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Bible Commentaries
John 21

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

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Verse 1

After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself .

After these things Jesus showed himself — Some have been of the opinion that this chapter was not written by John (because he concluded his history in the end of the last chapter), but added by some other, as the last chapter of Deuteronomy was to Moses’ writings. These should have observed, that in the former chapter those arguments only are set down by the evangelist that happened at Jerusalem for the manifestation of Christ’s resurrection; as in this chapter, those whereby he approved the truth of his resurrection in Galilee also, according to his promise, Matthew 26:32 ; that they might believe and remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was verily raised from the dead according to the gospel, 2 Timothy 2:8: this being a doctrine of greatest consequence and comfort, 1 Corinthians 15:4 . Peter thought himself sufficiently assured of it, and therefore said, I go a fishing; but he was deceived, and needed further confirmation.

Verse 2

There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.

There were met together Simon, … — When good and godly men meet, when chaste and honest people assemble together, it is not to be called a faction, but a court rather, saith Tertullian. Cum boni, cum probi coeunt, cum pii, cum casti congregantur, non est factio dicenda sed curia, et e contrario illis nomen factionis accommodandum. Tert. Apol. adver. Gent. 39. Those are a faction, that conspire against good men. The society of such is like the slime and filth that is congealed where many toads and other vermin join together. God dwells in the assembly of saints; shall we, like stoics, confine ourselves, and not daily run into their company? He that comes when ointments and sweet spices are stirring, doth carry away some of the sweet savour, though he think not of it: so here. See Proverbs 13:10 .

Verse 3

Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.

I go a fishing, … — Being not yet employed in the public ministry, he would not be idle, and that he might not be chargeable to the Church. This life is in Isaiah called, "The life of our hands," because it is to be maintained by the labour of our hands. We are to earn ere we eat,2 Thessalonians 3:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:8 . Res age tutus eris. Undertake wil will be safe to do. Ovid.

And that night they caught nothing — Labour we never so hard, unless God bless it, and stop that hole in the bottom of the bag, Haggai 1:6 , those secret issues and drains of expense, at which men’s estates run out, we shall be forced to say with Severus the emperor, Omnia feci et nihil profuit. Everything I have done and nothing profited. (Spartian.)

Verse 4

But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.

But when the morning — Mourning lasteth but till morning,Psalms 30:5; Psalms 30:5 . Flebile principium melior fortuna sequetur, Poor beginnings come before better fortune, said Queen Elizabeth, when she was to be sent to the Tower.

Verse 5

Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.

Children, have ye any meat? — This he saith as seeming to be some housekeeper, who passing by fishermen, calls to them, as willing to buy their fish for the use of his family. Galeacius Caracciolus, that noble marquis of Vico (that left all for Christ, preferring the blessing of God before the world’s warm sun), would go into the market at Geneva and cater for his household; grieving for nothing more than that he had not wherewithal to keep a better house for the relief of the poor. And in that respect only he wished himself as great a man at Geneva as he was in Italy. (His Life by Crashaw.)

Verse 6

And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

Cast the net on the right side, … — This counsel he gives as a stranger, who haply might see a confluence of fish there, being on the shore, which they in the ship saw not. They obey him therefore, as content to lose one labour more, if it must be so; they knew not what another draught might produce. It is good to be doing in God’s way: sooner or later success will ensue. Bind not the Lord to a day; wake not my beloved till he please; he will pay us for all our pains and patience. Consider but our, 1. distance, 2. dependence, and we will wait.

Verse 7

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him , (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.

Therefore that disciple, … — Now they see the cause why, till then, they caught nothing was, that they might the better know him to be the Lord. God will one day let us see that he in very faithfulness afflicts us; and that however it seems so for a season, it is not in vain to have sought his face. John knew not our Saviour by sight here, but by the multitude of fishes that came to hand by his direction. The Rochellers might easily see as much, when they were miraculously relieved by that shoal of shell fish cast upon their shore in a strait siege, whereby their city was miraculously preserved.

Verse 8

And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.

