John 21:11: Why 153 fish?
Posted in From Philip Shields on March 30, 2013 by Administrator
Scripture is careful what it takes time and space to say about Yeshua. Why does John mention in John 21:11 that there were exactly 153 fish caught after Christ’s resurrection? There are some interesting answers but I’ll be the first to admit that Scripture doesn’t say anywhere “here’s what the 153 fish means”. But scripture DOES give some strong indications of what could be going on here, and we’ll explore that today. The explanation will have significant meaning to you and me – especially as we come to the end of the age. Don’t miss it.
Yeshua told His disciples if they would follow Him, He would make them fishers of MEN (Mark 1:17). But after Yeshua was crucified, His disciples lost much of their direction and their heart, and at least for a time went back to their old professions – including fishing, as you can read in John 21:1-4. Once again, the professional fishermen caught nothing after a whole night of fishing. When you read what follows, it’s almost funny. Here’s a carpenter telling professional fishermen that the reason they weren’t ANY catching fish all night is that they needed to cast their net on the right side of the boat, not the left side. They do this – and now can’t even lift up their net because its teeming with so many large fish. I suggest you read John 21:1-13 yourself. Peter swims to shore when he hears it is the Lord calling to them. There they find Yeshua already has a warming fire going, some fish already on the coals and some fresh bread. They count the fish – 153 large fish. They quietly eat the bread and fish Yeshua has already prepared. Perhaps even this is reminiscent of the miracle of the loaves and fish in some way.
Remember the context: Peter had said, “Fellas, I’m going back to what I know best – fishing.” The others joined in. They weren’t called to catch fish, but to catch men for salvation, to be “fishers of men”. So what’s going on here? Why are we told there are 153 fish? I believe Yeshua was using that number to make some very important points. If you’ve ever wondered about this, then be sure to read the rest of the blog to find out why there were exactly 153 fish mentioned.
What’s the context of the revelation of 153 fish?
The greatest event in the history of the world had just happened! The Son of God, who lived as a man and then died for all of our sins, had just been resurrected! He had already gone to Father on behalf of all the rest of the harvest. Now He needed to build His group of called-out ones, the select “ekklesia”. I avoid the word “church” most of the time because of its connotations. The “church” – ekklesia – is the group of people led by Yehowah’s spirit. It’s not an organization and certainly not a building. So you in China and Russia and Kenya reading this – and any of the other 45 countries who come to this website – if you have repented, accepted Yeshua as your King and Saviour, and are following the leading of the Holy Spirit (ruach ha’kodesh) – ARE the “church”. I wish I could meet and with talk to all of you in person.
Now back to the story. So far Yeshua has 11 remaining apostles and a few other followers including the brave women disciples who stood by Him as He was tortured. That’s all He had. On Pentecost there were 120. And now the leading apostle – Peter – wants to give it all up and go back to fishing!? NO way! He was understandably distraught and depressed, but Peter needed some encouragement. So the story of the 153 fish happens. There are several interesting “153’s” in the Bible. Could Yeshua be pointing them back to where their focus ought to be?
- Yeshua uses FISH as a symbol of all humanity. The disciples were to become fishers of MEN, not fish. Mark 1:17. FISH are also used in the parable given in Matthew 13:47-48. Fish “of EVERY KIND” were caught. Surely Peter and the disciples remembered this. Yeshua, without their full understanding even yet, was preparing them for the fact He loves the whole world, and all peoples from all nations who will call upon His name and repent. After all, God so loved THE WORLD, not just the Jews, that He sent His only begotten Son… (John 3:16). They have work to do! Surely Peter must have thought of Matthew 13:47 when this happened.
- The number of those who built the first House of God was, are you ready, 153,000.
In 2 Chronicles 2:1-2, 17-18 we read that 70,000 were laborers, 80,000 quarried stone, and three thousand were supervisors. That adds up to 153,000. Is that coincidence, in context of what Yeshua was telling Peter – “Get back to feeding the sheep”. Is it possible the 153 fish were to point the disciples to the fact there was work to do in building the new temple of God – the ekklesia? And by the way, ALL 153,000 who built that first temple were Gentiles/aliens! See the scripture below. I believe Father is going to do a MASSIVE work here in the end, and once again it is going to primarily be among you Gentiles. The modern-day descendants of “the lost 10 tribes of Israel” – the USA, Britain, Canada, Australia and northwestern Europe – are taking a lot for granted and I think we’ll see a greater work done in China, the rest of Asia, Africa, and South America. You people are hungrier for this truth, it seems. Pray that somehow Father provides me a way to get all of these translated into Chinese, Russian, Filipino, Spanish, Swahili and other languages. Pray – and believe—and maybe a way will open.
2 Chronicles 2:1-2
Now it gets more interesting: EVERY SINGLE ONE of these 153,000 laborers were ALIENS or foreigners.
2 Chronicles 2:17-18
--HERE’S another: Remember that each letter in the Hebrew alphabet has numeric values. Now, what has just happened? The PASSOVER! We’ve been freed by the blood of the Lamb from ALL our sins, every single one of them. Hallelujah, hallelujah! How well I appreciate that, for I’ve been forgiven of many.
So Yeshua was telling the disciples – “Hey, I called you to be fishers of MEN, not just fishers of fish!” Abba wants us involved in the end time harvest. We will have to get out of our comfort zone to make this happen. We know there will be the Great Innumerable Multitude mentioned in Revelation 7:9-17 who will have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and stand before the King as pure and washed in white robes.
After they caught the 153 fish, there is the confrontation with Peter in John 21:15-19 about “Peter, do you agape (love) me?”. I recommend you open your own Bible and read it. Three times he is asked this and three times Peter replies with “I philia (deeply like) you”. We miss that in the English. Peter knew he could not say he loved the Christ with undying godly agape love. On the other hand, when Messiah was arrested, ALL the other disciples except John and the loyal women had abandoned Messiah as well. Yeshua confirms His trust and love for Peter and tells him to follow him – and get on with the task of building the ekklesia. “Feed my lambs”, “feed my sheep”. Then Yeshua says, “Peter, follow me!” Peter was being put back into the real business to which he was called: leading those who would follow Christ; feeding the flock of God and building the spiritual House of Yehowah, the “church”, the group of ekklesia, called-out ones. He was also told that he would die by crucifixion when he was old (John 21:18-19).
So why were there153 fish caught?
Put all together, the 153 fish could be pointing us to the Gathering of the sons and daughters of God, the king of the universe, who will be rebuilding His house, His new temple. The new House of God is more glorious and includes spirit-led converted brothers and sisters from all nations – like the fish net that caught “all manner of fish” (Matthew 13:47-49). In this Passover season, we who have accepted Messiah as our Saviour are NEW creations in Him. The old sins are washed away and we are new. As brothers and sisters, we look to the newness of Messiah in each of us and encourage one another to focus on our newness. True brothers and sisters would never participate in digging up old dirt, or old sins that have been washed away in the blood of the Lamb. We are of Him who makes all things new.
Praise be to Yeshua and to our Father, God Most High. As you eat unleavened bread, remember we are taking in Messiah each and every day. We are committing to being truly new and different from what we were, by HIS life, HIS power guiding us each and every day.