John 21:1-9

Henry Mahan

(Vs. l) After our Lord bad risen from the dead, appeared to Mary and twice to His disciples, He showed Himself to seven of the disciples who had gone to Galilee according to His instructions (Matt. 28:10, 16). These appearances were more than just physical appearances in order that they could see Him and know that He lives. He manifested Himself to them in His Divine majesty, His resurrected glory, His love and compassion for them, and His victorious redemptive work (John 20:28-31). Here are the recorded appearances of Christ after His resurrection. There may have been more; we do not know (Acts 1:3).

(Vs. 2-3) There were seven of His disciples assembled together in a certain place not for from the Sea of Galilee (Tiberias); and Peter said to the others, "I go fishing." This was his business and occupation before he met the Master. Judging from the following verses, it would seem that Peter (having nothing to do, unsure of his blaster's purpose for him, and being a man of action more than contemplation and waiting) decided to go back to the boats and nets. Whether Peter was turning his back on preaching and returning to his former occupation, we do not know for sure; but it appears so. The other disciples were ready to follow where Peter led and they said, "We also go with you." They evidently still owned boats and nets; so they entered a ship, as they had done so often before, and fished all night. This night they caught nothing. Our Lord is sovereign over the fish of the sea? and He prevented them from having any success this night. They had been called to be fishers of men, nor fishermen of this sort.

(Vs. 4-5) Morning dawned and the Lord Jesus stood on the shore. The disciples were only about one hundred yards offshore and could both hear Him and see Him, but they did not know that it was the Lord. He asked, "You have caught nothing at all, have you?" They replied, "No!" He did not ask this question for information nor because He did not know, but the reason was two-fold: (1) to draw their attention to the fact that their return to their old occupation was a total failure ("without Him we can do nothing") and (2) to make them attentive to the miracle He was about to perform. He can and does indeed supply the needs of His people (Phil. 4:19).

(Vs. 6) Experienced fishermen do not usually obey the orders of strangers standing on the shore. Nevertheless, at the command to "cast the net on the right side of the ship," they obeyed and caught a multitude. Several things might be suggested–the calm, majestic, authoritative voice of the Master, or perhaps they recalled a similar incident (Luke 5:4) that happened months before, or did John begin to suspect that it was the Master when He spoke? At any rate, these weary fishermen obeyed and caught 153 fish.

(Vs. 7-8) John said to Peter, "It is the Lord." If he did not recognize the Lord's voice, at least he knew from this miracle Who it was. Peter had been toiling with the nets, stripped down to a loincloth, or with nothing on, because it was hot, hard work. Realizing that His Lord (whom he had denied, whom he had doubted, and whom he had disobeyed by leaving the place of meeting to return to fishing) was standing on the shore speaking to them in love and patience, Peter, anxious to be in His fellowship and good graces, wrapped his fisher's coat about himself and jumped into the water to swim ashore. He felt guilty about where he was and what he was doing (for he had led the others there). Yet he loved the Master and wanted to be the first to welcome Him. We see this impulsiveness in Peter quite often. The other disciples stayed in the ship and rowed to shore with the fish.

(Vs. 9) The disciples came from their defeat, frustration, and failure at sea to find a fire kindled and a meal of bread and fish prepared for them by the Lord. What a lesson for those who minister the gospel! We are unable to provide anything in our own strength, but by His grace He will fully meet our needs. Also the Master's provisions are so complete that nothing of ours need be added. The command, when He provides, is simply, "Come and dine, for all things are ready." It is so in redemption–Christ is all and in all. All we bring to Him is our emptiness, our need, and our sin. We stand before Him and His spiritual blessings as these weary, hungry disciples stood before that meal. It was all provided by their loving Lord (I Cor. 1:30; Col. 2:9-10; Eph. 1:3).

Henry Mahan
Ashland, Ky.