One of my favorite miracles in the Bible takes place in the book of John chapter 21. Like many of the supernatural acts of Yeshua (Jesus) that we read about in the Scriptures, there was much more to what took place than most people realize.
This is because most of the time, when we read about one of Yeshua’s miracles, we focus all of our attention on the miracle and don’t pay much attention to the surrounding verses. In this case, the narrative of the event begins with some extremely powerful words:
“After these things, Yeshua revealed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. Now here is how He appeared” (John 21:1, Tree of Life Version).
Notice that what we are reading about in the text is how Yeshua revealed Himself. The stated purpose of this miracle was so that Yeshua would be revealed. Then we read:
“Simon Peter said to them, ‘I’m going fishing.’ ‘We’re coming with you too,’ they said. They went out and got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. At dawn, Yeshua stood on the beach; but the disciples didn’t know that it was Yeshua” (John 21:3).
Notice the disciples fished all night long with absolutely no catch. It seemed that all they had for their efforts was a long night of labor and an empty boat. However, in this text we find a powerful lesson here of obedience in which we receive a blessing that would not have taken place if they had not fished all night with no results.
It is at this point that Yeshua reveals Himself to them:
“So, Yeshua said to them, ‘Boys, you don’t happen to have any fish, do you?’ ‘No,’ they answered Him. He said to them, ‘Throw the net off the right side of the boat, and you’ll find some.’ So, they threw the net, and they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish” (John 21:5).
Within the telling of this miracle, we are taught a number of things. One is that when the disciples didn’t know what to do, they didn’t choose to do nothing. They went back to doing what they knew to do. They just experienced the death, burial and Resurrection of Yeshua, but now they had a lot of “what now” questions. They didn’t let not knowing keep them from doing something; they went fishing and they fished all night long, even though they caught nothing.
As dawn rose, Yeshua appeared and told them to cast their net one more time. If they had not fished all night long, they would not have been there when Yeshua appeared. Then, Yeshua told them to cast the net one more time and they listened. They knew that when Yeshua tells you to do something, you should do it, even if it doesn’t make sense.
The disciples listened and cast their net and caught more fish than their boat could hold. I am sure that the disciples were overwhelmed by their blessing and grateful for what was clearly the supernatural involvement of Yeshua in bringing about their great catch.
However, I think the lesson for us in this text isn’t about the miraculous catch. I think our lesson is in the example of the disciples fishing all night without catching any fish.
Think about this. It isn’t a coincidence that in Matthew we read the words Yeshua used when He called the disciples to join His ministry: “And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men'” (Matt. 4:19).
The disciples were willing to fish all night even though they saw no results for their efforts. This is a lesson of commitment that we as disciples still need to learn today. We spend a great deal of energy working faithfully to be fishers of men by spreading the word of Ad-nai, often with no visible results. However, our labor, like that of the disciples, isn’t in vain. If we continue, listening to His voice, we too will catch more fish than we can even imagine.
The key is understanding that the entire night of fishing was not fruitless; it was, in fact, preparation for what was to come. So many times, we think we are doing nothing when, in fact, we are simply preparing for a miracle.
Eric Tokajer is the author of Overcoming Fearlessness, What If Everything You Were Taught About the Ten Commandments Was Wrong?, With Me in Paradise, Transient Singularity, OY! How Did I Get Here?: Thirty-One Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Entering Ministry, #ManWisdom: With Eric Tokajer, Jesus Is to Christianity as Pasta Is to Italians and Galatians in Context.