Cast the Net, John 21:1-14

“After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We are going with you also.’ They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.” John 21:1-3.

John 21:14 tells us that this is the third time the Lord showed Himself to the disciples after His resurrection.

The first being late on Resurrection Sunday and the second eight days later when Thomas was present, both times He appeared in a locked room.

The distance from Jerusalem to the Sea of Tiberias is, as the crow flies, about seventy to eighty miles, perhaps much longer on the meandering roads to that place. If they could average 20 miles a day, the travel to this location might take 4 days or more.

So sheer speculation gives us a minimum of 12 days after the resurrection for this appearance; bearing in mind that Christ ascended to heaven forty days after His resurrection.

“…until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” Acts 1:2-3.

As an aside, note that Christ chose the eleven apostles; these were from the original 12 whom He called, eleven remaining after Judas betrayed Jesus.

The twelfth apostle was not named until the Apostle Paul was called in Acts chapter 9, give particular attention to verses 13-20. The Apostle Paul recaps much of what has been said, with some additional information, in the passage below.

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas [Peter], then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.

Now take note of the list of the disciples given in John 21:2 in the opening passage; Simon Peter, doubting Thomas called Didymus (meaning the twin), Nathanael of Cana, and the sons of Zebedee, who are James and John. Five of the eleven disciples are named and two men are not.

The reason these two are not named is probably because they were not of the original twelve, though they may have been very closely associated with the group.

That there were such men can be seen by the Apostle Peter’s words when he attempts to have a twelfth apostle named because of Judas’ defection and suicide.

“Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.” Acts 1:21-23.

From this it can be seen that it was possible for there to have been many disciples of Jesus, including some who were with Him throughout His ministry without being among the twelve disciples whom Jesus called to Himself, see Mark 3:13-19.

Jesus however does not seem to have changed His mind about who the eleven apostles were because after His resurrection He, “…through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen…” Acts 1:2b, quoted earlier in this study.

Peter’s impatience surfaces and he says, “I am going fishing.” whereupon they all climb into an approximately 26 foot long by 7 foot wide fishing boat and waste a whole night while gaining nothing.

And so it is with all who have been called by Christ to Himself and then backsliding into the world with its dead pleasures, drifting into a fog far away from Him.

This will be time that will be seen as wasted when they are again confronted by the Lord and lovingly entreated to forsake the world and return to Him.

“But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Children, have you any food?’ they answered Him, ‘No.’ And He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.’ Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and eat breakfast.’ Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, ‘Who are You?’ – knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish. This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.” John 21:4-14.

This is the difference between the Christian doing what he thinks God wants him to do and doing what God’s Holy Spirit tells him to do. On the one hand we have dead works done in the flesh and on the other hand there is a reaping so large that one can hardly contain it.

Oftentimes the Christian will find himself sitting on his hands wondering why God has not led him to do something – then in frustration, doing something, anything.

Often Christ’s servants just have to wait on Him for one reason or another. Sometimes it is just to test their character, or to build it, at other times, things just may not have fallen into place yet.

If you find yourself in a dead zone like this, it would be wise not to cease studying your Bible, praying, and continuing to fellowship with other Christians, and do not forsake going to church.

Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus is a good example, Paul was not ready to accept Christ as his savior until that moment; but when he did, he hit the ground running. Only then could the twelfth apostle be added to the church.

To read the account of Paul’s conversion see Acts 9:1-30 where he is called Saul before his name was changed.

For a view of the failure caused by acts done in the flesh, read 1 Samuel 10:8 for the command from the Lord, then read, 1 Samuel 13:1-14 for the downfall of King Saul.

While this account of the Lord’s third meeting with the disciples is pretty straightforward, there are a few details that may help in visualizing the scene.

John 21:7 states that Peter put on his outer garment before he plunged into the water. He was not necessarily unclothed, but rather like some men you see today working shirtless or in shorts in the heat.

It is also stated that the boat was two hundred cubits from land or about a hundred yards, the length of a football field. Though the distance was still considerable for sound to carry, the flatness of the water and the stillness of the morning air would have carried voices very effectively.

Perhaps you have heard this but, George Whitefield, 1714-1770, once preached a sermon here in America to 23,000 people in one place.

This was accomplished without sound equipment or in a special sound enhancing building, just outdoors, so yes, the Lord’s voice carried.

“But when the morning had now come…” John 21:4a.

You all know what a spring day can look like at 6 a.m. so you can visualize what the visibility was like; from so, so, to fairly decent by around 7 a.m. And do not forget to inhale; the air has a sharp coldness to it as it gives way to the warmth of the sun.

Then Peter dove into the water which at that time of year may not have been too cold. At least one of the native species of fish the Tilapia (a number of other species are extinct), will die if the water temperature were to drop to 52-62 degrees F.

Nevertheless, this guy must have been pretty powerful to swim a hundred yards fully clothed.

The haul of fish would have been pretty large, because it says so and it is stated that the net was, “…full of large fish” which should have broken the net, “…although there were so many, the net was not broken.”

Today, at least, some of those fish could have been as much as 1.5 feet long and weighed up to 3.3 pounds. Imagine one hundred and fifty-three of them! And Peter “dragged the net to land”. If he did this by himself, he was indeed very strong.

Great strength is something that gives men too much confidence in their abilities oftentimes.

“Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.’” John 13:37.

“Peter said to Him, ‘Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.’” Mark14:29.

I often think of Rosy Grier the six foot five inch tall football player who volunteered to guard Robert Kennedy during his campaign.

Kennedy was mortally wounded by an assassin in June 1968 and Grier was unable to prevent it, though he and others were able to wrestle the gun away from the shooter.

Mr. Grier’s size, strength and speed were likely the reasons he volunteered, his inability to save the man he admired must have hit hard.

Let us take to heart the lesson we learn from these two men. If you are strong and powerful get on your knees and thank God for his wonderful gift. But all of us no matter what our strengths must always remember that God is our only true strength.

“No king is saved by the multitude of an army; a mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety; neither shall it deliver any by its great strength. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.” Psalm 33:16-20.

“He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear [reverently trust] Him, in those who hope in His mercy.” Psalm 147:10-11.

Lastly, John 21:7 states that, “…the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’” the disciple whom Jesus loved is the Apostle John, writer of this gospel. John refers to himself in this manner throughout the book of John.

Cast the Net, John 21:1-14 taken from posted on 7-24-13, updated on 4-27-18.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.

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