John 21 tells the story of how some of the disciples went fishing and didn’t catch anything all night. Then Yeshua appears and tells them to cast their net on the right side of the boat and they did and caught so many fish that they had trouble hauling them all in.
In Hebraic thought, there can be more than one meaning. While this is a literal account, one could see the spiritual significance of this story in that doing things in the flesh comes to nothing but done through Yeshua, then you will prosper. After all, “with God all things are possible.” (Matt 19:26) This is also a message of trust. They saw that their efforts were in vain and so they listened to Yeshua, trusted Him, cast the net and caught plenty. This could also be seen as shadow of the disciples becoming “fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17) Or we could recognize that Yeshua has performed a miracle. There’s a lot to be gleaned from this story.
But as I was reading this story again the other day, my thoughts went in a different direction. I was thinking about the difference between the left side of the boat and the right side. I wondered why there would be a significant difference between the number of fish on either side with only a couple of feet difference due to the width of the boat. Then I thought that on one hand you have nothing, and the other side plenty and then a different picture began to emerge.
This is a picture of Israel’s rejection of Messiah, so then salvation was extended to the gentiles. I’ve always known that “fishers of men” was tied into salvation but I never realized that it was so specific or that it was about to happen at that time.
John 1:11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
Acts 28:28 Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”
Rom 10:19 Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.”
Think of the parable of the wedding feast in Matt 22. In a nutshell, an invitation was extended but no takers. Invitation went out again to the same people but they were “not worthy.” (Matt 22:8) The invitation was then extended to anyone on the roads, good or bad.
One on side, you have nothing, on the other side, plenty.
This is a message of the gospel told through an historical account and there are many more like it throughout scripture. So for me, this is another way to understand this story in that it’s connected with salvation and more specifically, the Jews and gentiles. And what a beautiful story it is!