In the 40 days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he appears to his followers many times. We do not know which of those days Peter said to the other disciples, “I am going fishing!” Did he decide to go fishing because he didn’t know what else to do, because they were bored, or because he remembered that confusing statement about becoming fishers of men? It could also just be that they needed food. Even after all the things that happened between Jesus and Peter, it is interesting that Peter still retained the leadership position as the spokesperson and initiator of daily activities.
The name given to this section in John is “Jesus and the Miraculous Fishing.” These verses show readers one of many times Jesus Christ came alongside his followers in their day-to-day existence. For Peter and the majority of Galileans, fishing was what they did. It gave them experience to improve at their jobs, it provided their main source of sustenance, and it could be a friendly competition—who were the best captains and who knew where the best fish could be found? Peter and the other disciples were likely good fishermen but, as the dawn came, they realized they had caught nothing.
Jesus stands on the shore and encourages the defeated fishermen to try one more time. Through Jesus’ miraculous power, they catch 153 fish. Not only did Jesus Christ provide the miracle but, when they went to the shore, they found that Jesus was providing breakfast, too – he had burning coals, prepared fish, and bread. In addition, Jesus invites them to bring some of the fish they caught so that they could have an abundant meal together.
Jesus Christ uses this miracle to settle his relationship with Peter. Peter had denied Christ three times on the night Jesus was arrested. When the rooster crowed, Peter remembered the conversation where Jesus foretold his denial and went outside and wept bitterly. Vernon Grounds, the founder of Denver Theological Seminary, said that the problem with many Christians is that they leave the wounded behind. We have problems with people, but we do not know how to repair relationships or want to do the work to restore them.
Jesus is the restorer of relationships. Apostle Paul writes that in Jesus Christ we have been reconciled with God the Father and with one another. (Ephesians 2) We have been enemies with God, but in Jesus Christ we have become friends. We have been enemies with one another, but in Jesus Christ we have become brothers and sisters.
How does one heal after betrayal and denial? Jesus not only focuses on the three times that Peter denied him; he also asks Peter three times if he loves him. The healing has to start where the betrayal and hurt took place, however, it needs to move on from there. It must move to where love and commitment are restored. With each statement of “I love you” from Peter, there is a new and more challenging assignment – feed my lambs, feed my ewes, feed my sheep.
The restored Peter proved himself to be a valiant apostle who loved Jesus Christ even unto death on a Roman cross. As he approaches the end of his life and looks to the others who have come behind him, he writes: “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care serving as overseers-not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be: not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” (1 Peter 5:2-4)