A Fish Story


Following Jesus means having confidence in His sovereignty alone.

John(86) (Part of the Believe(74) series)
by Stuart Johns(233) on November 8, 2020 (Sunday Morning(349))

Provides(13), Sovereignty(19)


A Fish Story

(John 21:1-14)



“Koral Wira, 14, was fishing with her parents and a friend near Venice, Fla., when a barracuda went for her dad’s bait and ended up biting her instead. ​​ Her dad, Rob Parker, submitted these photos and Wira told the story.


After anchoring the boat 4 miles off shore, Parker baited his rod with herring. ​​ Wira switched seats to get out of the hot sun, and watched as her dad cast. ​​ Moments later, she heard a splash and saw a long silver flash in the air. ​​ A barracuda jumped from the water and opened its mouth. ​​ As it hit her left arm, it clamped down with razor teeth.


When the fish dropped off her arm, Wira said the angled bites made her skin look like raw hamburger meat from the middle of her bicep to below her elbow. ​​ She was more scared than in pain, she said.


As the barracuda flopped around the boat, Wira ran to the bow and ducked. ​​ Her mom and friend climbed onto their chairs and screamed, while Wira’s dad grabbed his filet knife and stabbed the fish behind the eye.


Wira looked down at the still fish and couldn’t believe it had bit her. ​​ It was 42 inches long and its blood and her own spotted the boat’s floor. ​​ Her dad cut the anchor with his filet knife and they zoomed back to the shore.


On the trip back, Wira pressed her dad’s Red Sox Shirt to her arm to slow the bleeding. ​​ Her friend was crying, but Wira said she was too shocked to be upset.


Parker opened the barracuda’s mouth to check out its rows of razor-sharp teeth. ​​ He noticed the fish had taken in his line, but the hook never penetrated. ​​ Parker said he suspected his bait herring attracted the fish, causing it to jump. ​​ When it flew out of the water toward the boat, it found his daughter instead.


Wira and her dad stopped for a quick picture [show picture] before jumping in the car and heading to the hospital. ​​ Wira said she wasn’t in pain at the moment, but she was still creeped out by the fish. ​​ Her arm needed 51 stitches, and doctors told her they had never treated a barracuda bite. ​​ Her stitches are out now, and she said her arm is healing.”

Field & Stream, “Leaping Barracuda Gashes Teenage Girl’s Arm,” July 28, 2010





  • ME

    • Catching a trout with my bare hands

        • Growing up, I hunted and fished with my father

        • On opening day of trout season, when I was probably 10 to 12 years old, we were fishing in Muddy Run over in Shippensburg

        • My Dad and I jumped out onto a small island in the creek

        • Laying in the water on the edge of the island was a beautiful rainbow trout

        • I got it to bite at a worm, but didn’t hook it

        • I tried every other bait we had available, but it wouldn’t bite at any of those

        • I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to catch it

        • That’s when my Dad mentioned putting the rag from the tackle box over the fish and picking it up with my hands

        • I didn’t know any better, so I did just that

        • After catching the trout with my bare hands, I raise it over my head and shouted, “I got it!”

        • It was an unconventional way of trout fishing and something I have never repeated

        • When we measured it, it was a 15-inch rainbow trout


  • WE

    • Fish story

        • Perhaps some of us have a fish story we could tell

        • It was something beyond the ordinary that happened while we were fishing

    • Other hard to believe stories

        • Some of us are not fishermen or fisherwomen, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have incredible stories to tell

        • Maybe those stories are about shopping, driving, hunting, our children, etc.


John adds an epilogue to his letter that accomplishes two primary things. ​​ It shows how Jesus restores Peter after his denial, and it addressed the rumor, that had been started, that John would not die before Jesus returned a second time. ​​ In the first section of this epilogue, we are going to learn about an incredible fish story that only happened through the sovereign will and power of Jesus. ​​ John wants us to understand that . . .


BIG IDEA – Following Jesus means having confidence in His sovereignty alone.


Too often, we have misplaced confidence in our own strength to accomplish what only Jesus can do through us and for us.


Let’s pray


  • GOD (John 21:1-14)

    • Jesus’ Appearance (vv. 1-5, 14)

        • Jesus’ third appearance to His disciples

          • John tells us that after Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples, with Thomas present, that He appeared a third time to the disciples

          • This appearance was different than the first two

            • It wasn’t in Jerusalem, but in Galilee

            • It wasn’t behind locked doors, but on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias

          • This shouldn’t come as a surprise to us, because of the words of the angel recorded by Matthew and Mark

            • Matthew 28:7, “Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. ​​ There you will see him.’ ​​ Now I have told you.”

