This morning we were sitting on the shore of the Mediterranean. We laid our towels and blankets down on the rocks and sat to spend one last morning in worship together as a team. The waves were crashing in. The sun was beating down. The heat was nearly unbearable.
The students have been here in Altea for a month now and they have seen many things. They have built many friendships. They have poured into the lives of others in the group. They have immersed themselves in the culture and language and they have experienced transformation in their own hearts and lives.
And now, we sit together, on the rocks and remember, celebrate and learn.
We sang a few songs as we remember the character of God and then Justin, a new friend and the man with whom I’ve co-led these past weeks began to teach. He had felt prompted to speak from John 21. I was excited as John 21 is one of my favorite passages of scripture for many reasons.
Jesus’s closest friends and followers had gone back to their home town, they picked up life where they had left off only three years earlier. I wonder if they were confounded by how quickly the time had gone by and how they were so different and I wonder if they knew what to do with it all. They found themselves in the mundane of life, again. They returned to the career they had left and went out to sea to fish.
How easy it is to go back to what we know once we’ve experienced transformation of any kind.
These men, go back to their old jobs and fish. Something they knew well. Something in which they were quite proficient and skilled. And the unthinkable happened. They caught nothing!
They were out all night and caught not one single fish!
The story goes on to Jesus telling them to lower their nets on the other side of the boat and as they followed his instruction their nets could barely hold the catch.
Usually, when I’ve thought of this passage I have focused on the miracle of the catch. But today, something different stuck out to me. It was the very first miracle. It was the miracle of nothing.
You may ask how that is a miracle? Well, these men knew what they were doing. They were out on their own strength. They had done this for years before they had even met Jesus, and on this day they could not catch one single fish?
That sounds like a miracle to me.
In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus encourages his followers to pray, “lead me not into temptation and deliver me from evil.” I believe that Jesus, held back the fish, to deliver them from evil and to not lead them into temptation.
The men had returned to their lives before Jesus and were doing so without dependence on him. Had they actually caught a few nets full of fish, they may have been tempted to believe they could do life now on their own strength. Perhaps they would have been tempted by the profit those fish would bring in. Perhaps they would have been tempted to give their lives once again to careers in the fishing industry. Perhaps they would have been tempted to leave all they’d experienced from the past three years? Perhaps they would have been tempted to believe the lie that they were to run their own lives on their own strength once again?
But no! They were kept from believing the lie and they were actually even kept from the temptation of such.
In life, most of the time, we think that the absence of result from our labor or even the thought that we’d not get what we “deserve” is unjust! and there could be no way that God could be involved in it. How could “nothing” be a miracle.
But today, I was struck by the miracle of nothing was as powerful as the miracle of the full net.
The disciples were left with nothing on their own, but once Jesus instructed them the fruit of their labor was greater than they could ask or imagine. If they had full nets in the first place they would have missed out.
There is a great miracle in the nothing. There is a life changing truth in the nothing.
In the past few years I have been walking in the miracle of nothing. It is in the nothing that I’ve been kept from evil of self achievement and self dependence and I’ve been kept from the temptation that I can do all things through my self. And now, I believe as I lay my metaphorical nets on the other side of my life’s boat, I know that utterly and fully am dependent on my Jesus. I need him.
In my first week here the song, “I need Thee O I need Thee” played randomly on my computer. The words made me cry as they washed over me.
I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.
I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.
I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their pow’r when Thou art nigh.
I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is vain.
I need Thee every hour; teach me Thy will;
And Thy rich promises in me fulfill.
I need Thee every hour, most Holy One;
Oh, make me Thine indeed, Thou blessed Son.
Jesus’ friends and followers were given a great gift on the beach that day. I wonder if they realized it? They were given the miracle of nothing, so that they would know that it is only in Jesus that they can do every thing… all things…
As the students go back to the States tomorrow it is my prayer for them that they leave knowing their deep need for Jesus and that He will change them. In honesty I pray the same for me.