Chapter 21


Where is Peter?


21:1-2 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias. Now this is how he did so. Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael (who was from Cana in Galilee), the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples of his were together.


We are not told how long it was before Jesus showed Himself to the disciples for the third time but unlike the other appearances in Jerusalem, this was in Galilee and only seven disciples were present.


21:3 Simon Peter told them, "I am going fishing." "We will go with you," they replied. They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.


Jesus had told them to meet him in Galilee (Matt. 28:7). So they were in the right place. But they were not doing the right thing. At the beginning of Jesus' ministry He had called Peter and the others away from their fishing nets to make them "fishers of men" (Matt. 4:18-20). What business did they have returning to what Jesus had called them from? Remember that Peter, although he had seen the risen Christ, had not yet been personally restored following his denial of the Saviour. He was still weak spiritually. Are you weak spiritually? Have you been tempted as Peter was to turn back to the things you knew and did before you knew the Lord? We must be careful to leave those things behind and press on to what is before (Phil. 3:13-14). We are not to turn back - we have nothing to gain by going back, just as when the disciples laboured all night and caught nothing, nothing will ever go right for a backslider (Prov. 13:15). When God brought the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, they wanted to go back! Jesus warned against turning back (Lk 9:62).


21:4-6 When it was already very early morning, Jesus stood on the beach, but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus said to them, "Children, you don't have any fish, do you?" They replied, "No." He told them, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they threw the net, and were not able to pull it in because of the large number of fish.


"As the darkness of a tiring night of disappointment gives way to the brightness of a new day, Jesus, the Light of the World, comes to the rescue of the disciples." DRW Christ is gracious to his straying disciples. When they began to take a few steps back he met them with a repeat of the first miracle he ever performed for them; the one that brought them to him; the miraculous catch of fish. Jesus was reminding them of the pre-eminence of their relationship with him. This miracle was enough to convince the disciples that it was Jesus himself who stood on the shore.


21:7-8 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" So Simon Peter, when he heard that it was the Lord, tucked in his outer garment (for he had nothing on underneath it), and plunged into the sea. Meanwhile the other disciples came with the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from land, only about a hundred yards.


Having realised that it was Jesus on shore, Peter delays no more to return to him. The fact that he put his garment on before jumping into the sea indicates that he was returning to land, which he did before the boat. He would let nothing stop him or delay him returning to Jesus. He wanted to get right with him at once. If you know there is something spoiling things between you and Jesus don't leave it any longer, or put it off till another time, come and put things right with Jesus today.


21:9-10 When they got out on the beach, they saw a charcoal fire ready with a fish placed on it, and bread. Jesus said, "Bring some of the fish you have just now caught.


On reaching the shore the disciples find that Jesus had already cooked breakfast for them. The Lord always prepares for His own (Psa. 23:5, John 14:2-3 and 1 Cor. 2:9).


21:11 So Simon Peter went aboard and pulled the net to shore. It was full of large fish, one hundred fifty-three, but although there were so many, the net was not torn.


Although there were so many fish the wonder was that the net never broke under the strain. The Lord had even strengthened the net for them!


21:12 "Come, have breakfast," Jesus said. But none of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?" because they knew it was the Lord.


Jesus gave them His Divine invitation to come and eat the food He had prepared for them. Christ continually invites us to come and feed our souls on the eternal, heavenly things that He has made ready for us by His death and resurrection (Isa. 55:1 and Col 3:1). The disciples remained in speechless awe of Him.


21:13-14 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.


At breakfast, Jesus gave and they received from Him. This is what our life in Christ is all about. This was the third time that Jesus had shown Himself to His disciples as a group after His resurrection, though He had also appeared to others at various times as recorded in 1 Cor. 15:5-7.



Peter Restored and Commissioned


21:15 Then when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these do?" He replied, "Yes, Lord, you know I love you." Jesus told him, "Feed my lambs.


