John 21:1-14

Sunday Morning Bible Study

May 22, 2011


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision

Just a word about yesterday.  Some of you may have heard that there was a prediction that the Rapture would happen yesterday at 6pm.  It didn’t.  I’m kind of disappointed because part of me would really like to be in heaven right now.  But I guess we still have work to do.  I hear a new billboard has been proposed.  I like it.

We have made it past the death of Jesus Christ.

Early on Sunday morning, Mary, Peter, and John all found the tomb empty. 

Jesus appeared first to Mary.

That evening, Jesus appeared to all the disciples except for Thomas, who was not in attendance.

One week later Jesus appeared to Thomas.

21:1-14 Gone Fishing

:1 After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself:

:1 After these things

Keep in mind that John does not give us a detailed account of all the times that Jesus will appear and spend time with the disciples after the resurrection.  Luke tells us that Jesus appeared many times over forty days (Acts 1:3)

(Ac 1:3 NKJV) to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

Jesus doesn’t just appear to the disciples in Jerusalem.
Part of the time will be spent back on their home turf in the north in the Galilee, where Jesus spent the majority of His ministry.
Matthew records that Jesus had instructed the disciples to meet Him up north in Galilee, where they had spent so much time together. (Mat.28:7)

(Mt 28:7 NKJV) —7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”

:1 showed Himselfphaneroo – to make manifest or visible or known what has been hidden or unknown, to manifest, whether by words, or deeds, or in any other way

:1 at the Sea of Tiberias

Show map clip – Jerusalem to Tiberias

This is another name for the Sea of Galilee.

The name comes from the large city that Herod the Great built on the western shore, the city of Tiberias.
It was around the shores of this lake that Jesus spent most of His time.  His “headquarters” was the town of Capernaum.

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

(Mk 1:16–18 NKJV) —16 And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
Mark goes on to record Jesus having a similar exchange with James and John.
(Mk 1:19–20 NKJV) —19 When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. 20 And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.

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

(Mt 28:19–20 NKJV) —19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

:2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together.

:2 Simon Peter …

Seven of the eleven remaining disciples (Judas would be dead) are together at this point in Galilee.

We know that at least Peter and the sons of Zebedee (James and John) mentioned here were fishermen.

Perhaps the others here were as well.

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 said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.

:3 fishinghalieuo – to fish (from hals, “salt”)

:3 I am going fishing

Some people just don’t understand fishing.

PlayNitro Boat vs. Whiney Girlfriend” clip

Is this a bad thing for Peter to go fishing?

Remember he’s a fisherman by trade.  Is it possible that he felt they needed to be doing something to raise a little funds?  After all, working to support yourself isn’t a bad thing.  Peter had a family to support.
Jesus had told the guys to meet Him up in Galilee and He hasn’t showed up yet.  Maybe Peter is just tired of waiting around.  Maybe he’s just bored.

:3 the boatploion – ship, boat, perhaps 15-20 feet long

Show pictures of the “Jesus Boat”

In 1986, the water level in Galilee was very low.  A couple of brothers discovered something in the mud, it turned out to be a 2,000 year old fishing boat.

They were able to dig it out, preserve it, and today it’s in a museum on the shore of Galilee at Ginosar (ancient Gennesaret). 

:3 that night

The time to go fishing is at night.

:3 caughtpiazo – to lay hold of; to take, capture; of fishes

:3 caught nothing

This isn’t the first time that Peter has been fishing all night without catching anything.

Perhaps that was just something that happened to fishermen.  Sometimes you just don’t catch anything.


The frustration of saying “no”

Three years earlier Jesus said He would make them fishers of men.
(Mk 1:17 NKJV) Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
If you track the events of the gospels, you come to discover that there would be second time when Jesus challenged the disciples to fish for men.
(Lk 5:1–11 NKJV) —1 So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, 2 and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. 3 Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat. 4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” 6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. 7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” 11 So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.

When Peter declares to Jesus that he is a sinful man (Lk. 5:8), perhaps part of the reason has to do with the fact that he had already left everything to follow Jesus, but Jesus finds him again after having spent the night fishing without catching anything.

And now Jesus calls Peter a second time to fish for men, and Peter is broken.

Now in John 21, after the resurrection, it was just a few days ago in the upper room when Jesus had again hinted at His purpose for their lives:
(Jn 20:21 NKJV) So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

He told them to “get going”.  And so they “got going” … back to their fishing boats.

And again they’re catching nothing.

It’s 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.

I don’t know about you, but when I get all caught up in my day and don’t take time to spend any quality time with Jesus, my day is one frustration after another.

I tell myself I don’t have time to pray or read, but in the end so many things go wrong or take longer than I expected, and life is frustrating.

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 didn’t go fishing, he ended up in the belly of a fish.

Jesus said,
(Jn 15:5 NKJV) “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

The disciples are learning firsthand how fruitful they can be apart from Jesus.

They fished all night and caught nothing.

