When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus told them. So Simon Peter climbed up and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish—153 of them. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
“Come and have breakfast,” Jesus told them. None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread, and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
In verses 1-8 of John 21, Peter had gone straight back to fishing. Taking other disciples with him, he returned to the very thing he was doing when Jesus first called him. Have you ever done that? When a stranger on the shore convinced them to cast once more, leading to a miraculously large catch, they immediately knew Who it was. Verse 9 could be one of the most underappreciated miracles of the Bible. Charcoal fires take time, but Jesus miraculously made one because He knew this was an important moment.
I believe that the 153 fish are what Jesus would gesture toward when asking Peter, “Do you love me more than these,” in the upcoming verse 14. I do not have any personal interpretation of the significance of the exact quantity 153 in this text, but I do see its exactness as deliberate and I do have some firsthand experience that allows me to speak to the significance of the catch. I grew up fishing with cast nets constructed identically to Peter’s, but made with a more sophisticated monofilament fiber. The most fish I have ever seen in a cast net of this construction was 40 and even our modern monofilament nets struggled to contain these.
This was a miraculous catch and John was there first hand to witness it. Just as he repeated in his epistles of First, Second, and Third John, he wrote about what he had seen with his own eyes and touched with his own hands. This was the disciples’ third encounter with the resurrected Jesus. The process of preparing them to forever change the world began in Jesus’ teachings before the crucifixion and is culminating in the events of these chapters leading up to the ascension in the beginning of Acts.
What are your own firsthand encounters with Jesus that you could share evangelistically?
Pray: Ask that the people of Highlands would have similarly intimate walks with Jesus to share firsthand.