September 29th, Day #42 - John 21:1-14
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. – John 21:7
Peter wouldn’t let the obstacle of the sea stand between him and Jesus.
What spiritual habits have you built over the last several weeks as you have journeyed with Jesus?
What obstacles do you foresee that might keep you from spending time with Him?
What are you going to do to ensure they don’t get between you and Jesus?
Read John 21:1-14
You may feel like the disciples in today’s passage; you’ve been fishing all night and have nothing to show for it! Perhaps you’ve been job hunting with no apparent success. You may have invested time and energy in teaching Sunday school or praying daily for a family member to come to the Lord, and feel like you have little to show for it. Be faithful, don’t give up! Listen to the voice of the Lord. Jesus WILL show up; maybe not exactly like He did for the disciples, but in His way and in His time! He will answer your prayer, not always as hoped for, but in a way that brings glory to Him.
Today’s passage also reminds us that the “main event” is not what Jesus can do for us, but in knowing and experiencing Christ through our challenges or trials. As with the disciples, the sweetest thing was not the impressive catch of fish, but the invitation to join the Lord for a barbeque on the beach! Peter understood this and dove into the water to reach Jesus first. May we have that same desire and excitement to spend time with the Master!
Let’s look to what God wants to say directly to you today through John 21:1-14.
Scripture: What verse or phrases do you find yourself re-reading?
Observation: Where is the disciples’ focus at the start of this passage? Where does it end? What helped them change focus during this time?
Application: Sometimes we get so focused on what we are used to doing, that we do it without inviting Jesus into it, much like the disciples here. What in life right now are you desperate to figure out or manage?
Prayer: Invite Jesus into those areas where you are desperate. Ask Him for wisdom, assurance, presence, insight, joy, trust, or whatever you need. Spend some time with Jesus, enjoying His presence.
While the resurrected Jesus appeared to his followers in Jerusalem according to John and Luke (Luke 24; John 20), the other Gospels point to Galilee as the place where they will meet him. Mark 16:7 (cf. Matt. 28:7) records the words of an angel, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ” This suggests no contradiction. The disciples have simply been instructed to return to what had been their "base" throughout Jesus' ministry and there receive further instructions. In John's narrative, Jesus appeared already on Easter Sunday and then eight days later; now he appears a third (and final) time on the shore of Galilee. John 21:14 helpfully numbers these appearances.
The Sea of Tiberias is the Sea of Galilee, about seventy-five miles north of Jerusalem and surrounded by the hills of Galilee and Golan (see comments on 6:1). The fishing villages of Bethsaida and Capernaum are here - both significant residences of leading disciples. Peter is from Bethsaida (Heb. "house of fish," see 1:44), and he decides to return to his long-neglected work of fishing. Other disciples are there too, even though some are not from the region (Nathanael is from Cana); the seven listed in 21:2 decide to join Peter for a night's fishing.
The best fishing can be found in the early hours before sunrise (NIV "night"), and families generally worked together in pairs (cf. Luke 5:2). Two boats generally used compound nets (trammel nets) that would encircle a school of fish by setting them up vertically with cork floaters on one edge and stone or metal sinkers on the other. Once the school was surrounded, the net was tightened by the boats and the men would throw "cast nets" (about ten feet across), bearing lead sinkers over the unwary fish. These filled nets would either be emptied by a swimmer or pulled into the boat while many of the other fish would get caught in the net wall surrounding them. Peter's boat is using this method in the shallow water about a hundred yards from shore (21:8), and it is likely that he is diving into the sea checking the cast nets (21:7).
The seven disciples have an unsuccessful morning on the sea and they are frustrated. At sunrise they are finishing up when an unknown voice from shore instructs them to try the opposite side of the boat. ''Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some," Jesus called out (21:6). To toss a cast net at random into the sea was virtually futile. Only a school captured by a trammel net could be picked up in this manner. But the stranger may have seen a large school of fish from the shore, and Peter quickly spins the net over his head and lets it sail, like a parachute, dropping onto the sea as he watches the sinkers take it down.
