John 21:3
Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.
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(3) Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing.—The words are the vivid representation by an ear-witness of what actually took place as they re turned to their ordinary work during the interval between the Passover and Pentecost. It does not express either an abandonment of their higher vocation, or an expectation of the presence of the Lord. The picturesque colouring of the whole scene is quite in St. John’s style, as is also the simple co-ordinate arrangement of sentences without connecting particles.

And that night they caught nothing.—Comp. for the fact Luke 5:5; but the words are different. The word here rendered “caught” occurs nowhere in the other Gospels, but is found again in this chapter (John 21:10), and six times in the earlier chapters of the Gospel (John 7:30; John 7:32; John 7:44; John 8:20; John 10:39; John 11:57). It occurs also in Revelation 19:20.

John 21:3-6. Simon Peter saith, I go a fishing — They were now waiting for Christ’s promised appearance to them, and it was certainly commendable in Peter that he wished to redeem the time and not be idle; but endeavour to make some provision for his own support, and for the entertainment of his friends. They say, We also go with thee — They were as willing as he to labour for a maintenance, and not to eat the bread of idleness. They went forth, therefore, and entered into a ship immediately — A small vessel on the lake or sea of Tiberias; and that night — Though it was the properest time for fishing, and they were diligent in throwing their nets; they caught nothing — The providence of God so ordering it that the subsequent miracle might be the more illustrious. But when the morning was now come — After they had been toiling all night to no purpose; Jesus appeared and stood on the shore over against them; but the disciples — Who had no expectation of seeing him there, and also being at some distance from him, and it not being yet perfectly light; knew not that it was Jesus — They observed a person upon the shore, but knew not who he was. Then — As they approached within call; Jesus saith, Children, have ye any meat? — Have you taken fish enough to furnish out a meal? They answered him, No — We have been toiling here this whole night in vain. And he said, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find — Reader, whether we would cast the temporal net with success, and gain a maintenance for ourselves, and those dependant upon us, or the spiritual net, so as to be successful fishers of men, we have need of the direction of Jesus, and ought to apply to him for it; which if we do aright we shall not do in vain; the direction we need shall certainly be granted us. They — Willing to try, at least, whether this stranger conjectured right, cast the net therefore as he had directed them; and now — To their great astonishment; they were not able to draw it — Into the ship again; for the multitude of fishes — Which they had enclosed in it. This was not only a demonstration of the power of our Lord, but a kind supply for them and their families. It was, likewise, an emblem of the great success which should attend them as fishers of men.

21:1-14 Christ makes himself known to his people, usually in his ordinances; but sometimes by his Spirit he visits them when employed in their business. It is good for the disciples of Christ to be together in common conversation, and common business. The hour for their entering upon action was not come. They would help to maintain themselves, and not be burdensome to any. Christ's time of making himself known to his people, is when they are most at a loss. He knows the temporal wants of his people, and has promised them not only grace sufficient, but food convenient. Divine Providence extends itself to things most minute, and those are happy who acknowledge God in all their ways. Those who are humble, diligent, and patient, though their labours may be crossed, shall be crowned; they sometimes live to see their affairs take a happy turn, after many struggles. And there is nothing lost by observing Christ's orders; it is casting the net on the right side of the ship. Jesus manifests himself to his people by doing that for them which none else can do, and things which they looked not for. He would take care that those who left all for him, should not want any good thing. And latter favours are to bring to mind former favours, that eaten bread may not be forgotten. He whom Jesus loved was the first that said, It is the Lord. John had cleaved most closely to his Master in his sufferings, and knew him soonest. Peter was the most zealous, and reached Christ the first. How variously God dispenses his gifts, and what difference there may be between some believers and others in the way of their honouring Christ, yet they all may be accepted of him! Others continue in the ship, drag the net, and bring the fish to shore, and such persons ought not to be blamed as worldly; for they, in their places, are as truly serving Christ as the others. The Lord Jesus had provision ready for them. We need not be curious in inquiring whence this came; but we may be comforted at Christ's care for his disciples. Although there were so many, and such great fishes, yet they lost none, nor damaged their net. The net of the gospel has enclosed multitudes, yet it is as strong as ever to bring souls to God.That night they caught nothing - This was so ordered in the providence of God that the miracle which was performed might appear more remarkable. 3-6. Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing—(See on [1925]Lu 5:11).

that night … caught nothing—as at the first miraculous draught (see on [1926]Lu 5:5); no doubt so ordered that the miracle might strike them the more by contrast. The same principle is seen in operation throughout much of Christ's ministry, and is indeed a great law of God's spiritual procedure with His people.

