Summary: Year C Third Sunday of Easter--April 29th, 2001. John 21: 1-19
Jesus appears to his disciples. At his word they catch a huge amount of fish. They share a meal that Jesus prepared. Then Jesus commissions Peter as pastor of his Church and prophesies his martyrdom.
Although the Gospel seems to have ended with chapter twenty, especially verses thirty and thirty-one. Chapter twenty-one, has been appended and gives more resurrection appearances, now in Galilee, and yet another conclusion in verses twenty four and twenty five. There are two scenes here. The first one is about fish, catching them as a symbol for missionary success.
The second scene is about sheep, leading them as a symbol of Peter being not only a missionary apostle fisherman, but a model for pastoral care shepherd.
In verses one to fourteen, the Miraculous Catch of Fish reveals Peter the Fisher of Men.
In verse one, Jesus revealed himself again: This is the third appearance to his disciples according to John. It takes place in Galilee. The disciples have apparently returned to their former occupation of fishing. Jesus appears to them in the course of their daily work.
In verse three, that night they caught nothing; night was considered the best time for fishing and the fish would be fresh for the market in the morning. Night is also a symbol for spiritual distress and need.
In verse four, 4 Jesus was standing; Jesus simply materializes suddenly as he does in several of the post-resurrectional narratives.
Disciples did not realize that it was Jesus: On one level, the physical, they do not recognize Jesus because his glorified body has changed his outward appearance to some degree. On another level, the spiritual, Jesus can only be truly seen with the eyes of faith. Gradual recognition of Jesus is an important theme in John.
In verse five, children; this word, like “kids” in our language, implies the master-disciple, teacher-student relationship.
In verse six, they cast the net; the success of the fisherman on level one, that is, the earthly and physical, there is the catch of fish and on level two, missionary success is entirely dependent on their obedience to Jesus’ word.
In verse seven, it is the Lord; as in chapter twenty verses one to ten, the Beloved Disciple is the first to recognize Jesus because of his love for him. Peter, on the other hand, literally “jumps in the lake” to hasten to shore. There he will learn the lesson of love from Jesus himself.
In verse nine, fish and bread; as the story goes Jesus already had some fish on the fire before the disciples could bring the freshly caught ones. This meal is a quasi-Eucharist. Jesus takes the initiative because he is the giver of spiritual food, which is Himself. Fish was a frequent symbol of the Eucharist along with bread, of course.
In verses eleven to thirteen, 153 large fish; the catch of fish symbolizes the mission of the Church. The un-torn net symbolizes the unity of the Church and the 153 represents totality. It is not possible to trace the exact meaning to which the number 153 refers, perhaps it was well known to the disciples, but we are not told.