After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise showed he himself.…
I. THE APPEARANCE AT THE LAKE. (vers. 1-3).
1. The scene of operation: the Galilean Sea.
(1) Endeared by early associations. Many a time had the disciples plied their craft upon its waters (Matthew 4:18-22).
(2) Hollowed by sacred memories. Across that lake they had often sailed with their Master (chap. John 6:16; Matthew 7:18-23). Here they had thrice witnessed the display of Christ's power (Luke 5:1-11; Matthew 8:26; Matthew 14:22, 23), and had heard Him preach to crowds on the shore (Luke 5:3; Matthew 13:2). Around it they had travelled with Him in His wanderings.
(3) Recommended by past experience. A water famed for multitude, variety, and excellence of its fish.
2. The company of fishermen.
(1) Their number. Seven: the perfect number, the symbol of completeness, and thus representative of the infant Church.
(2) Their names. Simon Peter, the man of rock, the symbol of energy and zeal. Thomas, the man of doubt, typical of prudence, Caution, timidity, reason. Nathanael, the guileless, emblematic of transparent sincerity, and sweet simplicity. The two sons of Zebedee, once sons of thunder, now men of love and self-sacrifice. Two other representatives of the great army of unknown, undistinguished, to be found in every age and country in the train of Christ. Together they shadow forth varieties of character and endowment in the Church.
3. The proposed expedition.
(1) Its proposer — Peter. The Church, no less than the world, needs men of action to lead the way, pioneers to open up new paths, persons of imagination and enthusiasm to devise and impress others with the practicability of what they suggest.
(2) Its accepters. Started by Peter, the notion was taken up by his companions. The mass of mankind in religion, as in politics, not only require to be led but are ready to follow. The capable man never wants instruments. He who can rule will find subjects.
(3) Its commencement. It began well. Everything augured hopefully. The reputation of the lake was high; the time the best possible for fishing; the company ardent and experienced. They lost no time, spared no pains, and were not soon disheartened. Whatever Christ's people do they should act so to deserve if they cannot command success.
(4) Its result.
(a) Nothing at least as to appearance. They caught no fish.
(b) Something, yea, everything in one.They met with Christ, found what they expected not, returned with what they had not gone to seek. So Christ defeats His people's schemes that He may the better carry out His own, disappoints their hopes that He may give them immediate fruition, and leave them to themselves that they the more readily welcome and enjoy Himself when He comes.
II. THE MIRACULOUS DRAUGHT (vers. 4-8).
1. The Stranger on the beach.
(1) The time of His appearing — morning; cf. the Angel of Jehovah (Genesis 33:26); Christ in the days of His flesh (Matthew 14:25), and after His resurrection. So Christ still appears to His people in the morning, because it is morning in every soul when He appears.
(2) The circumstance of His non-recognition. They "knew not," as Mary and the Emmaus travellers, and perhaps for similar reasons. Christ may now be beside His people when they are not aware.
(3) The unexpected question, cheerily put and with friendly solicitude, "Lads, have ye aught to eat?" i.e., Has your cast been successful? Put also not for information, but to arrest attention and excite expectation.
(4) The disappointed reply. They had failed, as three of them had once done before (Luke 5:5); they had spent their strength for nought (Isaiah 49:4); as gospel fishers often seem to do (Galatians 4:11; 1 Thessalonians 3:5).
(5) The proferred counsel. The right side always the side Christ appoints. He who does not what Christ bids fishes on the wrong side.
(6) The prompt obedience. It is never wise to be above taking advice; much less when advice comes from Christ (Colossians 2:3).
(7) The marvellous success. The royal road to success in religion is obedience to Christ's commands (Ephesians 3:20).
2. The recognition from the boat.
(1) By whom made. By the disciple in whose heart glowed a pure flame of love for Jesus. The heart rather than the intellect the organ of spiritual apprehension. John had been the first to perceive that Christ was risen (chap. John 20:8). Now he is the first to recognize His Person.
(2) How expressed — "It is the Lord!" Concentrating in the exclamation love, joy, adoration, desire, a world of thought, an ocean of holy feeling, a heaven of spiritual aspiration.
(3) With what followed. Instantaneous recognition by Peter, and startling activity (cf. Matthew 14:28).
3. The landing of the net.
(1) The labour of it.
(2) The success of it.
(3) The wonder of it. Neither will the gospel net fail till it has landed all Christ's people.
III. THE MYSTERIOUS BANQUET (ver. 12-14).
1. The heavenly provision (ver. 9). Emblematic of the reward Christ's servants will enjoy at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9).
2. The earthly contribution (ver. 10). A large part of the future reward of Christ's servants will consist in beholding the fruit of their labours (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20).
3. The royal invitation (ver. 12). So will they be welcomed when they reach the heavenly land (Matthew 25:34).
4. The solemn distribution (ver. 13). A picture of the higher entertainment (Matthew 26:29), of which Christ gives the foretaste in the Lord's Supper. Lessons:
1. The fruitlessness of labour even in the Church, apart from the presence and power of the glorified Redeemer (John 15:5).
2. The certain and abundant success of those who work in the way and along the lines suggested by Christ.
3. The blessed recompense awaiting faithful labourers in Christ's service.
(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.