Peter S Barlow
Acts 9: 3-5 (to “I am Jesus”)
Luke 5: 5-8; 10 (from “And Jesus”)
John 21: 5-7
These four words in the last portion we have read have been very much upon my heart this week: “It is the Lord”. Particularly in this day, how far is there any recognition of divine authority? They are beautiful words: “It is the Lord”; they point to a wonderful glorious Man. We think of the clamour and the noise that is around us, and particularly in this day and age we find in the affairs of men that everyone stands for their own rights and what belongs to themselves. There is generally a loss of fear or acknowledgement of God.
Considering this scripture drew me to the other two scriptures and in both of them you see the words of the speaker referring to the Lord Jesus as Lord. I believe that the only way you come into what God is freely offering through the glad tidings is to acknowledge the One that has secured the basis for God to come out in blessing, and to acknowledge Him as Lord.
I do not decry the many signs we see about, ‘Jesus saves’ and ‘Jesus lives’; they are beautiful. That is how the Lord introduces Himself to Saul. He says, “I am Jesus”, Acts 9: 5. The way into the joy of blessing and salvation is to come to acknowledge that there is a far greater authority than anything here. There is a far greater Person, and He is the Lord. Saul was a very great man in his day: naturally speaking, he was a man of much ability; and, in persecuting the saints, he thought he was doing it for God. As the Lord spoke to him as that light shone out of heaven he fell to the ground. I would that each one of us would have that experience of seeing the light out of heaven shine round about; that we should fall to the ground. It puts me entirely out of sight. It puts a man that is at enmity with God out of the way. It has been spoken of as Saul being smashed here (JND Synopsis on Acts p25); and what was the end in view? What is the end in view in the gospel preaching for every one of us? It is not that we should merely know what it is to be prostrate, but that God can raise us up to something new. “Who art thou, Lord?”. I would judge that Saul probably knew very few greater than himself. There was some acknowledgement of God, “Pharisee, son of Pharisees” (Acts 23: 6), “brought up in this city, at the feet of Gamaliel” (Acts 22: 3); he was a very great, intelligent and capable man, but immediately as that light shone round about him he recognised Someone far greater: “Who art thou, Lord?”
Beloved, have you made that cry? Have you felt that touch? Have you felt that feeling of God speaking directly to you? Do you feel that shaft of light reaching into the very inmost of your heart? Have you realised that you have to do with a great and eternal God? Acknowledge the One who speaks, the One who is the Son; acknowledge Him as Lord. I really believe that joy, salvation, peace with God can only be found as accepting Jesus as Lord. That glorious One would love to have that touch with you. He says, “I am Jesus”; He wants that wonderful personal relationship with you. He cannot have that if I am in the way; He cannot have that relationship if I come first. He can only come in as I acknowledge His greatness and glory; acknowledge Him as Lord; and He will present Himself as Jesus. Is not that a wonderful blessing? Did He do that to make little of you? No; He does that because His heart is so full He wants you for Himself. He wants you to know the fulness and greatness of His love towards you. He wants you to acknowledge who He is, to acknowledge what He has done, and to find in Him your joy, and rest, and peace, and everlasting, and eternal salvation; all this is to be found in the one who is Lord.
Another scripture that has been very much on my heart is Psalm 2: 6:
And I have anointed my king upon Zion,
the hill of my holiness.
That is what God has done; why has He done that? He has done that because He only had one Man before Him, and that One is the One who desires to be Lord to you. That is what God has done, and that is the One God is presenting in the gospel tonight, beloved hearer; the One whom He has anointed upon Zion, upon “the hill of my holiness”. Consider that: the hill of his holiness. When Saul was struck down here he came to recognise he was nothing. If we recognise that, what part can we have with the hill of His holiness? What part can we have in the presence of God?
That is why I read the second scripture, in Luke. Peter journeyed with the Lord. He knew what it was to go about with the Lord, to see the Lord carry out healing, and all that the Lord had done; what a blessed portion was this. There is a blessed portion available to each one of us. We can have to do with this glorious One that Peter knew and journeyed with. We can have to do with Him as now in glory: that is very much better. We need to understand that the Lord was here as the One whom God had sent; we were very much impressed with that today: what God has secured in the Lord Jesus in all that He has done in coming into this scene.
The holiness of God has been ignored, man has set himself apart from it, and man has come short of the glory of God. He has sinned, he has forfeited a place in what God has prepared, but God has provided the answer to that for you and for me in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Peter journeyed with the Lord here; the Lord’s journey would have been in a very limited area, but the Lord reaches out to every heart, to every man, woman and child in every corner of the globe. He is reaching out even in a way much closer today than when He was walking amongst them; He is reaching out to you from the glory. He has drawn nigh and God presents Him in the glad tidings to you, to claim Him for yourself and own Him as Lord.
