John 21:1-14-Later, Jesus appears again to the disciples...at the Sea of Galilee. Peter had decided to go fishing and the rest of the disciples went with him. They didn't catch anything all night long. In the morning, Jesus was on the shore and called out to them...but they didn't recognize Him. He told them to throw the net on the right side of the boat...and when they did so, they couldn't pull the net in because it was so full of fish (153 fish, :11). Suddenly, John recognized Jesus and told the disciples. Peter grabbed his coat and jumped into the water...the rest of the disciples stayed in the boat and rowed to shore. When they got to shore they found that Jesus already had a fire going with fish on it, and bread. He told them to add some of the fish that they had caught. They ate breakfast with Jesus. This was His third appearance.
What is the significance of 153 fish?
In the Fourth Gospel everything is meaningful, and it is therefore hardly possible that John gives the definite number one hundred and fifty-three for the number of the fishes without meaning something by it. It has indeed been suggested that the fishes were counted simply because the catch had to be shared out between the various partners and the crew of the boat, and that the number was recorded simply because it was so exceptionally large. But when we remember John's way of putting hidden meanings for those who have eyes to see, in his gospel we must think that the number has more meaning than that. Many ingenious suggestions about the meaning of the hundred and fifty-three have been made. (i) Cyril of Alexandria said that the number 153 is made up of three things. First, there is 100; that represents " the fullness of the Gentiles." 100, he says, is the fullest number. The shepherd's full flock is 100 (Matthew 18: 12). The seed's full fertility is 100-fold. So the 100 stands for the fullness of the Gentiles who will be gathered in to Christ. Second, there is the 50. The 50 stands for the remnant of Israel who will be gathered in. Third, there is the 3; and the 3 stands for the Trinity to whose glory all things are done. That is at least an ingenious and an interesting explanation. (ii) Augustine has another ingenious explanation. He says that 10 is the number of the Law, for there are ten commandments; 7 is the number of grace, for the gifts of the Spirit are sevenfold.
"Thou the anointing Spirit art,
Who dost Thy sevenfold gifts impart."
Now 7 +10 makes 17; and 153 is the sum of all the figures, 1+2+3+4 . . ., up to 17. Thus 153 stands for all those who either by Law or by grace have been moved to come to Jesus Christ. (iii) The simplest of the explanations is that given by Jerome. Jerome said that in the sea there are 153 different kinds of fishes; and that the catch stands for a catch which included every kind of fish; and that therefore the number symbolizes the fact that some day all men of all nations will be gathered together to Jesus Christ. But we may note a still further point. This great catch of fishes was gathered into the net, and the net held them all, and the net was not broken. The net stands for the Church. There is room in the Church for all men of all nations. Even if they all come in, the Church is big enough to hold them all.
Here John is telling us in his own vivid yet subtle way that the Church is wide enough to grasp within her embrace all men of all nations. He is telling us of the universality of the Church. There is no exclusiveness in the Church; there is no kind of colour bar or selectiveness. The embrace of the Church is as universal as the love of God in Jesus Christ…
(The Daily Bible Study Series, The Gospel of John, vol. 2, William Barclay, pp. 329-330)
John 21:15-25-After breakfast, Jesus questions Peter about his love for Him. The meaning of the question which Jesus poses to Peter in verse 15 has been primarily interpreted in two different ways. First, some believe that Jesus swept His hand towards the boats, nets, and other fishing equipment that represented Peter’s previous life and vocation as a fisherman and asked him, “Peter, do you love me more than these things and the secure life which they provided you?” He asked him the same basic question three times. Why? Because, here he was. The dust had barely settled on the resurrection and Peter was already back fishing. Jesus was calling him (and all the disciples for that matter) to severe the ties with their past and follow Him unconditionally and totally. The question which Jesus posed to Peter was, “Do you love Me enough, that you are ready to leave all this and follow Me for the rest of your life?” The second interpretation is that Jesus was asking Peter if he loved Him more than the other disciples loved Him. “Peter, do you think that you love Me more than the other disciples love Me?” It is in this interpretation that the play on the words translated into English as “love” becomes important. In both the first and second times that Jesus poses the question to Peter, He asks him if he loves Him and uses the Greek term “agape”. Peter responds with the Greek term “phileo”. “Agape” suggests a much higher quality of love. Peter is admitting that, based on his recent denials of Jesus, he certainly can claim no higher love for Him than the rest of the disciples. The third time that Jesus poses the question, He does so using the term “phileo”…as if in the first two instances He had intentionally led Peter to carefully evaluate the quality of his love for Him, and now, He is agreeing with Peter’s conclusion.
The difference between “agape” and “phileo”
Love (Noun and Verb):
is to be distinguished from agapao in this, that phileo more nearly represents "tender affection." The two words are used for the "love" of the Father for the Son, Jhn 3:35 (No. 1); 5:20 (No. 2); for the believer, Jhn 14:21 (No. 1); 16:27 (No. 2); both, of Christ's "love" for a certain disciple, Jhn 13:23 (No. 1); 20:2 (No. 2). Yet the distinction between the two verbs remains, and they are never used indiscriminately in the same passage; if each is used with reference to the same objects, as just mentioned, each word retains its distinctive and essential character.
Phileo is never used in a command to men to "love" God; it is, however, used as a warning in 1 Cor 16:22; agapao is used instead, e.g., Mat 22:37; Luk 10:27; Rom 8:28; 1Cr 8:3; 1Pe 1:8; 1Jo 4:21. The distinction between the two verbs finds a conspicuous instance in the narrative of Jhn 21:15-17. The context itself indicates that agapao in the first two questions suggests the "love" that values and esteems (cp. Rev 12:11). It is an unselfish "love," ready to serve. The use of phileo in Peter's answers and the Lord's third question, conveys the thought of cherishing the object above all else, of manifesting an affection characterized by constancy, from the motive of the highest veneration. See also Trench, Syn., xii.
Again, to "love" (phileo) life, from an undue desire to preserve it, forgetful of the real object of living, meets with the Lord's reproof, Jhn 12:25. On the contrary, to "love" life (agapao) as used in 1Pe 3:10, is to consult the true interests of living. Here the word phileo would be quite inappropriate.
Note: In Mar 12:38, AV, thelo, "to wish," is translated "love" (RV, "desire").
(http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5368&t=NASB, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words)
However, Jesus was not doing this just to embarrass Peter…as a means to reprimand him publicly for his denials. In fact, it is just the opposite. He is making it known that Peter is still a vital part of the group of disciples and that He intends for him to continue in His service. Jesus even predicts that because of his faithfulness and continuing growth of his commitment to Him…the day will come when he will not forsake Him, but will in fact die for Him. Jesus is telling him that He places more importance on what Peter will do in the future (in the long haul) than on his past. Verse 20 says that Peter then turned around and saw John. Quickly, he asked Jesus about John’s future. Could it be that Peter was feeling the heat of Jesus’ line of questions and was trying to defer the attention away from himself? So, he asks Jesus about John...who had not denied Him. Jesus is not fooled, and tells Peter to not be concerned about John, but to focus on his own faithfulness. Those who heard what Jesus said about John misunderstood it...thinking that John would not die until Jesus returned. John then identifies himself as the author of the book (:24). John says that there were so many other things that Jesus did that no book would be adequate to contain them all (:25; confer 20:31).
Prayer: Lord, help me to keep my eyes on You and what You would have of me. Show me where You would have me to cast my net…and fill it full! Please don't allow me to compare myself to other people, or to be distracted by what others do. Help me to follow You completely. And Lord, please always keep me mindful that You forgive my past and move me towards faithful service to You in the future.