After Jesus had provided for the physical welfare of His disciples He turns His attention completely upon Peter in order to deal with Him. Notice that He calls Peter by his old name of Simon and not by the name that He had given him (Matt. 16:18). By doing so He was taking Peter right back to the time when He called him to follow Him. Peter was very aware of the fact that he had denied the Lord three times (John 18:17-26) and did not measure up to being "a rock" (steadfast and immovable in faith). He had found out that of himself he could do nothing and had learned the hard way that it was His Lord that upheld and kept him by His power and prayers (Luke 22:32). As Peter had denied Him three times so the Lord asks him three times "do you love me". The word for love that Jesus used was "agape". What He was saying to Peter was, do you love me with spiritual devotion, as one loves the Father. The word that Peter used to answer Him was the word "phileo," that is, I have a personal affection for You, as for a close friend. This first time Jesus asks if Peter loves Him "more than these". Was He referring to the disciples or the fish that they had caught? I believe that it was the fish for it was Peter that took the disciples back to their old way of life and Jesus had to bring him right back to a complete commitment to Him and the work He had called him to do. Paul challenged the Galatian Christians on their turning back to the things of the world (Gal. 4:8-9). In his answer Peter appeals to the omniscience (having infinite knowledge) of Christ "you know". He realised that there was nothing that he could hide from Him for Jesus knew his heart (John 2:25). However, Jesus needed to bring  from Peter's lips the confession of his love for Him, even as he had denied Him with his lips (Rom. 10:9). After Peter's first confession of love to the Lord, Jesus says, in effect, if you do really love me then "feed My lambs". That is, give those that belong to Him who are young in the faith His word so that they may be built up in the faith.


21:16 Jesus said a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He replied, "Yes, Lord, you know I love you." Jesus told him, "Shepherd my sheep.


The second time Jesus commissions him to "tend my sheep" that is, care for, guide and look after those older in the faith.


21:17 Jesus said a third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was distressed that Jesus asked him a third time, "Do sheep.  you love me?" and said, "Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you." Jesus replied, "Feed my sheep.


On being asked the third time it distressed Peter that the Lord should have to ask him these many times. Very often the Lord has to put us through distressing and painful experiences in order to achieve what He desires to do within us. This time Peter confesses that the Lord knows everything and knows one needs to tell Him anything (John 2:24-25). This time Jesus says "feed my sheep". If Peter genuinely loved Jesus, he was to demonstrate it by caring for the Lord's people.  


21:18 I tell you the solemn truth, when you were young, you tied your clothes around you and went wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will tie you up and bring you where you do not want to go.


What the Lord is saying to Peter in this verse is that before he came to know Jesus he did the things that he wanted to and went where he wanted to go. In other words he lived his own life according to his own will.   Now that he belonged to Christ and had committed his life up to him, he was no longer his own to do as he pleased but should surrender his self-will to the will of Christ, even as Jesus did to the Father (John 5:30; Luke 22:42; Gal. 2:20).



Following Jesus


21:19 (Now Jesus said this to indicate clearly by what kind of death Peter was going to glorify God. After he said this, Jesus told Peter, "Follow me.


Having restored and commissioned Peter the Lord re-calls him to follow Him.  In the first instance to come with Him now, most probably to receive further instructions and teaching from Jesus that was for Peter alone and secondly to follow in the ways of the Lord Jesus Christ now and always. Jesus was also telling Peter the way in which he would be martyred (2 Pet. 1:14). Tradition says that Peter was crucified on a cross upside down because he did not want to be crucified the same way as his Lord.


21:20 Peter turned around and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them. (This was the disciple who had leaned back against Jesus' chest at the meal and asked, "Lord, who is the one who is going to betray you?


This verse makes it clear that the person being referred to could be none other that the disciple John (John 13:23-24).  


21:21 So when Peter saw him, he asked Jesus, "Lord, what about him?


Peter, on following after Jesus turns back to enquire of the Lord what He had in mind for John to do.


21:22 Jesus replied, "If I want him to live until I come back, what concern is that of yours? You follow me!


The Lord in effect tells Peter to mind his own business; it was enough that he should obey without concerning himself about another.   The call to follow is for the individual to respond to and for each one to do as the Lord would have him to.   The common factor to all is obedience.


21:23 So the saying circulated among the brothers and sisters that this disciple was not going to die. But Jesus did not say to him that he was not going to die, but rather, "If I want him to live until I come back, what concern is that of yours?


The other disciples who were standing by misunderstood the Lord's words to Peter concerning John and so John takes the opportunity of correcting it.   What the Lord said was that if He wanted John to stay with the other disciples until He came back it was no concern of Peter's.


21:24 This is the disciple who testifies about these things and has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.


In signing off John confirms that it is the same disciple who is referred to in verses 20 - 23 that is bearing witness to all the things that are recording in this gospel.   It would appear from the closing words of this verse that the other disciples that were still alive when John wrote also bore witness that what he said was true.  


21:25 There are many other things that Jesus did. If every one of them were written down, I suppose the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.


He finishes his gospel by saying that not everything that was done by the Lord Jesus Christ  was recorded.   If everything had been given in detail there would not have been enough room in the world to contain all the books that  would have been needed to have been written.  John emphasises that there were many more things that Jesus said and done which had not been recorded.  Amen.


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