Summary: What was Jesus fishing for from Peter?
The Fishing Trip
I’m going fishing. At least here in eastern Tennessee, this sounds like something one does when they want to relax. And when said in a group, it is an informal invitation for others to join. However, if we were to think this the case of Peter and the other disciples, we would be dead wrong. Fishing was Peter’s way of life as it was for Andrew and James and John, the sons of Zebedee. So this was no pleasure outing.
John is the only Gospel which has resurrection appearances of Jesus to the disciples in both Jerusalem and Galilee. In Matthew, Jesus appears to the women who bring the message to the disciples to return to Galilee and meet Him there. The account of His appearing in Matthew is different than the one here. There isn’t a problem here as Luke and Paul both indicate that Jesus made many resurrection appearances over the 40 days.
What is interesting here is that Luke records a similar catch of fish at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in chapter 5 of his Gospel. There are some similarities in the accounts such as the toiling of the disciples all night long followed by an appearance of Jesus who commands where the net should be thrown, resulting in a miraculously large catch of fish. Then there is a summons to discipleship. Because of this some think this only happened once and that Luke places it at the beginning and John at the end. However, when one holds to the fact it occurred twice, then the meaning of the passage becomes telling. This will become clear upon further investigation.
Exposition of the Text
John begins this passage by mentioning that after the appearance to Thomas and the other disciples that Jesus made one more appearance to at least several of them including Simon Peter, Nathaniel who came from Cana of Galilee, Thomas, and two others. Nathaniel had not been mentioned since the first chapter and makes his second appearance. We have seen Thomas and Simon Peter on their journey to faith throughout the Gospel. What is interesting, this is the only time that the sons of Zebedee are mentioned in the entire gospel, and here not even by their names of James and John. If John is the beloved disciple and writer of this gospel, then this is an extraordinary act of humility on the part of one the other gospels record as being one of the “Sons of Thunder”. The emphasis of the whole gospel is about Jesus, not his followers. This was seen by the example of John the Baptist who performed his ministry and was willing to fade away once his task of introducing Jesus the Bridegroom was done.
Peter and the others were going back to business as usual. Peter had reverted to his old occupation as though the three years he had spent with Jesus was nothing more than a grand adventure. So he took his boat out of mothballs and went to catch fish and make his living as he had once did. In this, it was almost another denial of Jesus who had initially called Peter from fishing for fish to that of men.