It's important to note that this passage takes place after Jesus' resurrection and after He had appeared to the disciples in His resurrected body on more than one occasion. In short, the disciples had received proof that everything Jesus had said was true. Yes, He had died. Yes, He had been buried. And yes, He was living again. You would think the disciples would have been thrilled. You would think they would be chomping at the bit to get out and tell others what they now knew. But instead, they decided to turn to their old ways.
"I go a fishing" was not Peter's way of saying, "I think I'll take a day off and relax with some fishing." On the contrary, it was his way of saying, "I'm going back to fishing for fish. I've tried the fishing for men thing and look where that got us. Besides, I'm not worthy to be fishing for men. I denied Christ. I'm not worthy to tell others about Him. Nope, I'm only good enough for the fish." And in that moment of self-defeat, he turned from God's will. And you know what they say, "Misery loves company." That must be true because the remaining disciples declared, "Yea, we'll go with you." They might as well have said, "We quit too!"
There are so many great lessons to be learned from just these few verses, but I want to focus on the group of men in the boat. Verse two spells it out for us: 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. What a crowd!
Simon Peter, the Denier - Yes, he's the one who stood up to Jesus and said, "Not me! I'll die for you" and then proceeded to deny Christ not once, but three times.
Thomas, the Doubter - While I don't think it's fair to single Thomas out as the one who doubted since the other disciples doubted until they saw Jesus too, he is nonetheless forever known as "the doubter", the one who didn't believe that Christ was truly raised from the dead.
Nathanael, the Disputer - When we first meet Nathanael, he is being encouraged by his friend Phillip to follow the Messiah. But when Philip tells Nathanael that the Messiah is none other than Jesus of Nazareth, Nathanael's reaction is less than stellar. "Nazareth? Can anything good come from Nazareth?"
The sons of Zebedee (aka James and John), the Dividers - You remember James and John, right? They're the two that sent their mother to ask Jesus for special placement around the throne in Heaven. They desired to be elevated above the other disciples, and that kind of attitude led to division amongst the disciples, which is evidenced by their later argument over who would be greatest in Heaven.
Two other of his disciples, the Drifters - We don't know who they are, and they probably prefer it that way. These unnamed disciples seem to just follow the crowd. If the main group stays, they'll stay. If the main group goes, they'll go. Like a feather, they drift wherever the winds blow them.
Is it any wonder this group failed to catch any fish? They weren't where they were supposed to be, and they weren't doing what they were supposed to do. And yet, if we read on in the chapter, we'll see that God still blessed them. But that's another lesson for another day. My question for you today is: Are you in the boat? Are you a denier, a doubter, a disputer, a divider or a drifter? Can you relate to any of these men and their downcast state of my mind and spirit? If so, take heart. As I already mentioned, the next few verses in the passage describe how Jesus took care of these weary, backslidden disciples. He sat with them. He provided for them. H comforted them. And in all these ways and more, He reminded them of His love for them.
God loves you too. No matter what you've done, He still loves and accepts you. Get up out of that boat of despair and run to Jesus. His arms are open wide, and He has blessings awaiting you. Walk away from the boat and into the arms of a loving Savior. Only He can turn deniers, doubters, disputers, dividers and drifters into delighters. And only He can love us with an unchanging love.