We now come to the final chapter of John’s Gospel. And John’s Gospel ends where it began on the shores of the Sea Galilee. This final chapter in John’s Gospel has purposes: to describe the miraculous catch of fish, to recount Jesus’ forgiveness of Peter and to provide an affirmation of the truthfulness of the Gospel’s witness.
Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.—21:1-3
Verse 1 sets up the only resurrection appearance in this Gospel that takes place in Galilee, and it is unique to John’s Gospel. There is no way to know how long after the events in the previous chapter this encounter occurred. But we do know that seven of the remaining elven disciples were present. John himself was one of the seven, as he was one of Zebedee’s two sons. One should not necessarily understand Peter’s decision to go fishing in a negative light. And the result of the expedition was the same as that of the all-night fishing excursion recorded in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 5:4). Night was a good time for fishing because the evening enabled fishermen to escape the heat of the day and sell their catch in the morning.
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.—21:4-8
As dawn broke, a stranger on the shore highlighted the fact that the disciples had caught nothing. Initially, they did not recognize Jesus. His instruction to cast the net on the right side of the boat was similar to what he had told them a few years before (Luke 5:6-7). Then John recognized Jesus and informed Peter, who put on his outer garments and swam to shore. The other disciples rowed the 100 yards to shore, dragging the enormous catch of fish with them.
When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.—21:9-14
When they arrived, they discovered Jesus already preparing breakfast for them. He invited them to contribute to the meal. The number of fish caught was 153. And this was Jesus third appearance to the disciples after his death and resurrection, not including his appearance to Mary. John’s purpose in recounting the story may be noting more than to set the stage for the restoration of Peter. However, the encounter may have reminded some of them that they first met Jesus on the seashore, where he had called them to be fishers of people. And we will pick from here tomorrow as we come to the conclusion of John’s Gospel, where we will see Jesus restore Peter, which is critical because Peter is going to play a huge role in the events described in the book of Acts.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
2 Kings 18:13-19:37, Acts 21:1-17, Psalm 149:1-9 and Proverbs 18:8
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