Bible Study

John Bible Study, Day 39: A Great Catch

Today’s passage: John 21:1–11

Focus verse: They were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. (John 21:6)

The book of Luke has a story of Jesus. It’s early in his ministry. In this account, he tells a couple of fishermen to go out to deep water and cast their nets, despite having fished all night with no success.

Imagine that, a carpenter giving fishing tips to seasoned fishermen.

The amazing thing is, when they do as he suggests, they take in so many fish that their nets are about to break. It’s as if Jesus wants to get their attention. He does. 

Jesus seeks disciples. Because of this miraculous catch, they abandon their trade to follow him. From now on, he says, they’ll fish for people (Luke 5:4–11). 

Jesus calls these career fishermen to a greater purpose. Instead of casting their fish nets to catch fish to earn a living, they’ll now cast spiritual nets to fish for people to build Jesus’s kingdom (Matthew 4:19 and Mark 1:17).

As they transition to fish for people, the implication is they will experience a great catch. Today we see just how much. Building on what they began, about two billion people in the world now align themselves with Jesus.

This great catch works so well in getting their attention that Jesus does it again. This occurs at the end of his ministry, after he rises from the dead, but before he returns to heaven.

The fishermen-turned-disciples don’t know what to do with their risen leader saying he will soon leave, so they return to fishing. They catch nothing.

Jesus hollers for them to try fishing on the other side of the boat. They do and another miraculous catch occurs. Again, he gets their attention. This should remind them that he wants them to transition to fishing for people.

The New Testament has another fish story that ties in with this. It’s a parable. Some people call it the parable of the net and others say it’s the parable of the great catch (Matthew 13:47–50).

Jesus uses this story to teach about the kingdom of heaven (the kingdom of God). 

He tells us to imagine a great net lowered into a lake and dragged through the water. When full, the fishermen haul the catch to shore to sort the fish. They place the good fish in baskets, and they throw the inferior fish away.

This teaches us about the end times, with angels separating those who lived right from those who did wrong.


  1. How do you respond when God tells you to do something that doesn’t make sense?
  2. What has God done to get your attention?
  3. What have you given up to follow Jesus?
  4. Are you fishing for people to join you in Jesus’s kingdom? 
  5. In the last day, will you be among the good fish?

Discover more about God growing his kingdom in Matthew 13:1–23, Mark 4:2–20, and Luke 8:4–15. What insights can you glean from these passages?

Read the next lesson or start at the beginning of this study.

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Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

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