Miracle 35:
Second Draught of Fishes

I. OBSERVATION

A.       Passage Selected: John 21:1-12 

1After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself. 2There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. 3Simon 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. 4But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. 5Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.  6And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. 7Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea. 8And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes. 9As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. 10Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. 11Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken. 12Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. [i]

B. Presentation Summarized:

1. Context 


Contrasts Between Fish Miracles in Synoptics and John

 

Synoptics

John 21

They were out of the boats and then got in.

They were in the boat and got out

Conversation before miracle

Conversation after miracle

Questioning reluctance

Unquestioned response

Net was breaking

Net unbroken

Boat sinking

Pulled the net to shore

Peter says depart from me

Peter dives in and swims to shore

A commission to fish - evangelism

Commission to pastor - feed the sheep

2. Content

a. Before the catch - the failure (?) of returning  21:1-3

1.       This little Sea of Galilee is so much connected with the ministry of our Lord both before and after His resurrection. It is a familiar spot for these men. He had asked them to go up into Galilee and there He would meet them. They have gone there, and they are waiting for Him.

2.       This is an amazing group here. I like to call this the convention of the problem children. Here is …

a.       Simon Peter, fervent but failing, warm-hearted, yet walking afar off; he is impulsive and impetuous and affectionate.

b.       Then here is Thomas, that magnificent skeptic, who has a question mark for a brain;

c.        Nathanael, the wisecracker, who was also a doubter at the beginning;

d.       the sons of thunder, James and John;

e.       and two others who are not named.

f.         Perhaps, since this is a crowd of problem children, they represent you and me.

3.       Many worthy commentators condemn these men for going fishing.

a.       Well, the Lord did not rebuke them when He appeared to them. They were at Galilee by His commandment.

b.       It was springtime, the Passover season. Warm zephyrs from the south made ripples near the shore and whitecaps out on the sea. The surrounding hills were green, and there were wild flowers in profusion. I imagine it was beautiful nineteen hundred years ago.

c.        They may have waited and waited for the Lord Jesus to come. Peter would be the one to become impatient, and after pacing back and forth and after looking up and down the shore, would be the one to say, “I go a-fishing.” And six others joined him.

4.       One question: Are they wrong to go fishing? 

a.       The opinions are divided.  Some say "Yes," because he has already given them their instructions on what to do. 

b.       Others say, "No," because there is no reprimand for going fishing. 

c.        I think that the answer is, yes, because Jesus had told them to wait for Him in Galilee (Matt 28:10). 

d.       Peter’s decision to go fishing was a failure to wait, a failure to obey. Jesus was evidently taking his time to meet the disciples. I think we can assume the reason was to give the disciples time to wait and to fail, so He could teach them another lesson. 

e.       Peter’s occupation was fishing.  It is what he knew best.  In the aftermath of the crucifixion and resurrection Peter was not sure what the plan was.  He reverted to handling life the way he knew best.  To get busy and do something. 

f.         I think we can identify with Peter. We all have things that we can do well and we often depend on them to make life work. 

g.       We like certainty. Waiting on Jesus was full of uncertainty.  Fishing was certain (sort of).  At least it seemed certain to Peter.  I like computers.  I can bury myself in a computer project forget about the uncertainty of life. I think most men become work-aholics because it brings them some measure of certainty.

h.       What we usually need to do in these situations is trust God and wait on Him.

5.       They fished all night and caught nothing. This may be the only true fish story that has been told!

a.       Dr. Scotts calls it the failure of the experts. Now these men fished all night, and they caught nothing. They had been restless before, and now they are restless and frustrated.

b.       It’s easy to fish when you catch fish and frustrating when you don’t. They knew how to fish—that’s the way they made their living—but that night of failure was in the plan and purpose of God for them.[ii]

c.        I think it is important that the disciples caught nothing on this outing.  They were attempting to do things their own way and out of their own power, and it didn’t work.

b. During the catch - the faith of responding  21:4-8
        (1) His request

a.       The disciples didn’t recognize Jesus. I think this was a normal experience. He was in His glorified body and He could be recognized; yet they would have been a distance out on the lake, and in the early morning it would be difficult to identify people on the shore

b.       The word for children is almost like saying, “Sirs.” It is not a term of endearment like “Little children” in 1 John. Their answer is a short “No.” It’s amazing how emphatic one can be and how little one likes to talk about failure. They answer Him, but they don’t want to talk about it. If they had caught any fish, they all would have been showing Him how long they were.

c.        This is a question He is bound to ask every one of us someday: “Did you catch anything? What did you do for men down there on earth?” I hope your answer will not be the same as theirs, “No, we haven’t caught a thing.”[iii].[iv]  

d.       And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes [John 21:6].[v]

e.       Designed to draw faith and acknowledgment.

        (2) Their response

a.       No argument.  They obey.  And they catch a bunch of fish.

b.       John reports that there were exactly 153 fish caught in the net. Almost all the commentators agree that John has a reason for giving the number. Some of the guesses as to what that number means, however, are amazing, to say the least.

1.       One man said it probably indicated that 153 A.D. was a very important year. I have never been able to find out anything unusual about that year, however.

2.       Another suggested that the number 100 stood for the Gentiles, the largest number, 50 stood for the Jews, because they are only half as important, or as many, and 3 stands for the Trinity.

3.       Another obviously mathematically-minded commentator added the numbers from 1 through 17 and found they added up to 153, but he failed to say what was the significance of that!

4.       The most likely answer, as some commentators say, is the suggestion of Jerome, the early church father, who said that among the Greeks it was widely regarded that there were 153 kinds of fish in the sea.

