At the end of John’s Gospel there is the account of the miraculous catch of fish. Over the years I have heard many sermons preached on it, both in the flesh and on Christian media. I would like to add a few miscellaneous thoughts that have occurred to me over the years. Firstly, not all the remaining disciples witnessed this event, only seven including Peter, they do not seem to have been doing much the previous day, so that may have been the Jewish Sabbath. In which case the events took place on the first day of the week. How far away the others were is not recorded, though not all the disciples were fishermen by trade. The down side of being a fisherman is that you tend to smell of fish, so maybe the others had sought alternative accommodation because they did not want to be near the fisherfolk and their associated smells. In which case they missed out on an encounter with Jesus. I ask you, how many Christians miss out on spiritual encounters because we are too sniffy about our fellow believers? There have been occasions around the Scottish coasts where revival has broken out in the fishing communities but the landward farming communities they lived along side were largely unaffected.
A second point is that Jesus never actually criticised Peter for going out to fish, though most preachers tend to see his act as backsliding. I see it as an attempt to put food on the table on Peter’s part. I think this is in part because full-time ministers and theologians tend to look down those who earn their living outside of the Christian bubble. In fact if you were just to listen to some sermons on this passage you could easily think that a large part of it was Jesus ticking Peter off for going out to fish! Too many expect God to show up when we are sitting on our backsides doing nothing. It has often been said that it is easier to turn a moving vehicle that one standing still, and I suspect Jesus met them on the shore because Peter took them fishing rather than despite that. If Peter had decided “I will just go to bed and have a good night’s sleep,” he would have missed the reward of the miraculous catch of fish, no doubt the sale of the bulk of the catch (less those they ate) would also help finance their accommodation in Jerusalem before Pentecost as well. Anyway, Jesus needed to get Peter alone so he could reinstate him as a leader.
Returning to my speculation that this took place on the first day of the week, if this was case, (you might say this is a big ‘if’) then this would account for three of the encounters of the recorded in Scripture being with Peter on the first day of the week. If you had have been a believer before the crucifixion then you might have just noticed a pattern and come to the conclusion that if you wanted to see the risen Lord all you needed to do was just hang around Peter on the first day of the week. This may account for the occasion referred to by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 where he states that 500 people saw the risen Lord at one single appearance. After all it would seem to be unlikely that these 500 people just happened to be together randomly without a logical cause. Yet it was only the remaining members of the twelve that were there at the time of the ascension which happened to be on a Thursday which must have caught out the other believers.
There is one more thing I would like to add. Some years ago I was watching a Christian television channel which discussed this passage and somebody emailed in to say that the number of large fish, 153, also occurred in the book of Numbers chapter 7. However, that is not true, the number in that chapter is actually 135. Yet on subsequent occasions when this chapter is mentioned somebody emails in repeating this error. Either this is the same person or people do not check Scripture for themselves and just repeat what they hear. So beware.
David Rose, 2018.