            • Mark 16:7, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. ​​ There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

        • Sea of Tiberias

          • Multiple names

            • This was the Roman name for the Sea of Galilee [Borchert, The New American Commentary, John 12-21, 323]

            • Luke called it the Sea of Gennesaret (Luke 5:1)

            • In the Old Testament is was referred to as the Sea of Chinnereth, from the Hebrew kinnerot/kinneret meaning “harp.” (Numbers 34:11) [Borchert, 323]

          • Location

            • It was about 75 miles north of Jerusalem

            • It is surrounded by the hills of Galilee and Golan [show 3D map of Sea of Galilee]

          • John then tells us exactly how it happened

        • Disciples present

          • There were seven disciples that were present during this appearance

            • Simon Peter

            • Thomas (called Didymus)

            • Nathanael from Cana in Galilee [show map]

            • The sons of Zebedee, James and John (Mark 3:17)

            • Two unnamed disciples

              • It would not be inconceivable to consider Andrew and Philip as the two unnamed disciples, especially if we look at John 1

              • John 1:40-41, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. ​​ The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).

              • John 1:43-45, The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” ​​ Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. ​​ Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

          • While the disciples are waiting for Jesus to meet them in Galilee, they decide to go fishing

        • Peter’s proclamation

          • Peter announces to the other six disciples that he is going out to fish and the other disciples agree to go with him

          • Fishing at night

            • They were going out to fish at the preferred time

            • “Nighttime was the preferred time for fishing in ancient times, including first-century Galilee (e.g., Luke 5:5). ​​ That way, fish caught before daybreak could be sold fresh in the morning.” ​​ [Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 589]

            • They were all seasoned fishermen, so they probably assumed they would be successful, but they were skunked

          • Unsuccessful

            • They didn’t catch anything

            • This wasn’t the first time they were unsuccessful

              • Luke tells us of another time, two years earlier, when they were unsuccessful

              • Luke 5:4-7, When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” ​​ Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. ​​ But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” ​​ When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. ​​ So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

            • “Brown notes at this point that in the Gospels the disciples never catch fish without Jesus’ assistance.” ​​ [Borchert, 326]

              • This doesn’t mean that they never caught fish without Jesus, but Scripture doesn’t record a time when they did

              • This brings to mind Jesus’ teaching about the vine and the branches

                • He said to His disciples “I am the vine; you are the branches. ​​ If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

                • Notice that Jesus said they could do nothing without Him

                • This was going to be an important lesson for the disciples to learn, because they wouldn’t be successful at fishing for men without remaining in Jesus and having Him remain in them

              • Application

                • The same is true for us

                • If we try to do anything for Jesus, but aren’t remaining in Him and He in us, we will be unsuccessful

                • Our evangelism efforts will not bear fruit

                • Following Jesus means having confidence in His sovereignty alone

                • When we try to do things in our own strength, we will fail

                • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Confess that I’ve tried to do things for Jesus in my own strength, and failed.

                • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Have confidence in Jesus’ sovereignty and not my own strength.

                • We have to learn the same lesson that the disciples learned – we can’t do anything apart from Jesus

            • The disciples were going to learn this lesson pretty quickly

          • Peter was the leader of this fishing expedition, when he announced that he was going out to fish

        • Jesus showed up, unannounced and unrecognized

          • Jesus arrived early in the morning when the disciples were probably wrapping up their fishing trip

          • The disciples didn’t realize it was Jesus

            • Scripture doesn’t tell us why they didn’t realize it was Jesus

            • It could have been that He was concealing His identity, like He had done with Mary Magdalene and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, until the right time

            • It could also have been that there was mist on the sea and at 100 yards from shore the disciples couldn’t see Jesus clearly

            • We’re just not told the reason why the disciples didn’t realize it was Jesus

          • Jesus asked them a simple question

            • “Guys, how was the fishing? ​​ Were you successful?”

            • Their answer was “No.”

            • Last Saturday, while my buddy and I were deer hunting, we ran into another hunter and asked the question that every hunter asks another hunter, “Did you see anything?” ​​ He had seen three bucks earlier that morning. ​​ I had seen two does and my buddy had harvested a doe. ​​ Where we were hunting was doe only, so this other hunter had passed on the three bucks he had seen. ​​ So, he hadn’t been successful

        • Jesus’ next words would transform this failed fishing trip into a success

    • Jesus’ Command (vv. 6-9)

        • He told them to throw their net on the right side of the boat and they would find fish

          • We would be naïve to believe that Peter and the other disciples hadn’t already tried that at some point in the middle of the night

          • It wasn’t that they had exclusively fished off the left side of the boat all night

          • Perhaps Jesus was able to see a school of fish swimming on the right side of the boat

          • More likely, Jesus was supernaturally exercising His sovereignty, for their benefit

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – Jesus is sovereign!

