Miraculous Catch of Fish

John 21:1-14 – After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself. 2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. 6 And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea. 8 And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes. 9 As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. 10 Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. 11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken. 12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise. 14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead. 


I.    Purpose of this miracle: to show select apostles he would provide for them – that they did not need to fish for a living.  It is my opinion the apostles who were not present had already learned this lesson. 

The Apostles Present/Absent From This Miracle



Apostles Present


Apostles Absent


Simon Peter


Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter (likely present)


Thomas called Didymus


Philip (likely present)


Nathanael of Cana in Galilee


Matthew (likely absent)


James the son of Zebedee


James the son of Alphaeus (likely absent)


John the son of Zebedee


Simon called Zelotes (likely absent)


An unknown disciple (likely Andrew)


Judas the brother of James (likely absent)


An unknown disciple (likely Philip)







A.     Peter, James and John are the three that went with Jesus into the Mount of Olives, where Christ commanded them to watch and pray with him. 

B.     I assume Nathanael and Bartholomew is the same person. 

1.       In the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke; Philip and Bartholomew are always mentioned together, while Nathanael is never mentioned. 

a.       In the fourth gospel, on the other hand, Philip and Nathanael are similarly mentioned together, but nothing is said of Bartholomew. 

b.       Nathanael is never mentioned in the first three gospels, while Bartholomew is never mentioned in the gospel of John. 

2.       Scriptures where Bartholomew is mentioned:

a.       Matthew 10:3 – Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus;

b.       Mark 3:18 – And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite,

c.       Luke 6:14 – Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew,

d.       Acts 1:13 – And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.

3.       Scriptures where Nathanael is mentioned:

a.       John 1:45-49 – Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. 46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! 48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. 49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.

b.       John 21:2 – There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.

C.     The apostles who were not with Peter. 

1.       It will be impossible to tell exactly which of the apostles did not go fishing with Peter. 

2.       If we knew, we would probably venerate them above the other apostles. 

3.       It is likely the two unknown disciples were Andrew and Philip. 

a.       Perhaps because Andrew and Peter are brothers and Andrew introduced Peter to Christ. 

b.       Philip introduced Nathanael to Christ. 

4.       If my conclusions are correct, the four disciples who did not go fishing with Peter are: 

a.       Matthew.

b.       James the son of Alphaeus. 

c.       Simon called Zelotes.

d.       Judas the brother of James.

D.     There is little profit in trying to guess who the two unknown disciples are, but there is much profit in understanding there were seven apostles who needed this miracle and four who did not. 

1.       Matthias was not yet elected to the position of apostle. 

2.       Christ never severely reprimanded them for attempting this fishing trip, which was really a return to a former work, but used their lack of catching fish to reveal to them they needed to be obedient to him, and he would provide plenty of fish for them, and they would not have to catch them. 

3.       The disciples are not chastened for their lack of faith, but gently reminded of God’s gracious call and provision. 

E.      It is interesting to note that although Peter is the “leader” of this group, he apparently does not become the pastor of the church at Jerusalem. 

1.       According to Acts 15:13, James seems to be that pastor. 

a.       The James of Acts 15:13 is James the son of Alphaeus. 

b.       Acts 12:2 records that Herod killed James, the brother of John. 

2.       Paul (whose name was changed from Saul), not Peter, becomes the leader of Gentile missionary endeavors. 

a.       There was no jealously among the early believers because they all wanted the will of Christ to be done – not their own wills. 

b.       Paul likely wrote about 14 of the books of the New Testament while Peter wrong only two. 

c.       James, the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, only wrote one book of the New Testament, yet there is no hint of jealously or competition. 

3.       Others, whom God chooses, often replace those that seem to be in leadership. 

a.       Peter does not have jealously because of this “power transfer”. 

b.       Neither should we when “power” is transferred from us to others. 

c.       God always put the man in control he wants in control.

F.      Select apostles: Some of the apostles apparently do not (directly) need this miracle. 

1.       This miracle reveals the individual workings of God with each of his children, giving them exactly what they need so they can fully worship and follow him. 

2.       One of the main problems all believers have is judging the future by the past when we do not know what the future holds. 

a.       Believers often walk by sight, not by faith, judging what will happen on what has happened. 

b.       Believers often do not expect God to work a miracle in their lives, expecting instead to continue in their grief and despair. 

3.       This also happened to me, but it might not happen to you. 

a.       After I left Bible Baptist Church in Hornbeck, Louisiana, I determined the continual trouble and lack of worship in most churches wasn’t worth the trouble, because people did not want to hear the Bible. 

1.)    I helped build one house, and did some remodeling work on other houses, then tried to buy a house I knew I could quickly turn over for a nice profit, but found it impossible to buy the house, even though I tried three times. 

