Read along with me scripture from John 21 in the New American Standard Bible (NASB). As the chapter begins, Jesus has already appeared twice to His followers since raising from the dead…
Jesus Appears at the Sea of Galilee
1 After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way.
2 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.
3 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.
Think a moment about the significance of this 3rd verse. They’ve seen their Master and know He’s alive again. They possess the knowledge and teachings He gave to them. But without having His guidance on a daily basis, some are uncertain about how to proceed, so they begin to go back to what they know best – fishing. Now it’s time for Jesus to show up and nudge them in the right direction…
4 But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
5 So Jesus said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.”
6 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.
7 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.
8 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.
Okay, look at verses 7 and 8. Here’s Peter, the often outspoken one of the bunch, the impulsive disciple who had drawn his sword and cut off the ear of a Roman guard who had come to arrest Jesus. He had since denied the Lord 3 times, and he likely still felt guilty about that, especially after Jesus rose from the grave.
Now again, Peter impulsively jumps into the water and rushes toward his Master – even though they were a short distance from land, he could not wait like the others! Was this because of his zeal alone, or perhaps his need and hope for the Lord’s approval? Jesus knew, and Peter’s actions would not go unnoticed...
9 So when they got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread.
10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.”
11 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.
Still anxiously leaping forward in the moment, Peter is the one who runs over to grab the large net full of the greatest catch any of them had ever seen, and he drags it to the shore.
The next thing that happens is uniquely important. Notice whenever Jesus has a meal with His disciples, he begins to drop some knowledge on them. His first words to them some 3 years earlier were, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Those words were about to gain their full meaning…
12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples ventured to question Him, “Who are You?” knowing that it was the Lord.
13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise.
14 This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.
The breaking of the bread is ALWAYS an important moment. It points back to the Cross, and how Christ was beaten and His skin broken as a sacrifice for us. Now that was fulfilled, and He had risen. He would soon leave the ministry in the hands of His followers, to carry on the gospel message to the world.
But first, there’s that matter of restoring Peter. In so doing, Jesus also would illustrate the best reason of all to follow His example – Love…
The Love Motivation
15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.”
16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
It was no coincidence that Jesus asked Peter 3 times, “Do you love me?” He had denied knowing the Lord 3 times for fear of being arrested along with Him. He always talked a big talk, but now Jesus was making it clear to him that he also needed to walk the walk.
If we’re honest, how often have we been like Peter was? Oh, we may talk big about following Christ, but where are we when the going gets tough? How do we respond when it seems like God is a million miles away? Sure, Peter once walked on the water – just as Jesus did – but then he took his eyes off the Lord, distracted by his surroundings, and got consumed by the waves around him. Do you ever find yourself crying out to God, “Save me!” like Peter did?
Now, I don’t mean to beat anyone up for having a less than perfect faith. Instead, I want to encourage you. Know that, in our efforts to be like Jesus, we may sometimes act more like Peter. But Jesus was willing to rescue Peter from his own lack of faith. He was also willing to restore and equip him to be a great soul-winner.
Peter was quite correct in saying, “Lord, You know all things. You know that I love you.” Jesus does indeed know all things. He knows if you love Him. And He can work with that. We don’t have to be perfect, just willing. Jesus can do the rest. He will equip us and perfect us, and we can also be “fishers of men.”
Are you ready to go fish?