With the festival of unleavened bread now finished, the disciples returned to Galilee as Jesus had directed them. Doubt still lingered in their hearts about what was to happen. So, they began fishing—their familiar livelihood before following Christ.
The following is an account taken from Matthew 28:16-17 and John 21:1-23. The following events have been placed in chronological order.
When the Lord called His disciples to follow Him, they were fishermen. It was their means of support, their job, their source of income. Fishing was their way of life. It was what they knew and enjoyed. They found their subsistence in the work of the waters. Without it, they had very little.
Jesus taught them to find subsistence in Him. So He called them out from fishing and He called them to be with Him, to be fishers of men—those who cast the net of the gospel in hope that some will be drawn in.
It wasn’t that fishing was wrong, but that the mundane things of this world are insignificant in light of the eternal things of God. So Christ called them to a higher calling—to find joy in glorifying God. Christ was to be their livelihood.
“Have you caught any fish?” a voice from the shore cried out. “No,” they answered. “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” Probably reluctant, but desperate nevertheless, they threw their net on the right side.
Fish swarmed to their net, making it so full they were unable to haul it in. John said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” And Peter, no longer concerned about the fish, threw himself in the water and swam to shore. The other disciples followed in the boat, dragging the fish behind.
Upon reaching the shore, they found Jesus at a fire with fish and bread. “Bring some of the fish you caught,” Jesus said to them. They lugged the net behind them and although it was full, it didn’t break. God provided their catch, protected their work, and prepared their breakfast.
Jesus was their subsistence, not the waters.
Needless to say, conversations were deeply intimate that morning and continued as they walked to a nearby mountain where Jesus would give His farewell. He asked Peter three times about his love for Him—likely to remind Peter of His three denials.
“Do you love me more than these?” Jesus’ question wasn’t in reference to the other disciples, but to the mundane things of Peter’s world—boats, fish, water, food. These were things that had given Peter his source of life and identity. He was a man of the water, a fisherman. He caught fish and sold them. He ate fish. He sailed the waters. He threw the nets. It was his job. But Jesus asked him if he loved God—the true source of life and identity—more.
Peter replied three times, “Yes.” Jesus responded three times with, “Feed my lambs.” This was a reference to Peter’s new calling in life. He was to be a shepherd of God’s flock. And, he would not provide for himself, protect himself, or prepare for himself what he would do. God would.
“When you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”
Peter, because he loved Christ more than anything in this world—even more than his own life— would one day be brutally killed for the sake of Christ and for the glory of God. All of this was rolled up in the words, “Follow me.”
Those who love Jesus more than everything else will find their subsistence in Him. Our greatest life is lived when we abide in the greatest life that ever lived—the perfect life of Jesus Christ.
Love Him in such a way that all other affections subside.