John 21:11: Why 153 fish?
Scripture is careful what it takes time and space to say about Yeshua. Why does John mention in John 21:11 that there were exactly 153 fish caught after Christ’s resurrection? There are some interesting answers but I’ll be the first to admit that Scripture doesn’t say anywhere “here’s what the 153 fish means”. But scripture DOES give some strong indications of what could be going on here, and we’ll explore that today. The explanation will have significant meaning to you and me – especially as we come to the end of the age. Don’t miss it.
Yeshua told His disciples if they would follow Him, He would make them fishers of MEN (Mark 1:17). But after Yeshua was crucified, His disciples lost much of their direction and their heart, and at least for a time went back to their old professions – including fishing, as you can read in John 21:1-4. Once again, the professional fishermen caught nothing after a whole night of fishing. When you read what follows, it’s almost funny. Here’s a carpenter telling professional fishermen that the reason they weren’t ANY catching fish all night is that they needed to cast their net on the right side of the boat, not the left side. They do this – and now can’t even lift up their net because its teeming with so many large fish. I suggest you read John 21:1-13 yourself. Peter swims to shore when he hears it is the Lord calling to them. There they find Yeshua already has a warming fire going, some fish already on the coals and some fresh bread. They count the fish – 153 large fish. They quietly eat the bread and fish Yeshua has already prepared. Perhaps even this is reminiscent of the miracle of the loaves and fish in some way.
Remember the context: Peter had said, “Fellas, I’m going back to what I know best – fishing.” The others joined in. They weren’t called to catch fish, but to catch men for salvation, to be “fishers of men”. So what’s going on here? Why are we told there are 153 fish? I believe Yeshua was using that number to make some very important points. If you’ve ever wondered about this, then be sure to read the rest of the blog to find out why there were exactly 153 fish mentioned.
What’s the context of the revelation of 153 fish?
The greatest event in the history of the world had just happened! The Son of God, who lived as a man and then died for all of our sins, had just been resurrected! He had already gone to Father on behalf of all the rest of the harvest. Now He needed to build His group of called-out ones, the select “ekklesia”. I avoid the word “church” most of the time because of its connotations. The “church” – ekklesia – is the group of people led by Yehowah’s spirit. It’s not an organization and certainly not a building. So you in China and Russia and Kenya reading this – and any of the other 45 countries who come to this website – if you have repented, accepted Yeshua as your King and Saviour, and are following the leading of the Holy Spirit (ruach ha’kodesh) – ARE the “church”. I wish I could meet and with talk to all of you in person.
Now back to the story. So far Yeshua has 11 remaining apostles and a few other followers including the brave women disciples who stood by Him as He was tortured. That’s all He had. On Pentecost there were 120. And now the leading apostle – Peter – wants to give it all up and go back to fishing!? NO way! He was understandably distraught and depressed, but Peter needed some encouragement. So the story of the 153 fish happens. There are several interesting “153’s” in the Bible. Could Yeshua be pointing them back to where their focus ought to be?
- Yeshua uses FISH as a symbol of all humanity. The disciples were to become fishers of MEN, not fish. Mark 1:17. FISH are also used in the parable given in Matthew 13:47-48. Fish “of EVERY KIND” were caught. Surely Peter and the disciples remembered this. Yeshua, without their full understanding even yet, was preparing them for the fact He loves the whole world, and all peoples from all nations who will call upon His name and repent. After all, God so loved THE WORLD, not just the Jews, that He sent His only begotten Son… (John 3:16). They have work to do! Surely Peter must have thought of Matthew 13:47 when this happened.
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, 48 which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away.
- The number of those who built the first House of God was, are you ready, 153,000.
Could it be that Yeshua was telling Peter and the disciples that we must once again build the House of God, this time a spiritual house that will include all the Gentiles He is calling. You in Africa, South America, China, Philippines, and across Europe who are learning about Yehowah from this website and other websites, glory be to Father! He is calling so many of you into His body and I hear of your zeal, your desire to learn, and what an example you are to those of us in America who have God’s word readily available. Thank you for your inspiring example! But YOU are part of that house of God I speak of.
In 2 Chronicles 2:1-2, 17-18 we read that 70,000 were laborers, 80,000 quarried stone, and three thousand were supervisors. That adds up to 153,000. Is that coincidence, in context of what Yeshua was telling Peter – “Get back to feeding the sheep”. Is it possible the 153 fish were to point the disciples to the fact there was work to do in building the new temple of God – the ekklesia? And by the way, ALL 153,000 who built that first temple were Gentiles/aliens! See the scripture below. I believe Father is going to do a MASSIVE work here in the end, and once again it is going to primarily be among you Gentiles. The modern-day descendants of “the lost 10 tribes of Israel” – the USA, Britain, Canada, Australia and northwestern Europe – are taking a lot for granted and I think we’ll see a greater work done in China, the rest of Asia, Africa, and South America. You people are hungrier for this truth, it seems. Pray that somehow Father provides me a way to get all of these translated into Chinese, Russian, Filipino, Spanish, Swahili and other languages. Pray – and believe—and maybe a way will open.
2 Chronicles 2:1-2
Then Solomon determined to build a temple for the name of the Lord, and a royal house for himself. 2 Solomon selected seventy thousand men to bear burdens, eighty thousand to quarry stone in the mountains, and three thousand six hundred to oversee them.
Now it gets more interesting: EVERY SINGLE ONE of these 153,000 laborers were ALIENS or foreigners.
