AN AGGREGATE SIGN
In this series of messages we have been considering the signs in all the chapters in the Gospel of John. Now we need to see that everything in chapter twenty-one is a sign. I cannot say how many signs there are in this chapter. Instead, I would prefer to say that this chapter is an aggregate of signs, that here we have a concluding sign that involves a number of things.
SOME ASPECTS OF THE PNEUMATIC CHRIST
Before we begin to consider the aspects of the aggregate sign in chapter twenty-one, I would like to point out a few matters concerning the pneumatic Christ as revealed in this chapter. According to the record of John 21, there is no doubt that the pneumatic Christ is omniscient. He knows everything. What is written in this chapter definitely indicates that the Lord knows everything.
The pneumatic Christ is also omnipresent. He is everywhere. There is no way that we can get away from Him. For example, when the disciples went fishing, He was standing on the shore watching. This indicates that He is omnipresent.
Furthermore, the pneumatic Christ is omnipotent. As the omnipotent One, He is altogether powerful and capable of controlling the environment. I believe that in this chapter the Lord controlled the fish and caused them to stay away from Peter and those with him in the boat. Peter and the sons of Zebedee (John and James) were professional fishermen, the sea of Tiberias was large and full of fish, and the night was the right time for fishing. Nevertheless, through the entire night they caught nothing. It must have been that the Lord commanded all the fishes to stay away from their net. The omnipotent Lord Jesus controlled every fish.
Verse 9 says, “When they got out then onto the land, they saw a fire of coals laid there, and fish lying on it and bread.” Here we again see the Lord’s omnipotence: He provided fish and bread for the disciples. We also see His care for them in the details of life.
How marvelous the Lord is! He is complete, perfect, merciful, and kind. As the omniscient One, He even predicted that Peter would be martyred and that John would outlive him. This chapter, therefore, is rich in what it signifies concerning the all-inclusive pneumatic Christ.
THE SITUATION OF THE DISCIPLES
In this chapter we see not only the all-inclusive and all-capable Christ; we also see the situation of the disciples. In chapter twenty they received two great blessings on two successive Lord’s Days. No doubt, what the disciples experienced was marvelous. However, 21:3 says, “Simon Peter said to them, I am going fishing. They said to him, We are coming with you.” To be sure, the Lord Jesus did not send Peter fishing. Peter decided on his own to go fishing.
The account in chapter twenty-one of Peter’s experience in fishing reminds us of what is recorded in chapter five of the Gospel of Luke. This chapter tells us that Peter was called by the Lord through a miracle related to fishing. The Lord said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught” (Luke 5:4). Simon answered Him, saying, “Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless, at thy word I will let down the net” (v. 5). The result was that they caught “a great multitude of fishes” (v. 6). After this incident the Lord said to Simon, “Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men” (v. 10). Through the miracle in Luke 5, Peter was called by the Lord.
I doubt that during the years he followed the Lord Jesus Peter went fishing on his own initiative at all. Except for Matthew 17:27, can you find any hint in the Gospels that Peter went fishing between the time he was called and the incident recorded in John 21? But now we see that even after two meetings with the resurrected Christ, meetings in which the disciples received great blessing, Peter decided to go fishing again. Peter probably felt that he had nothing to do. He may have said to himself, “Where is the Lord? I followed Him for more than three years. I did see Him after His resurrection, and He came back to meet with us twice. Those were wonderful meetings we had with Him. But where is He now? And what should I do about the practical problem of finding something to eat? I can’t endure having nothing to do day after day, and we hardly have anything to eat. We must do something. Since I cannot bear the situation any longer, I’m going fishing.”
For Peter to go fishing meant that he was going back to his old profession. Peter may have felt that the Lord had left them and that they had nothing to do, nothing to live on, and nowhere to go. Hence, he went back to his old way of life, to his old occupation. We know from 21:2 that six others of the Lord’s disciples went with him.
(The Fulfillment of the Tabernacle and the Offerings in the Writings of John, Chapter 61, by Witness Lee)