By: Northern Seminary
After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
– John 21:1–3 (NIV)
After Jesus’ resurrection his disciples left Jerusalem and returned to Galilee. There they are confronted with the question: “What’s next?”
How will Christ’s ministry continue without his presence? How will Christ’s mission for kingdom building continue when the king has left the scene? As amazing as their Savior’s resurrection was, what were they supposed to do now? How can they embody the hope Christ gave the world?
So, what’s next for them?
Back home, the disciples returned to business as usual. The highlight of their life had passed and there was nothing else to do but go back to their normal routine. Fishing was something most of them did before meeting Christ. It was familiar and safe.
Besides, Jesus was the star player of the team and without him their team had fallen apart. What will make the disciples stick together? Jesus’ resurrection demonstrated that he was the only reason for their victories. So how could they continue the mission without him?
The resurrection proved Jesus is the Messiah and those who lived during his earthly ministry and saw his life were blessed. And now, they had a great experience they could tell their kids. So that’s it, right?
No, praise the Lord! Jesus appeared to them yet again, this time giving his followers their next assignment, the Great Commission:
Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
– Matthew 28:19–20 (NIV)
How could Jesus place such high expectations upon them when he knew their weaknesses? Why does he have confidence in them? His friends said they loved him, but when Jesus was at his time of greatest need, they didn’t pray with him in the Garden of Gethsemane, didn’t stand with him when he was being attacked, and didn’t defend him when others shouted, “Crucify him!”
Why trust them to continue this precious ministry?
Here’s why. God, full of grace and mercy, looks past our weaknesses, failures, and infidelity, and sees our strengths, successes, and faithfulness, even when they’re insignificant to others or easily overlooked. Like the parable of the mustard seed, just a small measure of faith pleases God and thus has power to move mountains.
- Remember that Peter had enough faith to walk on water and proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God (Matthew 14:25–29). While others might focus on the fact that Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus prayed for Peter and encouraged him to lead and strengthen his fellow disciples.
- Remember that Thomas courageously influenced his companions to go with Jesus to Jerusalem, even if they had to die with him (John 11:16). While others nicknamed him “Doubting Thomas” because of his disbelief concerning Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus tenderly answered his questions and allowed him to touch his wounds.
- Remember that the twelve disciples left everything to follow Jesus (Matthew 19:27). While others focused on the disciples’ abandonment of Jesus during his arrest, Jesus appeared to them after his resurrection and encouraged them that he would never leave them—thus they did not need to be afraid.
Yes, this same Jesus sees us the same way, too. His expectations are not based on our shortcomings but on the small steps of obedience we take to follow him. We might have an embarrassing past or perhaps our grades make us want to quit and stay at our secular jobs. But God’s voice says, “Wait, I have more for you to do.”
Recall King David—he had plenty of weaknesses, but Yahweh made him the standard of godly character for future kings. While everyone, including ourselves, focuses on our mistakes, faults, sins, and limitations, God sees our brokenness, humility, strength, and potential.
Since we have disappointed Jesus more than we are able to count, why does he have such confidence in us? How can he entrust the greatest treasure, the gospel, to us when we so easily forget its value? Why? Because…
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
– Psalm 103:11–12 (NIV)
God’s love for us is immeasurable! His love casts out fear while covering a multitude of sins. Like the prodigal son’s father, he’s willing to start right where we left off. Jesus made us and he knows exactly what we are capable of doing when we stay close to him. Since we are in his hands, he can place his Great Commission in ours. As the gospel artist Maurette Brown Clark sings, “It ain’t over until God says it’s over.”
So, what’s next for you?
Stephanie Franco is the Student Accounts Associate at Northern Seminary and a current M.Div. student. She is also an adjunct mathematics professor at a local community college. Over the years, Stephanie has led the nursery, women’s, prayer, and worship ministries within the local church. Kevin, her husband of over twenty years, is a biblical scholar and a proud alumnus of Northern Seminary. Together they have three teenage sons: Michael, Joseph, and Jonathan.