Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.
“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
No,” they answered.
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. (John 21:1–6)
The Sea of Tiberius, also known as the Sea of Galilee, was the chosen sight for our Lord’s appearance to His beloved disciples. This would have been familiar territory and sweet surroundings for these men. Indeed, it was the place where Jesus had done some of His mightiest works–walked on water, stilled the waves and winds, provided money for taxes from the mouth of a fish, fed the multitudes loaves and fishes, cast out legions of demons, and delivered the parable of the Sower. This place would serve to remind His disciples of the days when Jesus’ power, love, and wisdom were constantly in their view. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of His mercy, power, love, wisdom, and forgiveness. Jesus is always aware of what His followers need–ever reminding us of His presence, especially when faith sags low.
Interestingly, this was where Peter, James, and John had first followed Jesus. It was here that He had called them to abandon their fishing for mere fish and embrace the highest work of fishing for the souls of men. Of interest as well is the fact that Thomas, the doubter turned believer, is now mentioned with Peter. Thomas had missed the appearance of Jesus when the other disciples had assembled, and he was wisely not about to let another opportunity slip through his hands!
Peter demonstrates his leadership abilities as the small band of disciples seem to follow him when he makes mention of going fishing. The simple definition of a leader is to have someone follow. In our verses for today, Peter goes fishing with six in tow. Not wanting to simply wait for our Jesus’ next appearance with idle hands, Peter gravitates to what he knows–fishing. He goes back to what he was accustomed to doing and the others follow suit. There is something very comforting in doing the familiar–it clears one’s mind particularly when so much surprise and unknown swirls in the head.
Not much has gone as expected for the disciples! In the beginning, when the disciples left everything to follow Jesus, their expectations and dreams were not exactly what eventually played out (to say the least). Now they are trying to absorb all that has just happened: Judas’ betrayal; Peter’s denial; Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection; and His appearance to them after His resurrection. They had to have been befuddled. As they try to figure out where to go from here, they return to what they know.
Oftentimes, when we as believers set out to follow Jesus, we must tear up into the smallest pieces any itinerary we may have for the journey. Not much happens as we expect. Jesus keeps to no beaten path nor will He allow us to put Him in a box. He leads us by a way our eyes and ears and minds have never seen, heard, imagined, or dreamed. He knows no fear and He expects His servants to fear nothing because He always walks with us. It is His great promise to all believers. He is a “with us” God.
God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
-1 Corinthians 2:9
In our passage for today we find that the disciples catch nothing, not a thing. I think this is another lesson Jesus was gently teaching his followers, apart from Him we can do nothing. However, with Him, abiding in Him, we can turn the world upside down. In and of ourselves we can do nothing of eternal value. Only He can do all things. Our power is in following Him.
Take It to Heart
“We need to keep reminding ourselves that without the Lord we can do nothing. It needs to become a habit of mind with each of us to tell the Lord as we tackle each task, ‘I can’t do this without your help, please help me’, and then to expect to be helped because we have admitted our helplessness, given up self-reliance and are now looking to Him.” (J. I. Packer)