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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

John 21

Verses 1-14

  1. INTRO:
    1. I saw a lady hitch-hiking on the 15 freeway on-ramp with a sign that simply read, North!
      1. In Jn.21 the disciples aren’t sure where to turn...they just head “north”.
    2. So many Christians think that once they have “repented of their sin, believed on Christ, & have the assurance of their salvation...that’s it!”
      1. Wrong! That’s just the beginning.
      2. Paul said it this way, we were “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
        1. Oh, so though we were not saved by our good works; we have been saved for good works! Yep!
        2. Our keynote/central theme in this chapter is service!
      3. Also the very important matter of Jesus restoring Peter (next week).
    3. Ever say, “now what?” - maybe you’ve experienced a lull in business; or job pressures have you in knots; you feel trapped in a relationship; or you start day dreaming of the days gone by.
      1. Peter & the boys are probably asking, “now what?” - Is Rome coming after us? Jesus said, “if the world persecutes Me, expect it to persecute you!”
    4. Our scene opens on the Sea of Galilee (a.k.a. Lake of Gennesaret/from OT Kinneret(harp shape), Sea of Tiberias). [682’ below sea level; 13miles long x 8m. wide]
      1. Show: a few pic’s of Galilee in the very area were talking about this morning.
  2. FISHERMEN ON THE SEA! (1-3)
    1. FAILURE! (1-3)
    2. (1-3) It was absolutely not wrong for them to go back to Galilee. How do I know? Jesus told them to meet them there! - Mt.28:10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”
      1. So Galilee was the rendezvous point!
    3. Ok, they were in the right place, but why did they take up their old work again?
      1. Maybe thought they’d never see Him again. Maybe thought they’d glorify them best with what they knew. Maybe they were impatient. Maybe they heard the fishing was good? Maybe they were being diligent till He came? Maybe they gave up on Him meeting them, so they went back to their old work.
      2. I don’t think it was sinful...just negligent (or careless, irresponsible, thoughtless?)
        1. Before they met Jesus, they had a vocation. Now they had more than that; they had a calling. - But they were turning a deaf ear to that calling.
        2. They were disillusioned, confused, maybe even feeling sorry for themselves.
          1. Ever been there? - Are you standing on a similar shore right now?
          2. Maybe you’re casting nets in some quiet cove, away from the mainstream God has called you to?
            1. If so, maybe you need a visit from Jesus this morning! :)
    4. What we do know is that they were unsuccessful...as all work must be, that is done apart from Christ & His command.
      1. “Apart from Me you can do nothing!” Jn.15:5
      2. How futile our lives can be when Christ is left out!
        1. Are your nets coming up empty? - Are you burning the midnight oil & getting nothing but burned out? Maybe the Lord is calling you from the shore. If so, take a minute to listen. He might lead you to the catch of a lifetime! (Chuck Swindoll; The Lamb of God ; pg.102)
    5. Adoniram Judson said, “The motto of every missionary, whether preacher, printer, or schoolmaster, ought to be Devoted for life.
  3. FISHERMEN ON THE SHORE! (4-14)
    1. COMMISSION & PROMISE OF BLESSING! (4-6a)
    2. The Master was watching, & His inquiry was followed by His commission & promise of blessing.
    3. FAITHFULNESS! (6b-8)
    4. Obedience was honored by immediate results, & the disciples recognized who was the source of their success! [Title: Déjà vu (French, literally ‘already seen’)]
    5. (6b-8) When Jesus takes charge, failure is turned into success; & the diff was only 7 ½’.
      1. You never know how close you are to victory, so admit your failure (have you nay food? NO!) & obey what He tells you to do (so they cast their net on the other side).
        1. He never fails!
    6. (4-7) Jesus stands on the shore in the morning haze to comfort the hearts of discouraged workers, telling them where to cast their net & revealing the certainty of His help!
    7. (7) Did the miraculous catch of fish remind Peter of his call to service?
      1. Read Lk.5:1-11
      2. What are the similarities? - Both were on the shore of Galilee; both in the same area of the shoreline; both took place in the early morning; both hone in on Peter’s response; both were because of Jesus’ word they let down there net; both fished all night & got skunk’d.
      3. What are the differences? - 2nd time right side (not just out into the deep); 1st time Jesus told them to launch out & let down their nets (2nd time, they decided to go out on their own); 1st time Peter’s response “depart from me” (2nd time Peter swam to him)
      4. So both at the beg & end of Peter’s calling, He is called to Follow Jesus!
        1. Follow Me - run along behind Me, that is all. Follow in my steps. Leave your old life behind. Remain completely surrendered.
