“They answered Him, ‘No’ and He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’” So the disciples did as they were told. John recognized Jesus and said, “It is the Lord!” Simon Peter put on his outer garment and plunged into the sea, showing his great leadership. He dragged in the net, and there were over one hundred and fifty three fish in it. Not surprisingly, the net was unbroken, even with the weight of all those fish. Simon Peter pulled the net onto the shore, and there was a crackling fire ready. Jesus said, “Come and eat breakfast.” They all knew by now it was Jesus, but none of them dared ask. (John 21:1-13) This was the second time Jesus provided a multitude of fish for the disciples. Previously, He was at the Lake of Gennesaret and saw two boats by the lake. The fishermen were gone, mending their nets. Jesus got into Simon’s boat and asked him to put down the net not far from the boat. As Jesus was teaching to the multitudes, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch.”
Simon was sure there were no fish to be caught. He said to Jesus, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing.” But he listened to Jesus and dropped the nets. When they pulled them up, the nets were so full they began to break. The others called to their partners and filled both boats with fish. Simon Peter said to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Jesus declared, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” They forsook all and followed Him. (Luke 5: 1-11)
Jesus used the simple fish to teach God’s grace. The great catch of fish was a symbol the disciples used to bring mankind to the knowledge of Jesus. It fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah 16: 16, “Behold I will send many fishermen, and they will fish them.”
Fish became a symbol of identity for early Christians. The initials of the phrase “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior” in Greek form the acronym ICHTHYS, which is Greek for “fish.” In the festal hymn of Pentecost is the song, “Through the fishermen, You drew the world into Your net.”
Fish also figure prominently in the story of the feeding of five thousand. In that story, Jesus was followed by a multitude to a deserted place where He healed many. Afterwards, the disciples wanted Him to send everyone away because there simply was not enough food to feed them all. The disciples said to Jesus, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” Jesus commanded the people to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and the two fishes, looked up to heaven, and blessed the food. He broke the loaves and fishes down and gave them back to the disciples. “So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children.” (Matthew: 13-21) Let us cast our nets and fill them with God’s abundance. By following Jesus, we can fill our boats with beautiful fish and partake of God’s great love.