And the other disciples came, … — They came all to Christ, but Peter sooner; he cast away all care of his fish, having the Lord to go to. It is best to be first and forwardest in a good matter; not only to make a shift to get to heaven, but to have an abundant entrance thereinto, to come bravely into the haven, by adding one grace to another, as Peter hath it, 2 Peter 1:2 ; 2 Peter 1:11 . It is a low and unworthy strain in some (saith one) to labour after no more grace than will keep life and soul together, that is, soul and hell asunder. But that man for heaven, and heaven for him, that sets up for his mark, "the resurrection of the dead," Philippians 3:11 , that is, by a metonymy of the subject for the adjunct, that perfection of holiness that accompanieth the state of the resurrection. Paul was Insatiabilis Dei cultor, insatiable worrshipper of God, saith Chrysostom.

Verse 9

As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.

And fish laid thereon and bread — A feast of Christ’s own providing; to assure them that they should never lack necessaries; superfluities they may want without prejudice. Nature is content with a little, grace with less. Luther dined often with a herring, Junius with an egg; as knowing, that they were not to live to eat, but eat to live. Ill doth it become a servant of the Highest to be a slave to his palate. Epicurus dum palato quid sit optimum iudicat, caeli palatium non suspexit, saith Ennius.

Verse 10

Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.

Which ye have now caught — He saith not, Which I have caused you to catch. God is pleased to say, for our encouragement, that we do such and such good works, when it is he that doth all our works, in us and for us. Certum est nos facere quod facimus, sed ille tacit ut faciamus. (Aug.) The bowls of the candlestick had no oil but that which dropped from the olive branches.

Verse 11

Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

Yet was not the net broke — When God will bless a man, all second causes shall cooperate and contribute their help. As when he will cross us, the strongest sinew in the arms of flesh shall crack, our likeliest projects miscarry; he will curse our blessings, blast our proceedings, as King John confessed, "ever since I was forgiven and subject to the see of Rome, I never prospered." Postquam Deo reconciliatus me ac mea regna (proh dolor) Rom. subieci ecclesiae, nulla mihi prospera, sed omnia contraria advenerunt. John Rex. Oto, one of the pope’s muscipulatores, mice catchers, as the story calls them, sent hither by Gregory IX, after three years’ raking together of money by most detestable arts, at last departing hence, he left not so much money in the kingdom as he either carried with him or sent to Rome before him. Such notable fishers are Peter’s pretended successors; all is fish with them that comes to net.

Verse 12

Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.

None of the disciples durst ask him — They were ashamed to move further question in that which was to them all so evident. Neither yet may we imagine that they sat silent all dinner while in their Master’s presence, as monks and Turks use to do; Turcae perpetuum silentium teneat, ut muti. Cusp. de Caesario. but that, although they were abashed to ask him who he was, yet they both asked and answered many other more profitable questions. Our Saviour never came to any man’s table, but he besprinkled the dishes with the salt of savoury discourse; so should we, but so (alas) we do not. Plato and Xenophon thought it fit and profitable that men’s speeches at meals should be written. And if Christians should so do, what kind of books would they be?

Verse 13

Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.

Taketh bread and giveth them — As his manner was before his death, and with his usual form of grace before eating, by the which those two that had his company to Emmaus knew him, Luke 24:35 . Those that receive not the creatures with thanksgiving are worse than heathens, 1 Timothy 4:4 . The Greek word for a dinner comes of another word that signifieth prayers, which theyusually premised to their repasts. αριστον, απο των αρων a precibus quas praemittebant. Hesiod gives this precept, Eat not of a dish that hath not first been offered in sacrifice. Μηδ απο χυτροποδων ανεπιρρεκτων ανελοντα εσθειν. An elegant and pious precept, saith Melancthon, drawn no doubt from the holy patriarchs. The people would not taste of their good cheer till Samuel had blessed it, 1 Samuel 9:13 . And Moses bade them eat and drink before the Lord. Mine oxen and fatlings are prepared, saith that king,Matthew 22:4; Matthew 22:4 . It is in the original, are sacrificed, τεθυμενα . So was Nebuchadnezzar’s good cheer, which therefore Daniel would not taste of.

Verse 14

This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.

