Jesus’ Life and Ministry
At the Sea of Galilee
THE apostles now return to Galilee, as Jesus had earlier instructed them to do. But they are uncertain about what they should do there. After a while, Peter tells Thomas, Nathanael, James and his brother John, and two other apostles: “I am going fishing.”
“We also are coming with you,” the six reply.
During the whole night, they fail to catch anything. However, just as it is getting light, Jesus appears on the beach, but the apostles do not discern that it is Jesus. He shouts: “Young children, you do not have anything to eat, do you?”
“No!” they shout back across the water.
“Cast the net on the right side of the boat and you will find some,” he says. And when they do, they are unable to draw in their net because of all the fish. “It is the Lord!” John cries. Peter girds on his top garment, plunges into the sea, and swims about a hundred yards [90 m] to shore. The other apostles follow in the little boat, dragging the net full of fish.
When they arrive onshore, there is a charcoal fire, with fish lying on it, and there is bread. “Bring some of the fish you just now caught,” Jesus says. Peter goes aboard and pulls the net ashore. It contains 153 big fish!
“Come, take your breakfast,” Jesus invites.
None of them have the courage to ask, “Who are you?” because they know it is Jesus. This is his seventh postresurrection appearance, and his third to the apostles as a group. He now serves breakfast, giving each of them bread and fish.
When they finish eating, Jesus perhaps nods toward the large catch of fish and asks Peter: “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” Perhaps he means, Are you more attached to the fishing business than to the work that I have prepared you to do?
“You know I have affection for you,” Peter responds.
“Feed my lambs,” Jesus replies.
Again, a second time, he asks: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord, you know I have affection for you,” Peter answers.
“Shepherd my little sheep,” Jesus commands again.
Then, yet a third time, he asks: “Simon son of John, do you have affection for me?”
By now Peter is grieved. He may wonder if Jesus doubts his loyalty. After all, when Jesus was recently on trial for his life, Peter three times denied knowing him. So Peter says: “Lord, you know all things; you are aware that I have affection for you.”
“Feed my little sheep,” Jesus commands a third time.
Jesus thus uses Peter as a sounding board to impress upon the others as well the work that he wants them to do. He will soon leave the earth, and he wants them to take the lead in ministering to those who will be drawn into God’s sheepfold.
Just as Jesus was bound and executed because he did the work that God commissioned him to do, so, he now reveals, Peter will suffer a similar experience. “When you were younger,” Jesus tells him, “you used to gird yourself and walk about where you wanted. But when you grow old you will stretch out your hands and another man will gird you and bear you where you do not wish.” Despite the martyr’s death awaiting Peter, Jesus urges him: “Continue following me.”
Upon turning about, Peter sees John and asks: “Lord, what will this man do?”
“If it is my will for him to remain until I come,” Jesus answers, “of what concern is that to you? You continue following me.”
These words of Jesus came to be understood by many of the disciples to mean that the apostle John would never die. However, as the apostle John later explained, Jesus did not say that he would not die, but Jesus simply said: “If it is my will for him to remain until I come, of what concern is that to you?” John 21:1-25; Matthew 26:32; 28:7, 10.
◆ What shows that the apostles are uncertain about what they should do in Galilee?
◆ How do the apostles recognize Jesus at the Sea of Galilee?
◆ How many times has Jesus now appeared since his resurrection?
◆ How does Jesus emphasize what he wants the apostles to do?
◆ How does Jesus indicate the manner in which Peter will die?
◆ What comments of Jesus about John were misunderstood by many of the disciples?