The Bible


John 21:1-14 : Breakfast by the Sea of Galilee



1 After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.

2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.

3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.

4 But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.

5 Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.

6 And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They Cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.

8 And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.

9 As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.

10 Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.

11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, and hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.

13 Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.

14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.

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The Breakfast by the Sea of Galilee


By Joe David

The net was so full that they could not draw it into the boat.

Near the end of the gospel of John, (in John 21:1-14), we find a story where, some days after Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, seven of Jesus's disciples have travelled north from Jerusalem to the sea of Galilee. At Peter's suggestion they have all gone out in his boat to fish. They fish all night, but have no luck, and catch nothing. They are fairly close to the shore, and as the early morning light begins to grow they see a man standing by the water. He calls out to them, asking if they have caught anything. When they answer "no", he tells them, "try the other side of the boat". They give it a try. When they do, they catch so many fish that they can't haul the net into the boat; it's too heavy. So they row toward shore, dragging the net full of fish behind them.

As they're drawing closer to shore, they still haven't recognized that the man on the shore is Jesus. He has kindled a small, and is cooking fish. He invites them to have breakfast with Him, and at that point, John realizes that it is Jesus, and tells Peter. Peter grabs his cloak, belts it around himself to cover his nakedness, and jumps into the water to swim to shore.

This story has some interesting details to explore. The earlier stories of events that happened after the Lord's rising took place in or near Jerusalem, but this one is in Galilee. Five of these disciples are named, and at least four of the five were from Galilee, so they are at home. They were fishermen before Jesus called them to be disciples, so to go fishing is in their blood.

The five disciples named in the story are Simon (or Peter), the brothers James and John, Thomas, and Nathaniel. Two more who are not named, to make up the seven, and it would be reasonable to guess that they were Andrew, Peter's brother, and Philip, a friend of Nathaniel's - both of whom were also from Galilee.

The angels that Peter and John had seen at the sepulcher had told them that Jesus would meet them in Galilee on "the mountain". Perhaps these seven, being from Galilee, had hurried on ahead of the others.

Let's look at their names and see what the literal meaning is, and what they represent in a spiritual way.

- Simon was renamed by Jesus as ‘Peter', which in the Greek means a rock. In this case, the name means the firmest and most critical rock, or truth, of Christianity, i.e. that Jesus was from God.

- John means love or charity.

- James, John's brother, means the doing of charity.

- Nathaniel means a gift from God, and being a friend of Philip, I think it might be that the gift from God that he represents is the love of learning things that fill the understanding, our curiosity.

- Thomas, in Greek, means a twin, and since he is named right after Peter perhaps he has a similar representation. Peter believes in the Lord easily because of what he has seen and what the Lord has told him whereas Thomas believes, and believes just as strongly, but only after his doubts have been erased, after he has been shown.

The towns most mentioned in the stories that take place around the "Sea of Galilee" in the gospels are Bethsaida, Capernaum, Cana, and Nazareth. Bethsaida itself means "a place of fishing." The maps I have of the area are small scale and not all exactly the same, but the indication is that it is at the northern end of the lake or even on the upper Jordan river just before it runs into the lake. Capernaum and Magdala are on the northwestern shore and Cana and Nazareth are inland, but only four or five miles west of this corner of the lake. This area was where most of these disciples had been brought up, and fishing was a common occupation.

The name Galilee means "a circuit". The Word teaches us that Jesus taught in the towns all around the lake, so that a reading of all that Jesus taught and did in that country could be thought of as a "circuit" of His teachings.

The next detail of interest is that when the Lord suggests the other side of the boat and the result is a large catch of fish after a long night of nothing. This is reminiscent of the fishing incident given in Luke 5:4-7. Since the disciples are to become "fishers of men" (as in Matthew 4:19) and they are to persuade people into the knowledge and worship of the Lord, the Christ, it is perhaps a lesson that in their ministry they must always be guided by the Lord.

Then John realizes, and whispers to Peter, "it's the Lord" (John 21:7) and Peter quickly puts his cloak on and jumps in to get to shore faster. Why is it John that first realizes? John represents love and affection while Peter represents faith or truth. While truth is the means of acting, as Peter does, love is the means of connecting, which is what John did. And why did Peter need to grab his cloak and put it on? Clothing in the Word represents the truths about spiritual things that all people may have if they look for them. It is the particular truths that form Peter as a disciple, "Thou art the Christ" (Matthew 16:16-18) that he answers to the Lord, and this truth is the rock of the Christian church. Having this truth as part of himself is necessary to meet the Lord.

