John 21:9–14

“Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord” (vv. 11–12).

After a night of unsuccessful fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee) some time after the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples encountered Jesus on the seashore, though they did not know it was He at first. Following His instruction to cast the net on the right side of the boat, the disciples soon were struggling to drag in the large haul of fish that they caught (John 21:1–6). That the man on the shore knew where the disciples would find fish demonstrated to John that it was none other than Jesus who had called out to them. The disciples began heading for the shore, with Peter in the lead (vv. 7–8).

Today’s passage tells us that the disciples ate breakfast with Jesus after coming ashore (vv. 9–14), and we read here again of the remarkable willingness of Jesus to serve His disciples by meeting their needs. No doubt the disciples were tired and hungry from a night of labor, and our Lord took the time to prepare fish and bread for them to eat (vv. 9, 13). Though Jesus had been exalted in His resurrection, He did not think it beneath Him to serve others, providing another example of how believers are to care for one another (see also 13:14–15; Phil. 2:5–7).

John reports that the disciples caught 153 fish (21:11), and several thinkers throughout the history of the church have tried to discern symbolism in the number. However, nothing in the context suggests that John meant the number 153 to stand for anything other than the actual number of fish that the disciples caught. It is a somewhat minor detail—John could have said merely that they caught a large quantity of fish—but the exactness of the number is further evidence that John’s gospel is an eyewitness account of the life and ministry of Christ. Only someone who was actually there at that breakfast meeting would have remembered the exact number of fish that the disciples caught.

At breakfast, the rest of the disciples realized that they were eating with their Lord, and they did not dare to ask His identity (21:12). This suggests some fear on the part of the disciples, and this is quite understandable. They were still adjusting to the fact that their Master was back from the dead, and, after all, who would not be a little nervous to be in the presence of a man who had been raised from the dead, let alone in the presence of a man who is also God incarnate in a glorified physical body (1 Cor. 15:35–49)?

Coram Deo

We have become so accustomed to the story of Jesus that it is easy for us to miss the awe that the disciples no doubt felt in the presence of the resurrected Lord. Indeed, we should not let our familiarity with the story of Jesus blind us to the full ramifications of who He is. He is the incarnate Lord of glory whom we should fear in reverent awe. Let us worship Him this day.

For Further Study