When I suggest that Christianity is not so much a religion as it is a relationship, I’m not attempting to be clever. As I survey the New Testament I just don’t see Jesus setting up a system. Nor do I see him establishing an organization, but rather, I see Jesus engaging His followers in deeply personal ways. This is exactly what we find in the Resurrection account recorded in John 21 (The audio message of “Breakfast With Jesus” is available below).
Here Jesus appears to some of His disciples who were fishing in the Sea of Galilee. As a piece of history this account is fascinating enough, but more than that I regard John 21 to reveal a pattern for how Jesus engages His followers of every age.
The first thing we see in this interaction is that Jesus initiates contact. Jesus had already appeared to these men. The fact of His Resurrection had already been established with His disciples, and yet He chooses to come to them again. Jesus initiates to further the relationship.
The second thing we see in this interaction is Jesus asks a question. “Haven’t you any fish?” (John 21:5). Undoubtedly, Jesus already knew the answer, but by asking the question He reveals His concern for what His friends are lacking.
The third thing we observe is that Jesus gives them a relevant command. Think of all the instructions Jesus could have given that day. Jesus could’ve said, “Never mind all of this fishing. Go preach the Gospel”, or “Go care for the poor”, or “Gather together for prayer.” Instead, Jesus offers a relevant command, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some (fish)” (John 21:6).
We need not speculate why it was the “right side” and not the left side. What is vital is that the disciples heeded the instruction of Jesus—which leads us to the fourth element of this exchange: Jesus provides for the needs of His followers.
John reports that when they lowered the nets on the right side of the boat “they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish” (John 21:6).
By this point, the men realize that the man shouting instructions from the beach is Jesus, and so Peter jumps out of the boat and heads for shore. The fishing boat follows, towing the net with 153 large fish in it (John 21:7-11).
The final element of Jesus’ interaction with His disciples might be the most encouraging of them all: Jesus serves His followers. Jesus calls them, “Come and have breakfast” and then proceeds to serve them fish and bread (John 21:12, 13).
Anyone who would doubt that Jesus wants to have a relationship with us ought to have a close look at this text. There are so many personal elements here: 1) He initiates contact, 2) He asks a question (expresses interest in what they are lacking), 3) He gives a relevant command, 4) He provides for their needs, 5) He serves them.
Again, I love that last element. The glory of Resurrection has not changed the heart of the King. The second member of the Trinity, the holy Son of God, the One who has just conquered sin an death, is serving breakfast!
The call of Jesus is not a call to religion as much as it is a call to relationship.
The pattern of Jesus is to initiate with us, provide for us, and serve us.
Some will resist Him. Some will run from Him. Some will pretend that He’s not there. Some will use rules and regulations to keep Him at a safe distance.
I urge you to receive Him. The King approaches—be encouraged—He’s serving breakfast.