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36. Second Draught of Fishes


A. Passage Selected: John 21:1-12

B. Progression Stated: Ideological and Chronological

C. Presentation Summarized:

1. Context

Contrasts Between Fish Miracles in Synoptics and John


John 21

They were out of the boats and then got in.

They were in the boat and got out

Conversation before miracle

Conversation after miracle

Questioning reluctance

Unquestioned response

Net was breaking

Net unbroken

Boat sinking

Pulled the net to shore

Peter says depart from me

Peter dives in and swims to shore

A commission to fish - evangelism

Commission to pastor - feed the sheep

2. Content
a. Before the catch - the failure (?) of returning 21:1-3

One question: Are they wrong to go fishing? The opinions are divided. Some say “Yes,” because he has already given them their instructions on what to do. Others say, “No,” because there is no reprimand for going fishing. I think that the answer is, yes, because Jesus had told them to wait for Him in Galilee (Matt 28:10). Peter’s decision to go fishing was a failure to wait, a failure to obey. Jesus was evidently taking his time to meet the disciples. I think we can assume the reason was to give the disciples time to wait and to fail, so He could teach them another lesson. Peter’s occupation was fishing. It is what he knew best. In the aftermath of the crucifixion and resurrection Peter was not sure what the plan was. He reverted to handling life the way he knew best. To get busy and do something.

I think we can identify with Peter. We all have things that we can do well and we often depend on them to make life work. We like certainty. Waiting on Jesus was full of uncertainty. Fishing was certain (sort of). At least it seemed certain to Peter. I like computers and movies. I can bury myself in a computer project or a movie and forget about the uncertainty of life. I think most men become work-aholics because it brings them some measure of certainty.

What we usually need to do in these situations is trust God and wait on Him.

I think it is important that the disciples caught nothing on this outing. They were attempting to do things their own way and out of their own power, and it didn’t work.

b. During the catch - the faith of responding 21:4-8

(1) His request

The disciples didn’t recognize Jesus. I don’t know if this means Jesus changed His appearance, or was it simply because dawn was just breaking, and although they were within hearing distance of the shore, in the dim light they could not recognize the face of an individual at this distance.

Designed to draw faith and acknowledgment.

(2) Their response

No argument. They obey. And they catch a bunch of fish.

John reports that there were exactly 153 fish caught in the net. Almost all the commentators agree that John has a reason for giving the number. Some of the guesses as to what that number means, however, are amazing, to say the least. One man said it probably indicated that 153 A.D. was a very important year. I have never been able to find out anything unusual about that year, however. Another suggested that the number 100 stood for the Gentiles, the largest number, 50 stood for the Jews, because they are only half as important, or as many, and 3 stands for the Trinity. Another obviously mathematically-minded commentator added the numbers from 1 through 17 and found they added up to 153, but he failed to say what was the significance of that!

The most likely answer, as some commentators say, is the suggestion of Jerome, the early church father, who said that among the Greeks it was widely regarded that there were 153 kinds of fish in the sea. Modern science, of course, has discovered that there are many more species than that. If this was widely thought in that day, however, this was God’s way of saying that the gospel is a universal gospel; it is for everybody, no matter what their background, color, culture, education, whatever. The same gospel is designed for men and women everywhere on earth. It has been true through all of history that wherever this wonderful word has spread it has never been found to be out of place. Once the artificial cultural barriers to understanding are removed the word of the gospel always speaks right to the human heart. No matter what kind of fish we may be dealing with they can be caught by the gospel net.17

In my opinion the number 153 just means there were a lot of fish and is characteristic of an eyewitness account giving the facts to make the story credible.

(3) Their recognition

Undoubtedly, this reminds them of the time that Jesus called them as disciples with a similar miracle, and John is the first one to catch on. At least they don’t say: “It’s a ghost.” So we see progress. Peter may have put his clothes on so he would be dressed when he came to the Lord.

c. After the catch - the fellowship of relating 21:9-12

(1) The Lord’s self-sufficiency

The Lord didn’t need them to fish. He has what He needs. I find it interesting that the Lord used some of the fish that the disciples caught. I think that is a picture of how the Lord uses us to further His kingdom and allows us to partake in the reaping. He could do it without us, but He doesn’t.

(2) The Lord’s supply

He also has what we need. They are dependent on him for supply and service. What he had done for the multitudes, he now did for the disciples.

The same two symbols (fish and bread) are usd by Jesus to show He is the source of supply in evangelism (salvation) and ministry (sanctification). Jesus is all they need and want. He doesn’t need to use them; He chooses to use people in the process of His work and will.

What does it mean they didn’t question Him knowing that it was the Lord? I think this indicates more than just recognition that this was Jesus. I think the idea is that they recognized they were in the presence of God.

Here we see a charcoal fire. The only other charcoal fire is where Peter denies Jesus. I’m sure Jesus set this up as a reminder to Peter. Now Jesus and Peter have another conversation. Then he asks Peter if he loved Him more than these.

There is some debate about what the “these” refers to, but it seems likely that there is some irony here: Peter had boasted in 13:37, “I will lay down my life for you,” and the synoptics present Peter as boasting even more explicitly of his loyalty to Jesus (“Even if they all fall away, I will not,” Matt. 26:33; Mark 14:29). Thus the semantic force of what Jesus asks Peter here amounts to something like “Now, after you have denied me three times, as I told you you would, can you still affirm that you love me more than these other disciples do?”

Some try to make a big deal that Jesus uses ajgapa/’“ twice and filei’“ once. But it seems best to regard the interchange between ajgapavw and filevw in these verses as a minor stylistic variation of the Evangelist, consistent with his use of minor variations in repeated material elsewhere, and not indicative of any real difference in meaning.

As for the significance of the entire scene, it seems clear that it is intended to indicate Peter’s complete restoration to a position of apostolic leadership after his threefold denial. Three times Peter had denied Jesus; three times Peter now affirms his love for his Lord, and three times Jesus commissions Peter to care for the flock of God. There could be no question on Peter’s part or on the part of the other disciples that he had been completely restored.


  • The disciples need a fresh lesson of relying on the power and provision of Christ for their ministries.
  • Their responsibilities will only be fulfilled if they have a right, loving relationship with Him.


  • God can supply all of my needs for life as well as service.
  • He demands my absolute obedience in following him.
  • His way is always the best way.
  • His way for me may be different than someone else.
  • Jesus is devoted to the masses and yet also devoted to individuals - the disciples and Peter.
  • From the three afirmations of his love for Jesus, we see that: Love of Christ is the major motivation for the ministry.!!!
  • There is always hope of restoration for a fallen disciple.

    17 Ray Stedman at

  • Related Topics: Miracles

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