Gone Fishing Again
Read John 21:1-6 (ESV)
After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, 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 go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 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.
Have you ever tried to do something in your own strength and failed? When you’ve counted on the Lord, have you ever been surprised at something He did in your life?
Several of Jesus’ disciples, Peter included, had been fishermen before they set aside their nets to follow Him. Luke 5:1-11 records the account of Jesus calling Peter as a disciple and there are striking similarities to today’s passage. Luke reported that Simon Peter was washing his nets by the lake of Gennesaret after a long, fruitless night of fishing. A huge crowd was pressing in on Jesus so He asked Peter to take Him out in the boat just a little ways from the land so Jesus could teach the people from the water. When His sermon was over, He told Peter to move out into the deep and let the nets down to catch some fish. Peter responded, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets” (v. 5).
Peter ended up catching so many fish that his nets were breaking and he had to call his fishing partners (brothers James and John) to come out in their boat to help haul it all in! Both boats had so many fish that they began to sink! At that moment, Peter was suddenly very aware of Jesus’ holiness and power and his own sin: “he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’” (v. 8). That is when Jesus commissioned Peter to be a “fisher of men” and Peter, along with James and John, left their fishing equipment behind to follow Him.
Today’s passage is somewhat of a full circle moment. Jesus had risen from the dead and had already appeared to His disciples twice. Jesus told them that after His resurrection, He’d meet them in Galilee (Matthew 26:32, Matthew 28:7-10, and Mark 16:7) so they went to Galilee but Peter decided that rather than just sit around and wait, he’d take up fishing again. Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two unnamed disciples went with him. And just like before, they didn’t catch anything.
Very early in the morning, Jesus was standing on the shore but they didn’t recognize Him. He told them to put their nets on the right side of the boat and prepare for a catch. They obeyed and just like last time, when they obeyed Jesus’ instructions, they caught so many fish, they couldn’t even drag them all in!
When they tried to do whatever they thought was best without consulting the Lord and without His power working in and through them, they weren’t able to accomplish anything. It is just as Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Dr. Warren Wiersbe noted in his New Testament commentary, “Perhaps we can see in these two fishing miracles’ an illustration of how the Lord helps His people fish for lost souls. All of our efforts are useless apart from His direction and blessing. During this present age, we do not know how many fish we have caught, and it often appears that the nets are breaking! But at the end of the age, when we see the Lord, not one fish will be lost and we will discover how many there are. Jesus called the disciples and us to be fishers of men.’”
Friends, when we attempt to go fishing for men on our own, our efforts are often in vain. But when we abide in Christ, we serve and minister to His people under His guidance and direction. Our job is to be obedient to Him and trust Him with the results.
Lord, I confess that sometimes I forge ahead with my own plan which usually ends in failure. Help me learn to lean not on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6) but to lean on Your Word for guidance and direction. Help me to obediently follow Your commands and bless my obedient efforts for Your glory. Amen.
Reveal: Go fishing for men. But first, pray and ask the Lord to guide and bless your efforts. Be obedient to serve and minister as He leads You. Remember that apart from Him, you can’t do anything (John 15:5).
~ Pastor Nat Crawford