At a distance from that lonely cross, several of the disciples huddled amongst the crowd. They witnessed Jesus die cruelly. Then He appeared to them shortly after His miraculous resurrection, but they had not seen much of Him since. For three-and-a-half years they had received counsel and direction, but now — silence. In their minds, He hadn't taught them what the next thing would be (John 21:1–14).
They wallowed in a mire of questions with no answers. They needed to do something. But what? Go forward? What did that mean for them?
Peter sat with several of the other disciples. Sitting was foreign to him. He was a doer, a worker. Before He went on the road with Christ, he was a fisherman — always doing something. He was anxious to be doing anything, the next thing. Basically, all he knew was fishing.
“I'm going fishing!” He jumped up and stomped off with purpose toward the fishing vessel. Bewildered, the others followed. Fishing was better than just sitting around. Doing something they knew well was comforting, productive.
After they prepared their nets for a night of fishing, they launched into the open waters. All night they labored. Hurling the nets into the sea. Dragging them in. Heaving them into the waters again and again. Hauling them in every time. For hours, no matter where they tossed the nets, not one fish was pulled into the boat.
They sailed to the deeper areas, casting the nets. Shallow areas. Mid-range areas. Nothing. No doubt frustration prevailed in that their toil produced not one fish. Perhaps harsh words were even spoken.
Just as the thin ribbon of morning fluttered across the horizon, a Man called from the shoreline: “Have you any fish?”
Somehow, the voice had a memorable, soothing cadence. On the other hand, who in His right mind would be asking a question like that at this hour of the morning?
“No!” an exasperated voice emanated from the vessel.
“Cast the net on the right side,” the Man counseled. Nothing else had worked, so in obedience they flung the net far and wide as they were directed.
Suddenly! There was so much weight, the little fishing boat nearly toppled into the water. Fish, they finally had fish. Mammoth fish. The count — 153 of them.
They looked at each other in awe for they knew the Man who worked this miracle was their Lord.
Principles Gleaned From This Event of Bible History
First, waiting on Jesus is a common experience for His disciples, even today. Isaiah 40:31 is just one verse that speaks to the power of waiting on God. We can gain wisdom and strength and stamina.
Second, when we're unsure as to what we need to do next, do as Peter did — the next thing. In fact, Oswald Chambers charged: “Trust God, and do the next thing.” As the disciples moved forward, they did the next thing that came naturally to them —fishing. Only then did Jesus meet them and give them directions as what to do next.
Third, Jesus is in complete control. Even though those men were seasoned fisherman, doing their human best yielded nothing. Jesus, however, opened the door on His plan for His disciples.
Fourth, and possibly the most difficult to see, is that Jesus has provided for and continues to serve us, even when we cannot perceive it. How is that? Jesus:
- Paid for our sins (Hebrews 2:17).
- Still calls feeble humans as his disciples (John 15:16).
- Qualifies us to do His calling, does not call the qualified (1 Corinthians 1:26–29).
- Defined the kind of fish we are to catch (Matthew 4:19).
- Supplies His grace, which is sufficient for our pitiful need (2 Corinthians 12:9).
- Prepares an eternal home for us (John 14:1–3).
- Delivers us from evil to preserve us for eternity (2 Timothy 4:18).
When Jesus called them to breakfast, He led them. In the details of the miracle, He opened their eyes to the fact that they could do nothing without Him.
"While they were doing His work, He would provide for their needs. And Jesus had a purpose in bidding them cast their net on the right side of the ship. On that side, He stood upon the shore. That was the side of faith. If they labored in connection with Him — His divine power combining with their human effort — they could not fail of success."1
He also spoke to them in the numbers. Jesus never left anything to chance. So what about that precise number of 153 fish? That number affirmed to His disciples His calling in Matthew 4:19: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Jesus bids us to do the same: “Follow Me.” Matthew 28 harbors the great gospel commission. We are all called to be fishers of men. Many rely upon a pastor or church leadership, not understanding that this bidding is for each one of us. Numerous followers feel inadequate, untalented, or have a lack of passion. Still, the commission was uttered for all who affirmatively answer Christ’s call: “Follow Me.” He gave us further counsel through Ellen G. White: “All His biddings are enablings."2 He will provide for your every need (Philippians 4:19).
Call to Action
Will there be intense times of questioning for your purpose in life, no matter your age? Especially when God seems silent as in this time with the disciples? Absolutely. By the same token, we are not to panic because the best things happen in His time (see Romans 8:28). God is in control of these seasons of life when we don't know His plan. These are times when we can learn to not only wait on Him, but also trust Him, trust His Word. Most importantly, move forward with what we do know.
So what do you do when you're not sure what to do next? Do the next thing.
So will you answer Jesus’ call to follow Him and become a
fisher of men?
All scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Oakland, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1898), 811.
- Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons (Battle Creek, Michigan: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1900), 333.