What food Jesus ate may seem unimportant to some people, but to others, it has great significance. What he ate speaks to the nature of his body, his view of the Law, and his ethical stance regarding eating non-plant-based foods. A common question people ask about Jesus’ eating habits is whether or not he ate fish.
Jesus ate fish according to the Gospel of Luke. The context describes one of several appearances Jesus made to people after he rose from the dead. When the disciples couldn’t believe their eyes, Jesus referred to his flesh and bones, showed them his hands and feet, and ate fish with them.
Did the disciples actually see Jesus eating fish? In the context of Luke, why is it so important that Jesus eats food? Does the Gospel of John say that Jesus ate fish? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Did the disciples actually see Jesus eat fish?
In context, Jesus’ consumption of fish speaks to the nature of his resurrected body. He didn’t merely rise from the dead spiritually; he physically rose from the grave. The same body that gruesomely died on the cross just days earlier had experienced new life. To help convince the disciples, Jesus requested food.
At first, the disciples had a difficult time processing what they saw — Jesus himself was standing in front of them. Their reaction is understandable given that just three days earlier, they watched the authorities beat Jesus mercilessly, including flogging him.
Then the disciples saw him nailed to a cross, which he hung on in great agony for six hours before the torture finally ended, and he died. To see Jesus alive again, completely healed, and joyfully speaking and interacting with them required a moment to process.
Jesus convinces the disciples that he is alive
When Jesus first appeared to them, the disciples were full of fear and doubt. Luke reports that “Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, Peace to you! But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24:36b-38)
Seeing Jesus with their eyes helped convince them it was really him, but touch would confirm that it wasn’t just a spirit in front of them. Jesus said to them, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.” (Luke 24:39-40)
Seeing and touching Jesus convinced the disciples that it was really him. “And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, Have you anything here to eat?” (Luke 24:41)
The phrase “they still disbelieved for joy” may be similar to the English phrase “I can’t believe it!” as an expression of surprise and amazement. The expression doesn’t merely convey disbelief. If they only disbelieved they wouldn’t have had any joy or marveled at Jesus.
Jesus eats fish in front of the disciples
Next, to strengthen the disciple’s faith even further, Jesus ate in front of them. The disciples gave Jesus “a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them” (Luke 24:42-43).
All major English translations render the description of the food as “broiled fish.” Most translations describe that Jesus “ate” the fish, though a few say that he “did eat” it (e.g. KJV).
|broiled||ὀπτοῦ (optou)||roasted, broiled|
|fish||ἰχθύος (ichthyos)||fish, in general|
|he ate||ἔφαγεν (ephagen)||to physical consume|
Though Luke doesn’t provide a second-by-second account of the Jesus consuming the fish, it may have been the case the disciples marveled at each movement he made. They likely saw him take the fish, lift it to his mouth, take a bite, or perhaps put the whole piece in his mouth, chew it, and swallow it.
They had eaten with him before, but this moment was packed with brand new significance because immaterial spirits don’t eat food. Jesus had risen from the dead.
Was fish itself significant? Probably not. Jesus asked the disciples if they had anything to eat, not fish in particular. Any food would be able to prove his point — that he was physically alive. Jesus wasn’t making a statement about the Law or about non-plant-based foods. He was proving to his closest followers that he had risen bodily from the dead.
Does John’s Gospel say that Jesus ate fish?
The end of John is well-known for the story of Peter’s restoration. It’s a joyful ending to the sad scene prior to the crucifixion when Peter denied Jesus three times. In the lake-side conversation, which included a meal of fish, the now-risen Jesus forgave Peter and commissioned him (or recommissioned him) to follow and serve him.
The conversation starts when Jesus invited Peter to eat breakfast. “Jesus said to them, Come and have breakfast. Now none of the disciples dared ask him, Who are you? They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish.” (John 21:12-13)
Jesus and Peter’s conversation began at the conclusion of the meal. “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? He said to him, Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. He said to him, Feed my lambs” (John 21:15).
As the reader can see, John never explicitly states that Jesus ate fish in this scene. There is no reason he couldn’t have as he did in Luke, but John doesn’t state that he does. Verse 13 only states that he gave fish to the disciples. Some readers may infer that Jesus ate with Peter, but it’s debatable whether John’s description warrants such a conclusion.
New Testament scholar D.A. Carson explains the difference between Luke’s account and John’s. “Unlike Luke 21:41-43, there is no mention of his own eating — eating which had earlier been done less to sustain him than to establish the faith of his disciples. Here, however, he reassures them, meets their physical needs, serves them as he did before his passion.” 
 The Gospel According to John by D.A. Carson. p. 674.
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