In John 21, the disciples are stumped. They find themselves in a strange limbo place. Jesus endured the 39 lashings, crucifixion and burial. He rose again! And appeared to his disciples afterwards. But now what?
There was a certain span of time between the ascension and Pentecost. What to do? Peter decides. “I’m going fishing” (v. 3). The others join him. They knew how to do that at least. Might as well get back to doing something they know.
They caught nothing all night. Suddenly someone called out from the beach. “Fellows, have you caught any fish?” (v. 4).
Nope. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
The man they can’t quite make out gives them direction.
“Throw your net out on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” (v. 6). Well, they had nothing to lose. They couldn’t even haul the net in because it was stuffed with fish.
John, slightly more perceptive than the others, says to Peter, “It is the Lord!” (v. 7). Peter, ever enthusiastic and anxious to clear his name after denying Jesus 3 times, jumps into the water and swims to shore ahead of the boat. Breakfast awaited them. Jesus cooked fish and made bread.
If we stopped right there, it would be enough. Jesus encouraged them by taking care of basic needs. He didn’t berate them for their lack of understanding. He didn’t ridicule them for returning to fishing after all they’d been through. “Hey, guys, I’m the Messiah. Don’t you get it? Nothing will ever be the same again. Put those nets down. Fishing ain’t gonna cut it after all you’ve witnessed. I have more for you!”
Jesus directs them to bring him the fish. There were 153 in all. I doubt that number is symbolic, but it is large. The net hadn’t torn, another small miracle.
Jesus served them the bread and the fish. The narrative says it was the third time Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection (v. 14).
Now, the sweetest part of all. Jesus directs his conversation to Peter.
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He calls Peter by his old name, pre-Christ. These, I suppose, being all other humans on the planet.
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
Jesus asks the exact same question two more times, giving the same answers. The light starts to dawn on Peter. Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time (v. 17). His response? “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus charges him to “feed his sheep” again, then foretells of his death and imprisonment in old age. Maybe that part isn’t as wonderful, but the question and answer session restored Peter to fellowship with him after Peter’s fall from grace at the cross. Then, gently, Jesus says, “Follow me” (v.19).
I see two things going on here. First, how do we handle the “limbo” place in God? We know the plan, but not the next step. Second, Peter needed to be back in right relationship with God and his fellow disciples. Peter would have a key role in spreading the good news. Jesus took care of both of those things. He served instead of asserting His authority. He refreshed the disciples with good food and his comforting presence. He recognized their human frailty and worked with it. He even provided fish for them to catch. He spoke to Peter directly, in front of the other men, and revealed Peter’s true heart.
Going back to what you know in times of indecision is not wrong. But expect Jesus to meet you there. He will guide and refresh. You have important things to do.