The fishing trip! – John 21:1-14
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 24, 2016
There are a few things I really like to do that I do not get the time I would like in order to be able to do them. I like to shoot, draw, take photographs, hike, and I love to fish. Fishing is extremely relaxing for me, and whether I catch anything or not, it does not matter because I like the art of it and the ability to forget about everything else and just fish. Two guys can fish for hours and not say anything. I just love to fish.
For most of the disciples fishing was a way of life. It was not just a way to earn money but it was a way to feed their families as well. Fishing was a matter of life or death and these men knew how to fish. As we finish out John’s Gospel we discover that the disciples had returned to Galilee and while waiting for Jesus there they decide to go fishing. Let’s take a look at the fishing trip.
There is a story told of an old Irish gentleman who was fishing in the rain in a puddle outside of a local pub. A passerby took pity on him and offered to buy him a drink inside so he could warm up and dry off. As they were sitting inside the man asked the elderly Irishman, “How many fish did you catch in that puddle outside?” He smiled and looked at him and replied, “You make the fourth one today!” In fishing, I have learned that…
I. You can’t catch fish until you cast your net! (Vv. 1-6)
Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. 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.
1. After Jesus had confronted Thomas and he had believed and after they followed his instruction to go to Galilee where he would meet them, “Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias.” For John it is a matter of fact and he is relating these things that he experienced to his readers. The Sea of Tiberias was another name for the Sea of Galilee or Lake of Gennesaret. John explains, “It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.” Jesus brought the disciples together for specific reasons and here we discover that not all of them were evidently there at this time; only about seven of them including John the narrator. Is this important for us to speculate on? Probably not, however, Peter being impulsive and probably bored waiting for Jesus to come tells the others, “I’m going out to fish.” Peter knew how to fish he was after all a fisherman and had been one before Jesus had called him to be his disciple. The others, having nothing better to do, readily reply, “We’ll go with you.” Guys hate to be left out of a good fishing trip! “So they went out and got into the boat”. It turned out to be not very fruitful. This is interesting because both Peter and the Sons of Zebedee had been fishermen with their own boats. They knew the Lake well, when and where to fish on it. Their lives had depended upon knowing the best conditions to fish, “but that night they caught nothing.” It was not unusual for them to fish at night with lanterns to attract the fish. Yet, “Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.” Busy about their task they did not realize who stood on shore. “He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.'” This is Jesus. I can imagine him smiling as he makes his suggestion to these longtime fishermen. Perhaps they thought that since they hadn’t caught any fish yet, any suggestion was good as another or maybe the stranger on shore saw something they did not. However, “When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish!” You can’t catch fish until you cast your net!
EXAMPLE: Believe me there is nothing more sacred than fishing for a guy. And there is nothing worse than someone trying to tell someone else who knows how to fish, how to fish! But if you know the water you are fishing and have fished it many times, then you can impart some personal knowledge to the novice in the boat with you. And if they are wise they will at least listen to your advice even if they do not use it. The problem with far to many believers in our day and age is that they have not only never attempted to fish, but they refuse to take any advice from those who know the waters and have done so. Of course I am speaking of witnessing. If you have not caught any fish, unbelievers, as a Christian, perhaps you need to take some simple advice: You can’t catch fish until you cast your net!
“This is how you cast your line” my father told me for the hundredth time. At least that’s what it seemed like. I complained, “Papa, you’ve told me over and over how to cast my line! Why do you keep telling me how to do it?” He replied, “Yes, and the fish are still waiting. Keep practicing.” In fishing, I have learned that…
II. Jesus already has fish prepared for you! (Vv. 7-9)
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. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
1. An impulsive nature can either be enduring or tiring depending on one is being affected by it. Peter was sometimes tiring and sometimes enduring. Here he is more enduring than tiring. John relates a typical Peter moment: “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.” Perhaps Peter had learned that the unexpected was what one was to expect where Jesus is concerned. Kind of like a child who hears the word ice cream truck, Peter hears that it is indeed Jesus! His reaction is just as impulsive but here it is more to the way Jesus desires all of his followers respond to his presence; immediately and without hesitation. When we do we will discover all the things God already has for us. Interestingly, “The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.” Here we discover the others were left to do the heavy lifting however Jesus already had enough fish cooking for them to eat! Where did he get the fish, how did he get the fish, and when did he get the fish are not really important as the fact that Jesus had fish! John relates that “When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.” Perhaps the disciples had to learn that the things of God only come when one is willing to go out and prepare them for service. They had spent the night fishing, then they were told where they could find fish, and finally they got more than they imagined! Yet what I believe is the final teaching here is the fact that Jesus already knows where and when you can fish but also that he has already prepared them for you! Jesus already has fish prepared for you!
EXAMPLE: As we looked out on the big lake and the dark green smooth water it seemed as if we were the only ones fishing. And I wondered just how many fish were out there for me to catch. Of course there are always fish out there but they are not always caught. It can depend on the weather, the water, the bait, the fisherman, and the contrary nature of the fish. However there is one other important thing concerning fishing, the right equipment. I have learned over the decades that if you use cheap hooks, lousy line, or a poor pole your chances of consistently landing a fish are greatly reduced. In fishing for men using the Gospel we already have the best message, the greatest means, and the right equipment. Sometimes, rather often really, we need to rely on the fact that Jesus already has fish prepared for you!
I was surprised at first and then delighted to learn that you had to kill the fish, clean the fish, and then cook the fish after you caught them. In fishing, I have learned that…
III. You have to share what is caught! (Vv. 10-14)
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
1. Here we see again John’s adherence to detail which helps us understand that this is truly an eyewitness account. After coming to shore, “Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.'” John is there and knows what Jesus said, but for us today it is important because the Lord tells us the very same thing. Here’s what I mean: We are to bring the fish, the unsaved, we have caught by the message of the Gospel to him. We are his fishermen and women. We are to be about catching fish and bringing them to Jesus. Now it is important for us to understand what this truly means. I used to think and was often taught that it was our job to be evangelical and annoying witnesses wherever we went. This is simply not true. Notice how John describes the fish that were caught that day. And yes, I know they were real fish and not men, but John describes them as “large fish” and that there were “153” of them. He was concerned for each one because fishermen in those days would bring their catch in and everyone on the boat got an equal share of the catch. So numbers were important. And numbers are important to Jesus as we bring the fish we have caught to him. I am not talking about the many false and phony baptisms and conversions I have seen in my day that some are willing to do. I am talking about the actual fish themselves; the actual people who one has shared the good news with. And notice what Jesus does with those fish, he offers them as sustenance. We are to offer the ones we bring to Jesus as a sweet aroma to the Lord. A sacrifice of our time, our busy lives, our willingness to take a moment along the way and share the good news with another we bring to Jesus. “Come and have breakfast” he tells them. It is in this sweet fellowship of sharing that the disciples enjoy Jesus’ company. John relates, “None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.” You have to share what is caught!
EXAMPLE: It was the biggest six inch trout I had ever seen in my life because I caught it! And imagine my frustration when I had to share it with my brother! None of my “but Dad” would sway my father’s mind, I had to share what I had caught. The same is true with those we bring to the Lord. It is our duty to bring them into the fellowship of sharing them with Jesus. We do this as we bring them to church, as we bring them to Bible Study or Sunday school, and we do this as we disciple them in the teachings of Jesus! You have to share what is caught!
You can’t catch fish until you cast your net! Jesus already has fish prepared for you! You have to share what is caught!
This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.