Noted as one of the best starting places in the Bible, the Gospel of John is a first-hand account of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ from one of his most trusted friends and disciples. This book is necessary reading for the believer as its detail and insight is beyond anything one might cross as they seek out knowledge of this good Word. For this reason, I have decided to embark on a multi-part study on the Gospel of John to give not only in-depth analysis of the entire book; but, also background on it's creation and the man that wrote it. Today we COMPLETE our study as we end in part Twenty of this series and discuss John Chapter Twenty-One!
Now we move onto another interesting section, if you were to put it in chronological order, this would be the seventh time that Jesus appeared. John selects this as his third description of Jesus’ appearances. Its interesting that after his conclusion, John decides to include this section into his gospel. Some scholars say that this chapter was added by someone else at another time. Biblical research shows, however, that no copies of John’s gospel have ever been found without this 21st chapter. So the evidence says John wrote it, which means that John’s gospel has always been in this format. The manner in which it was written might have differed from the other chapters, however. So chapter 21 could be considered as an epilogue to what happened to some of the people included in the story.
John 21:1: "Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. This is how it happened."
Notice, the after these things. He is setting up the epilogue. John sets the scene and the event that will take place. Notice that Jesus appears in Jerusalem, in Galilee, and in between. To women, men, individuals, groups, indoors, outdoors, at night, and in the day, over a period of 40 days. This is unlike other religious leaders or prophets where there is only one appearance and usually only to one person and usually in a secluded spot like a cave. That’s why it is significant that His appearances are in so many different ways and at so many different times.
John 21:2-3: "Several of the disciples were there—Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples. Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” “We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night."
The Apostles are still together but they are waiting for their next step in their ministry. They have seen Jesus, they have received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Peter as is his character, is impatient and agitated with all the waiting, he decides to do something and note that he goes back to what he was doing before he followed Jesus. Isn’t that what we all tend to do when we are waiting on God and His timing? We go back to what we know, not always what is right or what we are supposed to be doing. Perhaps they needed money or food because their supports might have gone into hiding after Jesus’ death. Isn’t that always what its like? When we are waiting on Jesus, there is where we can face the most struggle and lack of comfort. It's a familiar scene, they are fishing all night but are not catching anything.
John 21:4-6: "At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?” “No,” they replied. Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it."
Jesus once again appears and calls out to them regarding their task and they respond to Him by trying the other side of the boat. Of course, the miracle is instantaneous as a full catch is made.
John 21:7-8: "Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore."
How many times is Jesus in our midst and we do not see Him? Think now about personalities and human nature. Perhaps Peter's focus on the task at hand prevents him from recognizing the Lord until John points Him out. Peter is so excited here to see Jesus, he cannot wait to take the boat ashore, he just plunges into the water to go see Him. The others stay and drag the haul in because they do not want to lose the fish.
John 21: 9-11: "When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread. “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn."
They caught fish and Jesus already had a fire going WITH FISH on it for them (He has already made them breakfast. If Jesus, our Lord, can make us breakfast, it doesn’t matter who we are, we are not too important to do so for others). The better translation for what Jesus says would be “before you eat, go take care of the fish you have caught.” Now, the number of fish here is important. John states that there were 153, that means all fish were counted. Some have said the number is 153 to represent all the different type of fish that were know at the time, but what is important here is how this is showing all the detail and attention God puts into our lives. This was an overflow and abundance of blessing, much more than the Apostles needed, but a gift to them from God. This is also an extraordinary moment that John wanted to paint vividly for his readers.
John 21:12-14: “Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish. This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead."
John continues his very manner of fact description of this moment as the Apostles sit quietly eating the food Jesus has prepared for them. They KNOW who He is and how exceptional all of this is and John adds that this is Jesus’ third appearance to them as a group since the resurrection. John is the only gospel writer to describe all three of Jesus’ appearances to the Apostles as a group without other people present.
John 21:15-17: "After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep."
