THE LORD’S TRAINING OF HIS DISCIPLES
To Experience His Invisible Presence
The disciples did not realize that the Lord Jesus had not left them. From the time that He breathed Himself into them, He remained in them. There is no record in chapter twenty of the Lord’s leaving the disciples. Because the Lord was in the disciples, when they went fishing, He went with them. Concerning this, it is significant that 21:1 tells us, “Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias.” Notice that this verse does not say that the Lord Jesus came to them. It says that He manifested Himself to them.
The disciples spent the whole night fishing. Possibly they began in the evening. The Lord did not appear to them until morning. It seems that He was silent and hid Himself as they spent the entire night trying to catch fish.
Verse 4 says, “Now as the morning was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore.” The Lord manifested Himself to them again. We should not think, however, that the Lord was away from them during the night. No, He went fishing with them. Actually, they brought the Lord to the sea of Tiberias, for He was in them. Although the Lord dwelt in them and went with them wherever they went, they did not realize this. Therefore, the Lord’s main purpose in this chapter was to train His disciples to realize His invisible presence.
The disciples had enjoyed the Lord’s visible presence for three and a half years and were accustomed to it. Then suddenly the Lord changed His way of being with them. Now He was the pneumatic Christ. When the Lord was in the flesh, He was visibly present with the disciples. Then in resurrection He became the invisible pneuma. This pneuma is real, but it is not visible to human eyes. Therefore, it was necessary for the Lord Jesus to train the disciples to experience and enjoy His invisible presence. He did not want them to think that He had left them. He wanted them to realize that He would always be with them. This was the reason the Lord took forty days, from the day of resurrection until the day of His ascension, to train the disciples to realize His invisible presence. In the Bible the number forty signifies a period of testing or training. During this period of forty days the Lord trained His disciples to appreciate His invisible presence. Actually, the Lord’s invisible presence is more precious and prevailing than His visible presence. This is the basic lesson the Lord was teaching the disciples in John 21.
To Trust in Him for Their Living
When the Lord Jesus manifested Himself to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias, His word exposed the reason they went fishing: “Little children, do you have any fish to eat? They answered Him, No” (v. 5). Here we see that the disciples went fishing because they had nothing to eat. They came to the sea of Tiberias expecting to catch fish. But they labored the whole night and caught nothing.
The Lord said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some. They cast therefore, and they were not able to haul it in, because of the abundance of fishes.” Here we see that the Lord was training His disciples to trust in Him for their living. The Lord seemed to be saying, “You don’t need to go fishing in order to have something to eat. I will feed you. Simply stay with Me, and I will take care of your living.”
Some of the saints may say, “Brother Lee, we agree with you concerning what you minister about spiritual things. But when you tell us that the Lord Jesus will feed us, that He will take care of the practical matters of our daily living, we need to consider further. I’m not sure that the Lord Jesus will really feed me. Maybe I should go back to my old profession.” Regarding this, I do not care to argue with anyone. I would simply point out that according to history the Lord always feeds His people. Yes, you need to work at a job. That is your duty, your responsibility. But you need to realize that the environment is not under your control. Rather, the environment is in the Lord’s hands and under His control.
(The Fulfillment of the Tabernacle and the Offerings in the Writings of John, Chapter 61, by Witness Lee)