The Second Calling


The Second Calling

June 17th, 1973 @ 7:30 PM

Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.
Print Sermon

Related Topics

Downloadable Media

sorry, there are no downloads available

Share This Sermon
Show References:


Dr. W. A. Criswell

John 21:10

6-17-73    7:30 p.m.


On the radio of the city of Dallas you are worshiping with us in the First Baptist Church, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Second Calling.  We have heard of the second blessing; this message is entitled The Second Calling.  And it is an exposition of a passage in the twenty-first chapter of the Gospel of John.  We turn to that now and read verses 4 through 14.  And if on the radio you have opportunity to open your Bible, do so and turn to the Gospel of John, the last chapter, chapter 21, and read with us verses 4 through 14.  Now, all of us, reading out loud together the Gospel of John, chapter 21, beginning at verse 4 and leaving off at verse 14; now, together, at verse 4:

But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.

Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat?  They answered Him, No.

And He said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find.  They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord.  Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.

And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.

As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals thereon, and fish laid thereon, and bread.

Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.

Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, a hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine.  And none of the disciples durst ask Him, Who art Thou?  knowing that it was the Lord.

Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.

This is now the third time that Jesus showed Himself to His disciples, after that He was risen from the dead.

[John 21:4-14] 

Then follows the beautiful passage that we will not take time to read; turning to Simon after they had eaten, He asked him, “Simon, son of Jonah, lovest thou Me more than these?” [John 21:15].  And three times the Lord asks Simon Peter that.  And then, in each time, the Lord would say, “Simon, feed My lambs.  Simon, shepherd My flock” [John 21:15-17].  Then the prophecy, “Verily, verily—truly, truly—I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.  This spake He, signifying by what death” [John 21:18-19], that is, by the stretching out of the hands, by crucifixion, “This spake He, signifying by what death He should glorify God.  And when He had spoken this, He saith unto him, Follow thou Me” [John 21:19].  And the last picture we have of Simon Peter is following our Lord unto crucifixion and unto death [2 Peter 1:14-15].

This is a most amazing chapter!  The Gospel of John ceases, reaches its climax, it stops manifestly so at the twentieth chapter.  The great confession of Thomas [John 20:28] is the apex toward which the Gospel of John has been steadily moving since the apostle first declared in the first verse: that “the Word”—Jesus Christ—”was God” [John 1:1].   And when Thomas the doubter, the twin, cried before the Lord and said, “My Lord and my God” [John20:28], that is the great, climactic confession of the book.  Then John closes it:

There are many other signs that Jesus did…

that are not written in this book:

But these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and believing you might have life in His name.

[John 20:30, 31]


And that closes the Gospel.  Why this appendix then, this addendum, the twenty-first chapter?  It is also very clear why John wrote this twenty-first chapter—which is an addition made doubtless years and years later—to the Gospel that he finished at chapter 20.

John and Peter were good friends, had been apparently all of their lives.  And Simon Peter was martyred, crucified, according to the prophecy of our Lord [John 21:18], in about 64 to 69 AD.  In that period of years, in the reign of Caesar Nero, Simon Peter was crucified.  The apostle John lived beyond the martyrdom of Simon Peter a full generation; for about 100 AD, thirty-five years later, John is still living and is pastor of the church in Ephesus, the great city of the Roman province of Asia.

Now in those days, the New Testament was not put together, but the books in the New Testament circulated individually.  Such as, Rome would have the Gospel of Mark.  Such as, Caesarea would have the Gospel of Luke.  Such as, Antioch would have the Gospel of Matthew.  Such as, Ephesus would have the Gospel of John.  The books circulated individually.  And the letters, of course, were the prizes of say the church at Corinth or the church at Philippi or the church at Colosse.  It was many years later that the New Testament was compiled.  That is all of the Gospels in circulation and all of the letters by the apostles in circulation were put together.  So at the beginning, the Gospels circulated individually.  Antioch, having the Gospel of Matthew, would send a copy of the Gospel of Matthew, say, down to Caesarea.  And Caesarea, having Luke, would send a copy of the Gospel of Luke to Antioch.  And the Gospels thus circulated among the churches individually.