When they are all on shore, Jesus says to them to bring some of the fish they have caught, so Peter goes to the water and drags the full net up onto the sand and counts out the fish, one hundred and fifty three. Then Jesus invites them all to come and eat.

Now a strange comment is put into the story: "…none of the disciples durst ask him, 'who art thou?', knowing that it was the Lord." (John 21:12). It seems that they should have known. They had been following Him for several years. I wonder if this is a reminder that the Christian church has yet to understand the true reality of the Lord - was He God, or was He man? The Catholic church argued this for more than three hundred years, and the council that was supposed to decide came up with three separate persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all in one Godhead. Some of the Christian churches of today seem to focus on two, the Father, and a Son born from eternity, who apparently both rule together.

The New Christian Church understands that Jesus was born both God and man but that there was a slow but inevitable change going on during His lifetime. He was born with God, Jehovah, as His inmost, and a human heredity and body from Mary as a covering or cloak over this inmost. Mary was, you may recall, of the royal house of David, so her heredity was both strong and inclusive, and thus represented all that was connected to the Jewish form of worship. During Jesus' life (and starting early, though we don't know just how early), He put off things from Mary, and put on what was a corresponding Divine, from His inmost, in its place, until on Easter morning He was wholly divine, with all that came from His mother being dispersed and gone. There is only One God.

Why is it that in this little story the number of fishes that were caught in the net is mentioned, and why does it seem now so important that Peter took the time to count them as everyone waited? Something that has been revealed to the New Christian Church is that all the numbers used in the stories of the Word have a meaning that belongs to that number even outside the literal use in the story. The number 153 can be seen as the combination of 150 and 3, and both of these are strongly meaningful. Starting with the "three", there should be little doubt that it means something since it is used so often. Jesus rose on the third day. Also three is the number of things that, put together, make anything complete, the wish or desire to do it, the knowledge of how to do it, and the actual doing. This is true of any task - from baking a cake right up to the Lord's love, His wisdom, and His act put forth in creating the universe. One hundred and fifty is not so plain. I am aware of only two places it is used in the Word, and we are told that it means a total change, an ending of something and the beginning of something different. It is used here and in the story of the flood, at the end of Genesis 7 and in Genesis 8:3; "And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days." "… And the waters returned from off the earth continually; and after the end of the one hundred and fifty days the waters were abated." The use here is that it means the end of the Church called "Adam" and the start of the church called "Noah" (See on this website "The Churches", and for the meaning, see Arcana Coelestia 812, 846). In the story we are considering it means the end of the Church called Israel and the start of the Christian church, though that is probably complete a day or two later when the Lord meets with all of His disciples on the mountain and sends them out to preach and heal.

This first part of this story ends with all of the seven disciples on the shore with Jesus, and His giving to them a breakfast of bread and roasted fish. With this giving, perhaps they all fully realized who He was, as with the two disciples at Emmaus. The Gospel comments, "This is now the third time that Jesus showed Himself to his disciples after that He was risen from the dead.

From Swedenborg's Works


Arcana Coelestia #4973

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4973. 'And he was in the house of his lord the Egyptian' means to enable it to be introduced into natural good. This is clear from the meaning of 'lord' as good, dealt with below, and from the meaning of 'the Egyptian' as factual knowledge in general, and from this as that which is natural, dealt with in 4967. The reason 'being in the house' means being introduced is that 'house' is the mind in which good dwells, 3538, in this case the natural mind. Moreover 'house' is used in reference to good, 3652, 3720. The human being has both a natural mind and a rational mind. The natural mind exists within his external man, the rational within his internal. Known facts make up the truths that belong to the natural mind, and these are said to be there 'in their own house' when they are joined to good there; for good and truth together constitute a single house like husband and wife. But the forms of good and the truths which are the subject at present are of a more interior kind, for they are suited to the celestial of the spiritual from the rational, which is represented by 'Joseph'. Those suitable interior truths within the natural are applicable to useful purposes, while interior forms of good in the same are the useful purposes themselves.

