Lesson 107: John 21:8-14 – Unlicensed Fishermen

by Pastor Ricky Kurth

You're listening to Lesson 107 from the sermon series "The Gospel of John" by Pastor Ricky Kurth. When you're done, explore more sermons from this series.



Peter impulsively jumped in the sea to swim to the Lord (John 21:7) while John methodically rowed the boat to shore (v.8), showing that God calls all kinds of people with all kinds of personalities and can use them all.

The Lord made them fishers of men (Mt.4:19) but after they caught men, they had to be brought to the shore of the kingdom, as the apostles were doing here (John 21:8). This illustrates how after men are caught they have to be taught to guide them to glory, even today (ITim.2:4). Today, in this dispensation, this involves establishing them in the truth of the mystery (Rom.16:25)

The “little ship” (John 21:8) they dragged the fish to shore in wasn’t the one they went fishing in (21:3). So how come they were able to get the fish to shore, something the bigger ship couldn’t do when the Lord called them to be fishers of men (Luke 5:7)? The big ship was a type of the unbelieving nation of Israel, and as long as the apostles were part of that nation they couldn’t get the men they caught to the shore of the kingdom. Remember, it was unbelief that made them go fishing in that boat in the first place here in John 21.

Originally the Lord wanted to use the big ship of the nation to catch men, to make them “builders” of the kingdom (Acts 4:10,11), but when they refused to believe, God took the kingdom from them (Mt.21:42,43) and gave it to the lit-tle flock of His followers (Lu.12:32), making them catchers of men who guided thousands of men to the kingdom (Acts 2:4; 4:4) in the little flock, represented by this little ship.

Notice they were “not far from land” (John 21:8), a picture of how they were not far from the kingdom at that time (Mt.4:17; Mark 12:34).

The Lord didn’t make a coal of fires (John 21:9) to remind Peter of His denials (John 18:18-25), He’d forgiven him. Fires of coal represented jealousy (Song 8:6), and Moses predicted that God would provoke Israel to jealousy (Deut.32:21) using the little flock (IPe.2:9,10). When the 12 brought 3,000 and then 5,000 to the Lord, it worked!

When the Lord served bread and fish to the 5,000, it was a type of the kingdom. The Jews had enough to eat, with leftovers for the Gentiles (John 6:13 cf. Mt. 15:27). Dining with the Lord on this meal of bread and fish was also a type of the kingdom (Lu.22:29,30).

If getting the fish to shore was a type of bringing men to the kingdom, then in John 21:10 we see a picture of the Lord asking them to present the men they caught before Him, something you also see in Ps.126:6 (cf. Mt.13;30).

The number of the fish they caught (John 21:11) is not sig-nificant, but the fact that they were numbered is. It repre-sents how the exact number of people who are saved will be known when we get to glory, but not until (IITim.2:19).

How come the net broke in Luke 5:6, but not here? Well, compare how the Lord warned that if the new wine of the Spirit (Acts 2:4,13) were put into the old bottles of Israel’s leaders, the bottles would break and the Spirit would run out (Mt.9:17). The new wine of the Spirit had to be put into the new bottles of the little flock, and they’d be preserved as well as the Spirit. You see, not everyone filled with the Spirit at Pentecost was saved (Heb.6:4-6). They were filled with the new wine of the Spirit, but needed good leaders to guide them to the shore of the kingdom, so God put the new wine of the Spirit in the new bottles of the apostles, and the bottles didn’t break and the Spirit was preserved in them and in their followers. That couldn’t be done until the apostles left the big ship of the nation and got into the little ship of the little flock. You’re seeing the same imagery here with the net not breaking.

At the outset of the Lord’s ministry, Israel was told to “come and see” their messiah (John 1:45,46), but the ones who knew He was their Lord and Messiah could “come and dine” with Him (John 21:12). The Lord didn’t give thanks at the meal (John 21:13 cf. 6:11) because this is a picture of the kingdom, where He’ll be receiving thanks, not giving it.

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