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The Value of Testimony

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Testimony takes away speculation.  It allows the sequence of events to be set of clearly, and from that clarity allows even the motive of a person to be revealed.

When we read the incident of the fishing trip in John’s gospel, it seems to be an innocent enough event where a group of the disciples took up Peter’s invitation to go fishing.  In that innocence, we see the seven going on a leisure trip, for only John and James were the other fishermen, but Nathanael, Thomas and the other two were not.  There was no reason for the trip, except they might have been looking to earn some money or catch some food, or perhaps the three apostles were doing a little reminiscing to help them come to terms with the events of the last two years.  Jesus was obviously not around, and if He was, for some reason He was not invited.  The sequence of events are plainly set out in the gospel of John.  Jesus appeared and enquired of them of their success, then heard of their failure, gave them advice and turned a fruitless night of fishing into a most successful trip with the large catch.  And there was that barbecue breakfast on the beach with the three questions asked of Peter, who presumably was sitting there dripping wet from having jumped out of the boat with his outer garment wrapped around him.  Without the event set back into its proper time, one cannot see the context of the trip and the conversations.  On the surface, one can only see another miraculous encounter with the Lord and the undercurrents of tensions are hidden.

The Testimony puts the event in its true light, and what is revealed can be distressing to those who seek to believe in the Lord without a real desire to come to know Him and His life.

Through the Testimony, we can see that the trip to Galilee originated with the seven still in Jerusalem, and that the trip was in total disobedience to the command of the Lord from the night when He first appeared to them, telling them to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit arrived.  This is the third time the Lord had appeared to them, which tells us that it was shortly after Jesus appeared to them the second time when Thomas was also there.  As such, it was not long after the second visit.

Now, see the fishing trip in the light that it was in disobedience of the Lord’s command, and you might see what really happened.

What is significant is that all three who had gone up to the Mount of Transfiguration – Peter, James and John – went, joined by Thomas, and Nathanael who was not selected to be part of the twelve disciples despite his early introduction to Jesus and Jesus’ compliment to him.  The three of the ‘inner’ circle were the three who broke ranks and left Jerusalem for this fishing trip.  The same three who saw Him raise the dead girl, who saw Him transfigure, who heard the Father’s command, and who fell asleep as He prayed at Gethsemane.

In this light, you can see that Jesus’ appearance at the lake was not just a friendly coincidental meeting of a Master taking an early morning stroll and chancing on His students doing a bit of fishing.  No, Jesus was there to gather His rebellious students to take them back to Jerusalem before they missed the appointment.  As such, the words of Jesus’ greeting can be seen in a different light, and why He did not call them by their names but by the same title He used for Judas the night Judas led the mob to arrest Him – “Friends…”? [John 21.5]  Consider then what was in the Lord’s mind.  Who was He looking at?  His disciples, the three He had shown so much to, who did not go to Galilee to meet Him, but went to catch some fish after they had been told not to leave Jerusalem.

Now, the startled recognition of John is understandable, for they were not that far from shore, only a hundred yards, close enough for any friend to recognise each other.  John’s response, when they realised their nets were full, cannot be taken now as an exclamation of delight, but rather, an exclamation of distress, like one who has been discovered to be in the wrong place doing the wrong thing.  Whatever their motives were is irrelevant.  Perhaps they were running short of money and Peter thought that a good catch of fish sold in Capernaum would allow them to stay on in Jerusalem longer.  Whatever was the reason and motive for the trip is now irrelevant, for their Master who commanded them not to leave Jerusalem was now standing on the shore.  They were discovered!  Did they hope to catch the fish, sell them and return to Jerusalem with the money before the Lord realised they were gone?

And Peter, on hearing John’s exclamation, did a most extraordinary thing… extraordinary for a fisherman.  He had taken his outer garment off, which is logical for a man who wants to fish.  However, to jump out of the boat with it wrapped around you is totally illogical.

Before the Testimony revealed the timeline of events, I had thought and taught that Peter was so overcome with joy that he did not know what he was doing and wrapped the clothing around himself to walk on water to show the Lord that he had learnt.  That would be a correct interpretation if the Lord’s presence was for them an unexpected surprise of another visit from their Master.  But now in the context of the testimonial timeline, that cannot be correct.

So why did Peter jump out of the boat with his outer clothing wrapped around him?

  1. So he could swim to shore?  If that were the case, he would have been better off leaving the clothing on the boat and swimming in his underwear so that the clothing would not impede him and he would have dry clothing to wear later.  Being a fisherman, he would know that you do not swim well with an outer garment tied around you, for the weight of the garment as it gets wet could drag you under.  People take off their coats and jackets before they jump into the water to rescue others, and they do not wrap it around them.
  2. Did he jump out expecting to show the Lord that he had now learnt to walk on water?  If that was the case, it would be far more logical for him to put the outer garment on before stepping out of the boat to walk to shore dressed and ready to meet the Lord.
  3. We presume he swam to shore, but it is not written that he swam, although he was at the shore to climb into the boat to get some fish from the catch as Jesus requested.  So, how did he get to shore?

So, what new light does the Testimony shed on the Peter’s behaviour?  When we now see it in the light that the fishing trip was another act of disobedience, and Jesus was actually there like a teacher trying to retrieve disobedience students so that they would not miss an important appointment.

Read the Testimony for yourself and rethink what conclusions you have preciously drawn when you read of the incident in the good news report of John, but now see the event through the eyes of the Witness and His Testimony.

That is the power of a testimony.  It sets that which is reported in the news into its true context, and can reveal and even judge the thoughts, motives and actions of those who are involved in the events reported in the news.

Hr. Ed Kwan, manager of the Holy Spirit’s Workshop

Copyright Information:  NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION [NIV]  All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®,
NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan.  All rights reserved worldwide.  www.zondervan.com

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