Study | Never Idle

John 21:1-14

We can serve God even when we are waiting for our next move

This Bible story takes place after Jesus has risen and already appeared to Mary Magdalene and visited the disciples gathered together. Jesus gives the disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, and Thomas confirms who Jesus is by seeing his hands and side, wounded from the crucifixion.

One night at the Sea of Galilee, Peter decides to go fishing and Thomas, Nathaneal, the sons of Zebedee, and two others accompany him. Maybe they are bored of waiting for Jesus, maybe this is an act of apostasy. Maybe they are just hungry! Today, many scholars argue that the disciples aren’t just wasting time, but they choose to return to what they know while they wait. They have not yet been given the Great Commission, so they choose to continue the work they know while they wait for instruction from Jesus.

Regardless of their intention, the disciples catch nothing overnight, and morning seems to come too early.

Enter Jesus. The disciples don’t recognize him right away, as he’s 100 yards away on the shore when he appears on scene. Jesus asks the men if they have a catch, to which they reply no.

Then, Jesus gives them a promise. He says, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some [fish].”

Jesus delivers. The disciples don’t just net a few fish. They bring in a haul! At this, John declares his realization – “It is the Lord!”

Peter responds. He doesn’t yell out, he doesn’t stay in the boat – a theme with this disciple.

Peter gathers his garment around him (presumably he doesn’t wear much while fishing), jumps into the water, and rushes back to shore to see Jesus.

The others follow with full nets, having caught 153 fish! But the net wasn’t torn. They have the full capability to pull in the nets filled with their promised catch.

When Peter and the others arrive on shore, Jesus has already started a fire and is cooking fish for breakfast. And yet, he beckons for more fish from the disciples’ catch. He wants to involve the disciples in bringing in fish – an image of how all disciples partner with Jesus to carry the Gospel to all corners of the earth.

When the disciples sit down, they have no reason to ask if it really is Jesus there. They simply know it’s him. Jesus invites his friends in, breaks bread, and shares the fish he has prepared.

Questions for discussion:

  1. Why do you think the disciples went fishing? What do we learn from their actions? And why would Jesus appear here, at this time?
  2. What are some parallels between this story and others involving Jesus and the disciples?
  3. Are you waiting for something? How can you stay active in the waiting?
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