Now in the story of Simon Peter in the Gospels, he is left in a rather poor light, for the dramatic scene of Jesus saying to His chief apostle, “Verily, I say unto you, before the cock crow twice,” that is before the dawn—the cock would usually crow at midnight and the cock would usually crow at dawn, the sun rising—”Verily, I say unto you, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny Me thrice”  [Mark 14:30].  And the story of Simon Peter warming himself by the fire and accosted by a little maid, and then by those who were surrounding him at the trial of Jesus, and finally Simon Peter, with an oath, reverting back to his old sailor-fishing days, cursing, swearing that he never knew the Lord, and the Lord was there in a few feet of him being condemned to crucifixion by the government [Mark 14:66-72].  That is a rather poor light, wouldn’t you think, for Simon Peter to be left?  And yet that is the dramatic story that almost closes Simon Peter’s part in the life of Jesus in the days of His flesh.  Therefore, after the passing of a generation, the apostle John decided to write an addendum to the Gospel and to pay tribute to his old friend, Simon Peter.  And that tribute, that in memoriam, is the twenty-first chapter of the Gospel, and there is no finer tribute that could be laid to a disciple of Christ than what John has written here in behalf of his old friend Simon Peter [John 21:15-19].

You see they had been together all of their lives.  When the scene opens in the Gospel, Simon Peter and Andrew, his brother, and James and the brother, John, are fishing partners with Zebedee, the father of James and John.  They are in a business together.  They are partners together.  And while they are partners, they go down to hear John the Baptist.  And upon a day, as the Lord walked by, John the Baptist pointed Him out and said, “Look, there goes the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world” [John 1:29].  And Andrew and John heard John the Baptist say that, and they followed Jesus and abode with Him that day, from ten o’clock in the morning [John 1:35-39].  John remembers the exact hour.

And after that introduction to the Lord, Andrew found his brother, Simon, and brought him to Jesus.  And thereafter, John and Simon Peter, with their brothers James and Andrew—and then in that same chapter, Philip and Nathanael—are the early disciples of our Lord in Judea [John 1:40-49].

As the days passed, the Lord began His ministry in Galilee and He saw Simon, and Andrew, and James, and John with their father, Zebedee, washing their nets [Luke 5:2].  And Jesus said to Simon, “The crowd presses Me on every hand.  May I borrow your boat?”  And He sat out in the boat just a few feet from the shore and taught to the people [Luke 5:1-3].

After He had spoken to the people, He said to Simon, “Simon, come and let down your nets for a draught.”  And Simon Peter replied, “Lord, we have fished all night long, and have caught nothing.  It is useless to let down the net for fish in the daytime when we cannot even catch them at night.”  Then looking at the Lord he added a little word, “nevertheless.”  Even though I think it useless and Your invitation to fish in the daytime in this place is without profit; “nevertheless, at Thy word I will let down the net” [Luke 5:4-5].

Isn’t that a marvelous spirit to have?  “Lord, I don’t understand, and I may not be able to explain, and my experience contradicts what You say, nevertheless, at Thy word I will let down the net.  Nevertheless, Lord, if this is Thy will, I will do it trusting Thee at Thy command, Thy word.”  And when Simon Peter let down the net, it was immediately filled with a great catch, so that the net itself began to break.  And they called for their partners.  And they filled the two boats with fish.  And when Simon Peter saw it, he fell at the feet of the Lord Jesus, and said, “Lord, You do not know me as I really am.  I am a sinful man.  I am not worthy to stand in Your presence.  Depart from me, Lord.”  And the Lord said, “Simon, stand up, stand up, from henceforth thou shalt catch men,” and he forsook all with his friend John, “and followed Jesus” [Luke 5:6-11].