This is now the third time, … — Adam died, and we hear no more of him; not so the second Adam. "If a man die, shall he live again?" Job 14:14 . Not till the general resurrection surely. Many devices there are in the minds of some, that there shall be a first resurrection of the martyrs only, and that they shall reign on earth a thousand years. Alsted saith, this thousand years shall begin in the year 1694. But these, saith a divine, are but the mistakes of some high expressions in Scripture; which describe the judgments poured out upon God’s enemies in making a way to the Jews’ conversion by the pattern of the last judgment. (Cotton upon the Seven Vials.)

Verse 15

So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

Lovest thou me more than these? — As thou hast not spared to profess and promise (for when the rest said nothing, Peter said he would lay down his life for him), and as thou now pretendest, by casting thyself into the sea, to come first to me.

Thou knowest that I love thee — Being asked of the measure, he only answereth of the truth, q.d. for the quantity I can say little, but for the truth I dare affirm. The upright are perfect in God’s account. And Peter had now turned his crowing into crying.

Feed my lambs — These were his first care. The Syriac addeth, ìé li, mihi, feed them for me. And Drusius reckons this among the eastern apothegms, Quicquid agas, propter Deum agas. Whatsoever thou doest, do it for God’s sake. Propter te Domino, propter te, was a godly man’s motto; it should be every minister’s especially.

Verse 16

He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

Feed my sheep — That is, Supremum is Ecclesia Dominium tibi assere. Lord it over the Church, saith Baronius. Regio more impera, reign as a king, saith Bellarmine. Christ, on the contrary, saith, The kings of nations exercise dominion over them, but ye shall not do so. And Peter himself saith to his fellow elders, Feed the flock of God, not as lording it over God’s heritage,1 Peter 5:2-3; 1 Peter 5:2-3 . Indeed ποιμαινω , here used, sometimes signifies to govern (usually to feed), but βοσκω , the other word twice used here in this text, always signifies to feed. But they catch at government, let go feeding. It is as rare a thing to hear a bishop preach among them, said Dr. Bassinet, as to see an ass fly. Fisco potius apud multos consulitur quam Christo; attonsiona potius gregis quam attentioni.

Verse 17

He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, 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.

Jesus saith unto him the third time — To confirm him doubtless against the consciousness of his three-fold denial, and to re-authorize him in his apostleship.

Lovest thou me? — A minister had need have his heart inflamed with a most ardent affection to Christ; for else he will never suffer that hardship devour those difficulties, and get over all those impediments that he is sure to be encumbered with. The ministry, believe it, is not an idle man’s occupation, he must preach the word, be instant in season, out of season, …, cry in the throat ( Clamare ut Stentora vincat ), lift up his voice like a trumpet, speak till he spit forth his lungs, and yet to no more purpose many times than Beda did when he preached to a heap of stones. Now this he will never do, unless the love of Christ constrain him,2 Corinthians 5:14; 2 Corinthians 5:14 ; cf. 1 Corinthians 16:22 .

Peter was grieved — Either in remembrance of his former false play; or else, as thinking our Saviour somewhat distrusted his fidelity; or else, surely, he was as much to blame to be grieved, as David was to be angry, when God had made a breach upon Uzzah, 2 Samuel 6:8 .

Feed my sheep — My sheep with golden fleeces, with precious souls; every soul being more worth than a world, as our Saviour reckons it, who only went to the price of it, Matthew 16:26 . Can that be wholesome meat then that is sauced with the blood of souls? Will it not be bitterness in the end?

Verse 18

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

Another shall gird thee — That is, cord thee, manacle and pinion thee, carry thee prisoner whither thou wouldst not. Peter would, and he would not, suffer. Every new man is two men, hath two contrary principles in him, flesh and spirit. The spirit is willing, the flesh weak and wayward. This made the martyrs many of them chide themselves, and crave prayers of others. Bishop Ridley said to the smith, as he was knocking in the staple, Good fellow, knock it in hard, for the flesh will have its course. So Rawlins White, martyr, going to the stake, and meeting with his wife and children, the sudden sight of them so pierced his heart, that the very tears trickled down his cheeks. But he soon after, as though he had misliked this infirmity of his flesh, began to be as it were angry with himself, insomuch that in striking his breast with his hand, he used these words, Ah flesh, stayest thou me so? wouldst thou fain prevail? well, I tell thee, do what thou canst, thou shalt not, by God’s grace, have the victory. So Latimer in a letter to Bishop Ridley, Pray for me, I say; pray for me, I say; for I am sometimes so fearful that I would creep into a mouse hole; sometimes God doth visit me again with his comforts; so he cometh and goeth, to teach me to feel and know my infirmity.

