Twice Jesus told fishermen where to cast their nets to catch fish. The first time happens at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Matthew and Mark touch on it but Luke 5 describes the event in better detail. The second time is in John 21 when Jesus appears to his disciples for the third time after His resurrection. There are some very interesting contrasts between the 2 events. I think the first describes work, while the second describes rest. The differences between law and grace. Life before the cross vs. life in the resurrection. Let’s take a look.
“So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to PUT OUT A LITTLE FROM THE LAND. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat. When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “LAUNCH OUT INTO THE DEEP and let down your nets for a catch.” 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.” And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their NET WAS BREAKING. So they SIGNALED to their partners in the OTHER BOAT to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they BEGAN TO SINK. When Simon PETER SAW IT, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “DEPART FROM ME, for I AM A SINFUL MAN, O Lord!” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken ;and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” So when they had brought their boats to land, they FORSOOK ALL and FOLLOWED HIM.”
“Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. 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. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon PETER HEARD that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and PLUNGED INTO THE SEA. But the OTHER DISCIPLES CAME in the LITTLE BOAT (for they were NOT FAR FROM LAND, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. Then, AS SOON AS they had come to land, THEY SAW a fire of coals there, and FISH LAID ON IT, AND BREAD. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the NET WAS NOT BROKEN. Jesus said to them, “COME AND EAT breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then came and TOOK the BREAD AND GAVE IT TO THEM, AND LIKEWISE THE FISH. “
In Luke 5 we see that Jesus tells the fishermen to move away from land, launch into the deep, and let down their nets for a catch. We see the fishermen had “toiled” all night, their nets broke, they signaled for help, they filled both boats, and their ships began to sink. When Peter “saw” they were sinking he fell to his knees and begged the Lord to “depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” They then “forsook all and followed Him.”
After the resurrection there seems to be a much different tone. John 21 describes that the fishermen were “not far from land” and to cast their net on the right side of the boat. The right side, or right hand, in many regards symbolizes a place of honor or authority. There, Jesus said they would find some fish. Jesus uses the word “catch” in the first account which seems to imply hunting, to take, capture alive, while the word “find” used here means to come upon after searching or by chance. Their net was not broken. Help came without being signaled for. They dragged the net behind a “little” boat, yet it didn’t sink. Peter “heard” it was Jesus vs seeing the boat sinking, and he plunges into the sea toward Jesus! Then, AS SOON AS they made it to land, they see FISH already COOKING ON A FIRE, and BREAD! Jesus simply tells them to “come and eat!” He took the bread and fish and GAVE IT to them.
When we trust in our own effort, everything is more difficult. Our doubts and our failures surface. We have to ride further, launch deeper, toil, hunt down, and when our nets break and ships sink, we see ourselves as failures and sinners and we try to separate ourselves from God.
When we see what Jesus has accomplished through His resurrection we are able to trust that He has given us all things pertaining to life and godliness. When we trust His finished work we don’t have to go deep or call for help. Notice how Peter ditched the catch for his source and there was still fish and bread ready for him to enjoy! He saw himself as a brother to Jesus, not someone who needed to perform. Jump in with trust in His faithfulness. We can learn to rest in Him, be content with what we have, and know we are taken care of. So come and eat!