The answer, which most theologians missed out on, is in the story of the 153 fish after the resurrection of Jesus Christ as told in John 21:11.
When Christ shared some of the 153 fish that morning with His disciples, the action makes it a metaphor for the fulfillment of the will of the Father in Jesus Christ, who had said before He died,
My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his
work. (John 4:34)
Jesus had died for our sins and His Father had raised Him from the dead. Jesus had completed His earthly work as our High Priest by offering up His body as per the will of His Father. And the impact of that work is everlasting life for the believers.
The event that morning on the shore of Sea of Galilee is not trivial. In fact, it is the most critical of all events in the Bible because it marks the precise moment humankind can be justified before God, an event that is the culmination of a prolonged process of reconciliation between humankind and God after the fall of Adam and Eve (Romans 6:25). The resurrection of the Son is the decisive proof of the fulfillment of the will of the Father in His Son.
From an outwardly trivial action of Jesus Christ – His last meal before He ascended to heaven in His 6th and final appearance to His disciples – we reach a startling conclusion: the seemingly arbitrary number 153 is not arbitrary after all; it represents the very heart of the Christian faith.
This event, witnessed by His disciples who shared breakfast with Him that morning, has to be eternally remembered by humankind, and in the absence of a precise date, what a better way to do this than to seal the event with a numeral. The explicit number of fish, 153, is the commemoration of this momentous event.
Let me now show that indeed the number 153 in John 21:11 represents the fulfillment of the will of the Father in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Let us re-look at John 4.34. What is precisely the will of Him Who sent Jesus to live among us? The answer is in John 6:38-40:
I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me that I should not lose anything that he has given me, but should raise it to life on the last day. This is my Father’s will: That everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him to life on the last day.
In verse 44, we read how the Father chooses those He will give the Son – via His sovereignty in salvation:
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him to life on the last day.
In John 17:1–2, we read that the Father gave the authority to the Son to judge all those the Father gave the Son:
After Jesus had said this, he looked up to heaven and said, Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, so that the Son may glorify you. For you have given him authority over all humanity so that he might give eternal life to all those you gave him.
The phrase “the hour has come” in the first verse above is a reminder of Jesus’ acceptance of the will of the Father for the Him to be crucified for our sins so that we may have eternal life. Jesus had the option to reject the will of the Father, for it is a dispositional or preferred will of the Father.
The above verses reveal a two-step process that leads to eternal life via the Father’s will for His Son. Firstly, the Father exercises His sovereignty to choose those He wants to have eternal life through His Son, and secondly, it is through the free will of those chosen to believe in His Son to have eternal life. So both God’s sovereignty in salvation and the free will of an individual determine whether the person will achieve eternal life.
With the clear understanding of the will of the Father, we re-look at John 6:39:
And this is the will of the one who sent me that I should not lose anything that he has given me, but should raise it to life on the last day.
The statement "I shall not lose anything" is an enumeration statement. Every individual given to the Son by the Father should be accounted for.
Now, let us recall the story of the 153 fish in John 21, beginning with Simon Peter urging some of the disciples to go fishing with him:
Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. (John 21:3-6)
The author writes about the multitude of fishes and goes on to provide an explicit amount caught:
And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes. As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken. (John 21:8-11)
After Simon Peter pulled in the 153 fishes, Jesus invited them for breakfast:
Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise. (John 21:12-13)
Jesus commanded His disciples to cast the net to the right side of the boat, for it was where all the fish had gathered, and to haul in the net with the 153 fish towards him standing on the shore. And the net did not break, for Jesus could not afford to lose any fish.
We have therefore a scenario which is a clear allegory of the Father’s will for His Son. All those chosen by the Father are gathered up and delivered to His Son to be raised on the last day and have everlasting life.
As I wrote above, the resurrection of the Son is the decisive proof of the fulfillment of the will of the Father in His Son. By John 4:34 – My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work – the amount of fish - Jesus’ meat - 153, therefore precisely represents that fulfillment of the will of the Father in His Son.
In summary, the number 153 in John 21:11 represents the fulfillment of the will of the Father in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the fulfillment of His will in His Son, the Father declared us righteous in His sight. That is, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is our justification, the declaration of God that we are free of guilt and penalty of sin and acceptable to Him (Romans 6:25):
He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
Our justification also marks the beginning of sanctification, a continual process of being made holy by the power of the Holy Spirit, a lifelong process that makes us more and more like Jesus Christ.
We can argue that the Lord’s Prayer is the foremost declaration of our faith in the fulfillment of the will of the Father in His Son. Therefore, it is a means to justify ourselves to the Father. Via the Lord’s Prayer, prayed daily, we are led by the Holy Spirit in our daily lives and become more like Jesus Christ – the precise outcome of sanctification!