The Meaning of Numbers: The Number 153
The meaning of the number 153 centers around the New Testament event sometimes referred to as the miraculous draught or catch of fishes (John 21:1 - 11). It is only mentioned in the Gospel of John.
This amazing miracle involving 153 was performed by Jesus, after his resurrection from the dead, in his next to last appearance with his eleven disciples before ascending into heaven.
The miracle of fishes took place on Jesus' eighth of nine post-resurrection appearances. It began when Peter decided he wanted to go back to his pre-conversion job of being a fisherman (John 21:2 - 3). Upon hearing his plans, several of the other disciples went with him to fish on the Sea of Tiberias (Sea of Galilee). The men fish for an entire night and catch nothing.
In the morning, a man on the shore (they did not know it was Jesus) yells to them and asks if they caught anything. They answer no. They are then told to drop their net on the right side of the ship. When they try to bring the net out of the water, it is so full of fish that it requires being dragged to the shore! The disciples now realize it was Jesus talking to them. On shore, Peter counts a total number of 153 'great fish' in the net.
Symbolizing abundance, 153 can even represent an overflow blessing from God. The Bible states the disciples marvelled at the fact that their net held together even though it contained so many large fish (John 21:11)!
Additionally, the catching of 153 fish happened only after Christ became involved in the work. This is a subtle (or perhaps not so subtle!) reminder that without Christ the disciples' (and any believer's) attempts to accomplish something great on their own will fail, but that with Jesus all things are possible (John 15:5).
Lastly, the 153 fishes is reminiscent of a previously abundant catch Peter, Andrew, James and John experienced when they were first called to follow Christ and become fishers of men (and not food). Given the disciples were trying to go back to their pre-conversion employment when the miracle occurred, it likely reminded them that they now worked for God whose will it still was for them to catch men and not fish.
Number One Hundred Fifty Three and Speculation
Jerome, the fourth century A.D. Catholic priest and theologian, theorized that the 153 fishes caught by the disciples represented all the species of fish. He then stated its meaning is that there was enough room within the church for all the "races" of man (Biblical Numerology, chapter 6). Augustine also believed that this fish miracle represented all kinds of men being saved by the gospel "net."
Number 153 and Personal Blessings
We discover something quite interesting about 153 when we look at how many people Jesus personally blessed. The book of Mark records Christ, on three occasions, personally blessed three people. These events were the healing of a man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:23), healing a man who was deaf (Mark 7:32) and making whole another who was blind (Mark 8:22).
Matthew, however, writes that on 23 occasions Jesus blessed a total of 47 people. Some of those whom he blessed included a leper (Matthew 8:2), a non-Israelite woman and her daughter (Matthew 15:22), Mary Magdalene (Matthew 27:56) and Joseph of Arimathaea (Matthew 27:57).
Luke writes that on 14 occasions 94 people were blessed. They include the seventy disciples sent out to preach and heal (Luke 10:1), ten lepers cleansed at the same time (Luke 17:12) and Zaccheus (Luke 19:2).
Lastly, the apostle John records eight incidents where nine people were helped by Jesus. Three of these people include Nicodemus (John 3:1), the woman accused of adultery (John 8:11) and Lazarus (John 11). All told, the Lord directly blessed one hundred fifty three people in forty-eight separate incidents!
More Info on Biblical Meaning of 153
It took 153 men, three groups of fifty soldiers plus one captain per group, for King Ahaziah to have Elijah brought to him. The first two groups of 51 men were consumed by fire from heaven when they tried to forcibly arrest the prophet. The third group of 51 men, however, humbly request their lives be spared and the prophet allow them to escort him to Ahaziah. Elijah then visits the king and informs him he will die from his serious injuries because he rejected God and his healing power (2Kings 1:2 - 17).
The addition of all the numbers from 1 to 17 (1 + 2 + 3 + 4, etc. including 17) is equal to 153. This mysterious result is also the product of 9 x 17. If we add the individual digits (1 + 5 + 3) we end up with 9. If we add the cube of each of the individual digits (1 x 1 x 1) + (5 x 5 x 5) + (3 x 3 x 3), the result is 1 plus 125 plus 27 or 153.