A Fishing Lesson

John 21:1-13

Jerry A. Collins




®       What does God want to teach us when we fail?

®       Do I need to depend upon the Lord?

®       What happens when the Lordís power is at work?


Our biggest problem from Gods point of view is that we believe our dependence upon God is partial and not total! We have the same problem our first parents did. When God created Adam & Eve he placed them in a perfect environment; no sin, pollution, opposition or prohibitions--with the exception of eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The issue of the tree was who gets to determine what is good and evil or what is in my best interest and what is not? Before the fall Adam & Eve were created with a desire to be autonomous, else Satans temptation would not have been tempting. God then asked that they limit this appetite by allowing God alone to determine what was and was not in their interest. This same struggle remains with us today. Sin began then by their doubting that God rules in their interest, His will binding and consequences to disobedience. From the garden we see that the path from God is independence; the path to God is dependence. It requires an act of your will to put limits on your appetites. A healthy rela with Christ will help you here but the solution God implemented in Eden is pain and opposition for them and us. All that God does from the Fall on He does to teach us our need to be dependent upon Him completely, fully and totally! God will use pain, opposition, difficulty and failure to keep His people on the edge of dependence else their life will come to ruin. I am ashamed to admit it but I feel more dependent upon God when things are not going well than when they are! God uses chaos of some kind in our lives to produce a need and desire for dependence upon Him. These moments are teachable moments that help us relearn the lesson that God wanted to instill into our first parents namely that only depending upon God will serve my interests. This lesson Jesus wants to teach His disciples.


The scene is the sea of Galilee where Jesus had said He would see them (Matt 28:7). These disciples could be here because they have done as Jesus instructed which would take them away from areas of stongest Jewish opposition in Judea. These would be old stomping grounds for these men and while waiting they occupy themselves by doing something profitable and familiar, fishing! It is this incident, John tells us, that Jesus chooses to manifest Himself to these disciples. 3 other times John mentions Jesus manifesting Himself in some way as a lesson of some kind; as sent from the Father by baptizing (1:31), as one with transforming power by water to wine (2:11), as displaying glory of God healing blind man (9:3) and here a display of supplying for us by a miraculous catch of fish. Fishing here was done at nite with torches to attract the fish and net them. Repeatedly spreading the nets out in the water then drawing the ends together trapping the fish. Over and over all night long and when morning approaching they have caught nothing. Now these are experienced fishermen.

WE TO EXPERIENCE FAILURE EVEN IN THINGS WE ARE COMPETENT IN. Failure can be a very demoralizing thing. You have tried hard to accomplish something, salvage something. Like these fishermen you have expended much energy, marshaled all your resources but gained nothing or very little in return. Our problem is that we believe failure is the worst thing that can happen to us. We can do worse than fail. We can succeed and be proud of our success. We can succeed and burn incense to the net; forget the Hand whose it is to give or to withhold, to kill or let live. People who think they have done it all themselves are common. Taking for granted all that has been provided without giving honest thot for Who provided it. Failure begins to make us think about where our failure came from, to look around and seek for the reasons, to double my watchfulness and energy and to look upwards to the Lord who can turn failure into an incredible achievement. It is failure of this magnitude in our lives that teaches us of the futility of pursuing our true interests without the presence and power of Christ.John goeson to show what God can do with a night, a season or years of failure!

2. JESUS ENABLESDISCIPLES TO MAKE A MIRACULOUS CATCH OF FISH 4-14Someone was standing on the beach 100 yards away near the early light of dawn and called out to these weary fishermen about their catch. Jesus knew these men had fished all nite catching nothing and He did not bother to help them until then. Jesus uses His miraculous power to summon fish to be there when the disciples cast the net into the water as he told them to. The fish described as a great number (6), net full of fish (8) a net full of large fish 153 of them (11) and so many yet the net not torn (11). John wants us to know this was highly unusual. It most likely brot back memories of an earlier catch like this in Luke 5 when they caught such a large quantity of fish after Jesus told them to cast a net after an unsuccessful nite of fishing that the boats began to sink! John knows its the Lord and tells Peter. Peter wraps himself leaps into the water and swims to shore. John 1st to understand; Peter 1st to act. We know that Peter and Jesus have had a previous private visit possibly of forgiveness and restored (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor 15:5) and shows no reluctance to see Jesus face to face. Jesus then invites them to join Him for breakfast.


Like us, these men, who had worked hard to provide for themselves and had nothing to show for it, when they came to Jesus he has more than enough to meet their needs. In the process He provides a great catch of fish enough to supply for their future needs too.

(1) We will often fail in life even in areas where we have expertise. Jesus is teaching us that He is the source of our success. He is the One who, when obeyed, makes us fruitful fishermen.

(2) Jesus has the ability to care for our interest no matter the difficulty associated with our failure. Jesus guides and provides for disciples failure even after they spent all nite fishing empty-netted. Even though still 100 yards away and thots of giving it up for now.

(3) Jesus uses our efforts to accomplish His will when our efforts are consistent with what it is He is doing. God could easily do it all himself yet he invites us to participate with Him in the accomplishment of His purposes. The fish was not caught until Jesus was ready to do it. He may invite you to do what seems like an insignificant thing, casting nets on rite side of boat but result significant.

(4) Jesus is prepared for to provide what we need even before we know what we need. He had breakfast on the table for them just when they needed it. All we have comes from Gods hand. Behind it all God is at work orchestrating our interest He has already put us in the rite place brot the opportunities and provided.