John 21:1-14 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.
Jesus met seven of his disciples by the sea of Tiberius. This is just another name for the lake of Galilee where they had spent so much time together. The synoptic Gospels — Matthew, Mark, and Luke — all tell us that the angels and/or Jesus himself, after his resurrection, instructed his disciples to go to Galilee where they would see him. Luke tells us, in the Book of Acts, that Jesus appeared to his disciples over a period of 40 days. We do not know exactly where in the timeline Jesus’ lakeshore meeting with the disciples occurred. This was a part of his establishing the fact of his resurrection from the dead with a resurrection body that was flesh and bone.
It’s very difficult for me to imagine the feelings and thoughts that must have been going through the minds of his disciples. Jesus had appeared to them twice before this and each time had left them alone. We do know that they were instructed to go to Galilee where he would meet with them. We do not even know that all of the eleven remaining disciples were there at the time of this appearing. They had gone back to the place they were most familiar with, at least for the fishermen. At any rate…
It was Peter who wanted to go fishing. Let’s look back to when Jesus first met Peter and Andrew. Turn with me to Matthew 4:18-20. While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, had been one of John the baptizer’s disciples. We are told in the Gospel of John that Jesus had been pointed out as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:36) The next day Andrew was called to come and see where Jesus was staying and then he brought his brother to Jesus. Matthew’s recollection was that they were called away from an actual fishing trip.
It would have been very natural for those of the disciples who had been fishermen to return to their nets. After all, they had to do something while they waited for Jesus to show them what it was all about.
They fished all night and caught nothing! While they are fishing Jesus came to the shore, lit a fire, placed bread and fish by the fire and waited for daylight.
This was a repeat of a past experience. This last seashore appearance of Jesus was very similar to his first seashore appearance. Turn with me to Luke 5:1-7 On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. Hold that spot we will come back to it.
In Luke’s account the fishermen had already brought their nets on to shore to wash and dry them. Jesus came onto the scene and used one of the boats as a seat. From there he taught the people. No one recorded what he had to say. They certainly remembered what happened when he stopped talking!
After teaching for some time Jesus told the fishermen to take the nets back out for a catch. Simon Peter protested mildly and then agreed. As the nets filled with fish to the point that they were about to break Peter was filled with astonishment. He immediately knew that this man, Jesus, was holy beyond imagination. He also knew that he — Peter — was a sinful man. The presence of Jesus will often cause that kind of effect on people causing them to turn away from him in fear.
Throughout history, whenever Jesus comes onto the scene there is a reaction by the people of the world. They either come to him in awe or they turn away from him in fear.
In exactly the same way Luke recorded their first meeting with Jesus, John tells us…
They had fished all night. Only once in my life did I ever experience fishing all night. I had gone with some of my uncles to Titusville, Florida. There was a pier that had been part of the old bridge across the Indian River. I guess I should explain is not really a river but a sound separating the mainland from Cape Canaveral. We fished all night and caught hundreds and hundreds of fish. It is one of the greatest memories that I have of my childhood.
I can’t imagine the frustration the professional fishermen, turned disciples, must’ve felt when they caught nothing. We would have been very frustrated if we had caught nothing. There were dozens and dozens of men and women on that pier that night and I suppose several hundred pounds of fish were caught by us, and them.
However, Jesus’ disciples had been unable to catch any fish at all.
Jesus knew they had no fish. I believe I know why he knew that. Oh, of course, he is God and knows all things. Yet I believe there was another reason why he knew they had no fish. For me, it is very simple. As they cast their nets all night long the fish, in obedience to God the Father, had avoided the nets. The disciples needed to see the catch of fish as a miracle repeating their first contact with Jesus.
Jesus knew they had no fish because he had kept them out of the net! Now he was ready to reveal himself to them. He had breakfast ready and they were exhausted and disappointed. So, standing by the breakfast fire, Jesus said, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” SOME? They cast the net and it was so full they could not bring it into the boat! All of those fish that had been avoiding the net all night were all together in one spot. And Jesus knew where that spot was — on the right side of the boat!
They were disciples of Jesus and…
They were real fishermen. What I mean by that is they kept the nets together, though they were fuller than they had ever been, and brought them to shore in spite of their excitement at the presence of Jesus. Only Peter abandoned the net, left the boat, and waded ashore to be with Jesus. All of the others, true to their fisherman heritage, brought the nets to shore and in spite of the presence of Jesus — COUNTED the FISH! John remembered that there were 153 large fish in that net that morning. They were real fishermen who would not allow themselves to be distracted from the task even by the appearance of Jesus on the shore. Yes, they were real fishermen…
But they were called to be fishers of men. Let’s continue to read Luke 5:8-11. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
Simon Peter’s response, in the first encounter by the seashore, was to fall down at Jesus’ knees and admit his sinful condition. He must have remembered that experience, recorded by Luke, as he waded ashore that morning. In the first encounter with Jesus, as recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus had said to them they would become “fishers of men”. And for the next three years Jesus taught them how to catch men!
I’m afraid that we have lost touch with Jesus’ command. Repeatedly, he had said, one way or another that his followers are to be in the process of making more disciples. In Matthew’s account of Jesus ascension into heaven Jesus said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18b-20)
As we are going — we are to make disciples. The process of making disciples includes baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them all that Jesus taught. With that command Jesus promised to always be with us even to the end of the age.
Since Jesus has all authority given to him and he has promised to always be with us we should have no trouble keeping his command to make disciples. Yet, strangely, that is a difficult task for most Christians. Everyone who becomes a disciple of Jesus is intended to become a fisher of men and women. Knowing that his disciples had worked all night… Jesus prepared the meal.
It may have been a little frustrating to the disciples that Jesus had fish already caught and cooked. He also had bread to go with the fish for breakfast. I think he took the edge off of it a little bit by saying to them that they should bring some of the fish they had caught. THEY? Jesus was very generous in including them in catching the fish. So, one of the last things that Jesus did with his disciples was to prepare them a meal and eat with them. In two weeks we will look at the discussion that followed that breakfast. In the meantime we need to know that…
Jesus will eat with us again. Turn with me to Luke 22:14-18. Jesus had this to share with them only hours before he would be arrested. And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
Jesus’ final Passover was an event that he welcomed. He was able to relax and fellowship with his disciples. In the course of the meal Jesus promised that he would drink the fruit of the vine with them, and us, before the throne in heaven. Turn with me to Revelation 19:6-9. Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
“The voice of a great multitude” will be the sound we hear. John, in his vision of heaven, heard that voice and it was like the roar of many waters and mighty thunder. And it said, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb is come.” The: church is the bride of Christ and will be gathered with him in heaven for the greatest marriage supper ever to be!
Jesus had told his disciples while he was with them that they were to always be ready for him to come again. He said, “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them reclined at table, and he will come and serve them.” (Luke 12:37)
The future supper that we will participate in in heaven will be far more elaborate than a cookout on the seashore. It was…
In the everyday events surrounding a fishing trip and a cookout on the seashore Jesus revealed himself for what he really is. The Son of God that existed eternally with the Father had now become a man. Jesus took on human flesh by being born of Mary in order to deliver us from the fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14-15) Now he exists eternally as a mediator between God and man. (1 Timothy 2:5) He did this so that everyone who puts their faith in him as Lord and Savior may have eternal life. One day all those who put their faith in him will gather by another seashore — a sea of glass where we will worship God. (Revelation 15:2) Are you ready to join the throng before the throne?
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.