Gone fishing



Think back to your first meeting with Jesus. As you come to him today, give thanks for all that he means to you.

Bible passage

John 21:1–14

Jesus and the miraculous catch of fish

21 Afterwards Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as 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 realise 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.

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 round 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 metres. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Boats at sunset


Repetition aids learning. There is a distinct sense of having been here before. Peter goes fishing. Was that wrong, heading back to his old life rather then moving boldly into the new? Probably not; the disciples have been told to wait and filling the time seems reasonable. It’s a disappointing night. No fish. Here Jesus takes them back to the beginning, reminding them of their purpose – to be fishers of men (Luke 5:1–11). Is there significance in the number ‘153’ (v 11)? There have been many suggestions, none convincing; perhaps best to recognise that even if there was, we are unlikely to know what. The important thing is that it was a surprisingly large catch.

Then the Creator of the world cooks breakfast for his friends, reminding us that he did not come to be served but to serve (Mark 10:43–45). A confirmation that the Word was genuinely made flesh (John 1:14). Jesus meets us in the everyday, if we’re open to the possibility. We shall recognise him, as these disciples did, by what he does, or as the two on the road to Emmaus eventually realised, by what he says (Luke 24:32). Where might you meet him this week?

John Grayston


Look back over your life with Jesus – are there things that he has said or done that you need to remember and act on? 

Deeper Bible study

Transitional times, where the old has gone and the new has not yet emerged, are difficult. Are there ways in which you or those around you are stuck in transition?

As they wait for the Ascension promised in John 20:17, the disciples have returned to Galilee. After years of daily, purposeful activity in mission, now they have nothing to do but wait. After his denials, Peter’s leadership has probably been questioned, not least by Peter himself – just six other disciples are with him here. The activist Peter can’t wait with nothing to do. Taking the initiative and joined by the others, Peter goes back to fishing, which is what he was doing when Jesus first called him. Yet attempting to reclaim a past identity brings them no solace. The contrast with a previous night of fruitless fishing that ended with them being called by Jesus1 may have deepened their sense of aimlessness. It seems they can go neither forward nor back. 

While Jesus comes to lead them onward, first he cooks them breakfast. He builds a fire and gets it hot enough to cook before he calls to them (v 9). The massive haul caught at his command helps John to realise who is on the shore, probably too far away for easy recognition. Peter, desperate to resolve things with Jesus, throws himself into the water – and his anxiety is seen also in his taking charge of the catch when Jesus asks for some of the fish they’ve caught. 

Although they’re quiet and awed (v 12), there’s a peaceful, unhurried sense of them all enjoying these moments of renewed friendship. It reminds us that these disciples were Jesus’ friends and that he wanted to spend time with them.2 We may remember that the core to the calling of the apostles was the call to community.3 His cooking breakfast reminds us that, to Jesus, people are never just a means to an end. 

We see Jesus being with his friends in this transitional time. How have you known Jesus’ presence in your times of transition?

1Luke 5:1–11  2 Cf Luke 22:15  3Mark 3:14

Mike Archer

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