Peter and divers others were fishermen, as we have formerly heard, and had boats which they so employed. Though they were called to the work of the ministry, yet, churches not yet being gathered and constituted able to maintain them, they did not judge it unlawful to employ themselves in honest vocations, which might bring in something of a livelihood; no more did Paul afterward. The others resolve to go with Peter. They went, but

that night caught nothing; the providence of God so ordering it, that Christ’s Divine power might be seen in commanding fish into their nets.

Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing,.... Which was his business before his conversion; and now having nothing to do, and his Lord and master having, as yet, no service for him in the ministry of the word, until the Spirit was poured down in an extraordinary manner, which was given to be expected, in the mean while he was inclined to, and resolved upon taking up his former employment; partly that he might not live an idle life, and partly to obtain a livelihood, which was now to be sought after in another manner, since the death of Christ; and these inclinations and resolutions of his he signifies to the rest of the disciples, who agreed with him:

they say unto him, we also go with thee; that is, a fishing; for it seems to have been the business and employment of them all formerly: the place they went to was the sea of Tiberias, as appears from John 21:1 a place free for any to fish at. This is said to be one of the ten traditions which Joshua delivered to the children of Israel, when he divided the land among them (z):

"that any man should be free to catch fish in the waters (or sea) of Tiberias; and he might fish with an hook only; but he might not spread a net, or place a ship there, except the children of the tribe to whom that sea belonged in their division.''

But now these disciples, or the greater part of them at least, belonging to the tribe and division in which the sea was, had a right to carry a ship or boat thither, and make use of a net, as they did. Besides, there was another reason for fishing here, because there were no unclean fish; for the Jews say (a), that

"in a place of running water no clean fish goes along with unclean fish, and lo, the sea of Tiberias is , "as running waters".''

They went forth: from the house, town, or city where they were, whether Capernaum, or Bethsaida, or Tiberias itself:

and entered into a ship immediately; which was either one of their own, that belonged to some one of them before their call; which though they had left, had reserved their right and claim unto; see Luke 5:3 or which they hired for their present purpose: the word immediately is not in the Vulgate Latin, nor in the Syriac, Arabic, Persic, and Ethiopic versions, nor in Beza's ancient copy:

and that night they caught nothing. They went out in the evening of the day, and fished all night, that being a proper time for such business, and the most likely to succeed in, but caught no fish, or very little: and so it is sometimes with Gospel ministers, who are fishers of men, though they take every opportunity, and the most proper methods to gain souls to Christ, yet sometimes do not succeed; which makes things look dark and gloomy in their apprehensions.

(z) Maimon. Hilch. Nezike Maramon, c. 5. sect. 3. Vid. T. Bab. Bava Kama, fol. 81. 1.((a) T. Hieros. Avoda Zara, fol. 42. 1.

Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.
John 21:3-4. Ἐρχόμ. κ. ἡμεῖς σὺν σοί] John has not employed ἀκολουθεῖν, nor said ἄγωμεν κ. ἡμεῖς (John 11:16), because he has thought just what was said.

The circumstantiality is not un-Johannean (Lücke), but comp. e.g. John 1:39-40, John 9:1-12. In particular, moreover, the ὑπάγω ἁλιεύειν is only the simple language of familiar association, in which neither a “brusque tone,” nor “an internal impulse, a presentiment” (Godet), is to be recognised. The disciples desire again to pursue their earthly employments, “quod privatos homines decebat,” Calvin.

ἐξῆλθον] from the place indicated in John 21:2, probably Capernaum, out to the lake, John 21:1.

By night the fishing was productive. Comp. on Luke 5:5; Aristot. H. A. viii. 19. But they caught nothing. How entirely different was it afterwards, when they cast out at the bidding of the Lord!

ἔστη] Expressing the sudden appearance. Comp. John 20:19; John 20:26.

εἰς τ. αἰγ.] Comp. John 20:19; John 20:26.

οὐ μέντοι, κ.τ.λ.] To be explained from the entirely altered condition and appearance of the Risen One. Chrysostom, assigns the reason to the will of Jesus: οὐκ εὐθέως ἑαυτὸν δείκνυσιν, comp. also Luthardt and Hengstenberg, of which John, however, gives no indication. Comp. rather on John 20:14.

John 21:3. As the disciples stand together and see boat after boat put off, Simon Peter can stand it no longer but suddenly exclaims, Ὑπάγω ἁλιεύειν, “I am off to fish”. This is a relief to all and finds a ready response, Ἐρχόμεθα καὶ ἡμεῖς σὺν σοί, At once they embark, and as we watch that boat’s crew putting off with their whole soul in their fishing, we see in how precarious a position the future of Christianity hung. They were only sure of one thing—that they must live. But ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ νυκτὶ ἐπίασαν οὐδέν, “during that night they took nothing”. Ἁλίσκονται δὲ μάλιστα οἱ ἰχθύες πρὸ ἡλίου ἀνατολῆς καὶ μετὰ τὴν δύσιν—Aristotle, Hist. Animal., viii. 19, quoted by Lampe. [On ἐπίασαν, see John 7:30 and Revelation 19:20.