Have you been ignoring something Jesus has been telling you to do?
I’m not talking about situations where God has said, “Not yet”.  Those are frustrating too – when God has hinted that there are things ahead for you, but now is not the time.
I’m talking about situations where you have told God “no”.

He’s asked you to do something and you said, “no”.

Is there any wonder you’re frustrated it?

Is there any wonder that you’ve caught no fish?

Tracking the sequence of events

What’s interesting is to track the sequence of events in the early ministry of Jesus.

When Jesus calls Peter and his friends to be “fishers of men”, He will actually do it twice.
Both Matthew and Mark record the first instance, which happens before Jesus encounters a demon in the Capernaum synagogue.
Luke records a second occurrence, which takes place after the incident in the Capernaum synagogue


4:18 Peter, etc. are called – be fishers
4:23 Jesus ministers in Galilee
5-7 – Sermon on the Mount
8:1 Leper cleansed
8:5 Centurion’s servant healed


1:17 Jesus calls Peter, etc. – be fishers
1:21 Demons cast out in Capernaum synagogue
1:29 Peter’s mother in law healed
1:32 Many healings
1:40 Leper cleansed


4:31 Demons cast out in Capernaum synagogue
4:38 Peter’s mother in law healed
4:40 Jesus ministers in Galilee
5:1 Jesus preaches, Peter’s morning catch, Fishers of men
5:12 Leper cleansed

:4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.

:4 morningproia – early, at day break

For the fishermen, their “shift” is over.  It’s time to head to shore.

:4 the shoreaigialos – the shore of the sea, the beach

Show Tiberias to Tabgha map clip

The one city Jesus spent more time in than any other was the city of Capernaum, on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

About 1.5 miles west of Capernaum there’s one of many perfect places for fishing.

Play Tabgha – Fish and Dock clip

There’s a church built there to honor Peter the fisherman.
It’s a great place for fishing because a local hot springs empties into the lake there and the fish like to hang out in warmer waters.
They have discovered a first century boat dock at that location.
You will see the tourist boats go by from time to time.
On one of our trips, there was a school of fish jumping just off shore.

:4 knoweido – to see; to know

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

It could be that Jesus is using that “disguise-o-matic” function of His resurrection body.  (John 20:14; Luke 24:16,31)

:5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.”

:5 Childrenpaidion – a young child, a little boy, a little girl

Jesus doesn’t use the word for “child” (pais), but for “little child” (diminuitive).

Is this something you’d expect to say to a bunch of burly fishermen who have just spent an exhausting night on the water?

Don’t think that Jesus is 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:

(1 Jn 2:18 NKJV) Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.
This isn’t humiliation, its tenderness.

:5 foodprosphagion – anything eaten with bread; spoken of fish boiled or broiled

:5 have you any food?

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

He’s saying, “You probably don’t have anything to eat, do you?”
He might be rubbing it in that they haven’t caught any fish all night.

:6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

:6 castballo – to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls

:6 Cast the net on the right side

This does tell us one important thing about Peter and his friends – they were left handed fishermen.  They had been spending the night casting the net on the left side instead of the right.  J

I imagine that for professional fishermen, it is a bit galling to have some guy on shore tell them how to do their business.

But they do it anyway.

:6 were not ableischuo – to be strong; to have power; to be able

They didn’t have the strength to draw the nets in.  It was too big a catch.

When Jesus guides you, fishing isn’t so frustrating.  Look at these guys who are fishing with nothing but light:

Play Incredible Fishing clip.

:6 to drawhelkuo – to draw, drag off

:6 multitudeplethos – a multitude; a great number, of men or things

:7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea.

:7 that disciple whom Jesus loved

This is how the apostle John refers to himself.

:7 the Lordkurios – he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; master, lord

:7 it is the Lord

For John, things “clicked” a little quicker than the other guys.  I believe John remembered the incident recorded in Luke (5:1-11) from a few years back.

:7 he put on his outer garment

Peter had stripped down to his underwear while he was toiling all night.  He quickly puts on his coat and jumps in the water.

:7 outer garmentependutes – an upper garment; seems to denote a kind of linen blouse or frock which fishermen used to wear at their work

:7 put ondiazonnumi – to bind or gird all around; to gird one’s self with a thing, gird a thing around one’s self

:7 he had removed itgumnos – unclad, without clothing, the naked body; ill clad; clad in undergarments only (the outer garments or cloak being laid aside)

:7 plungedballo – to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls

The same word that was used for “cast” with the nets (vs. 6)

Now Peter isn’t casting nets, but casting himself into the sea.


Fully committed

Peter has come to the place where he isn’t 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,
(Lk 5:8 NKJV) 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.
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” and follow the Lord?
Peter’s example is a picture of what commitment is all about.
Do you know the difference between involvement and commitment?

 When you look at a plate of ham and eggs, you know the chicken was involved. But the pig was committed.”

Paul wrote,
(Ro 12:1 NKJV) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

Dive in like Peter.

:8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish.

:8 the little boatploiarion – a small vessel, a boat

This might be a second, smaller boat.  It may be just another way of describing the same boat.