            • Following Jesus means having confidence in His sovereignty alone.

            • They had been fishing all night, in their own strength, without success

          • Notice that Peter didn’t question this stranger, like he questioned Jesus two years earlier, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” (Luke 5:5)

        • They were successful

          • Without question, they listened to the advice of this stranger and threw their net on the right side of the boat

          • Their net was so full of fish that they weren’t able to haul the net into the boat

        • Jesus revealed

          • John recognized the miracle that had just taken place and knew immediately who the stranger was on the shore – it was Jesus!

          • He tells Peter that the guy on the shore is the Lord!

          • “In characteristic fashion, the beloved disciple displays spiritual discernment, while Peter exhibits decisive action (Carson 1991: 671; cf. Ridderbos 1997: 660).” ​​ [Köstenberger, 591]

          • Peter immediately jumps into action

            • “Here Peter is wearing a worker’s smock (Gk. epedytes) on the boat, but he wants to swim to shore to meet the Lord. ​​ Because he is naked (Gk. gymnos) underneath the smock, when he hears that Jesus is on shore, he tucks or wraps his smock into his belt to give him a tight fit and leaps into the water.” ​​ [Burge, The NIV Application Commentary, John, 584]

            • “Greeting in general was a religious act which required that a person be clothed.” ​​ [Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary, John, 386]

            • Peter leaves behind a net full of fish, which he has been laboring all night to catch, in order to be with Jesus

            • PRINCIPLE #2 – Jesus is pleased when we’re willing to leave everything for Him.

              • Would we be as willing, as Peter was, to leave something successful in order to follow Jesus?

              • Has there been a time when we’ve done that?

              • Perhaps Jesus is asking you to do that right now

              • Idaville Church has a rich history of sending out individuals, couples, and families into the mission field and ministry (Small’s, Stansbury’s, Runyan’s, etc.)

              • We need to continue that rich history

              • Maybe the Lord has been asking you to leave everything you are familiar with, including a successful job, in order to follow Him into full-time ministry

              • I want to encourage you to be obedient to that call

              • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Obediently leave everything, and enthusiastically pursue Jesus’ call on my life.

            • Peter immediately left a successful catch of fish to pursue Jesus

        • Other disciples brought the fish to shore

          • Notice that there were others available to handle the successful catch of fish

          • The same will be true when we follow God’s call on our lives – He will raise up others to handle what we’ve left behind

          • The other six disciples towed the net, full of fish, to shore (about 100 yards)

          • What they saw when they got to shore was reassuring and comforting

            • A hot breakfast was already prepared for them, after a long night of fishing

            • There was fish on the grill and bread available

        • Jesus cared about His disciples and wanted to provide for them

    • Jesus’ Provision (vv. 10-13)

        • Jesus encourages the disciples to bring some of the fish they have just caught

        • Peter returns to help bring the net ashore

        • John tells us a couple of things about the fish

          • First, they were large

          • Second, there were 153

            • It was common practice for the fishermen to count their catch, so the catch could be distributed evenly among them

            • This is perhaps why John even mentions the number of fish that were caught

            • There are all kinds of other explanations given for the number 153, but I believe the simplest explanation is the best – John wants us to know that this was a miraculous catch of fish, orchestrated by Jesus’ sovereign power

          • “The catch consists of 153 ‘great fish,’ ‘great’ implying not only ‘large’ but ‘good’ (as perhaps in Gospel of Thomas 8). ​​ None will be ‘thrown out’ (Mt 13:48), nor will any be lost, for ‘even with so many the net was not torn.’” [Michaels, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of John, 1038]

            • The symbolism found here is important

            • Jesus is continuing to prepare His disciples to spread the Gospel to every nation

            • Something supernatural happens beyond the miraculous catch of fish

              • In Luke 5:6 we see that the first miraculous catch of fish, caused the nets to break

              • Here in John 21:11 the net was not torn, even with so many fish in it

              • “The point is much the same as when Jesus, after the feeding of the multitude, told the disciples to ‘Gather the leftover broken pieces, so that nothing is lost,’ and ‘they gathered, and filled up twelve baskets with pieces left over’ (6:12-13). ​​ Here the conservation of fish, like the conservation of fragments there, hints at Jesus’ repeated promise that he will keep his disciples safe, and that none of those whom the Father has given him will ever be lost (see 3:16; also 6:39; 10:28; 17:12; 18:9). ​​ And what is true of them is true as well of ‘those who believe . . . through their word’ (17:20). ​​ As ‘fishers’ in the world, they will ‘go and bear fruit,’ and their fruit will last (5:16).” ​​ [Michaels, 1038-39]

              • Symbolically and visually, Jesus is sharing with His disciples what their mission will be and that it will be successful

              • The same is true for us

                • Jesus is sharing with us what our mission is – fishing for men/women

                • Jesus reassures us of the same thing – we will be successful

                • “When we were called to believe in Jesus, we were called to mission.” ​​ [J.D. Greear, RightNow Conference: Focus, November 05, 2020]

        • Jesus encourages His disciples to come have breakfast

          • Jesus provided for His disciples

          • He took the bread and the fish and served them

          • PRINCIPLE #3 – Jesus is our provider.