3. Simon Peter] As so often, he takes the lead. In the interval of waiting for definite instructions the disciples have returned to their usual employment. Once more we have precise and vivid details, as of an eye-witness.

We also go] Rather, we also come.

went forth] From the town or village, probably Capernaum or Bethsaida.

into a ship] Better, into the ships. ‘Immediately’ must be omitted on decisive evidence.

that night] Better, in that night. ‘That’ perhaps indicates that failure was exceptional; or it may mean ‘that memorable night’ (comp. John 19:31; John 20:19). Night was the best time for fishing (Luke 5:5).

they caught nothing] Failure at first is the common lot of Christ’s fishers. His Presence again causing success after failure might bring home to them the lesson that apart from Him they could do nothing (John 15:5).

The word here used for ‘catch’ does not occur in the Synoptists, but besides John 21:10 is found six times in this Gospel (John 7:30; John 7:32; John 7:44, John 8:20, John 10:39, John 11:57), and once in Revelation (John 19:20) [8]. Elsewhere only Acts 3:7; Acts 12:4; 2 Corinthians 11:32.

John 21:3. Ὑπάγω ἁλιεύειν, I go a fishing) Constrained by necessity, not for the sake of gain: John 21:5, “Children, have ye any meat?” ‘No.’ A remarkable example of αὐτουργία, labouring with one’s own hands, without sacrificing the apostolical dignity.—καὶ ἡμεῖς, we also) They were now by this time not so much afraid.—εἰς τὸ πλῦιον, into a ship) which is called in John 21:8 a little ship.

Verse 3. - Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a-fishing. The abruptness of the language addressed to six (μαθηταί) disciples, who seemed to be living as in one family, suggests a lengthened waiting, and some disappointment as to the effect upon their daily life of the great revelation. They are summoned by the most commanding spirit among them to resume what was, for some of them at least, their customary calling. He would seek in humble fashion, along the lines of ordinary duty to his family and himself, the supply of daily wants. According to some writers, Peter felt a presentiment of the coming of his Lord under scenes identical with those of his first call (Luke 5:1-11). According to others, Peter exhibited some of the heart-sickness of deferred hope. On either supposition we see a new illustration of, and testimony to, the character of the man who was so conspicuous an initiator. They say to him, We also come (or, go) with thee. They do not "follow" him, as they had been summoned once to follow their Lord; but they are willing, even eager, to accompany the strong-hearted man, and ready to take his lead. They share at once either in his presentiment or in the expression of his delayed hope. They went forth; i.e. from the home which they had made for themselves on this well-remembered spot - from Capernaum, which was most probably the early home of Peter, and a spot to which he would naturally revert. And entered into the ship; the veritable vessel that had often served them on that lake of storms. Though Peter and Andrew, James and John, had left their boats and nets and hired servants, it is not unlikely that members of their two families had retained them. And that night they took nothing. Let the unusual word be noticed. Πιάζειν occurs three times in this brief narrative and six times in the Gospel, in the sense of "laying hold," "taking possession of," but nowhere in the synoptists. It occurs, however, in Acts 12:4; 2 Corinthians 11:32; Ecclus. 23. 21; and, what is more remarkable, in the sense of "taking animals" in Revelation 19:20 (ἐπιάσθη τὸ θηρίον); so the LXX. for אָחַז (Song of Solomon 2:15). The night was then, as now, the most convenient time for fishing, and the fruitless effort must have reminded them of the night described in Luke 5. Some critics have supposed this failure to be parabolic or symbolic of the comparatively barren results of the apostolic ministry to the Jews, while what followed was prophetic of the great success which should accompany their appeal to the Gentiles. But Peter's wonderful success on the Day of Pentecost and on subsequent occasions in dealing with Jews, contradicts this interpretation. The only analogy which offers itself to our minds is the limited success of all their endeavors until the apostles were veritably endowed with power from on high. John 21:3A ship (τὸ πλοῖον)

Rev., the boat; restoring the article, which indicates a familiar implement. See on Luke 5:2.



That night

The emphatic pronoun that (ἐκείνῃ) may indicate that their ill success was unusual.

Caught (ἐπίασαν)

So John 21:10. The verb means to lay hold of, and is nowhere else used in the New Testament of taking fish. Elsewhere in this Gospel always of the seizure of Christ by the authorities (John 7:30, John 7:39, John 7:44; John 8:20; John 10:39; John 11:57). Of apprehending Peter and Paul (Acts 12:4; 2 Corinthians 11:32). Of the taking of the beast (Revelation 19:20). Of taking by the hand (Acts 3:7).

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