:8 two hundred cubits – or, three hundred feet, about a hundred yards (a football field)

:8 draggingsuro – to draw, drag

Peter might be willing to abandon the catch of fish, but the other disciples felt like they wanted to bring this huge catch to shore.

:8 fishichthus – a fish

This is the most common word for “fish”

:9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread.

:9 fire of coalsanthrakia – a heap of burning coals

The only other time this word is found in the New Testament is in:

(Jn 18:18 NKJV) —18 Now the servants and officers who had made a fire of coals stood there, for it was cold, and they warmed themselves. And Peter stood with them and warmed himself.

:9 fishopsarion – fish, small fish

The word John uses here is not the usual word for fish (ichthus, vs. 8).  This could be translated “small fish” (diminuitive).

One type of fish found in Galilee is Tilapia.

:9 fish … bread

Jesus had asked them if they had any “food” (vs. 5)

Now we see He’s already had breakfast prepared:  Fish Tacos.

He didn’t need their “food”.

There’s another source of nourishment.
(Jn 4:31–38 NKJV) —31 In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33 Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 36 And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”

:10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

:10 fishopsarion – fish, small fish

:10 caughtpiazo – to lay hold of; to take, capture; of fishes

Jesus asks them to bring some of the fish they just caught and add them to His fish.

:11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken.

:11 draggedhelkuo – to draw, drag off

:11 fishichthus – a fish

:11 largemegas – great; large

:11 one hundred and fifty-three

Is there any significance to this number?  Why does John take the time to record such a specific number?

I’ve found a secret code:  The seventh prime number is 17.  Multiplied by 3, and then again by 3, and you get the number 153.

Actually, I don’t know the significance.

Except that the fishing disciples were so blown away by the size of the catch that they actually took time to count and record it.
Maybe it was a Galilean record?


Big Fish Small Fish

Sounds like … Dr. Suess, “One Fish, Two Fish”
John carefully uses two different words to describe the “fish” in this passage.
When describing the fish from the disciples’ perspective, John uses ichthus, the normal word for fish.

In fact, John himself calls them “mega fish”

When describing the same fish from Jesus’ perspective, John uses opsarion, which might be better translated “small fish”.

There’s only one other passage where this word is used, back in John 6, another meal of fish and bread.

(Jn 6:8–9 NKJV) —8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”

What seems like a “large fish” to us, is just a “small fish” to Jesus.
We get all caught up in the things of this world and what seems to be a “big deal” to other people around us.

We want to have the coolest phone, the fastest car, the biggest house.

Those things are just “small fish” to Jesus.

Last year they conducted a survey among 220,000 college freshmen about what was “very important” or “essential” to them. Data from a Higher Education Research Institute Study of nearly 220,000 first-time and full-time freshmen revealed the following statistics:

78.1 percent wanted to be “well off financially” (compared to only 42.2 percent of college freshman in 1969).

48 percent wanted to develop a “meaningful philosophy in life” (compared to a whopping 84.9 percent in 1969.

Priorities have changed.

Mary Beth Marklein, "Freshmen Have Making Money on Their Minds,"USA Today (1-21-10); submitted by Van Morris, Mt. Washington, Kentucky

He has other priorities for us.
Some of those priorities have to do with what we are “fishing” for.

He wants us to fish for “men” instead of “small fish”.

From the beginning He told them:

(Mk 1:17 NKJV) Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”

:12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord.

:12 Comedeute (“here” + “to be”) – come here; come now!

:12 eat breakfastaristao – to breakfast

:12 daredtolmao – to be bold

:12 askexetazo – to search out; to examine strictly; enquire of someone

:13 Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.

:13  fishopsarion – fish, small fish

Jesus is setting an example for the disciples, He's feeding them.

:14 This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.

:14 the third time – The third time that John has recorded when Jesus showed Himself to the disciples as a group.  John is not counting the time that Jesus appeared to Mary.

:14 showedphaneroo – to make manifest or visible or known what has been hidden or unknown, to manifest, whether by words, or deeds, or in any other way

:3  I am going fishing



In a way you can’t blame the fellows too much.
They had just gone through something that had turned their world upside down.
They had spent the last three years following Jesus.
Even though Jesus told them ahead of time that He was going to die, they were still caught off guard when it actually happened.
And even though they had seen the risen Lord twice already, I’d suggest they haven’t figured it all out quite yet.

Though they had “received” the Holy Spirit, they had not yet come to encounter the “filling” or the “baptism” of the Holy Spirit like they will in Acts 2.

They were still operating on their own logic and leading.

It seemed like fishing was the thing to do.

But several years ago Jesus had changed their calling.  He had changed their priorities.

He had changed them from being fishers of fish to being fishers of men.

I find it interesting that Jesus didn’t rebuke them for fishing for fish.
In fact, He gives them a huge catch of fish.
But as far as I can tell, it’s the last time they go fishing for fish.
Do you have a calling from God on your life? Is there something that God has called you to do? Have you gotten sidetracked?