John 21:20-25

9/6/11 Peter has been restored. Jesus made that clear to Peter. And the first thing Peter does is start getting into someone else’s business. His impetuousness hasn’t been completely subdued yet. He turns and sees John following them. John never uses his own name in his gospel, but goes well out of his way to identify himself, (v. 20).

Peter had just been informed by Jesus that he would indeed have the opportunity to die for Jesus, and not in a very pleasant way. So Peter ask Jesus about John. What would happen to him? (v. 21).

Jesus put Peter in his place quickly saying essentially, “Peter, mind your own business. You take care of Peter. Make sure you are following me. John isn’t your responsibility.” If Jesus wanted John to remain alive until He returned what was that to Peter?

Jesus wanted Peter to care for the flock but Peter still wasn’t to be God knowing everything about the flock. And besides John was a shepherd as well.

Well, apparently Jesus’ words got a rumor going that John wouldn’t die. But John clarifies that Jesus didn’t say that, (v. 23).

In v. 24 John “signs” his document as an eye witness to the things which he described. Then he goes on to clarify that his book was only a sampling of the great many actions of Jesus that could have been written but couldn’t be because of time and space, (v. 25). In other words, Jesus’ impact upon the world was incalculable. That might be the understatement of history.

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John 21:15-19

9/5/11 I imagine that after breakfast Jesus asked Peter to walk with Him down the beach, since later he turns to see John following them. Jesus had something to talk with Peter about. Three times Peter had denied Him on the night of His arrest. And because of this Peter was unsure of His place among the disciples. He likely felt that He didn’t deserve even to be in the company of those around Jesus. And yet his devotion to Jesus was stronger than ever. Jesus knew Peter’s future and knew that He must reinstate Peter, not because He had kicked Peter out but because Peter was kicking himself out.

So after breakfast they began a stroll along the shore and Jesus asked Peter if he had an agape kind of love for Him more than the others, (v. 15). Peter had learned his lesson about impetuously declaring anything. He didn’t even feel his love for Jesus could be classified as agape and definitely wouldn’t claim that his love for Jesus was more than the others. Before his denial he might have made such claims, but not now. Instead, Peter replied that he did definitely love Jesus with a phileo kind of love. The insinuation, I suppose, is that Peter understood that such love was all he was really capable of.

In reply Jesus said to Peter that he should tend Jesus’ lambs. The Greek “bosko” is a word that means to care for the basic needs of animals such as food and water. Jesus was asking Peter to take care of the small lambs of the flock of Jesus, His people. Jesus was telling Peter that He wanted him to be His disciple as before. He wanted Him to do what Jesus had trained him to do.

(V. 16) As they strolled farther along Jesus asked Peter the same question again, if he loved Him with an agape kind of love, but this time Jesus didn’t ask if Peter loved Him more than the others. He lowered the bar slightly. “Ok, you don’t agape me more than the others, but do you at least agape me?”

Peter must have wondered where this was going. He replied again to Jesus that he loved Him with a phileo kind of love. This time in reply Jesus told Peter to “poimaino,” His sheep. This was more than just caring for the basic needs of the sheep like food and water. This was more of a shepherding, leading role.

(V. 17) Once again as they strolled along Jesus asked His question of Peter. But this time Jesus lowered the bar a lot asking Peter if he loved Him with a phileo kind of love. It’s difficult to see if Peter was grieved that Jesus asked a third time or that the third time He asked using phileo rather than agape. I’m inclined to think both, but especially because Jesus used the word phileo. It was as though Jesus might have cause to doubt Peter capable of even this kind of love. And Peter was hurt by this.

Jesus, though, had good reason for this. Peter answered that Jesus being God knew that phileo was all he was capable of. And to this Jesus replied that Peter should care for the basic needs of His sheep. I think Peter recognized what Jesus was saying. He was essentially saying, “Peter, I know your love for me isn’t perfect, but I want you to be my disciple in a leadership role anyway.”

