After Jesus rose from the dead in John 21:1-14, a contrast was presented of working with versus doing so without the Lord. If we work without Him, we will catch nothing and our work is in vain. If we work for Him, we will see failure turned into success because of the great catch. This is all about loyalty versus disobedience as well as about God’s enablement. Peter perhaps felt that he betrayed Jesus beyond the restoration point; perhaps he did not know what else to do. Thus, he returned to his old ways when he already had something so much more—his witnessing of the Lord’s resurrection! Let’s be careful not to forget what we are supposed to do (John 15:5)!
This passage continues to show us the heart of Christianity—the resurrection. It is interesting to note that many liberal, higher critics have determined that this passage is a postscript—true, but not a part of the original text. Most Jewish and Greek writings did not use postscripts because they considered them to be anticlimactic. Not so, according to ancient manuscripts. This passage also follows the ending of the most popular ancient work of all time, the Iliad that also had a postscript as does Romans 16; thus it does have harmony and great value. So, when these higher critics cry “foul,” tell them to read the Iliad. In spite of all the criticism, this passage was the most circulated of the passages in John, shared apart from the rest of the Gospel for cost savings and for evangelism. This early church track gave hope and a reason for faith!
This also refers to the vindication and triumph of the person suffering; Jesus was proclaiming victory, not just agony! Why? God cannot be touched by sin; Jesus took our sin upon Himself and God turned His head as Christ absorbed and bore our sentence of guilt and death. Now, grace is offered, and we, by faith in Him, have salvation by the work He did on the cross! He endured real suffering that we cannot fathom; beyond the physical agony was His separation from the Father and the wrath from our sin for the first time in eternity (John 16:7-11; Rom. 4:7-8; Eph. 1:7)!
Without the resurrection, we would not have Christianity—as in saving faith. We would have no salvation, no connection to God, no remission from sins, no purpose for life, no hope, no reason for living, and no reason to do evangelism, discipleship, or missions or any other kind of ministry as it would all be futile and meaningless.
Without the resurrection, we would have no reason to meet for worship or have a Church, as we would have no message or meaning or ministry; all we would have is futility, a life of emptiness, vanity, and senselessness. We would just have some great rules and precepts to live by. Well, so do the Buddhists (1 Cor. 15:1-19)! A former Buddhist once told me why he converted to Christianity. I was at a turn in the road; who do I follow; the man who is dead or the man who is alive? I chose the One who is alive! A dead man, no matter how good and great, cannot save anybody. Buddha has saved no one! The difference is with the resurrection; we are transformed, and saved for eternity—not just for here and now (John 10:4; 16:10; 2 Cor. 5:20). We are not called to save souls. That is the role of the Holy Spirit. Rather, we are called to help the “soul bearers” to learn and grow (Rom. 4:25; 14:8; 1 Cor. 15:13-14; 2 Cor. 5:20-21; Phil 1:23; 2:6-11; 3:10-14)!
We are chosen by God and by God alone for our Christian journey, because we are not at our final destination. Rather, each of us is in a process in life and faith. As long as we have breath, God is not finished with us yet; He is still at work in you, He deeply loves you, and wants you to draw ever so nearer to Him. We need to avoid slipping into unbelief and cynicism just because we can’t wrap our minds around it or because we are disappointed. Yet, this is where we all can easily live, because life can be so hard and confusing. We can learn from it, no matter what, so we can have joy and praise Him for His guidance from His Word and Holy Spirit, and, as we walk in Christ, we can always know God was the One who created us to walk and continues to teach us. "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion." (Phil. 1:6)
The true mark of a mature Christian is obedience and submission, the ability to totally surrender it all to Him as LORD, and to be as the Epistle writers demonstrated, His slaves. By so doing, He lifts us up to be His friends. Real friends listen, forgive, and love, and are there for one another no matter what; Christ is all this to us! Thus, it is imperative to have the commitment to build effective relationships (Prov. 18:24; 27:17; Matt. 5-7; Luke 15:1-2; John 15:1-15; Rom. 12:13; Heb. 13:2; I Pet. 4:9).