Here was Peter, and we have here with Peter another feature for entering into blessing; he is obedient. He says, “having laboured through the whole night we have taken nothing, but at thy word …”. How often do I hear the word of God and I do not believe it? I believe I know better. God is so gracious and so wonderful that He will speak again. He will reach out yet again; why, is it for me? Yes, He wants me to have peace and joy with Him, but it is for the satisfaction of His own heart of love. Beloved, can you grasp that? The gospel is setting us free; it goes towards our liberty, but it goes towards satisfying the heart of God. He wants you, He wants me; He wants us to enjoy His love and to answer to it. That is where the gospel comes from; it comes from a God of love, and He is reaching out to you tonight. Here Peter is obedient. We just have to trust; we just have to accept what is said and to trust and to go on. God will make it clear. Peter says he will obey, and what an abundance he received: fishes so that the nets were breaking and they had to call upon their partners: what a God of provision we have! How much He provides, how much He has given, but what can compare with the giving of His only begotten Son? What can compare with the giving of the Lord Jesus, the One who was most precious to Him, the One whom He opened the heavens upon? Never was there One who walked before God as Jesus did. Never did God find delight in such a man as Jesus, His only begotten Son; He gave Him up for me: beloved, He gave Him up for you. He gave Him up to the cruellest death that man could devise. The constant rejection by man was because of the glory that shone out in that One, the perfection there. What did man do but hang Him upon the cross; they nailed Him there; they thought that was the end. Beloved, for God that was the beginning for you and me. He established in the death of Christ a righteous basis on which He could come out in wondrous blessing. Can we have our part there, that hill of holiness? Thank God for every believer that places their faith and trust in the completed work of the Lord Jesus Christ, who has confidence in that precious shed blood. Surely we can know what it is to enter into God’s presence, to know that hill of holiness, to know the One who is anointed, “anointed my king upon Zion”. The King is reaching out to you tonight, beloved hearer, through the gospel.
Peter here is so overcome by the abundance that he says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord”. I can assure you the last thing Peter wanted was the Lord to depart from him. While he was fully exposed - oh that I knew what it was to be fully exposed in the presence of God - he realised that he was in the presence of God here; he realised what he was and how unfit he was to be there; but the One who is God could say to him, “Fear not”. That is what God says to you tonight. Do you feel your need? Do you feel that burden? Do you feel the darkness of sin you are in, that is bringing you down? Come to have to do with Jesus. Come into the presence of God. Yes, everything will be exposed but you can hear those glorious words, “Fear not”. If the Creator of the universe says to you, “Fear not”, be assured you have nothing to fear. They left everything. You might say, ‘What abundance to leave!’. Now there is one Man occupying them, the One who in His Person was God, and the One who for God has secured the basis on which God can come out in wonderful blessing to you tonight.
It is good to study Peter through the Scriptures. It is good to study all those with whom the Lord had to do because it links you back to Him. You see the grace and glory of the One with whom those in the Scriptures had to do. That is what the gospel seeks to do. It would lead you to Jesus, that you should have your part with Him where He is. We find Peter off fishing again; it is so easy to be distracted. It is so easy to turn aside. We have had a good day today, we have touched some very special things, but I wonder where I will be tomorrow. Peter says, “I go to fish” and sadly he took others with him. How easy that is: we may be involved in taking others with us in something that seems innocuous. The wonderful thing with Peter is that he is very quickly recovered. (No longer is Peter fearful or cast down here when John - the disciple whom Jesus loved - says to him, “It is the Lord”.) He had an appreciation that what had been done for him was not done for just a moment; it was done for eternity. “It is the Lord”: no hesitation with Peter now.
If you hear those words, beloved, “It is the Lord”, what is your answer to them? Is there hesitation? Do you say, ‘I must go and do this or that?’. Become more like Peter: it says, “having heard that it was the Lord”. Do those words find an answer in your heart? When you hear those words does it stir something up in your heart; “It is the Lord”? I wish I knew it more. If you see some presentation of the Lord, does it cause an answer in your heart? Beloved, if you know the efficacy of the completeness of the Lord’s work, if you know what it is to be outside of the clamour and of the scene in which we move, if you know what it is to have to do with Jesus, there will be an answer in your heart as you hear those words, “It is the Lord”. There is no hesitation with Peter, even though he was fully exposed yet again. He was exposed the first time and he says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord”. Now I think he was in the appreciation of the complete fulness of the work of Christ. It says, “Simon Peter therefore, having heard that it was the Lord, girded his overcoat on him (for he was naked), and cast himself into the sea”. I would speak carefully, but I believe that he realised that all that he was was entirely covered, and it was covered by the work of Christ. They had been fishing all night and they caught nothing, but here are a hundred and fifty-three fishes, a multitude of fishes.
Every provision is in this glorious One: “It is the Lord”. He has everything to meet your need. He has entirely met all the claims of God upon you. God condemned sin completely and utterly at the cross and put it out of His sight; and - more blessed - He has also put out of sight the man that sinned, because Jesus has gone into the grave. But He is risen, He is glorified, He is exalted; He spoke to Saul from the glory. “Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus”. He speaks to you tonight, beloved. He speaks to you as a glorious and risen Saviour, exalted at God’s right hand. Beloved, truly “It is the Lord”. I believe the Lord is the answer to everything - be it in the world, be it exercises we have, be it concerns we have; take it to the Lord. It is the Lord that has the answer, and He alone, and He will give you the answer and He will provide; “fish laid on it, and bread”. What provision the Lord has! He meets every need. He has everything for you; trust in Him. He has been received up into glory.
How can I be assured that He has the answer? He has given the gift of the blessed Holy Spirit that we should be sustained and maintained in this scene, and that we should be drawn to Him. The Spirit’s great work is drawing us to Christ, drawing us to Christ where He is; One who is far above, One who is exalted, One who is risen and glorified, a most blessed Man who has fully made known the heart of God, but the One who is reaching out to you tonight because He wants you for Himself; entirely in liberty in His presence, so that you too can say, “It is the Lord”.
May it be the portion of each and every one, for His Name’s sake.
1st March 2015