St Augustine notes the use of the technical vocabulary of fishing, which points to Luke having the story from those who had been involved in it. The future Apostles had toiled all night, but at his words they are obedient. This is the first of two catches, the second, which comes after the Resurrection contains only the saved, but here, before the Passion, everyone is caught; this symbolises that the sacrifice is made for all, though not all will be saved. The two boats stand for the two peoples, the Jews and the Gentiles.
Maximus of Turin sees Jesus as spurning one boat – the boat of Moses – and choosing the boat of Peter, which symbolises the Church, which is called out into the deep, delving into the profound depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God (Romans 11:33). It is for this reason he commands Peter to put out into the deep – into the depths of reflection upon the divine generation – what, after all, could be more profound or deeper than Peter’s declaration that Jesus was the Christ? (Mt. 16:16). The boat sails on the waters so that when the earth is destroyed it will preserve unharmed all those who are in her – it is the new ark of Noah. As a dove brought back the sign of peace of Noah, so Christ will bring the joy of peace to Peter’s Church when the judgment is done.
St Cyril of Alexandria remarks on the way in which their obedience was rewarded, but notes that they could not, by themselves, bring in the multitude caught – this symbolises the way in which many will take part if the Great Commission given to the Holy Apostles. Paul reminds us that the body has many parts, and the Church, being the body of Christ, has need of all its members.
Peter, mindful, as we must be, of sin, doubts, as do we, his usefulness for the task, but, as we should be, he is obedient and trusts in Christ. We shall see at the height of the Passion narrative that Peter once more falls away because of fear, but that he is restored after the Resurrection and his faith perfected. In that there is a lesson for us all. A sense of our unworthiness, if it leads us to trust in God, is the beginning of wisdom.