2 Chronicles 2:17-18
17 Then Solomon numbered all the ALIENS who were in the land of Israel, after the census in which David his father had numbered them; and there were found to be ONE HUNDRED FIFTY THREE THOUSAND and six hundred. 18 And he made seventy thousand of them bearers of burdens, eighty thousand stonecutters in the mountain, and three thousand six hundred overseers to make the people work.
--HERE’S another: Remember that each letter in the Hebrew alphabet has numeric values. Now, what has just happened? The PASSOVER! We’ve been freed by the blood of the Lamb from ALL our sins, every single one of them. Hallelujah, hallelujah! How well I appreciate that, for I’ve been forgiven of many.
In Hebrew, the words “the Passover” – “ha-Pesach” – adds up to 153. How could that be coincidence? Once again, could He be pointing the disciples to His redeeming work with Passover?
--There’s more. It doesn’t stop. After Messiah’s resurrection is a new beginning, a new covenant time. Even the Tetragrammaton, YHVH, who is our one true God and Father, appears in the first book of Scripture, the book of Genesis, 153 times! Is that coincidental! He is, remember, the God of ALL the earth in the ultimate sense, not just the God of Israel. One of my most important sermon series are the 2 parts on Gentiles in the Faith given in the Fall of 2012. You really need to hear it. Father now considers as His children anyone “in Christ”, whether Jew or Gentile. Even Jews now have to accept Yeshua as their savior or THEY will not be considered children of God. It’s by the new birth now, not the old birth physically. But now everyone who is redeemed and led by His spirit are His children (Galatians 3:26-28; 1 Cor. 12:13; Romans 3:29; Acts 15:8-11; Joshua 3:11, 13; Genesis 18:19, etc.). The Temple was a House of Prayer for ALL nations – Isaiah 56:6-8. You should read those verses.
--One more: Peter and the apostles were being called to prepare the “SONS OF the LIVING GOD” (Hosea 1:10). Remember we are told in 2 Corinthians 6:17-18 that Father has “sons and DAUGHTERS”. You women believers are included in the general term “sons of God”. Absolutely. Some of our strongest believers are women! I hope you will hear and read my message about our breathtaking destiny to be LITERAL children of God. Father is reproducing Himself. You’re not a “father” unless you have children. Children look like their Father. God is the ultimate father, and has one glorified son so far – Yeshua – and many thousands have already been called as His children. AGAIN, the numeric value of “SONS OF THE LIVING GOD” comes to… you guessed it… 153. Please read Hosea 1:10-11.
I’ve mentioned that the 153 could be pointing to Gentiles who will be grafted in. Hosea 1 is an end-time prophecy and this time it points to the children of Judah and the children of Israel coming together as one. They are called in this text “Sons of the Living God”. In Hebrew that is “B’neey el chai” – and ITS numeric value in the Hebrew alphabet is, you guessed it, 153.
Is Father telling us through the 153 fish – “I am going to call my people from Israel, from Judah, from the Gentiles, and the 153 picture my undying love for ALL people who will accept my Son as their Saviour?” (OK, Americans, I have a lot of non-USA readers and they spell Savior with a U – so sometimes I say Saviour out of respect for them.) Anyway, in Hosea 1:10-11,the phrase “Sons of the Living God” add up to 153.
'Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea,
Which cannot be measured or numbered.
And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them,
'You are not My people,' There it shall be said to them,
'You are sons of the living God.' (Hebrew: B’neey el chai)
11 Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered TOGETHER,
And appoint for themselves one head; And they shall come up out of the land,
For great will be the day of Jezreel!
So Yeshua was telling the disciples – “Hey, I called you to be fishers of MEN, not just fishers of fish!” Abba wants us involved in the end time harvest. We will have to get out of our comfort zone to make this happen. We know there will be the Great Innumerable Multitude mentioned in Revelation 7:9-17 who will have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and stand before the King as pure and washed in white robes.
After they caught the 153 fish, there is the confrontation with Peter in John 21:15-19 about “Peter, do you agape (love) me?”. I recommend you open your own Bible and read it. Three times he is asked this and three times Peter replies with “I philia (deeply like) you”. We miss that in the English. Peter knew he could not say he loved the Christ with undying godly agape love. On the other hand, when Messiah was arrested, ALL the other disciples except John and the loyal women had abandoned Messiah as well. Yeshua confirms His trust and love for Peter and tells him to follow him – and get on with the task of building the ekklesia. “Feed my lambs”, “feed my sheep”. Then Yeshua says, “Peter, follow me!” Peter was being put back into the real business to which he was called: leading those who would follow Christ; feeding the flock of God and building the spiritual House of Yehowah, the “church”, the group of ekklesia, called-out ones. He was also told that he would die by crucifixion when he was old (John 21:18-19).
So why were there153 fish caught?
Put all together, the 153 fish could be pointing us to the Gathering of the sons and daughters of God, the king of the universe, who will be rebuilding His house, His new temple. The new House of God is more glorious and includes spirit-led converted brothers and sisters from all nations – like the fish net that caught “all manner of fish” (Matthew 13:47-49). In this Passover season, we who have accepted Messiah as our Saviour are NEW creations in Him. The old sins are washed away and we are new. As brothers and sisters, we look to the newness of Messiah in each of us and encourage one another to focus on our newness. True brothers and sisters would never participate in digging up old dirt, or old sins that have been washed away in the blood of the Lamb. We are of Him who makes all things new.
Praise be to Yeshua and to our Father, God Most High. As you eat unleavened bread, remember we are taking in Messiah each and every day. We are committing to being truly new and different from what we were, by HIS life, HIS power guiding us each and every day.