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John says, It is the Lord.
It is an expression of surprize. The personal presence of Christ, at this time, was wholly unexpected.
He had before appeared to his disciples, once and again, when they were met together for devotion; but now they were on the lake employed in a secular calling. Their minds were occupied in their labor, and exercised with their ill success. An interview with their Lord was little thought of. His appearance so near them, and his advice so friendly and seasonable in their business, was matter of surprize.
Pious souls may enjoy the presence of Christ in their secular occupations, as well as in their sacred devotions. No real duty will separate between him and them. It was the duty of these disciples to attend to their secular employment at proper times, no less than to engage in devotional exercises at other times. And when they were in the place, and at the work, to which providence called them, they might enjoy communication with their Lord, whether the place were an oratory, or a fishing boat, and whether the work were mental, or manual.
God requires us to spend a portion of time in his worship. There are certain seasons sequestered for social worship. These we must statedly observe without unnecessary omissions. We are required to pay our morning and evening sacrifices in our families and closets. These stated religious exercises are adapted to form in our minds an habitual reverence of God and constant sense of his presence. That our devotions, whether secret, or social, may be useful to ourselves and acceptable to God, we are to banish from our minds all inordinate worldly affections, and all malevolent and unfriendly passions, and to come before God with reverence toward him, and with good will toward all men; we are to engage our hearts to seek unto him and to attend upon him without distraction. The reason why we are to perform devotional duties with a pious and benevolent spirit, is that we may carry this spirit with us into all the duties of common life. Every one sees, that it would be absurd only to make our prayers with reverence to God and benevolence to men; and then immediately to return to the world with impiety and malice in our hearts. We are to be devout, humble and charitable, when we stand before God, that we may be the same at all times, and that, whatever we do, we may do all to his glory.
These disciples, having been conversant with Christ, and having imbibed much of his spirit, were prepared to receive a visit from him, when they were fishing, as well as when they were praying. Let us so conduct the devotional parts of religion, as to maintain the temper of religion in all that we do. Then our secular labors, as well as our devout exercises, will be works of piety and charity; all that we do will belong to religion; and wherever we go, we shall be near to Christ; he will be attentive to our calls, and will communicate his grace as our necessities require.
The words of John, It is the Lord, expressed his joy. And his joy was the joy of them all.
John was the disciple whom Jesus loved, and who was distinguished by his love to Jesus. None of thein could be more transported, than he was, at seeing the risen Lord.
We naturally rejoice in meeting with a beloved friend after a temporary absence. Jesus had not been long absent from his disciples; but the cause of his absence had been such as must prepare their minds for the most lively sensations at his return. He had been slain and laid in the grave. They little thought of meeting him again on earth. Sorrow had filled their hearts. When they saw him risen from the dead, they believed not for joy. They were as men who dream. So happy and unexpected was the event, that they could hardly believe their own eyes.
In meeting with him, there were many circumstances to increase their joy. This was not a common friend, but a Saviour and Redeemer. They could not see him too often, nor be too much in his company. His resurrection confirmed their faith in him, and established their belief of all that he had before taught them. It opened to their understanding the ancient prophesies. It brought many pleasing interviews and instructions afresh to their remembrance. It revived past delightful scenes. While they felt themselves too unfurnished to go forth and preach his religion, they rejoiced to meet him, that they might obtain more ample furniture. They hoped, in his company, to learn what work he had for them to do, and how they should do it.
We all think, that if we had been in their condition, we should have rejoiced, as they did, in seeing Jesus so near us. We cannot, at present, have a personal interview with him. But we may have a privilege equal to it. We may come to the place, where he has appointed to meet us by his word, his ordinances and his Spirit. John, who saw the Lord on the sea-shore at Tiberias, afterward had a more glorious view of him in the Island of Patmos. He saw him on the Lord's day walking among the churches, and he was then in the Spirit.
Jesus visits his churches still, and there we may see him by faith. This, this is the place, where he has appointed to meet us. Here he comes by his gospel. Here we may learn the precious doctrines and promises, which he gave to his disciples while he was with them. Here we may, at certain seasons, behold him set forth as crucified for our sins and risen for our justification. Here we may contemplate his grace and love exhibited in an ordinance, which was instituted to perpetuate among his disciples the delightful remembrance of him. Where he comes by his word, he comes with his good Spirit. This we may have for asking. " He gives the Spirit to them who ask him.” As he is our high priest over the house of God, we may resort to it with boldness, and obtain grace to help in time of need.
