About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Jesus And The Miraculous Catch Of Fish  (ch. 21:1-14)


From what John wrote at the end of chapter 20 many scholars wonder about chapter 21.  John seems to end his account in chapter 20, but then picks it up again in chapter 21 with some additional information.  The writing style in the Greek appears to be somewhat different than that of the writing style in the first 20 chapters.  This gives way to the thought that someone else wrote chapter 21, or at least penned it as John dictated it. Nevertheless most scholars do believe that chapter 21 is from the lips of John, if not in his own hand writing. Chapter 21 is in all of the important manuscripts.  


John tells us that Jesus meets some disciples at the Sea of Tiberius which is also known as the Sea of Galilee.  It was quite a distance from Jerusalem.  This raises a major question in my mind.  It is clear that Jesus was alive on earth for 40 days after His resurrection.  We know this from Acts 1:1 to 4.  It is also clear that the apostles, and disciples in general, did not stay in Jerusalem for all of these 40 days as Jesus requested in Acts 1 because of what John says here.  It also appears evident that when Jesus met the ten apostles without Thomas, and then with Thomas, it was in Jerusalem.  Here are the questions.  When did the disciples go back to Galilee ?  Did the disciples go back and forth from Jerusalem to Galilee?     


One thing is clear.  Jesus and the disciples did meet up in Galilee as Jesus earlier requested, but just when that meeting took place or if this is it, we just don't know.  There are two occasions that we know of where Jesus met the disciples in Galilee .  One is here in John 21 and the other is in Matthew 28 when Jesus gave them what we call the Great Commission.        


The Sea of Galilee was also called the

Sea of Tiberius because King Herod
Antipas built the city on its shores and called the city Tiberius.  He named the city after Caesar Tiberius.  It was meant to be a memorial to the Caesar.  In reality Herod was probably trying to get on the good side of the Caesar.    


The contents of chapter 21 must have been important enough for John to include after he had already ended his account.  Chapter 21 shows us the special calling of Peter to ministry and maybe in part, that is why John added this chapter. 


One other thing to note is that John tells us that this event was the third time Jesus met up with the disciples after the resurrection.  I believe the disciples John had in mind were the eleven apostles.  Jesus met them behind locked doors on the first day of the resurrection and then eight days later when Thomas was present.  This was the third time.  We cannot include the meeting of Jesus with the two men on the road to Emmaus, and the women at the tomb, or Peter on his own.  If we included those times, this would not be the third meeting.  Jesus may have had other meetings with disciples as well that have not been recorded, and my guess is that He did have such meetings. We do know from what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:6 that Jesus at one point in time appeared to five hundred people.


Verse 2 tells us that there were seven men that Jesus met with on this occasion.  The sons of Zebedee would be James and John.  John says that there were two other disciples.  We don't know if these two men were of the eleven apostles or just two other followers of Jesus.     


In verse 3 Peter says to the other six disciples that he is going fishing.  Many sermons have been written about this event, trying to suggest that these men had given up on Jesus and were going back to their previous occupation and were leaving the gospel behind, but we really donít know that for sure.  The text doesnít say this, or doesnít really give that impression.  This is only an assumption.  This fishing expedition might have just been a one time event in the minds of these men because they were hungry and nothing more.  We should be careful and not insert uncertainties into our approach to Bible study. 


They went fishing at night, which would have been the best time to catch fish but for some reason they caught nothing.  Why expert fishermen would catch no fish all night might be a mystery, or it just might have been the will of God.  I believe it was the will of God because Jesus had called these men to be fishers of men and this would have been a living  illustration to make this clear.  


In verse 4 John notes that Jesus was standing on the shore but the disciples did not recognize Him, maybe because He was too far away and it was dark, or, maybe because this was a post resurrection appearance they did not recognize Jesus, as others didnít recognize Him after His resurrection.  In verse 9 John says they were 100 yards out in the water.  That might be far enough for them not to recognize Jesus. 


In verse 5 Jesus ask, "Havenít you any fish?"  I believe Jesus knew they had not caught any fish, suggesting it was His plan all along for them to not have success that night.


Note the word "friends" in verse 5.  Some versions translate the Greek noun as "lads" or "sons' because the Greek verb gives a suggestion of youthfulness.


They answered Jesusí question by saying, "No."  Then Jesus tells them to put out their nets on the right side of the boat, that is right in relation to left, not right in relation to wrong.  They caught so many fish that their nets could hardly contain them.


In verse 7 John tells us that at that moment the disciple who Jesus loved, which was John himself, figured out it was Jesus standing on the shore.  He said, "It is the Lord."  It took a miracle for these men to know that it was Jesus who was speaking to them.


Once Peter heard this was Jesus on shore, he immediately put his outer clothes on, jumped into the water and ran towards Jesus, leaving the others to pull in the boat and net into the shore.  Once again, this is typical impetuous Peter.


We note from verse 10 that they had caught 153 fish.  I wonder who actually did the counting.  Maybe it was John.  I canít see Peter taking the time to count. I think this was such an amazing thing that the disciples just had to count how many fish Jesus helped them catch.


In verse 9 we see that when these men arrived on shore Jesus already had a fire going with some fish already being cooked, along with some bread.  Did Jesus catch these fish, or did He miraculously make them appear?  We really don't know.


Note that the fire was a fire of coals, much like the fire in the courtyard of the high priest where Peter denied Jesus.  Remember, Peter denied Jesus three times around a fire, and now here, around a fire, Jesus will ask Peter three times if he loves Him.


In verse 10 Jesus asked them to bring more fish to the fire and so Jesus fed these men both bread and fish for breakfast.  Some Bible teachers feel that Jesus was teaching them a lesson here.  They spent all night working for nothing, and in one brief moment of time Jesus tells them to fish on the other side of their boat and they caught 153 fish.  Jesus had already made them breakfast.  The lesson some feel that is taught here is that if Jesus calls you to do something, He will look after you and provide what you need.  You may work hard with your own human effort, but human effort does not work in the Kingdom of God as Paul so clearly puts it in his letter to the Galatians.


John ends this section by saying that this was the third time Jesus met up with the disciples after his resurrection. 


I find it interesting that it was Jesus who broke the bread and fish and gave it to these men.  They were being served by their master.  There had to be some definite lesson here.  It is very much like the Last Supper when Jesus served the bread and wine and washed the disciple's feet.  The lessen then was that if the master washed their feet, or, served them, then they should serve one another.     

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