5.       Modern science, of course, has discovered that there are many more species than that. If this was widely thought in that day, however, this was God's way of saying that the gospel is a universal gospel; it is for everybody, no matter what their background, color, culture, education, whatever. The same gospel is designed for men and women everywhere on earth. It has been true through all of history that wherever this wonderful word has spread it has never been found to be out of place. Once the artificial cultural barriers to understanding are removed the word of the gospel always speaks right to the human heart. No matter what kind of fish we may be dealing with they can be caught by the gospel net.[vi]

6.       In my opinion the number 153 just means there were a lot of fish and is characteristic of an eyewitness account giving the facts to make the story credible.

c.        The whole thought here is that He directs the lives of His own. He gives the instructions, and they are to be obeyed. When they fish according to His instruction, the net fills. Notice the net does not break even though it is full. The net is strong—as strong as the gospel of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, of which they are witnesses.[vii]

 

    (3) Their recognition

a.       Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea [John 21:7].[viii]

b.       Undoubtedly, this reminds them of the time that Jesus called them as disciples with a similar miracle, and John is the first one to catch on.

c.       At least they don’t say: “It’s a ghost.”  So we see progress. Peter may have put his clothes on so he would be dressed when he came to the Lord.

d.       John has a spiritual perception that Simon Peter doesn’t have. Three years before, Jesus had called them at perhaps the same spot. They had gone back to fishing and the Lord had called them again to fish for the souls of men.

e.       Peter may not have the discernment of John, but have you noticed that at every opportunity he gets close to the Lord? The other men sit in the boat and wait until they get to shore. Not Simon Peter. He can’t wait. He wants to be close to his Lord. This man is a wonderful man.  [ix]

c. After the catch - the fellowship of relating  21:9-12             

And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes. As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken [John 21:8–11].[x]

(1) The Lord's self-sufficiency

a.                   The Lord didn’t need them to fish.  He has what He needs.  I find it interesting that the Lord used some of the fish that the disciples caught. 

b.                   I think that is a picture of how the Lord uses us to further His kingdom and allows us to partake in the reaping.  He could do it without us, but  He doesn’t.

c.                    This is the last recorded miracle of our Lord, and the only miracle recorded after His resurrection. This is most important because you and I are concerned about the ministry of Christ after His resurrection. Paul says, “… yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more” (2 Cor. 5:16).

d.                   We are not joined to the baby in Bethlehem but to a resurrected, living, glorified Christ at God’s right hand. This is why His ministry after His resurrection is so vital for us.[xi]

 (2) The Lord's supply

a.                  There are several things I would like to call to your attention here. Have you noticed that the Lord uses what people have as the basis for His miracles?

b.                   The disciples are fishing and catch nothing. The Lord Jesus gives them a harvest of fish.

c.                    At Cana the water pots were empty. The Lord has the pots filled with water and then changes the water to wine.

d.                   He asks Moses what he has in his hand. Moses says it is a rod, and with that rod, God performs His miracles for Israel.

e.                   David is faithful as a shepherd with his shepherd’s crook, and God gives him a sceptre to hold in his hand.

f.                     It is interesting that whatever is in your hand, God can use. So many people wish they were somewhere else or in some other circumstances. My friend, if God can’t use you right where you are, I don’t think He can use you somewhere else.

g.                   Besides, have you ever noticed that what God does He does in abundance? The water pots were full of wine. There were baskets of food left over after the 5,000 had been fed. The nets were filled with fish.

h.                   Also, notice that although Jesus had fish laid on a bed of coals for their breakfast on the shore of Galilee, He also asks for some of the fish, which they had caught. He accepts their service.

i.                     When they had fished at His command, He accepts what they bring. What blessed fellowship there is in this kind of service! [1]

j.                     He also has what we need.  They are dependent on him for supply and service. What he had done for the multitudes, he now did for the disciples.

k.                    The same two symbols (fish and bread) are used by Jesus to show He is the source of supply in evangelism (salvation) and ministry (sanctification).  Jesus is all they need and want.  He doesn't need to use them; He chooses to use people in the process of His work and will.

l.                     Here we see a charcoal fire.  The only other charcoal fire is where Peter denies Jesus.  I’m sure Jesus set this up as a reminder to Peter. Now Jesus and Peter have another conversation. Then he asks Peter if he loved Him more than these. 

As for the significance of the entire scene, it seems clear that it is intended to indicate Peter's complete restoration to a position of apostolic leadership after his threefold denial. Three times Peter had denied Jesus; three times Peter now affirms his love for his Lord, and three times Jesus commissions Peter to care for the flock of God. There could be no question on Peter's part or on the part of the other disciples that he had been completely restored. 

II. INTERPRETATION

·          The disciples need a fresh lesson of relying on the power and provision of Christ for their ministries.

·          Their responsibilities will only be fulfilled if they have a right, loving relationship with Him.

III. APPLICATIONS

·          God can supply all of my needs for life as well as service.

·          He demands my absolute obedience in following him.

·          His way is always the best way.

·          His way for me may be different than someone else.

·          Jesus is devoted to the masses and yet also devoted to individuals - the disciples and Peter.

·          From the three afirmations of his love for Jesus, we see that: Love of Christ is the major motivation for the ministry.!!!

·          There is always hope of restoration for a fallen disciple.

 

 



[1]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.



[i]The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769.

[ii]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

[iii]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

[iv]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

[v]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

[vi] Ray Stedman, http://www.pbc.org/dp/stedman/john/3878.html.

[vii]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

[viii]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

[ix]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

[x]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

[xi]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.