At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?” “No,” they replied. Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right hand side of the boat and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it. Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore. When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread. “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn. “Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said… Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish.” —John 21:4-13
Last week we focused on Peter in particular as we looked at this wonderful story. But it wasn’t just Peter who met with compassion and blessing; his six companions did as well! In addition to being a story of forgiveness and second chances, it is also a story of abundant and practical provision.
We don’t know if it was financial need that drove the disciples to fish all night, but we do know that their efforts proved useless. There’s nothing more frustrating than feeling like you’ve worked hard all day (or night) and have nothing to show for it. Then through the morning mist comes the voice of a Stranger, urging them to drop their net on the other side of the boat. What prompted them to exert their efforts one more time? I can imagine their first response might well have been irritation and annoyance, perhaps wishing to ignore this unknown Person who obviously knew nothing about their long night of fruitless work. Yet something overruled the natural human reaction and led them to obey. I think of what Jesus said in John 10:27– “My sheep know My voice…”
Somewhere in the depths of their being, those men responded to the Voice of their Shepherd before they even knew it was He.
It quickly became evident that the fish in the sea were indeed plenteous, and that all it took was the word of the Master to drive them into the net. John, who is writing this account and who was there on the scene, communicates his awe as he gives us an unusual amount of detail in describing the catch—“153 large fish,” and the fact that the net had miraculously not torn.
The interesting thing is that Jesus already had His own fish, and they were grilled and ready to eat by the time the disciples got to shore. He could have just told them to bring the boat on in, and have breakfast. But He didn’t do that. He first gave them success in their endeavor, providing more abundantly than they could have imagined. And He used their efforts and skill to tow the net onto the beach and unload the catch. Jesus didn’t need their catch; yet He invited them to bring some of their fish to add to the feast…which also added to their joy.
For a number of years after my husband and I were first married, my parents kept a “Christmas Club” account for us at their bank. All year long they would deposit money into that account, and then each November they would give us the accumulated sum so that we could buy Christmas gifts. We were struggling students with no money, and each year we were so grateful for that provision which enabled us to purchase gifts for our parents and other loved ones. In retrospect, it seems laughable; it reminds me of how, in later years, we used to sneak a few dollars to our kids so that they could go to the discount store and feel like they were “buying” us presents. My mom and dad didn’t need the gifts that we bought (with their money) and brought to the Christmas gathering; but they took great joy in helping us to feel part of the celebration, and in giving us the privilege of being able to choose and wrap gifts for those we loved.
In the same way, I see the delight of Jesus in gifting His beloved children with a ridiculously abundant provision. In fact, the Greek word translated above as “fellows” (when Jesus calls to them) is really the word for “children.”
Jesus doesn’t need my efforts or my resources, yet He delights in inviting me, His child, to contribute to the “feast” of His kingdom. And all the while, before me and behind me and underneath me, He has already made provision.
“Surely our Heavenly Father is not a hard master, doling out bare necessities. He is our Father and delights to make glad the hearts of His children.” —Vance Havner