John 21:1-11

Sunday Morning Bible Study

April 20, 1997


Jesus has risen from the dead!

He's appeared to Mary and the women, the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and twice to the group of disciples in the upper room.

Those appearances all took place in Jerusalem.

Yet Matthew records that Jesus had instructed the disciples to meet Him up north in Galilee, where He'd spend some more time with them. (Mat.28:7)

:1-11 Gone Fishin'

:1 Jesus showed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias

the sea of Tiberias

This is one of the many names for the "sea of Galilee".

Itís also known as Gennesaret, or Chinnereth.

Though it's called a "sea", it's really a large fresh water lake, 5 miles wide (at it's widest) by 12 miles long)

This is the area in the northern part of Israel where Jesus did most of His ministry before His crucifixion.

It was here in Galilee, that Jesus first met Peter, James and John, as they were fishing.

Mat 4:18-22 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. {19} And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. {20} And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. {21} And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. {22} And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.

It would be here in Galilee, a little later that Jesus would reiterate His desire for them to reach the world with the gospel:

(Mat 28:19-20 KJV) Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: {20} Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

:2 There were together Simon Peter Ö and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.

The sons of Zebedee - these were James and his younger brother John, the writer of the gospel.

two other of his disciples - It could be that these two are Phillip and Andrew, but it could also be that they are two disciples that weren't part of the inner twelve.

I am a little curious where the other disciples are, this is no more than seven of the eleven remaining disciples.

Maybe the other guys just didn't like fishing?

:3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing.

Was this all that bad?

Some have said that Peter is just trying to make a living Ö maybe Ö

:3 They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately;

ship - a typical Galilean fishing boat was about 15 feet long.

:3 and that night they caught nothing.

The childrenís song says, "they fished all night and they caught no fishes Ö"

Now when some guys go fishing, they donít care if they catch anything or not.

All they care about is getting away and tossing a line in.

But these guys are professional fishermen.

They donít go fishing for the fun of it.

This is what they do for a living.

After all, these guys donít use fishing poles, they use NETS!

And theyíre frustrated!


The frustration of ignoring Jesusí commands.

What was the last thing Jesus had told the guys to do?

When He had appeared to them in the upper room Ö

John 20:21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

Three years ago Jesus said He would make them fishers of men.

During the time that Jesus was with the disciples, He was constantly preparing them for the day that they would go out and preach the gospel.

And just a few days ago, He had told them to get going.

And so they got going Ö but going back to their fishing boats.

And they're catching nothing.

It's extremely frustrating when you're not doing what you know the Lord wants you to do.

It might be something as simple as getting up early enough in the morning to spend time in the Word.

And when you don't, the day is extremely tough!

It might be something as important as sharing the gospel with someone you ought to.


Jonah said "no" to God, and ran as far from Nineveh as he could go.

He ended up frustrated, in the belly of a whale.

Instead of catching fish, the fish caught Jonah!

Have you been ignoring something Jesus has been telling you to do?

Is there any wonder you're frustrated about it?

:4 But when the morning was now come,

morning - proia - early, at day break; the sun is just beginning to come up, and it's still a little dark.

:4 but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.

It could be that it was just too dark to recognize the man on the beach.

But it could be as weíve mentioned before, that Jesus is using His "disguise-o-matic" function of His resurrection body. (John 20:14; Luke 24:16,31)

:5 Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat?

Children - paidion - a young child, not just the simple word for "child" (pais), but the "diminutive" form, or, a "little child".

Donít be thinking that Jesus is somehow making fun of the disciples or looking down on them by calling them "children".

John himself uses this word in writing to the believers that he cares so much about:

1Jo 2:18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

This isn't humiliation, it's tenderness.

Meat - something to eat; probably referring to fish.

Note: The way Jesus phrases this in the Greek, He is kind of expecting a "no" from the disciples.

It's like He was saying, "You probably don't have anything to eat, do you?"

:5 They answered him, No.

Not only has it been a rough night without any fish, but now this guy on the beach has to remind them of what a waste of time the night has been.

:6 And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find.

Important insight (J ): This tells us that Peter and his friends must have been casting their nets on the left side, and hence were left-handed fishermen! J (just kidding Ö joke?!?)

So hereís these professional fishermen that have been out all night on their boat.

All night long theyíve tossed their nets out, dragged them back in, and tossed them out again.

And all night long, they've caught nothing but water.

And now this guy has the nerve to say that all they need to do is toss the nets on the right side of the ship?


The answer may not be far away.

Some of us struggle with things for a long time.

Yet the answer might be just around the corner.

With just a word from the Lord.

:6 They cast therefore

Actually, this is sounding kind of familiar to the guys about now.

This has happened to them before, hasn't it?

There was this other time when some guy told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, and hey, it worked then!

:6 they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

Literally, "they didnít have the strength to pull in the net" because of the "plethora of fishes" in the net.

:7 that disciple whom Jesus loved

Johnís way of referring to himself.

:7 It is the Lord.

Something has struck a chord in John's mind.