2.)    God would not let me buy the house, because he knew if I got the taste of making a lot of money in a short time, I would be hooked, therefore kept me from that wicked fate, or he knew I would lose my shirt, and protected me. 

3.)    When I turned down the accounting position, God had already revealed to me that I should be pastor Independence Baptist Church– that was before the church called me as pastor – but he gave me the choice of coming here or not coming here – of obeying his perfect will, or falling into his permissive will. 

4.)    Joshua 24:15 – …choose you this day whom ye will serve… I had to make up my mind that I was going to follow Jesus regardless of what circumstances were around me, or what was going on in my life at that point. 

5.)    I had to leave it all to Christ, and allow him to take care of everything. 

b.       I did not expect Christ to bless my life, my family, and IBC as he has – shame on me. 

G.     Jesus Christ called Peter to faithfully follow him on four different occasions.  See C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\LUKE\05v08 - 2.doc 

1.       John 1:40-42 – the first time Peter is called to follow Christ.   

2.       Matthew 4:18-22 – the second time Peter is called to follow Christ. 

a.       The healing of Peter’s wife’s mother is in Matthew 8:14,15 and Luke 4:38,39.

b.       Sometime after Peter’s wife’s mother is healed, he returns to fishing for a living.

3.       Luke 5:1-11 – the third time Peter is called to follow Christ. 

4.       John 20 – the fourth time Peter is called to follow Christ. 

5.       After these four times, Peter became so convinced of his purpose in living that he gave all. 

a.       II Peter 1:12-15 reveals his determination to so preach and live that after he died, the word of God would continue with power. 

b.       There is no greater determination for any person to have than this. 

c.       Peter remarks in verse 16 that he has not followed trickery, but truth, and desires his followers to continue in the way of truth, never falling for trickery. 

H.     The lesson:

1.       It is absolutely necessary that we be careful what we do, because others are being influenced by us, just as we are being influenced by others. 

2.       Christ knows the heart of Peter, and continually calls Peter to follow him faithfully. 

3.       This principle is true for all of us, yet we must be very careful not to go too far, because Christ will allow his children to be disobedient and pay the consequences of their rebellion and stubbornness. 

4.       Every person has a different line he should not cross in searching for God’s will in their lives:

a.       according to the different circumstances of their lives,

b.       and the different direction God wants them to go,

c.       and the different information,

d.       and clarity of calling. 


II.    Verse 3 – Simon Peter declares he will go fishing. 

A.     Simon Peter seems to be leader of the group, as he is outspoken, and some folks unwittingly follow the outspoken person, whether they are leading them correctly or not. 

1.       I believe these seven disciples have known each other for a long time. 

2.       James and John (the sons of Zebedee) and Peter and Andrew were apparently in a fishing partnership. 

a.       Luke 5:2 states Jesus saw two fishing boats whose owners were washing their nets. 

b.       Luke 5:3 reveals that Simon owned one of the boats. 

c.       Luke 5:7 compared to Luke 5:10 reveals the partners of Simon, in the other boat, were James and John, the sons of Zebedee. 

d.       Matthew 4:18-22 confirms the partnership of these men. 

B.     When Peter says he is going fishing, the words he uses reflects his desire to leave his present work of fishing for men, and return to his former work of fishing for fish. 

1.       Peter is not just going fishing for a day to relax. 

2.       He returns to his fishing boats, which he apparently retained. 

C.     Why did Peter determine to return to his former work? 

1.       John 20 reveals two occasions where Jesus showed himself openly to his apostles, desiring they not fear, but have full knowledge of his resurrection from the dead. 

2.       Peter, like us, could not envision the blessings that awaited them all. 

a.       Peter, like us, was hanging on to what he knew, what he sees, and what he knows. 

b.       Ephesians 3:20 declares, Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 

c.       Peter didn’t understand the ascension of Christ into heaven, nor the power manifestation on the day of Pentecost. 

d.       Peter didn’t know 3,000 would shortly be saved and added to the church of which he was a member. 

e.       The many events of the book of Acts are future, and were so great Peter could not imagine them. 

f.        We cannot visualize the future either – what blessings does God have in store for us, if we will only remain with him, and not go back to our former work. 

3.       It is wrong to criticize Peter for returning to his former work, because he was honest before Christ, and fully desired to follow him. 

D.     They leave immediately. 

1.       There is great enthusiasm for this new venture, yet little knowledge of God’s will. 

a.       Enthusiasm doesn’t mean God’s will is being followed. 

b.       Agreement doesn’t mean God’s will is being followed. 

c.       They likely had visions of a great fishing trip, not realizing the power to catch fish is in God’s hand. 

