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Bible Commentaries
John 21

Godbey's Commentary on the New TestamentGodbey's NT Commentary

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Verses 1-4



John 21:1-4 . After these things, Jesus again manifested Himself to His disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.” This city stands on the west coast of the Galilean Sea. I lodged in it while there. “ And He thus manifested Himself: Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael, who is from Carla of Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples, were there together.” The apostles, pursuant to His mandate, have traveled from Jerusalem to the Sea of Galilee. We have no mention of the lapse of time. He had promised to meet them there. These seven are together.

Simon Peter says to them, I go to fish. They say to him, We also go along with you. They went out, and entered into a ship, and that night caught nothing. It already being morning, Jesus stood on the shore. His disciples did not know that it is Jesus. Then Jesus says to them, Little children, have you any meat? They responded to Him, No . He says to them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and you will find. Then they cast it, and they were not able to draw it out on account of the multitude of the fishes. Then that disciple whom Jesus loved says to Peter, It is the Lord.” Though John was the youngest of the apostles, he had the most acute spiritual recognition, evidently enjoying a deeper illumination than any of the rest.

Then Simon Peter, hearing that it is the Lord, girded on his fishing cloak, for he was unclothed, and cast himself into the sea; and the other disciples came in a small ship; for they were not far from the land, but about two hundred cubits, dragging the net of fishes.” When I sailed round the Sea of Galilee, we landed and spent a little time at the “Coast of the Lord’s Appearing,” a very nice, beautiful, gravel shore, suitable to draw out a net, and pointed out to all travelers as the identical spot where Jesus was standing when they saw Him at day-dawn from the ship.

And when they came up to the land, they see a fire built, and fish and bread lying on it. Jesus says to them; Bring of the fishes which you now caught. Simon Peter came up, and dragged the net to the land, full of a hundred and fifty-three large fishes, and they being so many the net was not torn.” Worldly men would have been so encouraged by this wonderful draught of fishes as to continue in the business. Not so with the apostles. They bid adieu to their boats and nets and leave them forever, content to be fishers of men.

Jesus says to them, Come, eat breakfast. And no one of the disciples dared to ask Him, Who art Thou? knowing that He is the Lord. Then Jesus comes, and takes bread, and gives to them, and the fish likewise. This was the third time Jesus was made manifest to His disciples, having risen from the dead.” The first Sunday night, the second Monday night, and this occasion are the three times of His manifestation to His disciples collectively, having appeared twice to the women in the early morn, to Peter, and in the afternoon to Cleopas and his companion on their way to Emmaus.

Then when they took breakfast, Jesus says to Simon Peter, Simon , son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these? He says to Him, Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee. He says to him, Feed My lambs. Again He says the second time, Simon , son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? He says to Him, Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee. He says to him, Feed My sheep. He says to him the third time, Simon , the son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? And he says to Him, Lord, Thou knowest all things, and Thou art acquainted with the fact that I love Thee. He says to him, Feed My sheep.” We have here a striking illustration of agape, Divine lover and philia, human love. In the two first interrogations, Jesus says to Peter, Agapas me, “ Dost thou love Me with Divine love?” Peter does not answer Him directly, but says, Phileo se, “ I love Thee as a friend.” In the first instance of this question and answer, Jesus responds, “ Feed My lambs,” and in the second, “ Feed My sheep.” In both of these questions, Peter evades the issue by using another word, Phileo, “ I love Thee as a friend;” while Jesus had said, Agapas me, “ Dost thou love Me with Divine love?” This agape, Divine love, is the very essence of Holy Ghost religion. (Romans 5:5.) Peter had been very seriously out of kelter during the memorable night of our Savior’s arraignment having denied Him thrice, and in a most unbecoming manner. Jesus now proceeds to hold a class-meeting with him, asking him if he has got his religion back all right. Peter was quite tender-looted, adroitly evading a direct answer by using the word which means the love of friendship i. e., human affection instead of our Savior’s word, which means the love of God, poured out in the heart by the Holy Ghost. Jesus having twice asked Him if he loves Him, with Divine love, and both times receiving the answer, “I love Thee as a friend,” finally, the third time, dropping His Word, takes Peter’s word, and says, Phileis me, “Dost thou love Me as a friend?” thus impliedly calling in question Peter’s repeated affirmation as much as to say, “Your treatment of Me on the night of My betrayal was not very consistent with your profession that you love Me as a friend.” This was what grieved Peter, so that now he musters all his courage, and asseverates vehemently, “Lord, Thou knowest all things, and Thou dost know that I love Thee.” Peter did love Him most ardently as a friend; but to what extent he had been reclaimed from his backsliding, we are not prepared to say. He evidently did here flicker in his testimony, or he would have answered the Savior directly, using His Word.

Truly, truly, I say unto thee, That when thou wast young, thou didst gird thyself, and walk about where thou didst wish; but when thou mayest get old, thou wilt reach forth thy hands, and another will gird thee, and lead thee where thou dost not wish. And he spoke this signifying by what death he shall glorify God.” You all know that this is a prediction of Peter’s bloody martyrdom in Rome, when they crucified him with his head downward. It is said that when they had decapitated Paul at Rome, Peter reluctantly yielded to the importunities of the saints to escape out of the city and save his life. So, walking out along the Appian Way, in the dead of night; he suddenly saw Jesus passing by him, coming into the city and exclaimed, “O Master, is this You?” Jesus responded, “Yes, Peter, I am coming to Rome to be crucified again,” and vanished out of his sight. Peter, taking the hint, returned into the city, and joyfully submitted to crucifixion. When I was there, I visited the Memorial Church Dominie, quo vadis, “Lord, whither goest Thou?” standing on the traditional spot where Jesus met Peter.

And speaking this, He says to him, Follow thou Me. And Peter, turning, sees the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also leaned upon His breast at the supper, and said, Lord, who is the one betraying Thee?” This question Peter asked John at the supper, that he might ascertain from Jesus, as he was next to Him, who the traitor was. “ Then Peter, seeing him, says to Jesus, Lord, but what is this one? Jesus says to him, If I wish him to abide until I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou Me. Then that saying went out among the brethren, that that disciple does not die. But Jesus did not say that he does not die; but, if I wish him to abide till I come.” It seems that that apostolic tradition, deduced from the words of our Lord, turned out more than speculation, as Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, who lived and wrote in the second century, testify to the translation of John, not having been ocular witnesses however. John Wesley also believed that he was translated, at the age of one hundred and one, when we last hear of him in history living at Ephesus.

This is the disciple witnessing concerning these things, and having written them, and we know that his testimony is true.” John and Matthew were ocular witnesses of what they wrote, Mark serving as the amanuensis of Peter, and Luke that of Paul.

Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on John 21". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ges/john-21.html.
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