January 15, 2016
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
According to John 21:1, seven disciples were at the Sea of Tiberias. They were “…Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathaniel of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, [James and John] and two others of His Disciples….” (John 21:2). This was after the crucifixion and resurrection, and what happened next is recorded in verses 3 through 6:
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 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.
Why were they there in the first place? The Lord, in Matthew 28:10 had told Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (Matthew 28:1): “Go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.” In Matthew 28:16 it says, “Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them.” The mountain was right next to the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. They probably had to wait for awhile, because Jesus had set no exact time when He would meet them in Galilee. And so impetuous Peter had the bright idea, “I am going fishing.” And six others joined him. At least Peter, James and John had made their living by fishing before Jesus called them (see Matthew 4:18-22). While there was excitement among them that the Lord had risen from the dead – and they had encountered Him more than once (see Luke 24:13-43; John 20:19-29) – it is recorded in Matthew 28:17, that, when they saw Him in Galilee, “…they worshiped Him; but some [still] doubted.” In that doubt, I think Peter and the others were taking comfort in what was familiar to them – fishing!
Why did they go fishing at night? They fished with a large net, and in the light of day fish could see the net being cast, and it would scare them away. But “…that night they caught nothing.” It must have been extra-discouraging, especially for the ones who had been professional fishermen before they were called as Jesus’ disciples. They might have said to one another (or at least thought), “We lost our Leader who was giving our lives new meaning. He told us ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ (Matthew 4:19). And now we can’t even catch fish anymore!”
But they were fishing on the wrong side of the boat! The opposite of the right side is the left side, where they had been fishing all night. But there is another opposite – the wrong side! If we follow our own leading – our own wisdom – we too often find ourselves on the wrong side! Oh, sometimes it works out. And we tend to look at others who seem to make good decisions the majority of the time, and we say, “Why not me?”
It is because we are made to be connected to and guided by God! In Isaiah 46:9 and 10 the Lord tells us:
…I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me,
declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that
are not yet done, saying, “My purpose shall stand, and I will do all My
God is omniscient! He knows everything! And since He declares the end from the beginning, ought we not to listen to Him and make our decisions according to His leading? Jesus directed His ‘fishless’ disciples to “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” The right side, in this case, was opposed to the left side from which they had apparently been fishing all night. Maybe it was a moonlit night, and the moon-shadow of the boat – perhaps the left side – was helping to hide the shadow of the net being cast. It was logical fishing wisdom they were applying because Peter and at least two others had years of experience on proper fishing methods. And Jesus’ instructions just didn’t make sense by traditional fishing wisdom. But the Lord’s mind is not always logical and wise by our thinking! It says in I Corinthians 1:25 and 3:19: “…the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men….For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” Our job as Christians is not to evaluate whether His directions make logical and wise sense to us! Our job is just to obey His clear leading!
By the way, Jesus had established a precedent for His direction where to cast the net. In Luke 5:1 through 7 is the incident where the Lord taught the crowd from Peter’s boat. After the teaching, He told Peter in verse 4, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” This was about mid-day, and it was not the time to catch fish! But Peter obeyed, and in verse 6 it says, “And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish…” – a net-breaking and boat-sinking number of fish, according to verses 6 and 7! So while Jesus might tell us to do something that seems illogical, it often does make sense if we think about it!
What happened this second time when the disciples obeyed? John 21:6 – “So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.” There were 153 large fish in that net according to John 21:11, “…and although there were so many, the net was not broken.” There is fruitfulness in obeying the Lord!
I have learned it is better to follow the Lord Jesus’ instructions than my own mind! As it is written in Proverbs 3:5 and 6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” In the long run, it will bless us and bring Him glory! Fish on The Right Side!