Study Notes

John 21:1-25


It almost seemed like John ended his gospel with chapter 20. Jesus rose from the dead, appeared to the disciples, and John "finished" with

John 20:30-31 Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

"The End," right? Not yet. In this epilogue of sorts, John has two more issues to address. Peter needs to be reinstated as an apostle, and there was a belief circulating in the church that John the apostle wasn't going to die before Jesus came back.

21:1 The Sea Of Tiberias

Remember that the Sea of Tiberias was commonly referred to as the Sea of Galilee during the days of Christ's ministry. But John is authoring this book three decades later, and things change. It had become more commonly referred to as the Sea of Tiberias because of the city of Tiberias located on the western shore.

21:2-3 Gone Fishing

Jesus had told them to go to Galilee and wait for them on a certain mountain (Matt. 28:16). But growing impatient, Peter decided to go fishing. Thomas, Nathaniel, James, John, and two other disciples went with him. They gave up waiting, and went to go fishing. They stopped tarrying for the uncertainty of Christ's appearance and turned their attention to what they knew.

Oftentimes, we find security in busy-ness with familiar things. There is a certain comfort in occupying ourselves with doing what we know. But God has commanded us to frequently be still, to patiently wait on Him, to continually meditate, to ceaselessly pray. David knew the value of these things. He wrote in Psalm 27,

Ps. 27:13-14 {I would have despaired} unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; Be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.

Rather than waiting and praying, they went fishing. It was what they knew, it was what they were comfortable with. But when you go back to your former ways, when you turn back to your old life, you find that it is no longer productive. It was night, a dark time for them, and they caught nothing.

Back in chapter six, many of Jesus' disciples withdrew and were no longer following Him.

John 6:67-68 Jesus said therefore to the twelve, "You do not want to go away also, do you?" Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.

"Lord, where else are we gonna go?" In the ministry, there have been days of difficulty, seasons of stress, where I've sat and thought, "I can always go back into advertising and design. I used to make great money, was never at a loss for a job, and I really enjoyed it." I could turn back to fishing, but guess what? Even when you make the decision to go back to fishing, you catch nothing. Your net is empty. Lord, to whom shall we go besides You?

21:4-6 Cast On The Other Side

They should have been on the mountain, but they were on the sea. Jesus met them as far as the beach, and He called to them from there.

John 21:5 ..."Children, you do not have any fish, do you?"

Have you ever asked a fisherman how the fishing was? "You shoulda seen the one that got away!" The disciples, even if a little disobedient, at least aren't dishonest. The simply say, "No."

Then Jesus tells them, "put your net on the other side of the boat." Yeah, right - like moving the net to the other side of the boat would do anything. Put yourself in this position. If you're a salesman, the Lord says to you, "Put the phone next to your other ear, and you'll sell a lot today." If you're a miner, the Lord says to you, "Dig with the blue shovel instead of the red one, and you'll strike gold today." If you're a shopkeeper, the Lord says to you, "Put your sign in the other window, and you'll get many more customers today."

Fishing on the other side of the boat is, in earthly terms, ludicrous! But, as Paul wrote,

1Cor. 3:19 ...The wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.

God delights in having us do things totally contrary to the world's wisdom. Survive a great judgment by building a boat. Provide water for 3 million people by hitting a rock. Be healed from a snakebite by looking at a bronze snake. Conquer a city by marching silently around it seven times. Get the money to pay your taxes by catching a fish with a coin in its mouth. Get to heaven because of some guy being nailed to a tree.

1Cor. 1:20-25 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not {come to} know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

And God, doing foolish things, is always successful! There were so many fish in the net, they couldn't even get it onto the boat.

21:7-8 It Is The Lord

Deja vu! John remembers a huge catch like this not too many years before:

Luke 5:3-8 (Jesus) got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and {began} teaching the multitudes from the boat. And when He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." And Simon answered and said, "Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but at Your bidding I will let down the nets." And when they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish; and their nets {began} to break; and they signaled to their partners in the other boat, for them to come and help them. And they came, and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw {that,} he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"

John recognizes Jesus' style, and tells Peter, "It's the Lord!"

Last time, Jesus was in the boat with Peter, and he said, "Depart from me, Lord!" Now, Jesus is on the beach, and because Peter is a sinner, he wants to be as close to the Lord as possible.

Peter throws on his coat and dives into the sea, while the other six guys dragged the net full of fish the 100 yards to shore.

