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The Miracles of Jesus Part 37: A Second Miraculous Catch of Fish
John 21:1-11, Matthew 28, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 - The fishing days are over; the disciples are now poised to be the Apostles who lead the early church.
“After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way. Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter *said to them, “I am going fishing.” They *said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.
But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus *said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved *said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish.
So when they got out on the land, they *saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread. Jesus *said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.” Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.”
John 21:1-11 NASB1995
The last miracle performed by Jesus during His earthly ministry in my series (and it has truly been an amazing education for this believer) is documented in the Gospel of John chapter 21, the last chapter of John. The Resurrection itself is really beyond something that can be called a miracle in the same category as these signs and wonders and it is not discussed in this series, although I wrote about the Resurrection recently around the time of Easter.
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The third appearance of Jesus to the disciples after the Resurrection, according to John, happens at the Sea of Galilee. In Matthew, the disciples were instructed to meet the Lord in Galilee, where He charges them with the Great Commission before the Ascension. In Luke, several post-Resurrection meetings are recorded, including the meeting on the Road to Emmaus with two followers of Jesus. In John 20, after His Resurrection is discovered by the women going to the tomb, Jesus meets with the disciples indoors in Jerusalem twice. This includes the meeting where Thomas is convinced of the Lord’s Resurrection after expressing his disbelief (it was more than just doubt). The documented meetings with the Lord in the Gospels are clearly incomplete, as the timeline between His Resurrection and the Ascension is about 40 days. Paul describes His appearances to eyewitnesses in 1 Corinthians 15; note that the women’s testimonies are not included, but it does include his encounter after the Ascension. Also, according to David Guzik, the “twelve” was a colloquial term for the closest disciples because they were always called that, even after the betrayal and death of Judas:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.”
1 Corinthians 15:3-8 NASB1995
The disciples had good reason to go to the Galilee region, as they had been told to do so by the Lord. Old habits die hard, though, when they get there; it is apparent they are quite uncertain about what happens next in their lives. It’s also reasonable to assume that these men were suffering from a type of PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) after recent events and there is a lot of emotional turmoil, regret and fear of the future mixed with some hope and stunned joy. So Peter impulsively says “I am going fishing”. The others join him for a night on the lake and they have no luck.
The day is breaking and Jesus is standing on the beach, but they don’t recognize Him yet. He calls out to them: “Children, you do not have any fish yet, do you?” They reply “No” and He tells them to cast the net on the right side of the boat. So many fish are caught in the net that they can’t haul it up. John finally recognizes that it is Jesus and Peter (of course) throws on his outer garment and jumps into the water to get to shore. The group follows with the full net on the boat. They get to land and see that the Lord has made a charcoal fire to cook fish and bread. Peter grabs the bulging net (which doesn’t rip), counting 153 fish. Here’s a cautionary tale on reading too much into numbers in the Bible from Enduring Word commentary on John 21:
Full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three: Peter took the initiative and dragged the heavy net all by himself. The net was not broken and held a large catch of 153 fish. Through the centuries there have been many attempts to explain why the number was 153.
Some interpreters (like Augustine) thought that because 153 is the sum of numbers 1 to 17, this catch of fish points towards the number 17 – which he thought to be the number of commandments (10) added to the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit.
Some have noted that 153 is the added numerical value of the Greek words Peter and fish.
Some note, “In Hebrew characters Simon Iona is equivalent to 118 + 35, i.e., 153.” (Marcus Dods)
Some ancient writers (such as Jerome) believed there were 153 different types of fish in the world and this catch represented a full harvest of the entire world.
Some (such as Cyril of Alexandria) thought that 100 stood for the Gentiles, 50 stood for Israel and 3 stood for the Trinity.
The truth is that all we know for certain is that 153 represents the number of fish in the net. The many allegorical interpretations of the number warn us against creating hidden meanings in the Biblical text.
“Peter never landed a haul of fish without counting them, and John, fisherman as he was, could never forget the number of his largest takes.” (Dods)
Sometimes a number is just a number. Although there are acrostics in the Psalms with the Hebrew alphabet and there are many special numbers Biblically (7, 12, 40 are examples), this is likely just the detail-loving mind of former fisherman John at work when he documented this event.
So Jesus, the servant of all, is already preparing a breakfast for the disciples after they make this catch and asks them to bring more fish from the catch. The value of the catch of fish likely helped the disciples make ends meet again when they returned to Jerusalem, as monetary sources for their ministry have probably temporarily disappeared.
What follows this miracle is the dialogue between Jesus and Peter where Jesus reinstates Peter publicly as one of His most important disciples by asking Peter three times if he loves Him. Peter is told, just like on the day he was first recruited to be a “fisher of men”, to follow Jesus. The fishing days for these Galileans are truly over now and the new church is born. Peter and Jesus had met on the morning of the Resurrection (no record of their words), but these words from the Lord in front of others remove the shame and guilt of Peter’s denials in front of others. Jesus also tells Peter that he will suffer and die for his discipleship. As usual, the rash and impulsive Peter turns that information into an interrogation about what will happen to John. Jesus tells Peter that is none of his business and again tells him to follow Him. The Gospel of John essentially ends at this point, with John admitting that all of the books of the world could not contain everything about Jesus. Amen to that!
So what did we learn from this last earthly miracle of our Lord?
Jesus directs the disciples to pull in a second miraculous catch of fish: In the Gospel of John after the Resurrection, Jesus meets the disciples at the Sea of Galilee. He instantly fills their net with large fish (153 to be exact) and uses the time at breakfast with them to reconcile with Peter and pull them into their roles as Apostles of the new church, bringing the Word to the sheep of the world by following Him.
My next devotional summarizes the 37 “official” miracles that we spent quite a few weeks exploring and the complete list will be an appendix for reference. I hope you learned as much as I did! My next devotional series examines the fairly short Psalm 8, a paean to God’s creation.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Please keep me on the narrow path to follow you and keep my eyes focused on you in obedience. You are the servant of all and have the power to provide anything for your followers. Help me to “fish” for souls on the right side of the boat! Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Commentary from David Guzik in Enduring Word is used with written permission.
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