God’s Word records two times when there was a miraculous catch of fish: one at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and the other after His resurrection.
Luke chapter 5 begins with Jesus teaching from Simon Peter’s boat on the Lake of Gennesaret, another name for Galilee. When the teaching was finished, Jesus said to Peter, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Impetuous Peter, a professional fisherman, informed Jesus that he and his partners, James and John, had worked all night, and there weren’t any fish being caught. But, to pacify Jesus, Peter agreed to go out and let down one net. “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 Peter saw the immense number of fish, and realized that he had doubted Jesus, he dropped down at Jesus’ knees, and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Jesus had told Peter to use nets, plural, but Peter, in his moment of skepticism, used only one net. Peter felt like a fool, unworthy to stand in the presence of the Lord. But Jesus lovingly said, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” When they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.
In John 21:1-11, the second huge catch of fish is written. Jesus had already shown Himself two times to the apostles after His resurrection, but, in those days, it was not clear to Peter exactly what he should be doing. He resorted to something he was comfortable with: fishing. One day at the Sea of Galilee, Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John, and two others of His disciples were together. Peter said, “I am going fishing.” They said, “We are going with you also.” They spent all that night on the water, but caught nothing.
When morning came, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples didn’t know that it was Him. Jesus asked, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” He then told them to cast their net on the right side of the boat, and as soon as they did, they “were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.” John said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Peter grabbed his outer garment and jumped into the water. The others brought the boat to land, dragging the net filled with fish. When they got to the shore, they noticed that Jesus had already built a fire, and was cooking fish. Jesus said, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” Peter dragged the net to land, filled with 153 large fish, but, unlike his first experience years earlier, the net was not broken. Jesus invited them to eat breakfast with Him, but none of the disciples asked Him, “Who are You?” They knew it was the Lord.
These two incidents are like bookends, and must have been meaningful memories for Peter. On this second occasion, Jesus taught Peter that his fishing days were over, and to love Him as Lord meant to feed the flock of God. This was Peter’s ordination, so to speak, and Peter never forgot that day. Peter went on to be the leader of the church, and the first to take the salvation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. Peter likely never went fishing again, but was one of the all-time champion fishers of men.