After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
At some point during that 40 days after the resurrection and before Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples went back to Galilee, and Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” Peter was a fisherman; this was the natural thing for him to do, especially in a time when he is feeling uncertain of what comes next – just get out there on the water and concentrate on fishing. It is interesting that the author documents those who were with him – he has generally just called him “the disciples”, but here we find Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John, and two others. And they all said, “We will go with you.” Again, this is a natural thing to do – a group of guys, uncertain to what they are supposed to be doing, are there by the sea; of course they would go along if the fisherman among them suggested fishing! But they fish all night and catch nothing! The fish aren’t biting.
But as they near the shore, they see someone there in the distance – a man on the shore. And he yells to them over the water, “Children, you have no fish have you?” Now a stranger might yell, “Catching anything?” but the word, “children”, is an intimate word – or a mockery. At this point they do not know which. I imagine them sullenly replying, “No.” In a “Who does he think he is?” sort of tone. And then he says, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” And, as if they hadn’t cast the net everywhere all night, they cast it once again on the right side of the boat – and there are so many fish in the net that they cannot pull it in! It is at this point that “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, we presume John, says to Peter, “It is the Lord!”
Why does John recognize Jesus in this moment? There is a miraculous number of fish – he knows Jesus is in the miracle; or perhaps, he is reminded of an earlier event, described in the synoptic gospels at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, that also involved a miraculous catch. Whatever the reason, he suddenly recognizes the Lord. And he tells Peter.
And Peter, who had been fishing in minimal clothing, put on some clothes and jumped in the water, and went to shore to meet the Lord. It always seemed odd to me that Peter put on his clothes to jump into the water – for most of us take clothes off to swim! But Peter apparently did not wish to meet the Lord naked, or nearly so, and so he put clothes on. It was not a long swim, for they were near the shore, near enough by then to recognize Jesus on the beach. And the others brought in the boat and the fish.
The picture is of the shore of Galilee at the place where Jesus is said to have met the disciples that day.