          1. It’s being dragged out of your life of security & dragged into a life of insecurity. Yet, really fully secure as you trust in Him!
    8. The Lord, so sensitive, stages the entire scene just for Peter.
      1. What do you do when you’ve failed a friend? You go to him.
      2. He throws himself into the water & swims the fastest 100-yard freestyle that would make Michael Phelps proud,...in order to reach the Savior!
    9. A FORECAST OF OUR FUTURE! (9-14)
    10. Maybe this provides a beautiful picture of our future after our death? (F.B.Meyer: Bible Commentary; pg.478)
      1. The plunge into the cold dividing water. The welcome on the other shore. The discovery that Christ had expected & prepared. The feast w/the Lord Himself as He girds Himself to minister.
    11. Jesus now invites all 7 to breakfast & personally serves them.
      1. Not much has changed from His earthly ministry to His heavenly one.
    12. Maybe this is what Jesus meant in His parable in Lk.12:37 Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.
      1. Maybe this was a precursor to the marriage supper of the Lamb? Rev.19:9
    13. (9) Wet & shivering, Peter reaches the shore. His eyes look down to the warm charcoal fire. Did the fire of coals remind Peter of his denials? (18:18)
      1. Maybe now he’s tentative & uncertain. He doesn’t say anything. Jesus breaks the ice in vs.10,12 (esp.15 where he seems to take Pete aside for complete restoration).
    14. Fish Fry - Maybe the Catholics have something here regarding Fish during Lent? :)
    15. (11) So why 153?
      1. There have been all kinds of allegorical and symbolic interpretations.
        1. The ancients believed there were 153 kinds of fish, thus representing the gospel to include all persons, & that the net of the kingdom would be strong enough to hold all w/o breaking.
        2. I’ve also heard the letters of 1 of the names of God added up = 153.
      2. But probably John mentioned the number as a matter of historical detail. With a group of men fishing, the common procedure would be for them to count the fish they caught and then divide them equally among the fishermen.
    16. (12) Come & dine! (kjv)
      1. It’s an invitation to holy nearness to Jesus.
        1. Invited to the same table; same meat; sit side by side our Savior; maybe even lean our head on his chest.
        2. It’s being brought into His banqueting-house & gives us a vision of true union with Jesus.
      2. It’s also an invitation to enjoy fellowship with the saints.
        1. Christians will differ on a variety of points, but we all have 1 spiritual appetite.
        2. And if we cannot all feel alike, we can all feed alike on The Bread of Life sent down from heaven.
        3. At the table of fellowship with Jesus we are one bread & one cup!
    17. Saint, no matter how far you’ve drifted, Jesus is always there on the shore, waiting for you to return. Waiting with a comforting fire, warm food, & an affirming arm to put around your shoulder! (Ken Gire; Intimate Moments with the Savior; pg.143)
    18. Remember, they momentarily ignored their calling.
      1. Jesus doesn’t call everyone away from their vocation!
      2. But to be involved in a vocation without a calling is to settle for a life of empty nets! [Remember your calling, in the midst of your vocation!!!]
      3. Don’t just head North…Head for your calling!
    19. When Julius Caesar landed on the shores of Britain with his Roman legions, he took a bold and decisive step to ensure the success of his military venture. Ordering his men to march to the edge of the Cliffs of Dover, he commanded them to look down at the water below. To their amazement, they saw every ship in which they had crossed the channel engulfed in flames. Caesar had deliberately cut off any possibility of retreat. Now that his soldiers were unable to return to the continent, there was nothing left for them to do but to advance and conquer! And that is exactly what they did.
      1. Prayer: Lord, help us to burn our boats of security behind us. May we advance into our world & conquer this world, not with our sword, but with our love.

Verses 15-25

  1. INTRO:
    1. Feeding Ministry - Thanks, & release from 3 month obligation. Still welcome to bring.
    2. Prayer: God, You have a plan…& we are that plan. To share Your good news; to live the good news; to speak up for babies & others who don’t have a voice & are facing injustices.
    3. Last week: We talked about blending our vocation with our calling. Our vocations are special, our calling is sacred, regardless of whether you wear a clerical collar or a blue collar. (Swindoll)
    4. This Weeks Outline: 3 Lessons on the Beach! Past Failure can be Forgiven in Love (15-17); Present Lifestyle is no guarantee of the Same Future(18,19); Personal Obedience is an Individual Matter(20-23). Wrap up: There is so much More! (24,25)
    5. Lonely Ember Story - A pastor decided to visit a member who had stopped attending services. It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire. Guessing the reason for his pastor's visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a big chair near the fireplace and waited. The pastor made himself comfortable but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the play of the flames around the burning logs. After some minutes, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent. The host watched all this in quiet fascination. As the one lone ember's flame diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and "dead as a doornail." Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting. Just before the pastor was ready to leave, he picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it. As the pastor reached the door to leave, his host said, "Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday." - Jesus is ready to rekindle Peters ember!
