“Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee.[a] It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus[b]), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.” John 21.1-3
Peter knew better than to return to his old lifestyle. Some people blame him and the disciples for returning to fishing but they knew little else. Some preachers say this was his coming back to his original vocation and leaving ministry. But maybe it was just a habit, a hobby or something he was doing to fill time or make a few bucks. Regardless of the reason, Jesus met Peter where he was.
The biblical text tells us that it was Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, Andrew and James who went fishing. Five disciples from Galilee, most if not all had been fishing their whole lives. It was Peter’s idea because he said to them, “I am going out to fish,” to which the disciples said, “we will go with you.” So they went out, go into their boat, but “that night they caught nothing.” They were fishing at night. Professional fishermen caught nothing.
Now before Jesus enters the scene, the spirit of the disciples must have been a little confused. Jesus had risen from the grave but his instructions for what to do next for his followers had not been made completely clear. He had been with them a few times already and now these guys were hanging out, waiting for him to reveal what he had next. So, in the meantime, they went fishing.
Was it Peter’s rejection of ministry? I think not. Was it a return to his old life? I doubt it. It might have simply been Peter and his fellow fisherman going out on the lake to do what they knew, what they loved, and what was comfortable. Yet even though they had fished all night, they had caught nothing. Sounds like a set up for a Jesus miracle.
Something Peter did allowed the Lord to enter his world and make a radical entrance and statement of not only fruitfulness of fish but also a reinstatement of Peter’s commission. Jesus will meet us where we are and do crazy awesome things in our lives if we are willing to follow.
Whereas some see Peter’s return to the water as rebellion, I see it as recess. A moment of lull, stay or waiting until the Lord revealed what was next. And man, would he have a word for Peter.
He also has a word for us. Are you listening?
“O Lord God, you are good. In the midst of my own waiting, I long for you. Even when I lose battles against sin, self-righteousness and pride, you are willing and able to restore me. Come now, Holy Spirit, fill me with your power and your love. Make your presence new in my life that I might follow obediently and faithfully. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen