Lessons from John 21: Left Everything and Followed Jesus
Now, if you remember from last weeks lesson, it was an angel at the empty tomb who had instructed Mary Magdalene and the other women that they were to go and tell the disciples that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead and that He would meet them in Galilee. And while the women though still afraid, yet filled with joy ran to tell the disciples, while they were on their way back, suddenly Jesus appeared to them and they dropped to His feet and worshipped Him. Then Jesus instructed the women to get up and go tell the disciples that He would meet them in Galilee, for it was there that they would see Him.
Yet, it appears that the disciples for whatever reason did not heed Jesus instructions immediately. We aren’t told whether this was the result of their own fear or if maybe they had been waiting for doubting Thomas to believe and join them. Whatever the reason, John 21:1 tells us that, “Afterward” Jesus appeared again to His disciples, seven to be exact, at the Sea of Tiberias. Which was another name for the Sea of Galilee, they are one and the same. Galilee is the region and Tiberias was the principal Roman city, which was built by Herod the Great in honor of the emperor.
John identifies the seven as, Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, the Son of Zebedee, referring to John, himself and his brother James and two other disciples, which some scholars believe may have been Andrew and Philip, but we are not told for sure.
Now, most of the disciples were from Galilee and so they probably had time to visit with family which might explain the absence of the others. But whatever the reason John tells us that while the while these seven were gathered together, possibly waiting for the others and Jesus who had told them to wait for Him here, Simon Peter announces that he is going to go out fishing and the others that were there, decide to go with him.
Now we aren’t told Peter’s motive for going fishing. Some believe that the use of Peter’s former name “Simon” suggests that Peter was acting in his own strength, and trying to return to his old way of life as a fisherman. Others suggest that Peter was simply doing something to fill his time, while they waited for Jesus to come and meet them and others suggest that it may have been out of a need for food so that they could eat, while they waited.
Whatever the case it appears that Peter was truly a leader because where he went the others, including John, seemed to follow. So, John tells us that the seven went out and got into a boat, and went fishing.
Yet, after a full night of fishing their efforts produced nothing! Not even one single fish. And so as the sun began to rise the empty-handed fishermen begin to make their way back towards the shore. Yet, as they do, they hear the voice of a man from the shoreline that is now only about a hundred yards (about the length of a football field) or so away. And the man, called out to them and asked, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” And much to their disappointment and maybe even embarrassment, because remember these men, for the most part, had been professional fishermen, less than three years ago, when Jesus had called them out to follow Him.
Then the man standing on the shore offered them some advice, he told them to throw their nets out on the right side of the boat and assures them that then they would find success.” And when they did just as the man had instructed, John says in verse 6 that they were unable to haul in the net, because of the large number of fish. It was then that John recognizes that this is the work of Jesus and shouts, “It is the Lord!”
This incident seems to be very similar to the events recorded in Luke 5:1-11 when Jesus had first started teaching the people out in the open. At that time Jesus only had a handful of followers and as when the crowd began to gather around Him to listen to the Word of God, Jesus climbed into Peter’s boat and asked Peter to row the boat a little way out onto the water. Then Jesus sat down in Simon Peter’s boat and taught the people from that vantage point.
When Jesus was had finished speaking, He told Simon to take the boat out deeper into the water and let down the nets for a catch. Simon responded to Jesus instructions by saying, “Master” (obviously recognizing Jesus sovereignty), we’ve worked hard all night, meaning they had cast the nets, repeatedly during the night before and caught nothing.
Fishing was a lot of hard work. It’s not like we like to think today, where a person takes a rod and pole and cast it out into the water and sits and waits for a bite. No, the fisherman of that day, used bell-shaped nets with lead weights placed around the outside edges.
The net would be thrown out flat onto the water, and the lead weights would then cause it to sink around the fish. And then the fishermen would pull on a cord, that would draw the net around the fish. Therefore the nets had to be well cared for and kept in good condition, so they were washed, and mended before being put away for the next night’s outing.
Yet, Peter responded to Jesus, “But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” And much to their astonishment, when they did, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in another boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.”
Luke tells us that, “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord: I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. This is the point at which Jesus called Simon Peter and the others to come and follow Him, for now, they would be fishers of men. So, they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Jesus.”