John 21:2 Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3Simon Peter told them, “I am going fishing.”
“We will go with you,” they said. So they went out and got into the boat, but caught nothing that night.

These were professional fishermen and they caught nothing all night. They were about to pack it in when they saw a stranger on the shore.

4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not recognize that it was Jesus. 5So He called out to them, “Children, do you have any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
6He told them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it there, and they were unable to haul it in because of the great number of fish.

It was an unusual haul of fish in terms of number and net integrity.

11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.

Some would say this was a miraculous catch.

Why would they automatically follow the advice of a stranger while they knew better what they had been doing? They had a better view of the water and they knew the sea. Why would they follow the instruction of a stranger against their own fishing instincts?


2 Answers 2


The answer to this question requires looking a little deeper. It’s not so much about listening to a stranger, but more about what Peter heard. This is best seen in Lukes’s account of a very similar incident

In Luke 5, it opens ...

Luke 5:1. so it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God,

Here the crowd, including Peter ‘heard’ Jesus.( you say a stranger, but he wasn’t exactly a stranger. )
The word ‘word’ in verse one is from the Greek ‘logos’. And means something you hear with your ears. ‘Natural hearing’.
We also see the word ’word’ used a little further down in verse 5 ...

Luke 5:5 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”

But, here the word ‘word’ comes from the Greek ‘rhema’, which means an ‘inward’ ‘hearing’, a ‘sense’ or inward intuition’. That is, a revelation.

And, it was this ‘inward intuition’, that motivated the reaction that lead to Peter trying again. That ‘hunch’ to give it another ‘go’.

  • The incident in Luke 5 is NOT the same incident as in John 21. Luke 5 is near the beginning of Jesus' ministry when they knew who Jesus was. John 21 is after Jesus' resurrection, perhaps 3 years later. Further "logos" is NOT necessarily something that you hear - it could be an idea! Luke 5 also has crowds, John 21 has no crowd - no comparison!!
    – Dottard
    Jul 21, 2020 at 3:18
  • Fair point. But, Logos is used when the/a word is ‘spoken’, a spoken word, which obviously listeners would ‘hear’ with their natural ears. But ‘rhema’ applies when a spoken word has an effect - motivates, or changes something. In a ‘believers’ case, it will be their spirit (ears) that ‘hears’ the word, as well as their ‘natural ears’. And, as I opened with, I used the Luke account because that demonstrates this. The question was what prompted them. It will be exactly the same in John. In fact, even more so.
    – Dave
    Jul 21, 2020 at 3:52
  • I think this might be stretching the word rhema a bit generalizing it this way. In Matthew 12:36, when Jesus rebukes the Pharisees when they said he cast out demons by Beelzebub, Jesus says "λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν ὅτι πᾶν ῥῆμα ἀργὸν ὃ λαλήσουσιν οἱ ἄνθρωποι ἀποδώσουσιν περὶ αὐτοῦ λόγον ἐν ἡμέρᾳ κρίσεως", which seems to use rhema in an active sense, something you say, as evidenced by the phrase "ῥῆμα ἀργὸν ὃ λαλήσουσιν οἱ ἄνθρωποι". So I'd be careful using this type of word analysis to arrive at this conclusion without a good bit more study to make sure that rhema means that in each instance noted.
    – bob
    Oct 28, 2020 at 17:44
  • That same verse also uses the word logos as does the following verse. So rhema can apparently be a synonym for logos and carry the sense of a spoken word (other verses seem to use it that way as well). That said, Jesus' words certainly carried special spiritual weight to those whom the Father gave ears to hear.
    – bob
    Oct 28, 2020 at 17:49
  • 1
    @Bob Yup, good points - thanks for forwarding your perspectives. Appreciate ‘food for thought’, and, pretty much concur with your thinking - The value of being able to go back to the ‘source’ (original language.) has many times either clarified meaning/intent, highlighted extra meaning and/or helped resolve points of issue (for me anyway).
    – Dave
    Oct 28, 2020 at 22:24

Someone standing on the shore (stranger or no) can see the shadow in the water that indicates a feeding shoal of fish.

The spiritual allusion is that Christ, ascended, oversees the whole world and can direct his servants whither and when.

This is not said by John to be a 'sign'. And there are seven other supernatural events in the book, which would appear to be the full complement of what John is conveying.

I don't see that this is necessarily a supernatural event (other than, of course, the presence of the resurrected Lord Jesus).

But the number 153 (fish) is interesting. Coupled with the seven disciples in the boat, there is a total of 160 contents delivered to the shore where Jesus is. Four times four, times ten, times ten. Significant numbers in spiritual allusion.

And Peter arrives with Jesus first, having ungirded himself in the process.

The whole is a spiritual figure, evidently.

But not stated to be a sign and not, necessarily, a supernatural event comparable to the other events in John's book.

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