(Sea of Galilee.)
^D John XXI.1-25.
^d 1 After these things Jesus manifested himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and he manifested himself on this wise.2 There was together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee [see p.111], and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. [As usual, Peter was the leader.] They say unto him, We also come with thee. They went forth, and entered into the boat; and that night they took nothing. [These apostles, thinking that their apostleship had terminated, had returned to their old like as fishermen. ] 4 But when day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach: yet the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.5 Jesus therefore saith unto them, Children, have ye aught to eat? [Jesus does not use the affectionate teknia -- |children,| but the familiar and colloquial paidia -- |boys.| His question was like that of a stranger, or neighbor, who wished to buy fish.] They answered him, No. [Their brevity bespeaks their disappointment at having a purchaser, but nothing to sell him.] 6 And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. [The movements of large bodies of fish in the waters of Galilee are frequently visible to one standing on the shore. Supposing that the stranger thus saw fish upon the right side of the boat, the disciples readily obeyed his command, without suspecting who it was that gave it.] 7 That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. [Even the wonderful draught of fishes did not at once arouse all the disciples to realize that a miracle had been wrought, and that Christ stood upon the shore. But John, having believed in the resurrection of Jesus even before he had seen the risen Lord, may rightly be presumed to have had a livelier expectation of meeting him in Galilee, and this expectation made him more alert for signs of the Lord's presence. During the night he had probably thought much of that other night when they took nothing, and of the day which followed and on which the Lord filled their nets for them. At any rate, the similarity of the two occasions now flashed through John's mind, and he recognized that it was Christ who had but now bade them cast the net.] So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his coat about him (for he was naked), and cast himself into the sea. [The arduous task of fishing had caused Peter to lay aside his upper garment; but as he prepares to meet the Lord he puts it on, moved by reverence and respect for the Master, though it encumbered him greatly in his efforts to swim.] 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from the land, but about two hundred cubits off), dragging the net full of fishes. [The other disciples restrained their emotions, and attended to the duties of the hour. They were about a hundred yards from the land.] 9 So when they got out upon the land, they see a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. [The sight gave a new meaning to the Lord's question in verse 5; he had not come to buy, but to supply.] 10 Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now taken.11 Simon Peter therefore went up, and drew the net to land, full of great fishes, a hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, the net was not rent. [Peter, being already wet, could lend material assistance in bringing the net to shore. John tells us the exact number of the fishes to show the magnitude of the miracle, both as to the catch and as to the unbroken nets. The latter form a sharp contrast to the broken nets of Luke v.6. Possibly when the hour approached when they would become fishers of men, Jesus meant to show them that a greater and fuller miraculous power would attend and bless their efforts.] 12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and break your fast. And none of the disciples durst inquire of him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. [It was not, as some suppose, because they stood in a new and special awe of him, that they durst not question him, but it was the nature of the question itself. They feared a mild rebuke like that once administered to Philip -- John xiv.9.] 13 Jesus cometh, and taketh the bread, and giveth them, and the fish likewise. [Thus he gave to them when he fed the multitude and thus it may be hundreds of times he had given to them when they sat at meat together -- Luke xxii.17-20; John xiii.26.] 14 This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after that he was risen from the dead. [It was his seventh appearance, but his third appearance to a group of disciples, and the third appearance witnessed by John. John counts as follows: 1. An appearance to the apostles without Thomas; 2. an appearance to them with Thomas; 3. this appearance.] 15 So when they had broken their fast [after the eating of a meal together had calmed and quieted the excitement of the disciples, and made them susceptible of teaching], Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, lovest thou me more than these? [Jesus here means: Do you love me more than these fishes and this fishing business? ] He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.16 He saith to him again a second time, Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Tend my sheep. [For if you love me [better than fishing, you are a fisherman no longer, but a shepherd. ] 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. [The Greek here has subtle shades of meaning which the English does not express. In the first two questions addressed to Peter our Lord uses the strong verb agapan, and Peter replies by the weaker verb philein. See p.519. Peter, as we have seen, had professed the most unparalleled devotion for the Master, but when the Lord now asks him if he has that devotion, he humbly describes his love as of a far weaker order -- a mere instinctive affection or strong attachment, but nothing approaching adoration. In his third question, Jesus drops the agapan and takes Peter's own word -- philein: as if he said, |Peter, are you even sure that you have a high regard for me?