“That Night” – “When the Morning Was Come”

Fort Worth Star-Telegram – July 27, 1940


John 21:3

Sermon by Dr. J. Frank Norris, delivered on the last Sunday of his 31 years with the First Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas, July 28, 1940.

(Stenographically Reported)

DR. NORRIS: May I invite your attention to a selection as found in the 21st chapter, beginning with the 3rd verse:

“Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.

“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? Then answered him, No.

12th verse, reading on – “Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciple durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.

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

15th verse, “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?”

My text today is two words or rather two portions of two verses – one word, “That night” – “That night.”

And the second word, “But the morning come.”

The night and the morning – not the morning and the night, but the night and the morning.

Let me give you the two passages again – “That night” – “That night.”

Does it not suggest volumes of meaning to your soul?

And the next word, “But when the morning was now come.”

What is symbolized by those two words!

“That night” that means man’s failure, for it says, “They caught nothing.”

“That night,” means disappointment.

“That night” sums up all the failures and achievements of man on earth.

“That night” – those two words sum up all there is of human history.

Go back to the past and study where you will. Read the accounts of men, nations, and empires – it is all summed up in those two words – That night.”

No wonder then that that night” of darkness symbolizes evil.

It is not an accident that the first word immediately after creation we find in the second verse of the first chapter in the Bible “and darkness was upon the face of the deep.”

It was not an accident that Jesus was betrayed at night, that He was tried at night – contrary to Roman procedure.

It was not an accident, my friends, that before His betrayal He went to the darkness of Gethsemane – “That night.”

We have “The children of darkness,” representing the powers, the armies of the Evil One.

It is at night that your troubles pile high, and often you wonder, When will the morning come?”

A great preacher in the days before the arc lights, when the streets lighted with gas lights – the old preacher arose one morning and looked out – tried to, but it was dark. The lights on the streets were gone. He looked and the clouds were hanging low, and not a star to be seen.

He turned and groped back to his bed and fell on his face in despair – dark – dark.

What was it?

The old keeper of the street lights, knowing that the morning was near, had gone along and turned out the gas and the stars were gone and the clouds were hanging low. Therefore it was dark. And so therefore we say, “The darkest hour is just before day.”

It looks as if this is the darkest hour of the history of the world, and I verily believe it is. But let’s hope, yea verily, let’s feel that it means the coming of the most glorious day of time and eternity !

I shall never forget early one morning before day, way up in Northern Michigan – it was cold, and I preached

that night and had to drive back. We had about a hundred mile trip and Bill Fraser was with me.

After we had gone about twenty-five miles the sun rose in all its glory in the East, and old Bill with his fine, Scotch voice struck up those familiar words.

“When morning gilds the skies,
My heart awaking cries:
May Jesus Christ be praised;
Alike at work and prayer
To Jesus I repair:
May Jesus Christ be praised.

When sleep her balm denies,
My silent spirit sighs:
May Jesus Christ be praised;
When evil thoughts molest,
With this I shield my breast:
May Jesus Christ be praised.

Does sadness fill my mind,
A solace here I find:
May Jesus Christ be praised;
Or fades my earthly bliss,
My comfort still is this:
May Jesus Christ be praised.”

And an otherwise tired morning was turned into an hour of praise.

“That night” – those two words – could I not stand here all day and give you examples of “That night” – many of which you would be familiar with.

“That night”- there was one around January, 1912 – January 10th.

“That night” – there was another about February 1st of that same year.

“That night” – there was a whole summer of “nights,” like the Northern Nights of six months, in that same year.

“That night” – there was a fall of darkness when there was only a little handful of us, poor, struggling men and women, despised, ridiculed, laughed at – we would met together in a little board tabernacle right down here three blocks away on Burnett and Lamar, where we had to pay Ş1500 a year for rent for the bare ground.

“That night” – I remember I had several positions. I was pastor and janitor. And one night there came a terrible storm and the rains beat into that little board tabernacle and the ground was wet. I got up before day and came and lit the gas stoves to dry out the place.

“That night” represents financial bankruptcy times without number, when we wondered whether or not we would be able to stay in business.

“That night” – when it was my joy, as I look back at it now – didn’t mind it much then – to go out and hold meetings and lectures and bring in money to keep the church alive, and to keep the creditors from closing the doors.

“That night” represents the time of your faithfulness, of your prayers, and your gifts.

“That night” represents the time when out of the abundance of your poverty not of your wealth, but out of the abundance of your poverty, your liberality abounded to the glory of Christ.

Oh, “that night” represents the struggles of ill health, not only financially bankrupt but physically.

“That night” – represents the time when we were living in fear and dread.

“But the morning come!”

If I had been a rank infidel thirty years ago, and been in another world and dropped down here and seen the demonstration of God’s power, His marvelous deliverances, the translations out of darkness into light, the deliverances across the Red Sea, His preservation through the wilderness journey, the cloud by day to shade us from the scorching heat of the sun, the pillar of fire that gave light to the children of God while there was darkness to the enemy, how He sent the manna as they journeyed every day, and how He opened the swollen streams of Jordan and they crossed over, and gave them the land that was promised by covenant to the fathers, and into a land that was flowing with milk and honey, a land filled with magnificent cities they did not build, and wells of water they did not dig, and orchards of fruit they did not plant – I would be compelled to say, “Only God could have wrought this.”

My soul calls upon this great throng to join with David,

“Make a joyful voice unto the Lord, all ye lands,

Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

Know ye that the Lord he is God it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture,

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”

“Why, O my soul, these anxious cares?
Why thus cast down with doubts and fears?
How canst thou want if God provide,
Or loose thy way with such a guide?