(V. 18) Jesus didn’t stop talking at this point, however. He expanded on His plans for Peter. At one time Peter lived for himself and did whatever he wanted to do. He had been free to live his life according to his own direction. But now everything was going to be different. He would no longer do whatever he wished. His life would be such that now he would be directed by God how to care for the sheep and that would eventually lead him in difficult and painful ways that would culminate in martyrdom.

(V. 19) Peter had said that he would die for Jesus then he chickened out. But Peter would in fact be the strong person he imagined himself to be, but with God’s help rather than in his own power. If Peter was willing to do this then Jesus still wanted him as a disciple. So He asked Peter as He had three years before to follow Him.

Peter had been reinstated. Some of His confidence returned as the next scene of the story shows.

John 21:9-14

9/4/11 When the rest of the disciples reached the shore a few minutes later they saw that Jesus had a charcol fire going with fish and bread cooking on it, (v. 9). Apparently He didn’t have enough for them all though, because He had them bring some of the fish they just caught, (v. 10). When He created bread and fish He created an over abundance, but He still began with the boy’s lunch so that people were cooperating with Him in the miracle. Whether or not He created this food for the disciples we can’t know, but He purposely didn’t have enough so that the disciples would have to cooperate with Him and do their part.

Peter pulled in the net and John observed that the net wasn’t torn, (v. 11). God was cooperating with man but God was definitely at work. One hundred fifty-three fish were counted in the net. At John Paulien observes, Jesus wasn’t acting like God in ordering the fish into the net or calming storms, He was acting like Adam as Adam had been created to be—in control of nature.

Once the food was done cooking Jesus called them to breakfast. They were amazed that Jesus was there, but they pushed the temptation to doubt out of their minds. Their faith was getting stronger. Jesus perhaps looked different somewhat now that the stress and difficulty of human life was past. So perhaps if the disciples had wanted to doubt that this was Jesus it would have been possible. But the disciples were beyond such doubts now. They didn’t question Him to be sure it was Jesus. They placed their faith in Him and pushed the doubts away. They “knew” it was the Lord, (v. 12).

Jesus served them the breakfast He had cooked. He probably had them sit, though it doesn’t say so, then He brought them bread and fish to eat. Always the servant, (v. 13).

This was the third time they saw Jesus after His resurrection, (v. 14).

John 21:1-8

9/3/11 Jesus revealed Himself to the disciples again at the Sea of Tiberias, (v. 1). Seven of the 11 were together (v. 2) when Peter decided to go fishing and the other six decided to accompany him. They fished all night and caught nothing, (v. 3).

At dawn they were returning and Jesus stood on the beach. When they were about 100 yards out He called out asking them if they had caught any “relish eaten with bread,” which is idiom for something to eat. They answered that they had not, (v. 5). So He told them to cast on the other side and sure enough, they caught fish. Lots of fish, (v. 6).

There’s a parable in the story. Jesus called the disciples to be fishers of men. If they were to attempt this work on their own they were going to meet with no success. They were later told not to do anything until the Spirit came upon them. Had they not obeyed they would have found their success in reaching people as discouraging as their fishing trip.

Nothing obvious would change about their technique. The difference would be that Jesus was directing. Then when they had success in bringing people to Christ they would not be able to say they had done it any more than they could say that about the catch of fish. All would know that miracles were being performed. We are privileged to cooperate with Jesus, but in the end it’s He that does the work.

John said to Peter that it had to be Jesus on the shore. So Peter put on his clothes over his work outfit, which was probably next to nothing, and jumped into the sea, (v. 7). One just has to love Peter. Impetuous, yes. But after Jesus had trained that impetuousness in a proper track it became an admirable character trait that God could use in ways He couldn’t use others. When that impetuousness was Peter acting from self it was a hinderance to God’s plan. But when it was based in faith in Jesus it was occasion for miracles to be worked in response to his faith.

The other disciples pulled the net into shore, (v. 8). And even this was good. God needs all kinds of people to complete His work. He needs Peters out front doing bold and crazy things for Him. But He also needs steady even slow people to bring up the rear and finishing things off properly. No one is called to work the whole process. One plants, another waters, another harvests.

