The disciples in the boat did not recognize the man calling to them from the shore, despite having encountered Him twice already. The stranger called out to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” (John 21:5). When they replied that they did not, He advised them to try casting their net on the right side of the boat.
The disciples did not scoff at the stranger’s advice. They had experienced enough miracles in the previous years to know better. They heeded the stranger’s advice and began to lay out a net wall along the right side of their craft. Immediately the water began to churn as a shoal of fish entangled themselves in the web.
As the men disembarked, they were surprised to see that the Master already had a fish cooking over the charcoal fire. Someday we might be surprised as well when we see who the Master has caught in His private nets. Yeshua looked up at the fishermen who had gathered around. He instructed them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught” (John 21:10).
Peter later recalled that he and the other disciples “ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead” (Acts 10:41). The risen Messiah broke bread with the two from Emmaus and ate some broiled fish in the presence of the twelve on the day of His resurrection. That morning beside Lake Galilee, the breakfast of fish and bread seems to assume a solemn, sacral character: “Yeshua came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise” (John 21:13).
Do the fish and bread have some deeper symbolism? They remind gospel readers of the feeding of the multitudes when the Master miraculously fed thousands of people with only a few fish and small loaves of bread. Those miracles functioned as signs that Yeshua is the Messiah, and they depicted the Master’s teaching going out to the multitudes. In John 6, while discussing the miracle, Yeshua compared Himself to manna descended from heaven. Those who received Him receive eternal life.
If the breakfast in John 21 has a symbolic meaning, the symbolism entails the disciple’s vocation as fishers of men. Without Yeshua’s help, they caught nothing. With the presence of the Master and under His direction, they filled their nets in abundance. The fish represent human souls caught up into the kingdom of heaven. Moreover, the fish breakfast with the Master alludes to the messianic banquet when the Messiah and all the righteous will recline at the table of Abraham and feast on the giant fish Leviathan.