“After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.” (John 21:1–8, ESV)
In Matthew chapter 4 we read about Jesus calling His first disciples. “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” (Matthew 4:18–22, ESV)
Interestingly, just as He found them in the beginning He came to them at the end in His third appearance to them after His resurrection. At the beginning He found Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, who were casting their net into the sea when He called them to follow Him along with James and his brother Joh who were mending nets with their father. In this encounter here at the end Jesus again found that Peter after denying Him three times again returned to fishing with Nathaniel, and the two brothers, James and John (the disciple whom Jesus loved). It was after a night of fishing and no catching that Jesus stood on the shore, without them knowing it was Him, and He called to them affectionately saying, “Children, do you have any fish?” Of course, Jesus knew the answer which was a big “No!”
Standing on the shore Jesus called out to them, telling them to cast their net on the right side of the boat, adding that they would find some fish there. While some may be tempted to respond sarcastically, saying, “What kind of idiots do you take us for? We’ve been fishing all night, and you have the nerve to tell us to cast it on the right side of the boat and we will catch some fish. Have we been doing it on the wrong side all night long?” That might be how some are tempted to respond, especially if they are big on their skills and frustrated by their lack of success. But this is not what we read happened. John wrote that they simply did as they were instructed, and the result was “they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.”
Seeing their catch and putting the pieces together, John looked at Peter and told him, “It is the Lord!” Peter didn’t question John for a moment, but quickly put on his outer garment and jumped into the water to go meet Jesus on the shore. That was so fitting for Peter. He always seemed to be out in front of the others. Even if it meant taking a wrong step Peter was all in for Jesus, and here he surely jumped all in to go and join Him on the shore leaving the others to finish the trip (about the length of a football field) hauling their huge catch of fish behind them.
I don’t know about you, but there have been times when I have wondered if I’ve got God’s plans for my life right and if I was still on the right path. Maybe there have been times when you have encountered obstacles or things have not happened as you anticipated either. Maybe the ideas you had for how things might go have turned out vastly different and you’ve had to adjust your path. These men set aside what they had been doing for about three years to follow Jesus only to see Him crucified before their eyes. They had seen Him risen, but He left them again with them not knowing when they would see Him. Whether Peter and the others were taking a short respite or truly falling back to what they knew before setting a course to follow Jesus, I really don’t know. But what I do know is that in the midst of their empty nets and their lack of direction Jesus showed up to guide them and fill their nets. He did not abandon them, and in the verses that follow we will see again how He reaffirmed His promise to make them not fishers with abundantly full nets but truly fishers of men.
Our infinite God never has to readjust His plans. He knows the end just as fully as the beginning along with every second in between. We, on the other hand, are called to walk trusting Him to direct our steps. Sometimes those steps may seem more obvious, while there may be other times when we truly wonder what comes next. The big difference for Christians is that we can walk even the dark days knowing that with God darkness and light are alike to Him, and that He has scrutinized our path and our lying down. He knows every day of our lives and He encloses us before and behind (see Psalm 139). While our days may not be easy at times, it is a whole lot easier to trust our God who is infinite and eternal than to wander without hope as do those who do not know Jesus. Jesus makes all of the difference between emptiness and a life overflowing with joy in hope.
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14–21, ESV)