John 21 (NRSV)
Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples
This chapter is here to demonstrate once and for all the reality of the Resurrection. There were many who said that the appearances of the Risen Christ were nothing more than visions which the disciples had. Many would admit the reality of the visions but insist that they were still only visions. Some would go further and say that they were not visions but hallucinations. The gospels go far out of their way to insist that the Risen Christ was not a vision, not an hallucination, not even a spirit, but a real person. They insist that the tomb was empty and that the Risen Christ had a real body which still bore the marks of the nails and the spear thrust in his side.
But this story goes a step further. A vision or a spirit would not be likely to point out a shoal of fish to a party of fishermen. A vision or a spirit would not be likely to kindle a charcoal fire on the seashore. A vision or a spirit would not be likely to cook a meal and to share it out. And yet, as this story has it, the Risen Christ did all these things. When John tells how Jesus came back to his disciples when the doors were shut, he says: “He showed them his hands and his side” )John 20:20).
The first and simplest aim of this story is to make quite clear the reality of the resurrection. The Risen Lord was not a vision, nor the figment of someone’s excited imagination, nor the appearance of a spirit or a ghost; it was Jesus who had conquered death and come back.
After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
5Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?”
They answered him, “No.”
6He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.
They cast their nets in Galilee
just off the hills of brown;
such happy, simple fisherfolk,
before the Lord came down.
Contented, peaceful fishermen,
before they ever knew
the peace of God that filled their hearts
brimful, and broke them too.
Young John who trimmed
the flapping sail,
homeless in Patmos died,
Peter, who hauled the teeming net,
head-down was crucified.
The peace of God, it is no peace,
but strife closed in the sod,
Yet let us pray for but one thing—
the marvelous peace of God.
–William A. Percy
7That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. 9When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread.
10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”
11So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them;
Why 153 fish?
This number has been a field day for speculative interpretations of the Bible since the early church.
153 is the sum of numbers 1 to 17. Some (like Augustine) say that it is a number representing the number of commandments (10) added to the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit.
153 is the added numerical value of the Greek words “Peter” and “fish.”
Some ancient writers (such as Jerome) held that there were 153 different types of fish in the world; this represents a “full harvest” of all of the world.
Some (like Cyril of Alexandria) say that 100 stands for the Gentiles, 50 for Israel and 3 for the Trinity.
The truth is that all we know for certain is that 153 stands for the number of fish that they caught! We must always be careful of manufacturing “hidden meanings” in the Word of God.
and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.
Revelation 3:20 (KJV)
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
14This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
Jesus and Peter
15When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
from Experiencing God Day-by-Day
by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby
Jesus has a wonderful way of restoring us when we fail Him! He does not humiliate us. He does not criticize us. He does not ask us to make a resolution to try harder. Rather, He takes us aside and asks us to reaffirm our love for Him.
Peter miserably failed his Lord when he fled with the other disciples from the Garden of Gethsemane. Later, he publicly denied that he even knew Jesus. Peter must have wondered if he was even capable of being Jesus’ disciple when he was unfaithful to Jesus in His most crucial hour.
You may be painfully aware that you have failed your Lord in many ways. Perhaps you were not faithful. Perhaps you disobeyed His word to you. Perhaps you denied Him by the way you lived. Jesus will not berate you. He will not humiliate you. He will ask you to examine your love for Him. He asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” If your answer, like Peter’s, is “Yes, Lord,” He will reaffirm His will for you. If you truly love Him, you will obey Him (John 14:15). Jesus does not need your resolutions, your re-commitments, your promises to try harder. Jesus asks for your love. Then your service to Him will be what He desires.
He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
16A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
17He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.)
Peter remained faithful to the Lord and was crucified upside down during the reign of Nero.
After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Jesus and the Beloved Disciple
20Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”
21When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?”
22Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!”
How easily we get distracted from our own responsibilities and calling by wondering about the details of someone else’s walk with the Lord. We critique, we second-guess, we opine. Jesus says to us what he said to Peter: “What is that to you?” Let us serve others, but mind our own business!
23So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”
So, at the end, this gospel takes two of the great figures of the Church, Peter and John. To each Jesus had given his function. It was Peter’s to shepherd the sheep of Christ, and in the end to die for him. It was John’s to witness to the story of Christ, and to live to a great old age and to come to the end in peace. That did not make them rivals in honour and prestige, nor make the one greater or less than the other; it made them both servants of Christ.
24This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true.
25But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
This song is, I think, a good one to hear as we close our reading of the Gospel of John. HERE is MercyMe and “The Love of God.” Frederick M. Lehman wrote this hymn in 1917 in Pasadena, California.
1) What can you learn from Peter and Christ’s exchange? How can you “Feed my sheep”?
2) At the close of our DWELLING in John’s Gospel, how has your understanding of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus been changed?
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.