On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret,  and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.  Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.  And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”  And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”  And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.  They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.  But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”  For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken,  and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”  And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. (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.  That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.  The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.  When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread.  Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”  So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.  Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.  Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish.  This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. (ESV)
I love fishing. I intentionally use the equipment for a smaller fish so that I can have a better fight with the fish. I have the equipment that I use, the pole, reel, line, and bait, chosen for a reason. I want to catch bass. I have figured out a specific style of hooking my rubber watermelon seed worm to entice bass.
With fishing sometime you have great days. You catch a ton of fish. Sometimes you have okay days, where you catch just a couple fish. Then there are the dreaded, bad days. No fish. Not even a nibble.
As you have those bad days of fishing, you learn more and more tricks to catch fish, what works, what doesn’t. While I was at the camp in North Carolina, we went fishing all the time. It got to a point where I would catch a fish about every 15 minutes or so. Knew what to use and where to use it.
Because I love fishing. I love these passages we just read in Luke and John. I would love to catch so many fish my nets start breaking. I resonate with the fishing imagery that Jesus uses in the gospels. I think it is great that the disciples, after all that they had just been through, decide to go fishing again.
Chapter 20 of Johns Gospel was the climactic moment of the story. Everything was building to the resurrection. Now, as we enter John 21, we see that it acts as a sort of epilogue to John’s gospel account. This is the calm scene at the end of the story after everything was accomplished. This is the fellowship meeting in Rivendell again after destroying the ring and fighting the war for middle earth. The climax as happened and the story is coming to a close.
The disciples have now left Jerusalem after the events of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ and have made their way back to Galilee. The headed home. Our text lets us know that seven of the disciples were together. Simon, the disciple of action, decided to go fishing and the other disciples join in. Remember that fishing is what these men did for a living. One of Jesus’ first encounters with them, in Luke 5, was while they where fishing. In fact, our text this morning mirrors that of Luke 5 in a lot of ways. For starters. The disciples are fishing, The boats were not far offshore. They spent the whole night fishing. This was the best time to fish because they could get a large catch and sell the fish in the market first thing in the morning. But while they are fishing. They caught nothing.
That really is a defeating feeling. Catching nothing after working hard. They spent the whole night fishing. They where professional fisherman, how could this happen? Luke says they “toiled”. I have had my fair share of failed fishing trips. I love going out fishing, but when you go all day and catch nothing, it can sometimes be hard to enjoy it. Theses disciples tried all night, yet caught nothing.
Both Luke and John record that Jesus told them to cast their nets off the side of the boat. Both times they listen and catch a great multitude. In Luke the nets tore, in John the nets held strong.
They worked all night. Now, at daybreak. They were tired. Fishing in ancient Israel is not like today. They did not take their graphite rod, with spinner real, 12-pound test line with a watermelon seed worm whacky style and cast it out and catch fish. They would use large nets and draw in many fish at once. It was laborious work. They would haul wet, heavy, cold nets all night.
Jesus stood off at the shore, knowing what they were doing and watching them. But they did not recognize him. Was it in the haze of the morning, was it their weary eyes, was it the distance, did Jesus vail their eyes like the two men on the road to Emmaus? The text doesn’t say, but Jesus offers them some fishing advice. He tells them to cast their nets into the right side of the boat while they are not far offshore. Not the most ideal place to catch fish. Every good fisherman knows that the big schools of fish are way offshore, not near the shore. They do so anyway. They catch a massive amount of fish. 153 of them!
Jesus gives them assurance of a catch. He says to them in verse 6, “You will find some”. It is at this point when they realize who it is that is speaking to them. They were probably reminded of that earlier encounter a few years earlier of the same thing happening. This time, the nets didn’t break, the boats didn’t start sinking. Peter did not want Jesus to leave him alone. Here Peter jumps into the water and swims ashore. Peter and John both love Jesus, yet both men respond differently. Peter acts, he jumps in the water and swims. John stays on the boat. They both responded differently out of love for Jesus.
Once on shore, Jesus had laid out breakfast over a fire. They hauled the fish ashore and counted the catch, 153 fish. The nets did not tear. The disciples knew it was Jesus. They ate with him, they talked with him. They enjoy his fellowship.
What can we learn from this fishing trip? Why does John tell us of this encounter with those early church fathers at the end of his gospel account? I want us to see three lessons from this encounter with Jesus. I want us to see that we are impoverished without Christ. I want us to see that we can love Christ differently. I want us to see what life in Christ is like.
We are impoverished without Christ
The disciples did not have much to their names. They where fishermen. This was not a job you would take if you wanted to make a lot of money It was a humble job. It was a hard job. You would spend all night casting large nets, dragging them through the water. The nets were heavy, cold, and wet. You worked so you could survive, so you could eat.
The disciples here in our text caught nothing. They toiled on their own all night. And had nothing. They worked hard. Nothing. Without Christ in the picture, they caught nothing.
Often I try and do things on my own strength. I try to overcome sin on my own strength. I try to write these lessons on my own strength. But every time. I rely on my ability to do something I tend to fall short. When I am not living in light of my union with Christ. I am truly living a life of spiritual poverty.
We respond to God’s love in different ways
John is the first to recognize who it was on the shore. Yet it was Peter who took action. JC Ryle puts it this way:
“We should observe, for another thing, in these verses, the different characters of different disciples of Christ. Once more, on this deeply interesting occasion, we see Peter and John side by side in the same boat, and once more we see these two good men behaving in different ways. When Jesus stood on the shore, in the dim twilight of the morning, John was the first to perceive who it was, and to say, “It is the Lord;” but Peter was the first to spring into the water, and to struggle to get close to his Master. In a word, John was the first to see; but Peter was the first to act. John’s gentle loving spirit was quickest to discern; but Peter’s fiery, impulsive nature was quickest to stir and move. And yet both were believers, both were true-hearted disciples, both loved the Lord in life, and were faithful to Him unto death. But their natural temperaments were not the same.”
This should cause us to realize that we all can show love and devotion to Christ in different ways. 1 Corinthians 12 tells us that there is diversity in the Church. We love Jesus and are devoted to him, yet that love shows itself in different ways. How do you show love to Jesus? How do you respond to his love?
What life in Christ is like
The disciples were called by God to cast their nets from only 100 yards offshore. The least likely place to catch fish. Yet the caught a massive load. Onshore they eat and enjoy Christ’s company. They spend time with him. They have their needs met by him.
On their own they had nothing. But when they were called by Christ, they received blessings. They were united with him. They communed with him. When we are called by Christ into union with him, we have blessing upon blessing. Our sins are forgiven, we are made holy, we will be restored fully one day. Christ called the disciples out of their emptiness, out of their poverty, out of their sin, and invited them to him.
Have you recognized your poverty without Christ? Have you realized that without him, you are toiling and working and not catching anything? That you are just living in your sin, separated from God. Listen to Christ’s call in your life. Be united with him. Find blessing, find the redeemed life you are meant to have. Jesus is our salvation. It is through him that we truly live. As we talked about last week, Jesus is our satisfaction. He is our Salvation
Realize you have nothing without him. Respond to his love, and live in him.