letter not only represents a letter and a picture, it represents a number.

Now John tells us that as many as believe become the sons of God.

John 1:12 KJV 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

Again, we have the testimony of His name; that Jesus is the Christ the son of the Living God! Isn’t it amazing how that theme keeps coming into the story?

Job refers to the sons of God presenting themselves before God.

Job 2:1 KJV 1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD.

During this encounter, Satan accuses Job of only worshipping God because God has blessed him. The name Satan means accuser (#7853). Zechariah reports on another occasion when a son of God stands before God with Satan as his accuser.

Zechariah 3:1 NKJV 1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose (satan) him.

When Jesus comes again, Satan, the accuser of the brethren will be cast down.

Revelation 12:10 NKJV 10 Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.

It just so happens that the phrase “sons of God” has the number 153!

From right to left: mem, yood, hey, lamed, aleph, hey, yood, nun, beit.

Jesus is telling them that in their own power, they will not be able to catch any men but with the power of God they will catch all the sons of God and will not lose any! Jesus, in His last recorded prayer to God, states that He has not lost any that God gave Him and He prays that God will keep all that come to Him now that He is no longer in the world.

John 17:11-12 NKJV 11 "Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. 12 "While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

Paul writes with confidence: Romans 8:38-39 NKJV 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jesus is setting the stage. On the Feast of Weeks, the Holy Spirit would come on them with the power needed to reach the world with the gospel message.

Sometime after this, the disciples return to Jerusalem. Apparently Jesus continues to appear before them at times. He tells them not to leave Jerusalem again until the gift of the Father comes.

Acts 1:4-5 NKJV 4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; 5 "for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."

Somehow, I think they know that this will happen on the Feast of Weeks.

We have one last appearance of Jesus before the Feast of Weeks. Part of the story is told in Luke and part in Acts. Jesus takes the disciples out to the Mt. of Olives the scene of so many earlier events.

Luke 24:50-53 NKJV 50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven.

The phrase “he lifted up His hands and blessed them” is a Hebrew idiom referring to the blessing that the priests recite at the conclusion of every service. This blessing is very specific;

Numbers 6:22-23 NKJV 22 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 23 "Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, 'This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them:

Only priests were to say this blessing but by using this phrase, Luke is telling us that Jesus said this blessing called the Aaronic blessing over His disciples. Jesus came as a prophet calling people to repentance, He died as our sacrifice for sin, He is resurrected as the Firstfruits, and now He ascends to heaven to begin His role as priest in the heavenly temple. His first act as priest was to speak the blessing over them.

Here are the words Jesus spoke:

Numbers 6:24-26 NKJV 24 "The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 26 The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace."'

God concluded His instructions to Moses with these words.

Numbers 6:27 NKJV 27 "So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them."

Jesus spoke the blessing over the disciples and by doing so, He placed God’s name on them. Imagine the disciples hearing those words from Jesus for the very first time!  The disciple then returned to Jerusalem where Luke tells us they were in the temple continually praising God. As the temple services ended that day, they would join in the counting of the Omer. “Today is the fortieth day of the counting of the Omer.”

We spoke Friday night about those who overcome receiving a new name. Not only do we receive a new name, but God puts His name on us.

Revelation 3:12 NKJV 12 "He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

Let me close then by saying the Aaronic blessing over you. The word “you” in this verse is in the singular so the blessing is to each person individually. As I speak the blessing, envision hearing it with the disciples and knowing that God is placing His name on you.

"The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 26 The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace."'

שלום ברוך
Shalom and be blessed
Dan & Brenda Cathcart

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