by Richard Mansel
In order to understand Peter’s restoration, we must examine John 21 in some detail.
Jesus appears to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias, otherwise known as the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 4:18), Lake of Genesaret (Luke 5:1) and the Sea of Chinneroth (Joshua 12:3).
“It is approximately thirteen miles long, nine miles wide, from eighty to one hundred sixty feet deep and a lovely blue cast beyond description.”/1
It is not surprising that they would fish at night. They could sell their fish early in the morning to the fish markets and make a living.
The text says, “But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore…” (John 21:4). “The verb ‘stood’ in association with the preposition ‘on’ indicates motion and thus tells us that the appearance was sudden and supernatural.”/2
The form of Jesus initial question was, “You have nothing to eat, have you?”/3 His tone may have been one of a man wishing to buy fish from them./4 He called them “lads” or “boys” in a general sense that lacked intimacy and familiarity (cf. 1 John 2:13,18)./5
Jesus, who appeared as a stranger to them, called for them to cast their net on the right side. Bottles of ink have been spilled asking why they so readily complied. We have no way of knowing.
Woods speculated that they “supposed he had observed from the shore where he stood a shoal of fish on the right side of the vessel, a not unusual occurrence in the waters of Galilee.”/6 Carson adds, “Whether in hope or in tired resignation, the men in the boat [decided to] heed the advice.”/7
Robertson noted that “It was a hint from a stranger and could do no harm. They could not possibly have worse luck than they already had.”/8
The catch of fish in the net was so substantial that they were overwhelmed by the load. Their weary minds and bodies were no doubt renewed at the sudden charge of adrenaline.
The text says that John was the first to realize it was Jesus, causing Peter to dive into the sea. John writes that Peter “girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked), and did cast himself into the sea” (John 21:7). That does not mean he was completely nude. He had on his undergarments.
Clearly, this was an eye-witness report since the narrative perspective remains with the boat until it reaches shore. These moments are special as we read Scripture and see them in our mind. In Acts, Luke changes perspectives often depending on his presence or absence.
Peter rushes to shore but is not prepared for what is about to happen. However, no one could. The withering internal examination of a wayward disciple is about to begin.
1/ Guy N. Woods, “A Commentary on the Gospel According to John” (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1984), 435.
2/ Woods, 437
4/ B. F. Westcott, “The Gospel According to John” (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), 300
5/ Woods, 437
7/ D.A. Carson, “The Gospel According to John” (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 671
8/ Robertson, “Epochs in the Life of Simon Peter” (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House), 164.