  2. PAST FAILURE CAN BE FORGIVEN IN LOVE! (15-17)
    1. Jesus seems to have taken Peter aside for this discussion (vs.20 other disciples behind them)
      1. Let’s eavesdrop in on their conversation! - READ 15-19
    2. What He says is remarkable, but what He doesn't say, even more so.
      1. He doesn’t say: Some friend you turned out to be...I’m real disappointed in you...You let Me down...You’re all talk Pete...Coward!…Boy, was I ever wrong about you...And you call yourself a disciple! (Ken Gire: Intimate Moments with the Savior. pg.140.)
      2. He simply asks: Do you love me? (The 3 x’s not to rub it in, but once for each denial)
        1. To give Peter an opportunity to openly confess his love.
        2. Jesus is not there to inflict pain; He is there to relieve it!
          1. He had seen Peter’s bitter tears of repentance.
      3. News Flash: Jesus doesn’t sit in heaven sharpening His red pencil to jot down every time we fall on our face.
        1. Peter tells us years later, “Love covers a multitude of sin!”(1 Pet.4:8)
        2. Where did he learn that? Right here on the Galilee’s beach, where Jesus picked him up & dusted him off (or ringed him out/wet).
        3. You’ve been there too, haven’t you? You’ve failed Him. You’ve fallen & eatin some sand.
    3. The most important thing in ministry is loving Christ, for all ministry flows from that!
    4. Peter both a Fisherman & also a Shepherd, who would care for the lambs & sheep.
      1. The image, changes from that of the fisherman to that of the shepherd. Peter was to minister both as an evangelist (catching the fish) and a pastor (shepherding the flock). It is unfortunate when we divorce these two because they should go together.
        1. Later Peter writes to the elders in 1 Pet.5:1-4 - Let’s turn to & read this.
    5. Feed my sheep - Jesus’ way of saying, “you’re still the man for the job.”
      1. Note: Where I got our name for our Radio program 1989.
    6. More than these? - More than the disciples. No, his love for Jesus over the other disciples wasn’t an issue. More than the boats, nets, fish. No, probably wasn’t the issue either. More than these other disciples love Me? This seem to be the issue.
    7. Peter had boasted of his love for Christ and had even contrasted it with that of the other men. “I will lay down my life for Your sake!”(Jn 13:37) “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” (Mt. 26:33)
      1. There is more than a hint in these boastful statements that Peter believed that he loved the Lord more than did the other disciples. {as if to say, “I can see James/John falling away; Thomas for sure; But not me! - I’m spiritually stronger & more devoted to you than they are. I can see their commitment won’t hold up, but mine will.”}
      2. Beware of: spiritual self-confidence; self-rt; believing you’re more spiritually stronger; more devoted. Or because you’ve been on a missions trip now; because you go door to door & evangelize; because you don’t own a T.V. set; because you drive a “humble mobile” Beware!
    8. Peter probably didn’t feel like a confident shepherd, but more like little Bo Peep! Peter was never told to supervise the shepherds, but to simply feed sheep!
    9. Note: Now Jesus drops the more than these part of the question.
    10. Lambs & Sheep - Both the lambs and the more mature sheep, need feeding and leading.
    11. Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11), the Great Shepherd (Heb.13:20,21), and the Chief Shepherd (1 Pt 5:4).
      1. Pastors are “under-shepherds” who must obey Him as they minister to the flock. Pastors then should help protect and perfect the flock.
        1. So Jesus says as lambs or even mature sheep, you need help! You need tending, feeding, & to be cared for. Jesus said you need pastors to pastor you.
        2. Some sheep today think they don’t need a shepherd. Some are spiritually anorexic sheep, they don’t want to eat, so they starve to death spiritually. Some don’t want to lie down in green pastures, they prefer dodging cars on freeways (at least thats what their life looks like). Some walk right off cliffs. Some get taken in by wolves in shepherds clothing. Some walking all alone get picked off by predators. Some sheep bite their shepherd.
        3. :( I’m sorry sheep for your former shepherds who may have taken advantage or even eaten their sheep. Some have slept with their sheep; some have stolen from their sheep; some have very badly misrepresented the Good Shepherd.
          1. I’m so privileged to be your shepherd. I’m so scared to do something that would compromise my position here & fail my Jesus, CM, or you.