These, Peter, James, and John, were with our Lord when He raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead [Luke 8:49-56].   These, Peter, James, and John, were with our Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration [Matthew 17:1-13].   These, Peter, James, John, and Andrew, were with the Lord on the Mount of Olives when coming from the temple and pointing out the great stones, the Lord said, “The day is coming when there will be no temple here at all, these stones cast down.”  And they asked the Lord, “When shall those things be?  And what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?”  [Mark 13:1-4], Peter, James, and John there with Andrew.  Then in the preparation of the Lord’s Supper that awesome last night, He sent Peter and John to prepare for the breaking of bread and the drinking of the cup [Luke 22:7-13].  And at the Lord’s Supper, it was Simon Peter and John who were so close to the Lord, John laying his head on the bosom of Jesus.  And when the Lord said, “One of you shall betray Me,” Peter turned to John and said, “John, ask Him, who is it.  Is it I?  Could it be I?” [John 13:21-25; Mark 14:19].

And after the Lord’s Supper, in dark Gethsemane, it was Peter, James, and John that the Lord took with Him [Matthew 26:36-46].   And then, at the trial of Jesus, John, being known to the high priest and the Sanhedrin, went in with the Lord.  But Simon Peter stood outside, and John went outside and having spoken to the guard at the door, brought Simon Peter in [John 18:15-17].  And he was warming himself by the fire when, frightened that they thought they knew him by his accent and by having seen him with Jesus, brought those stern, awesome cursings and denials that he ever knew the Lord [Mark 14:66-71].

Then after Jesus was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:1-7], Mary Magdalene went to Peter and John and said, “His body is gone, somebody has taken it away” [John 20:1-2], and they ran to the tomb.  And the younger man, John, outran Simon.  And when Simon came, he just ran into the tomb.  Then the younger man who got there first went in, and seeing the napkin wrapped up by itself, lying in its own place, he recognized the way Jesus wrapped a napkin and believed that the Lord was raised from the dead, though he knew not the Scripture yet, that He should live again [John 20:4-9].

And it was here in this scene in Galilee [Mark 14:66-72] that John writes the tribute to his old friend Simon [John 21:15-19] and then thereafter—and we cease this following.  In the third chapter of Acts, Peter and John are going up to the temple at the hour of prayer [Acts 3:1].  Then Simon preaches his sermon [Acts 3:12-26].  “And then the Sanhedrin, seeing the boldness of Peter and John, took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus” [Acts 4:13].   Then, at the Samaritan Pentecost, after the great revival under Philip, the deacon, the evangelist [Acts 8:5-12], the church sent Peter and John that they might lay hands upon them and that they might receive the Holy Spirit [Acts 8:14-17].   I am just following that just somewhat in order that you might see, realize, the close companionship of these two men, Simon Peter and John, the son of Zebedee.

They were so unlike; John was tender and sensitive.  At the Lord’s Supper it is he that lays his head on the bosom of Jesus [John 13:23-25].  In the tomb, it is John, who, seeing the napkin wrapped up as Jesus would fold it, believed, even though he knew not the Scripture He should rise from the dead [John 20:3-9].  And it is John who writes this beautiful Fourth Gospel that reveals the very heart of Jesus.  Peter is an opposite type of a man.  Peter is objective; he is volitive, he is impetuous, he is impulsive!  And what John is instinctively, subjectively, Simon Peter is objectively and actively.  And yet those two men, so very much unlike, are the dearest and finest of friends.

Now, the tribute: the first calling of Simon Peter to discipleship was the one that I referred to a moment ago, when Jesus borrowed the boat of the fisherman and then asked Simon to get into it and let down the net for a draught.  And when the fish were caught in such multitudes, it convicted the heart of the rough fisherman.  And bowing at the knees of Jesus and confessing himself a lost, unworthy sinner, the Lord lifted him up and sent him out to be a fisher of men [Luke 5:1-10].  That is the first calling of Simon Peter and now the second.

After the Lord was crucified [John 19:16-30], the disciples lost all hope.  Every vision and dream they had of the messianic kingdom perished when they heard the ring of the nails and when they saw the blood gush from the heart of our Lord [John 19:34].  Every vision died when Jesus died.  And those eleven disciples crawled into eleven shadows, there to moan and to lament the false, fallen hopes and dreams that they had of a great messianic kingdom, when one of them would sit on the one side of the Lord and the other would sit on the other side of the Lord [Mark 10:37], and they would be the kings and rulers of the whole earth.  That vision perished when Jesus died.

