After Jesus’ resurrection and appearances during the week following his crucifixion, the disciples did as he had instructed and went back to Galilee. While waiting, Peter decided to go fishing.
Much of the fishing on the Sea of Galilee was done at night. Many have tried to delve into why Peter went fishing while waiting for Jesus, but the simple answer seems to be that he was a fisherman. There was a lake full of fish in front of him and he had time on his hands – “I am going fishing” (John 21:3 ESV).
Early the next morning, as day was breaking, a man was seen on the seashore. He asked if they had any fish. It was common for people to approach the fishermen as they came in from fishing to purchase fish for their meal that day. Unfortunately, it had not been a good night – they had nothing.
The man suggested that if they were to cast their nets on the right side of the boat they would find fish. Again, this was probably not an unusual happening because sometimes those on the shore could see the disturbance of water due to schools of fish swimming just below the surface.
The net was cast and it became so full of fish that they could not haul it into the boat! This was unusual! One of the fisherman was the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:7). He recognised that it was Jesus who was on the seashore. Peter, a man known for leaping into action, put on his outer garment and immediately jumped into the lake and swam to Jesus.
When all the group arrived with the bulging net of fish, they found that Jesus already had a breakfast of fish cooked over charcoal and bread ready for them. None of them questioned where Jesus got the fish nor did they question who it was – they all knew it was Jesus.
After breakfast, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” This would have been the fourth time that Jesus had appeared to Peter (it was the third time he had appeared to all the disciples plus the time he appeared only to Peter – see John 21:14 and Luke 24:34).
What was Jesus talking about? Although some suggest he was asking if Peter loved him more than fishing, that doesn’t seem to fit what is happening.
If you remember, just before they went to Gethsemane, Peter had bragged, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death. Even though they all fall away, I will not. I will lay down my life for you.” (Luke 22:33; Mark 14:29; John 13:37 ESV) Yet, later that night after Jesus had been arrested, he had denied that he was one of Jesus’ followers and even said that he didn’t know him.
I’m sure Peter felt the impact of Jesus asking three times, “Do you love me?” when he had three times denied his Lord. Each time he replied, “You know that I love you” and the last time he added, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
There is a possible word play going on as Jesus used agape in his question and Peter responded with phileo. There may or may not be anything in this, but I think we can see that Peter no longer was going to claim to love Jesus more than anyone else. Besides telling Peter to take care of his sheep, he told Peter, “Follow me.”
Do we love Jesus? If we do it will be seen in our lives as we, too, take care of each other and follow our master.
Readings for next week:
14 November – 1 Thessalonians 1-2
15 November – 1 Thessalonians 3-4
16 November – 1 Thessalonians 5
17 November – 2 Thessalonians 1-2
18 November – 2 Thessalonians 3