Gospel Words: Unbroken Net

John 21:1‑14  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 6
We have seen in Luke 5 the remarkable manner in which the Lord called Simon Peter and his companions, already disciples, to be fishers of men. There was then a miracle wrought, which acted powerfully not on the mind only or the affections, but on the conscience. After a night's toil in which they caught nothing, the Master spoke, and at His word they let down the nets. This done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes; but their nets were breaking, and their partners came to help them, and filled both their boats, so that they began to sink. It was the beautiful picture of the gospel work to which they were thenceforward called, where they apart from Him could do nothing, and His power wrought. But yet He allowed the weakness of human responsibility to be felt; for the nets were breaking and the boats sinking under the weight of the very blessing given.
Here at the sea of Tiberias after His resurrection we see them at Peter's instance again fishing; and this night too they took nothing. “But when morn was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach. The disciples however knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus therefore saith to them, Children, have ye aught to eat? They answered him, No. And he said to them, Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved saith to Peter, It is the Lord. Simon Peter therefore, having heard that it was the Lord, girded his overcoat about him (for he was naked), and cast himself into the sea; and the other disciples came in the small boat (for they were not far from the land, but about two hundred cubits off), dragging the net of fishes. When therefore they went out on the land, they see a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. Jesus saith to them, Bring of the fishes ye have now taken. Simon Peter therefore went up, and drew the net to the land full of great fishes a hundred and fifty-three; and though they were so many, the net was not rent. Jesus saith to them, Come, dine. But none of the disciples dared inquire of him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus cometh and taketh the bread and giveth it to them, and the fish in like manner. This is already the third time that Jesus had been manifested to the disciples, being risen from the dead” (vers. 4-14).
This was not a miracle only but a sign, as indeed is ever the case in the fourth Gospel, and in special connection with the two fore-going manifestations of the risen Lord, which give the key to what has just been cited. The first was when the Lord made Himself known to the disciples gathered on the first day of the week, His own very resurrection day, when He breathed on them, and said, Receive the Holy Spirit. It was His risen life communicated in the power and character of His resurrection, His blood already shed, peace now given, and themselves sent on a mission of peace. It is the type of the Christian and the church.
Eight days after was the second manifestation, when Thomas, who had been absent before but was now present, was convicted of unbelief; as the Lord took up his words of doubt and bade him reach here his finger and see His hands, and put his hand into His side, and be not faithless but believing. The slow disciple could only answer, My Lord and my God! just as the converted Jews will say at the end of this age. Indeed the Lord intimated the same thing when He said to him, “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed [as Israel will do by-and-by]: blessed are they who have not seen and believed “; which is the proper faith of the Christian now.
The third manifestation is equally notable. “After these things Jesus was manifested again to his disciples” in Galilee of the Gentiles. It is not said to be on the first day of the week, nor eight days after; but simply after what foreshadowed His work in bringing Israel out of their unbelief. Now He sets forth Himself for their millennial work of bringing to Him from the sea of the nations, in which converted Israel will be honored by His grace. Here there is no breaking of the nets, no sinking of the boats. The net is drawn to land full of great fishes, as becomes the type of that vast ingathering. Whatever be the ruin of the Gentiles deceived by Satan at the end, there will be no failure among the blessed among the nations any more than in Israel. This is no small contrast with all that has been seen since Pentecost. And it is not without a bearing on that new day for the earth, that they found a fire of coals already there, and fish on it and bread. Those, who are used of grace for bringing in of the Gentiles on a great scale, learn that the Lord has wrought a work before them, and that they are invited to enter into the communion of His love in that previously hidden work; for eating here as elsewhere is its well-known figure. They partook of the fish ashore before what they had just caught on a larger scale.
Is not Jesus a wondrous and unwearied Savior? Think of it in all these three manifestations of Himself after He rose. What was it to the disciples who forsook Him and fled? What was it to Thomas so gloomily denying the good tidings? What will it be to a Gentile remnant, and to all the nations in the future day? And are you, my reader, to be left out of the blessing? It can only be because you harden your soul against casting yourself on Him now. If you are poor, He is rich; if you have no merit, and sins only, He is All-worthy, and died for you. Is not His death all that God values on your behalf? Believing on Him, you are justified. His work claims it, and God delights to prove that it is not in vain. Therein is His righteousness. He owes it to the cross of Christ; and it is yours if you believe. But beware of slighting the divine message. Put not His word of grace from you, nor thus judge yourselves unworthy of life eternal. God is not mocked in the end. Despise Him not now to your own ruin both now and forever. It is “the hour when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live.” Is any case too desperate?