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John - Chapter 21

Bible Study Notes

John 21:1-8 Before His 40 days were up, Jesus again appeared to His disciples. What were they doing when Jesus appeared to them, but gone fishing!

Eventually, after the festivities were complete in Jerusalem, they returned to Galilee and were hanging out on the other side of the Sea of Galilee which was called the Sea of Tiberius.

They were out all night and caught nothing. Night was the preferred time of day for fishing in ancient times. Fish caught during the night could be sold fresh in the morning.

At daybreak, Jesus appeared off shore, but they didn’t know it was Him. Jesus instructed them like He did earlier in His ministry to cast their net out again, and boom, they caught more fish. This event immediately told them that it had to be Jesus. Peter was so excited, he jumped out of the boat and swam to shore, while John and the others rowed the boat with the big catch of fish to shore.

John 21:9-14 Jesus had started a little cookout on shore. He said to bring some of their fish too. Peter hauled in the 153 fish caught by the net. They all ate breakfast together with the Lord happily.

John 21:15-19 After breakfast, Jesus confronted Peter about his denying Him three times, by asking him three times to affirm his love for Him. Each time Peter answered yes, Jesus gave him His marching orders to care for His sheep.

Notes: Jesus asking Peter if he loved Him more than these could mean:

1)    More than the fish, his profession.
2)    More than the disciples.
3)    More than the disciples loved Jesus

Peter will demonstrate his love for Jesus by loving God’s people and feeding them with his Word.

Notes: The meaning of this section hinges upon the usage of two synonyms for love. In terms of interpretation, when two synonyms are placed in close proximity in context, a difference in meaning, however slight, is emphasized. When Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, he used a word for love that signified total commitment. Peter responded with a word for love that signified his love for Jesus, but not necessarily his total commitment. This was not because he was reluctant to express that greater love, but because he had been disobedient and denied the Lord in the past. He was, perhaps, now reluctant to make a claim of supreme devotion when, in the past, his life did not support such a claim. Jesus pressed home to Peter the need for unswerving devotion by repeatedly asking Peter if he loved him supremely. The essential message here is that Jesus demands total commitment from his followers. Their love for him must place him above their love for all else. Jesus confronted Peter with love because he wanted Peter to lead the apostles, but in order for Peter to be an effective shepherd, his overwhelming drive must exemplify supreme love for his Lord.

Jesus then reminded Peter that his fishing days were over. For now on he was going to fish for men and when he was old, he would die by crucifixion. For now, Jesus simply told him to follow Him.

Notes: Jesus’ call of devotion to him would also mean that Peter’s devotion would entail his own death. Whenever any Christian follows Christ, he must be prepared to suffer and die. Peter lived three decades serving the Lord and anticipating the death that was before him, but he wrote that such suffering and death for the Lord brings praise to God. Church tradition records that Peter suffered martyrdom under the Roman Emperor Nero, being crucified upside down, because he refused to be crucified like his Lord.

John 21:20-25 Jesus and Peter must have been having this conversation as they walked, for Peter looked over his shoulder and saw John following close behind. Peter was curious and wanted to know what Jesus had in store for John’s fate. In so many words, Jesus told Peter not to concern himself with everyone else, but to simply follow Him. Jesus’ hypothetical statement for emphasis was that, if John lived until his second coming, it was none of Peter’s concern. He needed to live his own life in faithfulness, not compare it with any other.

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