When first before his mercy seat
Thou didst to him thy all commit,
He gave thee warrant from that hour
To trust his wisdom, love, and power.

Did ever trouble yet befall,
And he refuse to hear thy call?
And has he not his promise past
That thou shalt overcome at last?

He who has helped me hitherto,
Will help me all my journey through,
And give me daily cause to raise
New Ebenezers to his praise.”

And so as generations come and go, after you and I have gone home to God, if Christ tarries – when they see this work there will be but one answer to What mean ye by these stones!” There will be but one answer – “There is a God in Israel.”

And so it is a fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy when he answered and said,

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.

“Who are thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.

“Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you.”

And listen to this question:

“For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth.”

But thanks be to God, my friends, I love to think of the morning.

What does the morning mean?

The morning means victory.

The morning means the trump of God.

The morning means rapture.

“Welcome, happy morning! age to age shall say,
Hell today is vanquished; heaven is won today;
Lo, the dead is living, God for evermore,
Him their true Creator, all His works adore;
Welcome, happy morning! age to age shall say.

Earth with joy confesses, clothing her for spring,
All good gifts returned with her returning King;
Bloom in every meadow, leaves on every bough,
Speak His sorrows ended, hail His triumph now:
Hell today is vanquished; heaven is won today.

Months in due succession, days of lengthening light,
Hours and passing moments praise Thee in their flight;
Brightness of the morning, sky and fields
Vanquished of darkness bring their praise to Thee;
Welcome, happy morning! age to age shall say.”

The night is gone; the morning is come. That means
Jesus Christ has come in glory and power.

What does it mean, my friends?

It means the hour of the resurrection.

As I looked through the cemetery day before yesterday morning where you left some of your loved ones, where you shed your tears, where you went back and saw the withered flowers the next day – I thought of the words; “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” – how long will it take to make that change? “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” – when? – “at the last trump:” – what else? – “for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed” – why? “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written” – the saying that old Hosea penned and Isaiah wrote under inspiration – “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”

Then together the risen saints and the living saints changed, shall fill the air with the glad anthem in antiphonal song,

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”

And all the saints will join in the glad Hallelujah!

“But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”


And my last word is this:

“And when the morning was now come” – it means a feast.

It means breakfast with the Lord. I want you to get that scene. Mothers, do you grow tired and weary with the burdens of a family? Do you dread the drudgery, cooking, sweeping, washing dishes? A woman’s work is never done.

The time is coming when we will meet in that Morning, after the night is over.

The disciples had failed, and they looked and saw the glorious person, the most magnificent figure that eyes ever witnessed or angels ever adored – He is the Son of God and the Son of Man. How majestically He walked upon the shore of Galilee!

And they looked upon him – and they looked upon Him – and they didn’t know that it was Jesus.

A thousand times He has been in our homes and we didn’t know Him.

But Oh, when they come to the shore, then they recognize Jesus.

And what happened ?

Jesus came to these tired disciples “when the morning was now come,” and asked, “Have you had anything to eat?” He knew they were hungry. And mark you the Word, the record says, “And they saw some coals of fire.” You know what He had done? He had made a fire and let the wood burn down to coals – I have seen Entzminger make a fire of wood and burn it down to coals and roast the fish. So Jesus said, I am going to cook breakfast for you.” They didn’t have any fish; they hadn’t caught any, until He told them where to cast the net, and they caught a hundred and fifty three and they pulled the net in and yet the net did not break.

So when we accept His command, His way, instead of our way, then we will have our net full of fish.

Then that happened?

Jesus, with His own nail-scarred hands, prepares the fish and broiled the fish, and then He told them to sit down, and they didn’t even have to wait on themselves. Here the Son of God and the Son of Man, after His resurrection, with His own nail-pierced hands, prepared breakfast and served them while the disciples sat down – a marvelous picture of the hour when they shall come from the East and the West, and from the North and the South, and shall sit down in heavenly places with Christ Jesus, and with His own nail scarred hands He will serve us – not on the shores of Galilee, but on Immanuel’s shores, and will not have need of sun, moon, or stars to light it, but with His own glorious presence.

Then we will forget the night!

Then we shall laugh at the storms!

Then we shall rejoice in it!

Then we will be glad we put some money in it.

Then we will be glad we put some time in it.

Then we will be glad we put some sweat in it.

Then we will be glad we put some tears in it.

How wonderful that the hour will soon come when we shall sit down, and Jesus will feed His own beloved disciples!

“Come, Lord, and tarry not
Bring the long-looked for day;
O why these years of waiting here,
These ages of delay ?

Come, for thy saints still wait;
Daily ascends their sigh;
The spirit and the Bride say, ‘come’;
Dost thou not hear the cry?

Come, for creation groans
Impatient of thy stay,
Worn out with these long years of ill
These ages of delay.

Come, and make all things new;
Build up this ruined earth;
Restore our faded Paradise,
Creation’s second birth.

Come, and begin thy reign,
Of everlasting peace;
Come, take the kingdom of Thyself,
Great King of Righteousness.”

And one of these nights at the midnight hour you will hear the shout, “Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye out, and up, to meet him !”

And then we will understand it all, and we will be happy not only thirty-one years, but all through eternity!

And if regret could come when we enter into His presence, I will tell you what that regret would be – that we spent too much money on ourselves, that we lived too selfishly, that we forgot others in their sorrow, and we would regret that we didn’t do more, and win more souls for that glad hour.

Others can do as they will, say what they please, but as for me, God help me this day to say, “Lord, give me more strength, more energy, and more nerve, and more sweat and blood to fight the good fight of faith. And when the battle is over I will hear one word – “Enter thou into the joys of thy Lord.” Let us stand.