Not having the commission, having no idea of Pentecost, having no idea of the great worldwide preaching of the gospel, Simon Peter goes back to his old fishing business.  And in the twenty-first chapter of the Gospel of John, he is plying his old trade.  He’s back at the old life.  He’s fishing for a living, for a business, for a vocation, again.  Simon goes back to his old trade.  He was such a leader of men that when Simon said, “I am going back to the old fishing, I am going back to my old life,” the six other disciples who were up there in Galilee with him said, “We will go too” [John 21:1-3].   So there they are, back at the old stand, back at the old boat, back with the old nets, back at the old place, back in the old world that they knew before first they met the Lord.  And Simon Peter is back at his old trade, fishing.

They toil through the night, and again catch nothing, and in the gray mist of the dawn, there is a shadow, they can’t make out quite who [John 21:4].  But there is a shadowy figure on the shore, and He raises His voice, and He says, “Children, have ye any meat?  Children, have you caught any fish?”  And they answer to Him, “No!”  And then whoever that is on the shore lifts up His voice and says, “Take your net and put it on the right side of the boat, and you will catch.”  So they just took the net from this side to that side and caught a whole multitude of fish.  And when that happened, John turned to Simon and said, “Simon, you know who that is?  That’s the Lord! That’s the Lord!  That’s the Lord!” [John 21:5-7].  An impetuous, impulsive, volitive Simon Peter jumped into the sea and came to the shore where Jesus was.  And the other disciples struggled with the net and struggled with the net.  When they came to the shore, they saw a fire and bread and broiled fish, and the Lord said, “Bring up the catch” [John 21:7-10].  And I want you to look.  When they wrote that book, The Big Fisherman, they entitled it correctly.  In the sixth verse it says, “They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes” [John 21:6].  Now, you look at it here; then Simon Peter went up, and the Lord said, “Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.”  Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes just by himself [John 21:10-11].  Six of those disciples were wrestling with that great haul of fish, struggling with it, and Simon Peter went down there and pulled it up himself!  He must have been a tremendous, physical specimen of a man.

Now, the story, “And when they came to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread” [John 21:9].   A fire of coals, anthrakia; anthrax is the Greek word for “coal,” anthracite is a kind of coal.  They saw a fire of coals there.  I wonder if that brought something back to the heart of Simon, for in the eighteenth chapter of the Gospel of John: “And the servants and the officers stood there, who had made an anthrakia—a fire of coals” [John 18:18], when Simon Peter, warming himself, denied the Lord [John 18:17-18]—an anthrakia; the only two places that word is used in the New Testament.  Here, when Simon Peter, inside the courtyard where Jesus is being tried by the Sanhedrin in the great space allotted to the high priest Caiaphas, he is warming himself at the anthrakia—at the coal of fires—when he denies the Lord [Acts 18:17-18].  Now, here on the shore, when they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals—an anthrakia [John 21:9].  Now, I am going to have to pronounce it anthrakia to make it rhyme in this poem.  But this is one of the most beautiful and one of the most unusual poems I have ever stumbled across in my life.  And it is entitled “Anthrakia”; anthrakia, the heap of coals, the fire of coals” [John 21:9].  Listen to it.

No stern rebuke nor withering scorn

Could have wrought so much that wondrous morn,

For as Peter looked on the glowing coal,

Shame and remorse swept over his soul.

And thoughts pierced and burnt like sword in fire

As he gazed upon this anthrakia.

For he saw himself yet once again

In the high priest’s hall of reputed fame,

Remembered the oath, the curse, the lie,

When there he did his Lord deny.

As man and maid would of him inquire

When he stood with the crowd at the anthrakia.

Yet behold what wondrous love returned

By the One whose name he had so spurned.

Those nail-pierced hands could a meal prepare

And a tender voice that called him there,

And a heart overflowing with tender desire

Had kindled for him the anthrakia.

Beloved, in this cold world around

Where trouble and strife are everywhere found.