It was something that had happened three years ago Ö

Luke 5:1-11 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, {2} And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. {3} And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simonís, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. {4} Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. {5} And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. {6} And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. {7} And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. {8} When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesusí knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. {9} For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: {10} And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. {11} And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.

John gets to thinking, and he realizes who this person on shore is.

Itís Jesus.

The only difference is Ö

Three years ago Jesus was in their boat.

Now Heís back on the beach.


Where is Jesus in your life now?

Is He in your boat?

Or is He back on the beach somewhere, having to shout orders to you?

Is there sometime in your life when you were closer to Jesus than you are now?

Itís not necessarily wrong for fishermen to be out in a boat fishing.

After all, they have to make a living.

The apostle Paul made tents for a living, to support himself.

But the problem is that they left Jesus behind, they didn't take Jesus to work with them.

:7 he girt his fisherís coat unto him, (for he was naked,)

fisherís coat - more literally, an "outer garment".

he was naked - gumnos - without clothing; or only wearing undergarments. Peter has been working hard all night, working only in his shorts.

:7 did cast himself into the sea.

Peter isnít going to stay away from Jesus any more than he has to.

The last time that Peter had been instructed in fishing by Jesus, he responded with,

(Luke 5:8 KJV) When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

But now, Peter knows better, and he can't wait to get to Jesus.


What steps do you need to take to get closer to Jesus?

Peter wasn't afraid to get a little wet.

He wasn't afraid to leave behind what was probably the biggest catch in his entire career as a fisherman.

Is it time that you "dive in" to serving the Lord?

:8 And the other disciples came in a little ship;

Itís nice of Peter to be so enthusiastic about Jesus, but did he have to leave them with all the equipment and the fish?

a little ship - perhaps another little boat used with a larger one to handle the nets, or perhaps the same boat.

:8 two hundred cubits

two hundred cubits - about a hundred yards (a cubit = 1 Ĺ feet)

:9 As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there

Jesus had things all prepared for them.

:9 and fish laid thereon, and bread.

Sounds like "fish tacos".

By the way, where did Jesus get the fish and bread?

It was a miracle.

Fish - opsarion - fish, small fish

This is not the typical word for "fish" which is ichthus, the word that was used in verse 6.

The only other passage in the New Testament that this word for "fish" is used, was back in John 6, when Jesus was challenging the disciples to feed the five thousand people, and Andrew returned with his report:

Joh 6:9 There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?

With those two small fish, and a few loaves of bread, Jesus was able to feed five thousand people.

That was a time when Jesus demonstrated something very similar, that if He was involved, it wouldn't take much to feed a multitude of people.

As the disciples come dragging themselves up the beach, I can't help but wonder if they are somehow reminded about that other time when Jesus provided such a huge meal with the same two ingredients, fish and bread.

:10 Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.

Jesus now uses the same word as in verse 9, "small fish".

It's kind of like Jesus is saying, "bring up the little fishies you just caught Ö"

:11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land

I find it fascinating that back in verse 6, seven fishermen were not able to draw in the net because of the numbers of fish, yet now at Jesus' command, Peter himself is able to pull the net onto land.

:11 full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three

great - (megas) - ("mega") great in physical size

fishes - ichthus is used here (not "fishies").

an hundred and fifty and three -

What's the significance of the number 153?

I don't know.

Other than the fact that the disciples were so blown away by the number of fish, that they actually stopped to count them.

Pay attention here - John is trying to tell us how the guys were blown away with 153 "mega-fish", but Jesus just called them a bunch of "fishies".


We serve a GREAT GOD!

Jeremiah writes,

(Jer 32:17 KJV) Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:

What seems too big for us, is small for Him!

I think we often have a perspective problem.

We tend to look at life from our own perspective, but God would rather that we look at life from His perspective.


Many of the Israelites might have thought that David could have never fought Goliath, because Goliath was so much bigger than David.

But David tended to look at things from God's perspective, and God is WAY BIGGER than Goliath!

:11 and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken

broken - schizo - (schism) to cleave, to tear; to split into factions

It could be that John is simply mentioning this as a fisherman himself, that they were amazed that their nets were able hold so many fish.

After all, they most likely were the ones who made their nets, and they knew how much they could hold.

It would be like catching a 100 pound sturgeon on 15 pound test line.


When Jesus does the work, there can't be "too many".

Our church

Frankly, at times I get worried that our church is growing too fast, or too big.

I remember when we started that many of us talked about how nice it was to be in a small church, where you can get to know everybody and not feel lost in the crowd.

I've wondered at times just how good it is for a church to get really, really big.

But I think that as long as Jesus is calling the shots, as long as Jesus is directing the work, as long as the growth is coming from Jesus, then we don't have to worry about the nets breaking.

Our lives

As long as Jesus is calling the shots, the nets will hold.

Sometimes we think our personal lives can only hold so many "fish".

We can tend to limit ourselves in what we can do.

But if Jesus is leading us, He can do an incredible amount through us.

At Jesus' command, Peter could bring in the net by himself.

Paul said,

(Phil 4:13 KJV) I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.