2.       Their enthusiasm soon turns into discouragement, as the night progresses with no victory.  [1]


III.    In the morning light, Jesus came to them. 

A.     Though it appears they had forsaken Christ in their confusion concerning what to do next, Christ would not forsake them. 

1.       Verse 4 give some indication that Jesus stood on the shore observing them for a while, but the disciples did not know it was Jesus. 

2.       Evidently, Christ was silently watching them as they toiled at fishing – catching nothing. 

3.       Christ often silently watches us as we struggle with present empty tasks, doing everything and catching nothing. 

4.       The silence of Christ speaks not of his weakness, but his patience and longsuffering with our ignorance of his power to supply if we would only yield to him. 

B.     Jesus asks them what he already knows. 

1.       Jesus does not need their answer to know the truth – they have nothing. 

2.       Jesus desires them to take inventory of their situation – and see they have nothing for all their labours. 

3.       We need to know we are nothing, and have nothing, except with Christ we are everything and have everything. 

4.       God gave his son and Jesus gave his blood to make us what we are in him: invaluable! 

C.     Jesus gives advice as a stranger and his advice is taken. 

1.       This shows the desperation of their situation, or their superstition. 

2.       It would seem a person standing on the shore would not know so much about fishing as the person in the boat. 

3.       There is a promise to us in Jesus’ words. 

a.       There will be fruit if we are obedient. 

1.)    It is very possible to do exactly the same thing we have done all night long, yet have good results when the same thing is done in obedience. 

2.)    Many pastors, church members and churches try to duplicate what a spiritual church has done to receive the blessings of God, but do not achieve those blessings because they did not do what God desired them to do. 

3.)    They do not receive the blessings of God because they are not obedient to God, they are doing what God told another church to do. 

4.)    Each church needs a personal revelation from God, which he freely gives through his word. 

b.       It is right to live right and do good, yet if we do those things to gain a reward, we will have no reward. 

c.       If we live right and do right because we are desiring to be obedient to Christ, there is great reward: not only in eternity, but also in this life. 

4.       The result of obedience. 

a.       According to verse 8, the disciples were careful to keep that which God provided for them. 

1.)    This was no “catch and release” program! 

2.)    There is no record of what happened to the fish – God knows. 

b.       According to verse 11, there were 153 fish, yet the net was not broken: none got away! 

c.       These were great fishes, not tiny, insignificant fishes. 

d.       No doubt, this great catch of fish signify that soon these disciples would catch great fish – as thousands upon thousands of Jews believed and began a new life of servicing God in his local church. 

D.     The disciple Jesus loved (probably John) recognized the fruit of Jesus words, and knew it was Jesus who commanded them. 

1.       Peter recognized Jesus’ work when it was pointed out to him. 

a.       Peter covered himself with his fishers coat and cast himself in the sea, evidently swimming to Christ. 

b.       I do not believe Peter was naked as some men count nakedness, but as God counts nakedness. 

c.       Isaiah 47:2-3 indicates that nakedness before the Lord is to bare the thigh. 

2.       It is always good to point out the work of God to others, even if we are not exactly right with God ourselves. 

3.       While Peter swam to Christ, the other disciples left their boat and came in a little ship dragging the net with the 153 great fishes in it. 

a.       I don’t think Peter is to be criticized for his enthusiasm in approaching and leaving others to do the work of bring the net of fishes to land. 

b.       200 cubits distance is approximately 300 feet, or 100 yards. 

E.      Jesus has prepared a meal for them, but did not use the fish they had caught. 

1.       They all saw the fish, but did not attempt to eat any of the meal until invited to eat. 

2.       Even after Jesus invited them to eat, Jesus took the food and gave it to them, then they ate. 

3.       Before they ate, Jesus instructed the disciples to bring the fish they had caught, therefore Peter drew the net to land, and counted the fish. 

4.       God wants us to take care of that which he has provided for us before we take care of ourselves. 

F.      The three times Christ appeared to his disciples after his resurrection.

1.       Christ appeared to them the first day of his resurrection. 

2.       Eight days later he appeared to them again, revealing his resurrection to Thomas. 

3.       John 21 makes the third time.  [2]


IV.    Jesus continues to instruct his apostles about the work that is before them. 

A.     Verse 15-19 – Jesus wants Peter to consider how much he loves the Lord, as this is a very necessary ingredient in future service.  ..\JOHN\21v15-19.doc

B.     Verse 20-23 – Peter then wondered about John and his service.  ..\JOHN\What Shall This Man Do.doc



[1] Preached to here 01/27/2008 IBC Sunday Morning

[2] Preached to here 01/27/2008 IBC Sunday evening