James McGrath, on his blog “Exploring our Matrix” provides an explanaton for the numbering of the fish in John 21. The number of the fish (153), like many other numbers in the Bible, has seemed to invite all kinds of speculations regarding its symbolism and deeper meaning.
Yet, McGrath during one of his classes had a student (Jordan Burt) who also fished and he gave probably the simplest and easiest explanation for the number being given in the text: Fishermen count their fish (follow the link to read McGrath telling the story himself).
It’s an explanation that appeals to me. I like the simpleness of it, but also how it reminds us of the fact that the disciples were blue collar workers (fishermen). It’s not that the writer of the gospel of John couldn’t have made the number 153 have a deeper symbolic meaning, but isn’t it symbolic enough for both God’s humour and wisdom that the future of the church was given into the hands of these down-to-earth men who think of counting and recording their fish?