            • Jesus will provide for us too

            • Take a moment to think about a specific time that Jesus has been your provider

            • Perhaps it was in a supernatural way or in a simple common way

            • #4 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Make a list of the ways Jesus has provided for me and praise Him for that provision.

        • The disciples are speechless

          • They knew this stranger was the Lord, but there was some hesitancy

          • This was probably in fulfillment of John 16:23a, In that day you will no longer ask me anything.


What an incredible fish story John had to tell. ​​ Through it we realize that following Jesus means having confidence in His sovereignty alone.


  • YOU

    • Confess that I’ve tried to do things for Jesus in my own strength, and failed.

    • Have confidence in Jesus’ sovereignty and not my own strength.

    • Obediently leave everything, and enthusiastically pursue Jesus’ call on my life.

    • Make a list of the ways Jesus has provided for me and praise Him for that provision.


  • WE

    • As a body of believers, we can have confidence in Jesus’ sovereignty as we strive to accomplish the Great Commission


In the 2003 movie, Big Fish, “Edward Bloom, an entertaining and charismatic teller of tall tale, is a source of frustration to his only son, William who grew up believing his father’s stories until it became obvious they were lies. ​​ At Will’s wedding, Will feels embarrassed by his father telling the guests an impossible-sounding story about the day of Will’s birth, involving catching a giant catfish with his wedding ring as bait. ​​ Will feels that his father tells these huge lies just to get attention and confront him angrily about it. ​​ Edward denies his son’s accusations and they end up not speaking to each other for three years.”


Edward is diagnosed with cancer, which draws Will home from Paris with his pregnant wife. ​​ Will attempts to reconcile with his father and encourages him to tell the truth about all the stories. ​​ Will asks the doctor, who is attending to Edward, about his real birth story. ​​ The doctor tells him it was simply a normal birth that Edward missed because he was working.


“Later that night, Will finds Edward only partially conscious, and unable to speak at length. ​​ Since Edward can no longer tell stories, he asks Will to tell him the story of how his life ends. ​​ Will tells his father that he doesn’t know that story since Edward never told him what he saw in the glass eye. ​​ Edward keeps insisting and Will realizes it’s up to him to finish the story. ​​ Deciding to play along, Will tells his own impromptu tall tale: ​​ Edward regains strength, and he and Will escape from the hospital. ​​ Jumping into Edward’s old car, they speed up to a nearby river, where everyone Edward has ever met are waiting. ​​ Instead of a funeral, they are holding a goodbye party, and Edward happily bids them farewell as Will carries him into the river where Edward transforms into a giant catfish and swims away. ​​ Edward agrees with Will that this is exactly how he dies. ​​ Shortly afterwards, Edward dies. ​​ Will is the only one present for Edward’s death, and is both sad but also deeply happy that they finally connected at last.


At Edward’s funeral, Will, Josephine and Sandra along with Edward’s doctor are initially the only ones in attendance. ​​ Then a long line of cars, vans and buses arrive and it is here that Will becomes astonished to see all of the characters from Edward’s stories show up to pay their respects to Edward; Amos Calloway, Karl the Giant, Norther Winslow, Older Jenny, Mr. Soggybottom, Ping and Jing, Mayor Beamen of Spectre are all present. ​​ However, each one of them is slightly less fantastical than they’re described in Edward’s stories. ​​ For example, Karl is not a 12-foot giant, but is still quite tall at around seven feet; Ping and Jing are not conjoined twins, just identical. ​​ It finally becomes clear that Edward had simply combined his love of storytelling with his own reality, which finally makes sense to Will. ​​ When his own son is born, Will passes the stories on to him, remarking that his father became his stories – allowing him to live forever.”


IMDb, Big Fish, Synopsis




While Edward’s fish story was fiction and not true, John’s fish story is fact. ​​ Jesus came alive again and appeared to His disciples in Galilee. ​​ His presence made the impossible possible. ​​ Following Jesus means having confidence in His sovereignty alone and not in our own strength.