21:9-14 Another Charcoal Fire

As Peter swims up to the beach, there is the familiar smell of a charcoal fire. When was the last time he'd smelled that?

John 18:18 Now the slaves and the officers were standing {there,} having made a charcoal fire, for it was cold and they were warming themselves; and Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.

John 18:25 ...They said therefore to him, "You are not also {one} of His disciples, are you?" He denied {it} , and said, "I am not."

Now, here he is face to face with Jesus. But instead of yelling at him, instead of saying, "You Bozo! You completely let me down! Plus, you're supposed to be waiting for me on that mountain over there, and I find you fishing!" Instead of berating him, Jesus says, "Bring some of the fish you caught."

Where God Guides, God Provides

Then Peter did something amazing. He singlehandedly drags that net full of 153 fish up onto the shore, when the seven of them couldn't manage to do it before.

This tells me that when Christ tells you to do something, He will always provide you with the strength and the means to do it. When Jesus encountered a man at Bethesda who had been sick for 38 years,

John 5:8-9 Jesus said to him, "Arise, take up your pallet, and walk." And immediately the man became well, and took up his pallet and {began} to walk.

God will always provide, He will always enable. Your job is just to obey in faith. Stand up, or walk over to the net and start dragging. It's up to the Lord to supply the means. Paul writes,

Phil. 4:13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

It's an absolute truth that when God commands, He supplies. Where God guides, God provides.

21:15-17 Do You Love Me?

Jesus then asks Peter, "Do you love Me more than these?" He uses the word for "agape" love, love that is unconditional. There are varied opinions as to what "these" Jesus was referring to, but based on the emphasis throughout the chapter, I believe He was talking about the fish. "Peter, do you unconditionally love Me more than fishing?"

Peter's response is, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love You." But what doesn't come across in English is the true nature of Peter's response. He used a different word for love, the word, "fil-EH-o," which refers to a brotherly love.

"Peter, do you unconditionally love Me more than fishing?" "Sure, Lord; you know I love You like a brother." Jesus asks him again, "Peter, do you love Me unconditionally?" Peter answers again, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you like a brother." Then the third time, Jesus asks, "Peter, DO you love Me like a brother?" Peter was grieved at that third question. It affected him with sadness. He couldn't confess to unconditional love, so Jesus asked him if in fact he even had the brotherly love he claimed to.

Shepherd My Sheep

All three times, Jesus told Peter how he could prove his love: "Tend My lambs, shepherd My sheep, tend My sheep." The words for lambs and sheep Jesus uses are diminutive, in other words, "Feed My little sheepies. Tend My little lambies." The people in the church are those little sheepies.

Ps. 95:7 For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand...

And God's heartfelt desire is that men would tend and feed His flock with the same loving heart for them that He has. Jesus said back in chapter ten,

John 10:11-13 "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling, and is not concerned about the sheep."

Peter spent a lot of years considering and living this command. Later, he would write in his first epistle,

1Pet. 5:1-4 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as {your} fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to {the will of} God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

May all shepherds in the church care for, feed, and be examples to the Lord's sheepies.

21:18-19 Peter's Death

Some of the early church writers tell us that 34 years later, Peter was sentenced to be crucified. It is written that he pleaded with his executors to be crucified upside-down, because he was not worthy to die in the same posture as the Lord. Jesus foretold that he would die by stretching out his hands.

21:20-23 John's Future

Peter seemed to be concerned about John's future as well. Jesus told him not to worry about that, but to follow Him. In mildly rebuking Peter, Jesus said,

John 21:22 ..."If I want him to remain until I come, what {is that} to you?...

That started a rumor circulating in the church that John wouldn't die before Christ's return. But of course, Jesus didn't say that. Luke knew the problems associated with things passing from person to person verbally. About how things get twisted and turned to say what they didn't originally say, and events take new shape as they are repeated by several people. That is why he wrote his gospel. He says,

Luke 1:3-4 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write {it} out for you in consecutive order... so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

But John wrote his for a different reason. As we saw, he said,

John 20:31 ...these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

Now, in conclusion, he writes...

21:24-25 John Closes The Book

John 21:24-25 This is the disciple who bears witness of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his witness is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written.

It has taken me ten months to teach through John's gospel. Can you imagine how long it would have taken had he attempted to write down everything that Jesus did?

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