We already know that Jesus appeared to Peter alone, but we do not have any information about that meeting, not in John at least. Since Jesus included Peter among the faithful Apostles when He told the women to tell the disciples AND Peter (Mark 6:7), we can conclude that Peter was forgiven of his sin of denial when Jesus was arrested, at that time. Peter was also with the Apostles when Jesus appeared and gave them the Holy Spirit. So we can see this dialogue here as a public record of Peter’s restoration and call to ministry and approval by the Lord. Maybe he and the Lord know this already, but the general population does not know this yet. All other people know about Peter here is that he denied the Lord after being an outspoken believer those three years of Jesus’ ministry. So Jesus does this public acceptance by asking Peter three questions: Do you love me more than these (three times)? This is sin reference to his former boasting that his love was superior to the other apostles. They might have followed Jesus, Peter said, but HE was ready to die for Him. And but now Jesus is really breaking into the reality of the situation here. Notice the use of “philia” and “agape”. There's this underlying question here that Peter gets and understands, “Peter, is your love still greater than these?” So Peter, humbled by the reality of his own past failures, answers with what he now knows to be true. He no longer claims more that what he knows to be true And the Lord meets him where He is at and commissions him for pastoral leadership! This does not make Peter the LEADER of the other apostles; he is to lead and feed the flock of believers, LIKE the other apostles. This solves the manner in the Apostles’ eyes as to whether Peter is worthy of teaching the gospel and serving the Lord, because Jesus Himself says Peter is worthy. To the others, they see that Peter was the only one that really betrayed Jesus with public denial; they may have ran away, but had not been so public with their denial. One thing to notice, when Jesus is questioning Peter, He calls him by his actual name, the one he had before he followed Jesus (Simon). Why? Because Peter had gone back to doing what he had been doing before Jesus found him (fishing). This really is to cut him down to size. It is also notable, that Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him (to affirm Peter’s love for Him) three times, when he had previously denied Him three times. This was to purge those denials away with reaffirming statements of love.
John 21:18-24: “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others[f] will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.” Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved—the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who will betray you?” Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?”Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” So the rumor spread among the community of believers that this disciple wouldn’t die. But that isn’t what Jesus said at all. He only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” This disciple is the one who testifies to these events and has recorded them here. And we know that his account of these things is accurate."
These verses are self explanatory, even to clear up some confusion before the book of John was written (85AD). In the baby stage of Christianity, you get away with a lot. But when you mature spiritually, you must obey God even when you do not like it. Jesus prophecies the type of death Peter would experience and that it would be a martyrs death and we know this to be true. Peter was crucified upside-down in Rome (64 AD by Nero). Tradition says that, when Peter was put to death, he requested to be crucified on an inverted cross. The reason for his request was that, because he had denied his Lord, he did not consider himself worthy to die as Jesus had. The bible does not confirm or deny this, but this is what we know historically. He had boasted before Jesus’ death that he would die for Jesus and it seems that request is fulfilled here. Jesus wants John to follow Him away from the others and John is seen following behind. Peter notices this and questions Jesus about John. “What’s going to happen to him?!” Jesus answers that both of their futures are in God’s hands and if the Lord wants him to live until the second coming, that is out of Peter’s hands. Don’t worry about what God is doing with others, especially when you are suffering. Peter is suffering here, he has just found out he will die a terrible death he doesn’t want John to be better off than he is. Jesus says, “mind your own business.” John states that the early disciples believed this to mean that John would be alive until the second coming and miraculously, John lives until old age! Longer than what was average, in those days you would probably only live until you were 45; John died in about 100 AD!! He was born in about 6 AD, so that would make him approximately 94 years old at his death!! John corrects the error by saying that if Jesus had wanted this, he could, but he states that this was not promised to him by Jesus.
John 21:25: "Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written."
Summary #2! John’s second summary closes the book but leaves open the question of Jesus’ life and Jesus’ work. There’s enough here to create a basis of belief, but there's more than was actually recorded. He has just scratched the surface.
Review of entire Gospel:
The Gospel of John has one main theme repeatedly depicted by John in EVERY single scene: Presenting Jesus as the divine Son of God; Jesus the God/Man.
This is your first objective in any bible study is to teach about Jesus and to start with their own personal knowledge of Jesus and build from there.
That’s why John is such a great gospel to study!
Isn’t this the intention of ALL the Gospels? That Jesus is the Son of God?
Each Gospel and Gospel writer had a different aim and target audience for his book:
Messiah according to the Word and Prophets
Refers to the Old Testament a lot
Talking to the Jews specifically
The eyewitness account of Peter the Apostles
Mark was Peter’s secretary
Gospel demonstrating Jesus’ power
Records more of Jesus’ miracles than any other Gospel
Main focus to center the gospel within historical context
Luke’s gospel and the book of Acts was circulated as one book
Only gospel writer to directly engage the reader
Records the people’s reaction to the Lord
up close and personal
Leaves no room for compromise: either believing or rejecting
Leaves the reader asking themselves if they believe or disbelieve
Lessons from the Gospel of John:
The gospel is for us today!
Christianity is about Jesus (even if there are varying interpretations in Christian religions. We are about lifting up the name of Jesus Christ and Jesus as the Son of God.)
The best is yet to come
I want to thank you for sticking with this twenty part series on the Gospel of John! I hope it has been as enlightening for you as it has been for me and I hope that you continue to study God's Word with me and on your own!