Simon Peter and his partners had fished all night but had caught nothing, yet at Jesus’ command their fishing nets filled with so many fish that the boats began to sink. This miracle proved Jesus’ authority over nature and showed his power to provide for those in need (similar to the miracle of manna that God performed for the wandering Israelites in the desert; see Exodus 16:1–36). However, as with all of Jesus’ miracles, this event can be understood on a deeper level.
This miraculous catch of fish illustrates a key aspect of Jesus’ ministry: His call, when obeyed, changes everything. As soon as Peter saw the overflowing nets, he recognized his sinfulness in contrast to Jesus’ power. From that point onward, every priority in the fishermen’s lives changed, and things that once seemed important (the fish, the boats, their livelihoods) seemed so no longer.
The book of Amos uses a fishing metaphor to refer to the judgment of Israel: The people of Israel would be caught like fish and hauled off to exile (see Amos 4:2). Jesus, though, used fishing to symbolize the act of gathering disciples into his kingdom, giving the metaphor the very opposite meaning.
Far from simply a miraculous catch of fish, which was impressive in and of itself, Jesus’ miracle was one of many that signaled the arrival of the kingdom of heaven. The fishermen, like many others who experienced Jesus’ miracles, would never be the same. Jesus’ authority to perform miracles testified to a deeper truth: The long-awaited Messiah had arrived.