21 There was one other time when Jesus appeared to the disciples—this time by the Sea of Tiberias. This is how it happened: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (the Twin), Nathanael (the Galilean from Cana), the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.
Simon Peter (to disciples): 3 I am going fishing.
Disciples: Then we will come with you.
After Jesus’ death, the disciples don’t know what to do with themselves, other than return to their old livelihood of fishing. This band of fishermen is lost and lonely, but just when they think things can’t be stranger, Jesus shows up. He tells them to fish on the other side of the boat. They do, and they are suddenly overwhelmed with fish. The nets are bulging.
What He shows here is that not only will their old ways of living leave His followers as empty as the nets, but their old habits will not work either. He has impacted their lives in a way that changed them forever. They can’t go back. And He knows they don’t know how to go forward.
They went out in the boat and caught nothing through the night. 4 As day was breaking, Jesus was standing on the beach; but they did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus: 5 My sons, you haven’t caught any fish, have you?
Jesus: 6 Throw your net on the starboard side of the boat, and your net will find the fish.
They did what He said, and suddenly they could not lift their net because of the massive weight of the fish that filled it. 7 The disciple loved by Jesus turned to Peter and said:
Beloved Disciple: It is the Lord.
Immediately, when Simon Peter heard these words, he threw on his shirt (which he would take off while he was working) and dove into the sea. 8 The rest of the disciples followed him, bringing in the boat and dragging in their net full of fish. They were close to the shore, fishing only about 100 yards out. 9 When they arrived on shore, they saw a charcoal fire laid with fish on the grill. He had bread too.
Jesus (to disciples): 10 Bring some of the fish you just caught.
11 Simon Peter went back to the boat to unload the fish from the net. He pulled 153 large fish from the net. Despite the number of the fish, the net held without a tear.
Jesus: 12 Come, and join Me for breakfast.
Jesus reveals to His disciples a world where God is intimately involved, the main actor in the drama of history. These fish, all 153, are a sign from God representing the community of men and women transformed by faith. Some of them sit down and don’t say a word as they ponder all of this. Others busy themselves in work. Each in his own way thinks, wonders, and prays.
That’s how John always begins and ends his stories of Jesus: reminding believers to become the sons of God. The resurrection of Jesus shows the world He is the resurrection and the life. That isn’t life after death; it is the reality that through Jesus believers can have abundant life, a full and meaningful life, here and now through faith.
Not one of the disciples dared to ask, “Who are You?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus took the bread and gave it to each of them, and then He did the same with the fish. 14 This was the third time the disciples had seen Jesus since His death and resurrection. 15 They finished eating breakfast.
Jesus: Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these other things?
Simon Peter: Yes, Lord. You know that I love You.
Jesus: Take care of My lambs.
16 Jesus asked him a second time . . .
Jesus: Simon, son of John, do you love Me?
Simon Peter: Yes, Lord. You must surely know that I love You.
Jesus: Shepherd My sheep.
17 (for the third time) Simon, son of John, do you love Me?
Peter was hurt because He asked him the same question a third time, “Do you love Me?”
Simon Peter: Lord, You know everything! You know that I love You.
Jesus: Look after My sheep. 18 I tell you the truth: when you were younger, you would dress yourself and go wherever you pleased; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and take you to a place you do not want to go.
Ever since the night Judas betrayed Jesus and Peter denied knowing Christ three times, Peter has felt small. He has felt he betrayed Jesus too. Matching the three denials, Jesus has Peter re affirm his love for Him three times. At the same time, Jesus reaffirms Peter’s call to ministry each time by challenging him to serve as a leader. The conversation on the beach that day affects him profoundly. From then on, Simon Peter is one of the most humble followers of Jesus, but he is also one of the great leaders of the early church, as Acts explains.
The disciples all learn a lesson that day. No matter what someone may have done, the Master wants the miracle of forgiveness to restore that person to be whom He made and called him or her to be.
19 Jesus said all this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. After this conversation, Jesus said,
Jesus: Follow Me!
20 Peter turned around to see the disciple loved by Jesus following the two of them, the same disciple who leaned back on Jesus’ side during their supper and asked, “Lord, who is going to betray You?”
Peter: 21 Lord, and what will happen to this man?
Jesus: 22 If I choose for him to remain till I return, what difference will this make to you? You follow Me!
23 It is from this exchange with Jesus that some thought this disciple would not die. But Jesus never said that. He said, “If I choose for him to remain till I return, what difference will this make to you?” 24 That very same disciple is the one offering this truthful account written just for you. 25 There are so many other things that Jesus said and did; and if these accounts were also written down, the books could not be contained in the entire cosmos.
John has reached the end of his story. Future believers will go on without him, but not without his words. John’s voice is added to the voices of the prophets and the witnesses declaring God has become flesh as Jesus, who manifested true life in the midst of humanity. Now that’s a pretty big idea for a fisherman, but John goes to his grave bearing witness that it is true.
This account, in particular, shows how to enter into God’s kingdom through faith in Jesus so they can experience eternal life. This is his invitation to join him in this marvelous journey.