Often, when I go to the beach in parts where lots of people have already been, I see the remains of fires and often people have left the artefacts - a metal grille, a metal fork, a few coals. Maybe the stuff was already scattered around the shore.
Jesus just needed the fish. Where did he get it ? Well, that is the whole point of the incident.
That they should go fishing again, after his resurrection - after he has called them to be fishers of men - after he has given them a better vocation - is a measure of their unbelief. Not that I am criticising, for they had been through momentous things. They were going through a momentous transposition - the end of Israel and the beginning of its fruition.
The end of an old covenant - and the beginning of the New Testament.
Yet he chides not. There he is on the shore, fire going, fish cooking.
He'll give them fish, from the shore, as they toil in the boat. He turns it all around and makes a comforting sign out of their rather disheartened excursion.
So bring the fish, says He. Yes, bring all the catch - 153 fish.
153 ? Can that possibly be significant ? Well, why mention it, if it is not ?
Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathaniel of Cana, 'that of Zebedee' (James and John not named, but regarded - here - as progeny) and 'two other disciples' (not significant persons, just another two happened along).
A collection. Individuals. Just a group of men in a boat, fishing.
Seven of them. Plus 153 fish.
An hundred and sixty altogether in the boat.
Except that Peter had left the boat and was on the shore, already, with Jesus. As he would soon be, for he was to be martyred and hung on a cross, as was his Master. As Jesus was just about to tell him, a few verses on.
And if the one following at a distance - not intruding, respectful of Peter's significance and respectful of the two in conversation - should tarry till the Lord return, what's that got to do with anyone else ?
Follow thou me . . . .
Four times four times ten.
North, south, east and west. Multiplied by itself. So, this world and the world that is to come, multiplied in dimension. And then the number of completeness, ten.
Just a collection of men, labouring. Going from one world to the next, and catching other men (for they are fishers of men) on the way. But on the shore, waiting, is Jesus,
And they will get there, eventually, every single one. Plus every single "fish" they catch on the way. None will be lost.
What a comfort is this sign.
Anthrakia - says my thousand page Liddel & Scott (1854 American Edition) - can be either coal or charcoal. It seems to be a bunch of it, enough for a fire. If it's charcoal, then maybe it indicates re-use of coal which would agree with Jesus having collected it from the remains of other fires . . . perhaps.