Guest contributor today – Jackie Lewis!
In considering this passage, I am reminded of numerous camping trips with my family where Phil and our three son-in-law’s have gone fishing – apparently to bring back some wonderful fresh fish for us to cook. On a number of these occasions they have come back empty handed and we have cooked pasta! Phil reminds me that they went ‘fishing’ not ‘catching.’ You can feel the disappointment as they return! In this passage we also learn about a return with no fish, but more unusual, as they are experienced fishermen who had earned their living in this way and not amateurs. I think they knew exactly where to fish and what bait to use.
I wonder if they had felt at a loss and so had returned to their old way of life, uncertain of what to do, doing something familiar. The passage tells us there were seven of them. Or were they following Jesus’ instruction. This is in the region of Galilee – Jesus had previously said to them;
“But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” (Mark 14:28).
They had fished through the night as before and yet as we have thought caught nothing. Jesus knew exactly where they were and I’ve no doubt knew exactly how they were feeling; maybe tired, wet, hungry and despondent. We see here the resurrected Jesus is standing on the shore, calling out to them, but they did not initially recognise him. This is now the third occasion where Jesus appears to the disciples following his resurrection (in the Gospel of John), he showed up at their place of work. Jesus directs their next steps and meets them exactly where they are.
‘He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some”. When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.”’
Jesus made a strange suggestion to His disciples. There was no logical reason why fishing in the morning light would be better than fishing at night, or why fishing on one side of the boat would be better than the other side. It wasn’t even directly a test of trust in Jesus, because they did not know it was him until the fish were caught. I don’t know why they followed the instruction but we know they did, and it’s a miraculous success beyond anything they might have expected. Jesus is always able to do so much more than we can imagine or expect. I wonder if they were immediately reminded of a previous miracle a time when the net was broken and the boat began to sink, (see Luke 5:1-11) because they immediately realise who it is:
‘Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.’
I love the way Peter responds here, his eagerness, he jumps straight in and rushes to get to Jesus, I need to be more like that.
I don’t know why it mentions there were 153 fish except that they were fishermen and when Phil and others have been successful in ‘catching’ they always want to talk numbers!
Jesus is ready, when they come to shore He already has the fire going and fish cooking, with bread at hand. He encourages them to bring some of the catch with them. Our risen Saviour again shows his humility, he has prepared the fire, he is preparing and serving the meal for his disciples before they even land the fish. The greatest miracle here is that Jesus seeks them out and wants to dine with them. Jesus is often seen eating with his disciples after his resurrection. This is a picture of intimacy and relationship.
“They ate the bread and fish that morning, I doubt not, in silent self- humiliation. Peter looked with tears in his eyes at that fire of coals, remembering how he stood and warmed himself when he denied his Master. Thomas stood there, wondering that he should have dared to ask such proofs of a fact most clear. All of them felt that they could shrink into nothing in his divine presence, since they had behaved so ill.” (Spurgeon from Enduring Word Media)
If Jesus asks us to do something, however strange it may seem we need to obey his Word, when Jesus is with us we will see the miraculous and the abundance of his grace ‘pressed down and running over’. Let’s pray that we will be as eager to spend time in his presence. He is with us in every situation and wants to have an intimate relationship with us, He wants to dine with us;
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Rev 3:20).