John 20:30-31

9/2/11 Miracles are actually the natural order of things. Jesus didn’t skimp on them, performing miracles whenever and wherever the situation called for it, (v. 30). The ones John wrote down are specifically for our benefit so that we can be convinced that Jesus is who He said He is, (v. 31).

John 20:24-29

9/1/11 Thomas wasn’t there when Jesus came the first time, (v. 24). I wonder if Jesus arranged things this way because Thomas, like Peter had, needed a little wake up?

It seems odd that Thomas would think that all of the disciples would be in on some kind of sick joke to trick him. More likely Thomas’ pride was wounded and he chose not to believe since Jesus came when he wasn’t around. So he stomped his foot so to speak and said he wouldn’t believe unless he saw and touched for himself, (v. 25).

Jesus waited an entire week or more to reveal himself to Thomas. How must Thomas has felt and what thoughts must have been going through his mind the whole time as the rest of the disciples celebrated Jesus’ resurrection. Thomas must have sat in a corner and sulked because he couldn’t really participate. It must have been a really awkward week for him.

Finally Jesus came. Again everyone was inside with the doors locked when Jesus suddenly appeared with His same greeting, “Peace be with you,” (v. 26). Then going directly to Thomas He told him to see and touch so that he could believe, (v. 27).

I’m guessing Thomas must have been embarrassed at the situation. By now he surely was just being stubborn in choosing not to believe. As embarrassing as the situation was being put on the spot he had to be back in the inner circle, and since he had said he would believe at this moment he had to take it, (v. 28).

Jesus would have completely known all that underlay Thomas’ resistance, but He accepted it as Thomas had actually stated it, that he didn’t believe since he hadn’t seen for himself. If Thomas had been stubborn and proud Jesus didn’t reveal that. He’d leave that for the Holy Spirit to bring to his attention. Dealing only with Thomas’ stated issue he gently chastised him for requiring seeing in order to believe.

Over the coming years Thomas would have time to consider the way he had acted, and I’m confident that this defining moment had a lasting effect in his life.

John 20:19-23

8/31/11 Jesus left Mary and went to heaven to confirm the acceptance of His sacrifice for mankind. We don’t know what it looked like in heaven but it must have been quite the reunion. I imagine a celebration and even a literal ceremony. Whatever it was it was over and Jesus was back to earth by evening.

The disciples were locked indoors because they were afraid that the Jews might come after them now that they had taken Jesus. John, by his own statement, believed that Jesus was alive. Peter must have felt sick, but Mary had said that Jesus specifically mentioned him. He must have had a lot of hope if not outright belief that Jesus was alive. We’re not told about the other disciples specifically, except for Thomas who did not believe.

There, locked in the room, probably talking about where Jesus must be and if He really could be alive, suddenly Jesus appeared right there in the middle of them. His first words were, “Peace to you,” (v. 19). Before saying anything else to them or them speaking to Him Jesus showed them the evidence of His crucifixion in His hands and side. Other gospels mention that He ate something in front of them since this somehow proved to them that He was no apparition. And the disciples then rejoiced, (v. 20).

Then Jesus repeated, “Peace to you.” He obviously wanted them to catch that. Then He commissioned them to go to the world as He had come to the world, (v. 21). This was a critical part of the plan of salvation, that those He had trained should go and make more disciples. Then He breathed on them and gave to them the Holy Spirit as a comfort during Jesus’ absence as well as the driving force behind the work He had given them. Just as He breathed into man the breath of life at creation, once again He did so giving them a new kind of life spiritually speaking, (v. 22).

Jesus’ next words have created a lot of misunderstanding in Christianity about forgiveness of sins. It sounds as though Jesus was giving the disciples the power to forgive or to withhold forgiveness. More consistent with scripture would be to understand that the disciples would have discernment concerning those who had been forgiven by God and those who had not (v. 23).