[2] The expression 'lord' is used many times in the Word, but unless a person is acquainted with the internal sense he assumes that 'lord' has no other meaning than what the word has when used in ordinary conversation. But 'lord' is used nowhere in the Word other than in reference to good, as is similarly the case with the name 'Jehovah'. When however reference is being made to truth, 'God' and also 'king are used. This then is the reason why 'lord' means good, as may also be seen from the following places: In Moses,

Jehovah your God, He is God of gods, and Lord of lords. Deuteronomy 10:17.

In David,

Confess Jehovah, confess the God of gods, confess the Lord of lords. Psalms 136:1-3

In these places Jehovah or the Lord is called 'God of gods' by virtue of Divine Truth which goes forth from Him, and 'Lord of lords' by virtue of Divine Good which exists within Him.

[3] Similarly in John,

The Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings. Revelation 17:14.

And in the same book,

The One sitting on the white horse has on His robe and on His thigh the name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelation 19:16.

The Lord is called 'King of kings' by virtue of Divine Truth, and 'Lord of lords' by virtue of Divine Good, as is evident from the individual expressions used here. 'The name written' is His true nature, 144, 145, 1754, 1896, 2009, 2724, 3006. 'His robe' on which it is written is the truth of faith, 1073, 2576, 4545, 4763. 'His thigh' on which likewise that nature is written is the good of love, 3021, 4277, 4280, 4575. From this too it is evident that by virtue of Divine Truth the Lord is called 'King of kings and by virtue of Divine Good 'Lord of lords'. For more about the Lord being called King by virtue of Divine Truth, see 2015, 2069, 3009, 3670, 4581.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 144-145)

[4] From this it is also plain what 'the Lord's Christ' means in Luke,

Simeon received an answer from the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had seen the Lord's Christ. Luke 2:26.

'The Lord's Christ' is the Divine Truth that goes with Divine Good, for 'Christ' is one and the same as Messiah, and Messiah is the Anointed or King, 3008, 3009, 'the Lord' in this case being Jehovah. The name Jehovah is not used anywhere in the New Testament Word, but instead of Jehovah, the Lord and God are used, see 2921, as again in Luke,

Jesus said, How can they say that the Christ is David's son when David himself says in the Book of Psalms, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand? Luke 20:41, 41.

The same appears in David as follows,

Jehovah said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand. Psalms 110:1.

It is obvious that Jehovah in David is called Lord in the gospel, 'Lord' in this case standing for the Divine Good of the Divine Human. Omnipotence is meant by 'sitting at the right hand', 3387, 4592, 4933 (end).

(References: Arcana Coelestia 3008-3009; Luke 20:41-42)

[5] While in the world the Lord was Divine Truth, but once He was glorified, that is, had made the Human within Him Divine, He became Divine Good, from which Divine Truth subsequently goes forth. This explains why after the Resurrection the disciples did not call Him Master, as they had before, but Lord, as is evident in John 21:7, 12, 15-17, 20, and also in the other gospels. Divine Truth - which the Lord was while in the world and which subsequently goes forth from Him, that is, from Divine Good - is also called 'the Angel of the Covenant', in Malachi,

Suddenly there will come to His temple the Lord whom you are seeking, and the Angel of the Covenant in whom you delight. Malachi 3:1.

[6] Because 'Lord' is used to mean Divine Good and 'King' Divine Truth, therefore in places where the Lord is spoken of as having dominion and a kingdom 'dominion' has reference to Divine Good and 'a kingdom' to Divine Truth. For the same reason the Lord is called 'Lord of the nations' but 'King of the peoples', for 'nations' means those governed by good, 'peoples' those governed by truth, 1259, 1260, 1849, 3581

[7] Good is called 'lord' as against a servant, and 'father' as against a son, as in Malachi,

A son should honour his father, and a servant his lord. If I am a Father, where is My honour? And if I am a Lord, where is the fear of Me? Malachi 1:6.

And in David,

To be a slave JOSEPH was sold. The word of Jehovah tested him. The king sent and released him, he who had dominion over nations set him free and placed him as lord of his house and as one with dominion over all his possessions. Psalms 105:17, 19-22.

Here, as is evident from each individual expression, 'Joseph' is used to mean the Lord, 'lord' in this instance being the Divine Good of the Divine Human.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1259-1260)

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Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.