Friday April 17, 2020
After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 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.
4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
We don’t know exactly how much time passes between chapters 20 and 21 of John, but it can not be more than a few days. After the resurrection, the disciples found themselves in a holding pattern as they awaited further instruction from their risen Lord. Although they had now seen Him in His resurrected state on multiple occasions, it was only for precious fleeting moments. Previously they had enjoyed spending nearly every waking moment of the last three years walking step-for-step with Jesus as He traveled throughout Judea and the surrounding areas. Now faced with mounting anxiety and ample time to kill, seven of the disciples, led by Peter decided to do something they hadn’t done in quite some time: go fishing.
In Luke 5, a relatively unknown man climbed into Peter’s boat and asked to be taken out a little ways so that He could teach to a growing crowd. After teaching, Jesus told Peter to take them into the deep water and let down the nets. Peter objected by telling Jesus in 5:5, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word, I will let down the nets.” It was in that miraculous catch of fish that Peter first began to understand who he was dealing with, and when they had returned to shore they left behind their nets, their boats, their family, all that they knew, to follow Jesus.
Here in John 21, once again after spending all night on the water the only thing the fishermen had to show for their efforts were empty bellies and nets. At the break of dawn, just as the sky began to lighten, a man appeared on the shore, calling once again to His “children.” “Try your nets on the other side of the boat,” was the command, and without knowing the identity of the voice on the beach, they obeyed. John tells us the once-empty net was now so full of fish that they couldn’t manage to lift it into the boat.
As the net filled, John was the first to recognize their Risen Lord, but it was Peter who was the first to act by throwing himself in the water and swimming the length of a football field to meet Jesus. The rest were not far behind, slowed from having to drag their trophy catch. Finally arriving at the shore, they found Jesus in front of a coal fire, with a breakfast of fish and bread already prepared. Jesus called for more fish, and Peter went back to the boat and hauled ashore the entire net, filled with 153 large fish. What is the significance of listing the precise number of fish? Many explanations have been offered, but it seems the most likely is that the quantity was so stunningly large and miraculous that in telling the story over and over, there was no way John could ever forget it.
At least three of the seven men on the boat had left behind their lives as professional fisher-men when Jesus had originally found them, and the opinions of Biblical scholars vary widely as to whether this fishing trip was a faithless return to a former way of life or an innocent attempt to cure boredom by rousing up some sustenance out on the water. By the way Jesus calls to the disciples from the shore, using a term reserved for the young and immature, they appear to have been caught with their hand in the cookie jar. The important thing to note is that without a moment’s hesitation, they all eagerly returned to Jesus.
Faced with unprecedented stress and time on our hands, where do we turn for comfort? Regardless of the state that Jesus first found us in, whether we were grinding away at a respectable 9-to-5 with all the appearances of a productive member of society, or floundering away in gross moral depravity, each of us was attempting to do for ourselves what only Jesus could do for us. The call of Jesus is always one of total sacrifice and surrender. Jesus told Peter and Andrew that if they followed Him, they would no longer be fishing for fish, but He would make them into fishers of men. It is impossible to truly receive the gift of grace, to encounter Jesus, without undergoing a total life transformation. Hard as it is to believe, Jesus did not die so that we could keep on living life the same as always, just with a get-out-of-jail-free card at the end. He gave up His life so we could experience true life in Him, the way it was always meant to be from the beginning. Like the prodigal leaving the pigsty for the palace, what little we may lose in the process will be far more than worth it.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, we admit that in our moments of anxiety and weakness, we often run to the former idols in our lives, rather than waiting upon You. We humbly ask that you would forgive our transgressions, help us to see that the things we turn to for comfort are often the things that drive us farther away from You. We pray that You would be at work within us, for we need a heart transformation that we are powerless to perform on our own. We thank You for Your patience, kindness, and mercy towards us. No matter how hard we may have resisted in the past, may You enable us to totally surrender to Your will for our lives today. In Your merciful name we pray, Amen.