The comparison of the net in Luke 5:6, with that in John 21:11 throws much light on the way in which God is working now and will yet work for the satisfaction of His own heart and the blessing of men. There is much to be gained from the study of the way in which God presents His thoughts in the Scriptures, and these two nets give an illustration of this. It is clearly stated in the first incident that the net broke; and in the second that the net did not break; so that while the net would refer to the same thing in both cases, obviously, each must be connected with different circumstances. We enquire into this difference by considering the text of Scripture.
As there could be no breakdown or failure with God, the broken net must be connected with the responsibility of man, and would refer to the period of time from the Lord's ministry on earth until the establishment of the Millennium. The metaphor of the net in Luke 5 would therefore appear to answer to the present system set up by God gathering in men for blessing. While the context of John 21 would indicate that a millennial scene is in view. In support of this, confirmation can only be sought from the Scriptures, and Acts 27 and 2 Tim. 2 would yield abundant proof for what is suggested. Man in responsibility (that is in his ability to respond) has always failed even under the most favoured circumstances and God shows carefully from His word that while the present period is no exception it is possible to be individually in spirit separate from it.
Acts 27 would give the apostolic signpost and 2. Tim. 2 would put the individual in the proper path. Reference is made to the shipwreck from which it is evident that there was no salvation except through being with Paul. So amidst the mournful breakdown which exists, is it not great encouragement to remember that is the case? Paul has put himself in touch with us through the medium of his epistles, and for the individual 2 Tim. 2 would clearly indicate the path for any believer sincerely desiring to be a vessel unto honour. Where this individual faithfulness is found there is the maintenance of what is according to God so that while the net broke in Luke 5 the fish were landed. But let it be noted that the fishermen were out of the ships washing their nets, suggesting the purity of the word presented by the individual. In Mark 1:19, they were mending their nets which would relate more to soundness, but in verse 7 the collective thought would be reached when they beckoned to their partners, obviously referring to fellowship. There is fellowship in the Gospel (Phil. 1:5), although largely overlooked to-day! But if the system broke down, thank God, there was that which He could use for the landing of the fish!
In turning to the second net, there is a distinct halo of the Millennium around it! The confession of Thomas in Ch. 20 would bring us to the confines of the day of the Lord, but the haul of fishes to the time when all will depend entirely on the Lord. Singularly perhaps as the Apostle John is not dispensational in his writings generally. The success of the fishing depended on the Lord who commands and directs all. But John 20:9, shows that the Lord already had fish on the shore, quite distinct from the haul. Probably Matt. 10 would refer to the former, for that commission has still to be fulfilled, and the wider commission of Matt. 28 might be fulfilled in this great haul. Matt. 25 and Rev. 7 seem to refer to the beginning of the Millennium; but the net being full might throw into relief the result from the sea of the nations.
It is remarkable that at the end of the three Synoptic Gospels the Lord gives a commission which embraces the period from His sojourn on earth until He comes to reign. At the end of Mark the commission was clearly accomplished (Ch 16:20). The commission in Luke is what was taken up in the Acts and what is being carried out to-day: whereas that in Matt. 28 awaits fulfilment. How perfect Scripture is! There is no overlap! The Lord dining with the disciples would complete the picture. May the Lord give us to enter into His gracious dealings with men, both for the present moment and for what is yet to come.
Note on the "Nets" article in No. 1. In Luke 5, we see a scene short of Resurrection . . . In John 21, we see a scene teeming with Resurrection:- The Lord was associating the disciples with Himself, thus the net did not break. At His word, the net was cast on the right side. The effect on Peter was that he cast himself into the sea to get to Jesus . . . . The millennium is short of Resurrection, although in spirit looking on to it. T. Fawcett.