Do we envy the disciples, who personally conversed with Christ after his resurrection? In what was their privilege superior to ours? What could they learn from his lips more than we may learn from his word? What promises could they hear from his mouth greater than those which we find in his gospel ? What assistances did he afford them better adapted to their case, than the assistances offered to us are adapted to ours ? If we could see him, as they did, we would ask many questions for the removal of our doubts; we would solicit many favors for relief in our troubles. But we may go to his word now, and there find an answer to reasonable enquiries; we may go to his throne, and there obtain the things which we really need. Do we think a sight of him in the flesh would awaken lively affections ? If we have pure affections to him, why may they not be awakened by a view of him in his word and ordinances ? Let us meditate on his character, his doctrines, his works, his death, and his resurrection. Let us converse with him by prayer, and by reading and hearing his word. Thus let us strengthen our faith, and enliven our affections. And thus let us prepare for a more glorious interview with him in heaven, than his disciples ever enjoyed, while they were with him on earth.
Such an interview we may hereafter enjoy.
We cannot but remark, that John, when he saw and knew the Lord, gave inforınation particularly to Peter. He said to Peter, " It is the Lord.”
When there were seven of them in the boat, there must have been some special reason, why this information was directed to Peter only. There was a similar case a little before. The angel, who announced to the women, that Jesus was risen, said to them, “Go your way; tell his disciples and Peter, that he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him.”
Peter, in the time of Christ's sufferings, had solemnly and repeatedly denied his relation to him, and knowledge of him. Our Lord, therefore, by his angel, sends a particular invitation to Peter to come and see him in Galilee. Peter, before the interview at Tiberias, had seen the Lord after his resurrection. But it does not appear, that Jesus had so far remitted his offence, as to rein
state him in his office. He might therefore feel some doubt and · anxiety on the subject; and might have expressed his feelings to
John, who used, on some occasions, to be his adviser and his spokesman. When Christ told his disciples, that one of them would betray hiin, Peter, curious to know who it was, beckoned to John, that he should ask Jesus, of whom he spake this. It is probable that Peter, humbled for his denial of Christ, and asham
ed to request a restoration to his office, had desired John to speak · a word in his behalf, or at least to ask the question, whether he was any more to be owned in his former relation. Peter, though from the warmth of his temper, liable often to offend, yet was a man of great humility. Surprized once at a miracle of Christ,
i he was afraid to continue in his presence. He fell down at Jesus' knees and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” When he had denied Christ, remembering the warnings given him, “ he went out and wept bitterly.” John, knowing the anxious state of Peter's mind, might say to him, “ The Lord is there on the shore, and now may be a proper time to learn what your standing is to be among the apostles.” Accordingly we find that Peter's restoration was one principal object of Christ's present visit to his disciples.
When the other disciples had come to land with the boat, and they had all eaten with Jesus, the Lord entered into a free conversation with Peter in reference to his late apostacy. This, indeed, is not expressly mentioned, but it is evidently alluded to. As Peter had professed a superior love to Christ, and afterward had thrice denied him, Jesus asked him, what he thought of himself now; whether after this experience of himself, he could say, that he loved his Lord more than his brethren loved him, and though all should deny him, he would adhere to him. This question he put to Peter three times. Peter presumed not to say, that he loved Christ more than others did; but he affirmed, that he loved him, and appealed to Christ, who knew all hearts, that his profession was true. Christ accepted his profession, and said to him, “ Feed my lambs-feed my sheep-feed my sheep." At the same time Jesus told him, that he would live to be an aged man, and would suffer martyrdom in his cause. “When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself and walkedst whither thou wouldest; but when thou shalt be old another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldst not. This he spake, signifying by what death he should glorify God.” Then he gave him this general direction, “ Follow me.”
Peter gained strength and fortitude by his experience of his own weakness. Though none of the disciples discovered so much timidity as he, at the time of Christ's crucifixion, yet after his restoration to his office, none appeared more bold and resolute in his master's cause. We soon see him standing forth without fear to preach the gospel of Christ. We soon hear him affirming, that Jesus had been approved of God by public miracles, and