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was to a collective body of the disciples, and was of a more formal and official character than the four personal interviews, and hence was literally, as John states, the third meeting with the disciples. This meeting was a very remarkable one, so much so as to require its record in a kind of postscript to the gospel of John, and is worthy of our careful study. The natural order of consideration will be, first, the circumstances of the meeting, and then their meaning.
I. The circumstances of this meeting on the shore.
The disciples had parted with Jesus in Jerusalem during the second week after the resurrection, and had gone to Galilee to await the great meeting promised there. Whilst waiting for it, it was needful for them to subsist, and being poor, they naturally reverted to their former employment to support them until the will of Christ was more fully made known. Where Jesus was during this interval, we know not. As already remarked, his existence during these forty days was under peculiar physical conditions, as is intimated by the statement that, when he appeared, he is said to have “shewed himself,” as if he was naturally in visible, and became visible only by an act of the will.
There were at least seven of the disciples together: Peter; Thomas, no longer the doubter, and no longer absent when Jesus appears; Nathanael of Cana, who was probably the apostle called Bartholomew ; James and John, who with Peter were the witnesses to so many of the miracles ; and two other disciples, who, from their previous associations with the others, were probably Philip and Andrew. Peter, with his wonted forwardness, proposes that they should go and fish, to which the rest consent, but toil all night and take nothing.
If we could know the conversation of that long and toiling night, it would doubtless furnish us much that was very interesting. Peter would probably tell of his fall, his penitence, and the words of love that the Master spake as he gently restored him to his former hope. Thomas could speak of his scepticism and his restored faith, and the fervent resolve with which he now clung to his Lord and his God. Nathanael could relate his wonderful interview with the Lord in an adjacent city, and how he had seen heaven open and the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man.
James, Philip, and Andrew, could each bring forward some well remembered fact or word, that had fastened on their memories, whilst John, the beloved, might muse in silence as he looked out on the stars and the sea, and thought of that wonderful love that was then beginning to unfold to bis vision, wider than the cope of heaven, and deeper than the waters of the sea of Galilee.
As the night wore away, and the gray morning began to dawn on the wild hills that stand around Gennesaret, they turned to the shore with fee)ings of disappointment. As they neared it, they saw, in the dim twilight that was flushing the sky, the form of a man on the shore. There was something strange and almost suspicious in the sight, and hence, though he addressed them in terms not only courteous, but kind, “ Children, have ye any meat ?" they answered somewhat roughly, "No." He then bade them to cast on the right side of the ship, which when they did, they found the net so full that they could not draw it into the ship. This sudden and miraculous draught reminded the thoughtful John of another in the same sea, on a former occasion, and he whispered to Peter, " It is the Lord.” When Peter heard this, he could not wait for the slow movement of the ship, although it was only about one hundred yards. from the shore, and he girt his outer garment upon him, that he might present himself with decent propriety before his Lord, and leaping into the water, he waded ashore, and cast himself, doubtless in fervent adoration, at the feet of Jesus. Meanwhile the disciples left the larger vessel, launched a boat, and drew the net to shore. When they came near, Peter met them and aided them to land
it, and on counting the fish, they found that they had one hundred and fifty-three, and yet their net was not broken.
As they drew near the shore a strange sight met their gaze. They saw a fire on the shore, with fish and bread cooking as if for a meal. When they had counted the fish, Jesus invited them to breakfast. There was in all this something so strange, startling, and almost spectral, that they were filled with awe. Whence and why this fire on the lonely shore? Whence the fish and bread, and yet some of their own fish to be added ? What did all this mean? They desired to ask, but were deterred by that feeling of awe that they could not repress in the mysterious presence of Jesus. But at his invitation they sat down beside the cheerful fire, and made their morning repast, we doubt not, in gladness and gratitude.
Such were the circumstances of this remarkable meeting on the shore of Galilee. .
II. What was the meaning of this scene ?
There is one school of interpretation which alleges that our Lord kindled this fire on the shore, and prepared this meal, merely as an act of kindness to his disciples. He knew they had been fishing all night, and would be cold and hungry, and hence provided fire and food for their refreshment. All this is true, but to say that this is the whole meaning of the scene, is to be guilty
of a most shallow evasion. Why the double sup. ply of fish to the coals? Why were those from the sea brought, and added to those on the shore, in making the meal ? Why did they delay to count the fish before they were asked to breakfast? Why is the number so carefully recorded ? All these things prove that there was a deeper meaning in the transaction, than the mere supply of the cold and hunger of these disciples.
What then was the design of it? The mind reverts instantaneously to another draught of fishes made in the same sea, about three years before, when four of the seven disciples here present were called. That miraculous draught was made at the opening of Christ's work, and is generally agreed to have symbolized truths pertaining to the opening;. this therefore at the close of that work, or rather at the opening of a new portion of his work, would seem in like manner to embody truths suitable for that period. If the one was a symbolical lesson, so also was the other, and hence the reason for its minute record. In the first miracle, our Lord gave the clue to its meaning in the declaration to Peter and the others that they should be fishers of men, Luke v. 10. It was a lesson to the disciples as preachers of the gospel, and a lesson that sunk deep into their hearts. The adoption of the fish as an anagrammatic symbol of Jesus Christ, and its frequent appearance in the