John 21 gives to us an account where the risen Lord Jesus allowed Peter to catch a remarkable amount of fish. Why did He do it, and what can we learn from it?
From disappointment to joy
To help us understand the account, here's a backgrounder: John 21:2-3 tells us that Peter went fishing, accompanied by some of the disciples. They already saw the risen Lord Jesus prior to this (in John 20), and yet they simply went back to their old way of life.
Verse 3 says "they caught nothing" even after spending a whole night fishing. Knowing that these guys were fishermen by trade, it must've been very disappointing.
Verse 4 says that the following morning, Jesus showed Himself to them, but they did not recognize Him. It was at this time that the disciples would see a miraculous catch. Let's read verses 4 to 6 to find out:
"But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any food?"
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 they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish."
The following verses tell us that John recognized Jesus, and Peter quickly swam towards Him. When the boat reached the shore, the disciples were surprised to find the net full of a great catch: "large fish, one hundred and fifty-three [in number]" (see John 21:11)! And surprisingly, even though the catch we great, the net didn't break.
Why did Jesus do it, and what can we learn from it?
The Lord Jesus, loving as He is, came to show Himself mighty and loving to His disciples. With a simple command He reminded them of many things that we ourselves should remember:
1) We are called for more than just our careers
Earlier, the Lord Jesus called the same people to become "fishers of men" (see Matthew 4:19). The same applies to us.
Whatever our careers, we are called to follow Christ and obey Him. The disciples, fishers by trade, were reminded on that day that following Christ is far important than the fish they could ever catch.
2) God can do so much more than we can ever - even if we do all that we can
Fishermen know that fishing has to be done at night, so fish can be drawn to lamps. Yet after fishing the whole night, the disciples caught nothing. And so they would've naturally felt disappointed.
Jesus, powerful as He is, allowed Peter and the others to catch fish, even at a time when lamps wouldn't be useful in luring fish. And what a catch that they would have after obeying Him: a catch that would make the net difficult to draw in because of its amount.
This teaches us that God's power is far greater than anything on earth, and we will see it work when we obey Him - especially in situations that seemed so unpromising in our own eyes.
3) He is concerned about us, more than we will ever comprehend
Lastly, we read in John 21:12-13 that Jesus had breakfast prepared for the disciples, even as they were just going ashore. The food prepared for them was already there before they arrived.
Think about that.
Jesus gave them a great catch to show them that they are called to be fishers of men, and that they would be able to do great things through Him. Now, He is showing them, and us, that He will provide for us; we only need to enjoy fellowship with and obedience to Him.
Jesus is more than just concerned about us. He loves us so much and gives to us all that we need before we can give anything to Him.