A Great Catch of Fish
Jesus spent much of His time near the Sea of Galilee. That site afforded Him a ready means of teaching His disciples, several of whom were fishermen by trade.
Matthew (4:18-22) and Mark (1:16-20) mention Jesus calling Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him, but Luke gives the full story (5:1-11).
The multitude pressed against Jesus as He tried to teach them. He got into Peter’s boat and pushed out a bit, then from there spoke to the crowd lining the shore. When He finished, Jesus told Peter to put out to sea and cast the nets. Despite a night of fruitless effort, Peter agreed to try one more time. This time the nets could not contain the fish.
Peter was immediately struck by the Lord’s superiority. He fell at Jesus’ feet and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” That response says much about Peter. It says he was concerned about far more than the profitability of his business. It says he was humble. It says he was aware of his own weaknesses.
Did Peter really want Jesus to leave him? His reaction was much like Isaiah’s when he had a vision of God’s glory (Isaiah 6:1-5). It is the reverent response of any right-thinking man who confronts deity!
Jesus made no effort to correct Peter’s conception of Him. Instead, He comforted him and pointed to the greater work in store for these fishermen. They immediately left their boats and followed the Lord.
John 21:1-11 tells us that following Jesus’ resurrection Peter said to several disciples, “I am going fishing.” They joined him. Again they caught nothing all night. In the morning Jesus appeared on the shore. He called to them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. Another massive catch resulted. Peter, surely remembering the previous occasion and realizing it was the Lord, excitedly jumped overboard and swam to shore, leaving the others to drag in the net.
After breakfast, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me more than these?” Interpreters are divided as to whether these refers to fish or the other disciples. Peter not long ago had claimed to be more devoted to the Lord than his brethren were (Matthew 26:33), yet soon after that he denied Jesus three times. Now the Savior three times called on Peter to confess his love for Him. Each confession was met with the instruction to feed Jesus’ sheep.
This second catch of fish was another confirmation of who Jesus was (cf. Acts 10:41). It was a reminder that shepherding, not fishing, was the disciples’ work. It was a compassionate restoration of Peter’s confidence in being useful to the Master. Both incidents reflect divine grace. They remind us all that despite our flaws Jesus can use us if we will let Him.