| It grieved Peter to have the Lord thus apparently doubt that he had even a tender regard for him, and he appealed to Christ himself as a searcher of hearts to bear witness that, poor and meager as his love was, it was at least as intense as he had represented it to be. In response to each of Peter's professions of love Jesus lays a command on him, as if he had said, |If you love me as you say, prove it thus.| These three commands also contain subtle linguistic distinctions which, however, are fairly represented by the English. Lambs and sheep are to be fed, and sheep are to be tended. The former means that young and old in the church are to be provided for, and, since the word |tends| mean to be shepherd unto, the latter may mean that Peter is to play the shepherd to the wandering and the erring, bringing them into the fold. Before leaving this scene, we should note that it has close relationship to other incidents in the life of Peter: 1. Jesus here calls him by the name by which he had first called him, noting the more honorable name which he had given him.2. Jesus recalls Peter under circumstances very similar to his first call. Compare verses 1-14 with Luke v.1-11.3. In a group around a fire of coals Peter here thrice professes his love for Christ, thus revoking the threefold denial which he had made under similar circumstances -- Luke xxii.54-62.] 18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest [Peter had just shown this freedom by girding himself and plunging into the sea]: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. [Thus our Lord, by delicate but unmistakable suggestion, shows Peter that the freedom which he now enjoyed would be taken from him, and that he would lift his hands to permit others to bind him that they might lead him to martyrdom to which his flesh (though not his spirit) would go unwillingly.] 19 Now this he spake, signifying by what manner of death he should glorify God. [John, who wrote after Peter's death, tells us what the words of Christ meant. His words show that tradition is true in saying that Peter suffered martyrdom, but it is no voucher that tradition is true as to the time (about thirty-four years after this), place (Rome), or manner (crucified head downward) of Peter's death. There is certainly no trustworthy evidence that Peter was ever at Rome.] And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. [This saying bore the usual double sense in which Jesus employed it. Peter was to follow him now (and he did arise and follow), and he was also to follow Jesus to a violent death and a glorious immortality.] 20 Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved [John] following; who also leaned back on his breast at the supper, and said, Lord, who is he that betrayeth thee? [John xiii.25.] 21 Peter therefore seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? [Peter and John were near friends (Acts iii.1), and understanding that the Lord had prophesied a violent death for himself, Peter was naturally interested in the fate of his dear companion.] 22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me. [It was none of Peter's business whether John's earthly lot was easier or harder than his own; his business was to be faithful in the pathway whither the Lord led him.] 23 This saying therefore went forth among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, that he should not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? [Our Lord's words were a puzzle when John wrote his Gospel, and to many they are a puzzle still. For an able treatment of the various interpretations of this difficult passage, see B. W. Johnson's Commentary on John. There is no question that John died. The site of his grave at Ephesus was well known to early Christians. The coming of the Lord for which he tarried was that in the isle of Patmos, of which he tells us in the Book of Revelation. This passage, therefore, shows that John wrote his Gospel before his exile in Patmos.] 24 This is the disciple that beareth witness of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his witness is true.25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that should be written. [Since the |we know| differs from the |he knoweth| of John xix.35, most of the critics hold that this verse was added by the elders of Ephesus to whom John committed his Gospel, and that it is the attestation of the church there to the truth and authenticity of the Gospel. But the first person singular, |I suppose,| of verse 25 is hard to account for such an hypothesis. Besides, none of the elders at Ephesus could suppose any such thing. Only an eye-witness who saw the fullness of our Lord's ministry would be led to pen these words. We find in the first Epistle of John a condition of affairs similar to these two verses. The first chapter opens with and continues to use the editorial plural, while the second chapter drops in the first person singular. We think, then, that John finished his own book. Considering the wilderness of literature which has accumulated around the sayings and doings of our Lord contained in the brief Gospels, it is little wonder that John thought a full record of the Lord's life would fill the world with books.]