In these shallow waters, the miraculous catch cannot be mistaken. Pinned to the net are over one hundred fish (later counted at 153), and its weight is more than the boat can take. Recently members of Kibbutz Ginosar in Galilee found such a first-century fishing boat (now on display at the Beit Yigal Allon Museum, Ginosar), and its size gives some insight. Its length is 26.5 feet and its width 7.5 feet. If this bears any resemblance to Peter's boat, seven men would have filled it-which lends further support to the notion that these men use two vessels.
Immediately the Beloved Disciple recognizes Jesus on the shore (21:7) and conveys the news to Peter. What Peter does next has invited unnecessary confusion (obscured by a paraphrase in the NIV). Some translations, reflecting the literal Greek, report that when Peter hears that it is the Lord, he "put on his clothes for he was naked." The idea is that Peter is wearing a loin cloth for diving into the sea (full nudity would be unusual) and now he gets dressed to join Jesus. The problem is that he gets dressed in order to jump fully clothed into the sea.
A more plausible translation recognizes that the verb "to dress" (Gk. diazonymmi) actually refers to wrapping or tucking clothes around oneself (as one would with a robe or toga). In 13:4 Jesus thus "wraps" (diazonymmi) a towel around himself at the footwashing. Here Peter is wearing a worker's smock (Ck. epedytes) on the boat, but he wants to swim to shore to meet the Lord. Because he is naked (Ck. gymnos) underneath the smock, when he hears that Jesus is on the shore, he tucks or wraps his smock into his belt to give him a tight fit and leaps into the water.
None of the others respond with Peter's impulsiveness. John tells us that the other men turn their boats toward shore and slowly drag the bursting cast net (21:8). Rather than anchoring at a coastal harbor, they likely drop their stone anchor when the water became shallow, as it does quickly on the northern coasts. Later Peter runs out to the net, frees it from the boat, and pulls it to shore.
In Judaism, an abundant catch was a sign of God's favor and blessing (T. Zebulon 6:1-8); this is precisely what Jesus has done. He blesses them further by greeting them with a fire and roasting fish together with fresh bread (the mainstays of a first-century meal in Galilee). Peter is told to haul the 153 netted fish to shore not to supplement Jesus’ breakfast, but to preserve the catch as any responsible fisherman would do. Some of the minor harbors in Galilee (such as Kursi) had stone catch-basins where newly caught fish can be kept fresh for later cleaning. Peter either drops the fish into one of these or keeps them in the shallows.
While they are eating, John says that the men know it is Jesus but are also afraid to ask (21:12). This is unusual. In the garden Mary (who knew Jesus intimately) spoke with him and mistook him to be a gardener, only later recognizing him when he said her name (20:16). The disciples now do the same. Jesus' resurrected appearance bears some traits that give everyone pause: He is the same Jesus, but the events of Easter have also made him unmistakably different. Jesus' offer of "bread and fish" precisely parallels what he did at the miraculous feeding in 6:11, and this no doubt serves as a signal that removes any uncertainties (cf. Luke 24:30 for similar recognition at a meal).
Much speculation has surrounded the meaning of the 153 fish. For some, this is merely the count of fish here offered to establish the size of the miracle… If John had a symbolic meaning in mind, we can only guess what it was. As with the other miracles of quantity in the Gospel (the wine in Cana, the food in Galilee), this number may simply represent extreme abundance and blessing from the One who controls good gifts from heaven.
John ends this section (21:14) by reminding us that this appearance was the third time Jesus had revealed himself since his resurrection. No doubt he has in mind the events of Easter, where he appeared to Mary and to the Twelve (20:11-23), and the second revelation in the Upper Room the following week, when he appeared for the benefit of Thomas (20:26-29). This reference closely links 21:1-14 with the stories of chapter 20.
*This resource an excerpt from The NIV Application Commentary: John by Gary M. Burge (Zondervan, 2000), page 582-586.
** You're almost done! Join us for one more day of devotionals: Day 43 (Sept 30th)!