When friends may deny us and loved ones forsake,

And foes look upon us in envy and hate,

To reflect such grace let us all aspire

With the warmth of our Savior’s anthrakia.

[“Anthrakia,” F.E. Batson]


The Heap of Coals.

So after they had eaten breakfast, the Lord turns to Simon Peter and says, “Simon, son of Jonah, lovest thou Me?” [John 21:16]   The last time that the Lord had looked at him in the days of His flesh was when Simon Peter was cursing, “I never knew Him” [Matthew 26:72-74].  And while he was cursing, the Lord turned and looked upon him, and the Scriptures say, “And Simon went out and wept bitterly” [Matthew 26:75].   Now, at the coal of fires, He turns and says, “Simon, Simon, lovest thou Me?”  [John 21:15, 16].  And Simon replies, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You” [John 21:17].  I have denied You, I have cursed saying it, but, Lord, it was in weakness.  Forgive me.  It was in fear for my life.  It was in cowardice.  Forgive me.  And the Lord said, “Simon, you are already forgiven.”

“How do you know that, pastor?”  Do you remember that night? That night He turned to Simon and said, “Simon, Simon” and whenever the Lord repeats a man’s name, it is always so profound and meaningful what the Lord is going to say:

Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have thee,

that he may sift thee as wheat:

But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not:

and when thou art converted—

when you turn, and when thou art converted—

strengthen your brethren.

[Luke 22:31-32]

Jesus knew all about it—what he would do, prophesied that he would do it: “Before the cock crow twice, thrice you will deny Me” [Mark 14:30].   But, Simon, that is a human weakness, it is a cowardice and I have already forgiven it.  “And, Simon, when you come back, when you come back, strengthen the brethren” [Luke 22:32].  And that is this:

“Simon, lovest thou Me?”

“Lord, You know that I do.”

“Simon, take care of My lambs.  Take care of My little ones.

Shepherd My sheep.  Take care of My flock.”

[John 21:15-17]

And then the final prophecy, “Simon, when you were young, you dressed yourself, put on your clothes, walked anywhere that you pleased, but when you shall be old…” [John 21:18]; this is about a prophecy that shall come to pass about thirty years later.  Jesus is speaking in about 30, 31, 32 AD, and Simon Peter was crucified from 65 to 69 AD.  So somewhere about thirty years later, so He says, “When thou shalt be old, somebody else will gird you and carry wither thou wouldest not” [John 21:18].  How will he be girded, to prepare with his hands outstretched to be crucified?

When you are old, thou shalt stretch forth your hands and another shall gird thee and carry thee—

 in an awesome place, to a cross—

This spake He signifying by what death he should glorify God.

And when He had thus spoken, He said, Follow Me.

[John 21:18-19]

And Simon Peter is last seen in the Gospels, following Jesus unto crucifixion and unto death [2 Peter 1:12-15].

I submit, could there have been a finer or a greater tribute that John could have written to his old friend Simon Peter, than thus to present him as he actually was?  A man volitive, yes!  A man impetuous, yes!  And of great weaknesses, yes!  But a man who loved Jesus and followed Him unto death!  “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.”  Does that mean you’ll be saved?  No.  “Be thou faithful unto death,” even if it costs you your life, “and I will reward you with a crown, a stephanos, unfailing, incorruptible, that shall never pass away” [Revelation 2:10].

As I go through that Book, is there something of the Holy Spirit in your heart?  Does God say something to you?  Does He?  Just following the Scriptures, looking at those two disciples, does the Lord speak to you?  Does He call you either for a first confession of faith or for the dedication of a life in His blessed name?  Does God say something to you?  Does He speak to you?  If He does, in a moment when we stand up to sing our appeal, would you answer with your life?  “Pastor, God has spoken to me and here I am.  Here I come.”  Would you make that decision now in your heart?  And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming down that aisle.  A family, a couple, or just you, just you; if the Lord says the word, if the Lord speaks, if God calls, on the first note of that first stanza, down one of these stairways or into the aisle, here to the front, “Here I am, pastor, here I come.  I make that decision now, I am on the way” [Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8].  And may angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.