        4. So what do Pastors need? Pastors need to Love Jesus!!!
          1. That’s the most important thing a pastor can do? Love Jesus Christ!
          2. Maybe that’s the question when you need to change churches...ask the pastor I just have 1 question, “do you love Jesus? And can you share why you do?”
          3. CM...I love Jesus! I have many areas of deficiencies but I love Jesus!
        5. So then, what do Marriages need? Husbands(as leaders) to Love Jesus!!! So then, what do Families need? Dads that Love Jesus!!! So then, what do Husbands need? Wives to Love Jesus!!!So then, what do single parent children need? Their parent to Love Jesus!!!
    12. Lord, You know all things - i.e. He knew Peter’s heart (& ours).
    13. Past Failure can be Forgiven in Love!
  3. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​PRESENT LIFESTYLE NO GUARANTEE OF SAME FUTURE!(18,19)
    1. (18) The prediction of a martyrs death by crucifixion.
      1. Peter preached for 37 years & was 70 years old when he died.
      2. Eusebius(1st cent historian) in his Ecclesiastical History tells us that Peter was crucified in Rome, by Nero, but that he asked to be crucified upside down, as he was not worthy to die exactly as his Master (a.d 61). Oh, after watching his wife get crucified.
      3. What kind of friend inspires devotion like that?
        1. A friend who prayed for him when he was weak. A friend who forgave him when he failed. A friend who healed a painful memory. A friend who believed in him. A friend like Jesus! A friend who 1st laid down his life for him. (Ken Gire)
      4. Persecuted Church Updates every Sunday before service. Not a fun ministry for Mark Ritter. A labor of love for the brethren, but not fun reading story after story...often gory story after gory story.
        1. Rev.6:10,11 Tribulations martyrs cry out to God “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed. [God’s answer? Only that there would be still more to come]
          1. But John helps us with a little bit of the answer...some how some way, God would receive glory, specifically by his martyrdom.
          2. But Peter’s death would not be a tragedy; it would glorify God!
    2. (19) Follow Me(keep on following Me) Reinstates Peter as an apostle. Restoration complete!
      1. He denied Jesus 3 times, now he gets to confess his love for Jesus 3 times.
      2. Do you need to be reinstated this morning? Do you need to be re-commissioned?
      3. Within 7 weeks Peter would preach the boldest sermon of his life. Right in Jerusalem. 3000 would be saved. They would form the very nucleus of the church he would establish there.
      4. Important: Jesus restores Peter back to discipleship(follow Me), not to sonship!
    3. Present Lifestyle is no guarantee of the Same Future!
  4. IV. PERSONAL OBEDIENCE IS AN INDIVIDUAL MATTER! (20-23)
    1. ​​​​​​​(20,21) What about this man? - Peter takes his eyes off Jesus & focuses on John.
      1. Sounds like we already did this lesson? but we can do it again!
      2. Remember Peter walking on water until...“when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Mt.14:30,31
      3. It’s dangerous to look at others or look at circumstances, rather than look at Christ! [Following Him, is much easier when your eyes are focused on Him!]
    2. It is very clear from this that Jesus has a plan for not only our lives (what He wants us to accomplish) but also in our deaths.
      1. Peter plan(representing trials & suffering) or John’s objective(natural causes)?
      2. His arrangements for us are carefully chosen in regards to the service we are to render...ultimately, to bring Him Glory!
    3. Comparing brings confusion!
      1. God doesn't deal with us on a comparative basis, but on an individual one.
      2. He redeems us individually. He rebukes us individually. He rewards us individually.
    4. (22) Follow Me - That’s the challenge Jesus put to Peter. Not to follow John, or the rest of the disciples or the majority, but ME!
      1. ​​​​​​​And Peter followed Him...right into the excitement of the book of Acts!
    5. Personal Obedience is an Individual Matter!
  5. ​​​​​​​THERE IS SO MUCH MORE! (24,25)
    1. ​​​​​​​Some 60 years have passed since Jesus died, when John penned this letter.
    2. According to John’s own testimony: The account is selective, not exhaustive; The events are actual, not theoretical; The purpose is specific, not vague. (Swindoll)
      1. The whole universe is a living library that only begins to tell of our glorious Creator, God the Son!
    3. Jesus is waiting to tell us the rest of the story when we get there!
      1. Are you going?
    4. Past Failure can be Forgiven in Love; Present Lifestyle is no guarantee of the Same Future; Personal Obedience is an Individual Matter.
      1. Or, Don’t Quit! - Don’t Predict! - Don’t Compare!
    5. Jesus asks you this morning: Do you love Me? - Will you follow Me? Will you stay focused on your calling? - Will you care for My sheep?
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on John 21". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/john-21.html. 2017.