Verse 19

This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

By what death he should glorify God — Martyrdom is the lowest subjection that can be to God, but the highest honour. Vere magnus est Deus Christianorum; The God of the Christians is a great God indeed, said one Calocerius, a heathen, beholding the patient sufferings of the primitive martyrs. Justin Martyr confesseth of himself, that seeing the piety of Christians in their lives and their patience in death, he gathered that that was the truth that they so constantly professed and sealed up with their blood. And of one Adrianus it is reported, that seeing the martyrs suffer such grievous things, he asked the cause; one of them named that text, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard," … The naming of which words and seeing of such sufferings, so converted him, that afterwards he became a martyr. To account Christ precious as a tree of life, though we be fastened to him as to a stake to be burned at, this is the greatest honour we can do him upon earth. This is to magnify Christ as Paul did, Philippians 1:20 ; to follow Christ close at heels, as Peter did here, who also had the manner of his death foretold him, 2 Peter 1:14 . As had likewise Bishop Hooper, when he had given him for his arms, a lamb in a fiery bush, and the sunbeams from heaven descending down upon the lamb, rightly purporting by what death he should glorify God.

Verse 20

Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?

Then Peter turning about — Peter, though restored and resettled in his apostleship, is not without his infirmities. They that are cured of a frensy are not without their mad tricks sometimes. Quisque aliquid fatuitatis habet adiunctum. Melanct. No pomegranate so sound but hath one rotten kernel in it. No book so well printed but hath some errata. David saw so many in himself, that he cries out, "Who can understand the errors of his life? oh purge me," …, Psalms 19:12 . They that dream of perfections here suffer a merry madness.

Verse 21

Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do ?

And what shall this man do — When Peter considered that John was dearly beloved and yet not alike forewarned of suffering death, as himself was, he began to doubt whether Christ spake this of love to him or not. Nothing is more ordinary with us than to question God’s affection when we are in affliction; to conceive hard things of God and heavy things of ourselves, as if no children, because chastised. Whereas we should learn to look through the anger of God’s corrections, to the sweetness of his loving countenance, as by a rainbow we see the beautiful image of the sun’s light in the midst of a dark and waterish cloud. (See my "Love Tokens," Doct. 2, Use 1.)

Verse 22

Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

If I will that he tarrySi eum volo manere. This the Vulgate corruptly reads, Sic eum volo manere. Ambrose, Austin, Bede, Lyra, Rupert, …, retain this reading. Trapezuntius defends it, Bessarion opposeth it, the Greek text refutes it. Yet is the Vulgate translation so extolled and idolized by the Papists, that if the originals differ from it anywhere, they must be corrected by it, and not it by the originals. Sed Hebraei bibunt fontes, Graeci rivos, Latini paludes, saith Reuchlin.

Verse 23

Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?

Among the brethren — So are all Christians. Sanctior est copula cordis quam corporis.

That that disciple should not die — Some to this day deny that he is dead. Beza tells us of a certain impostor in his remembrance, that gave out at Paris that he was John the Evangelist, and was afterward burnt at Toulouse. Some have fabled, that after he had commanded his grave to be made, and had laid himself down in it, the next day it was found empty, and he raptured up alive into Paradise, whence he shall come together with Enoch and Elias at the last day to confound Antichrist. O quantum est in rebus inane! It is not for us to "follow cunningly devised fables,"2 Peter 1:16; 2 Peter 1:16 , but to attend to that sure word of truth, as unto a light shining, …,John 21:19; John 21:19 , accounting every particle of it precious, since the change of one letter may breed so much error and cause so much contention.

Verse 24

This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

This is the disciple — Not the doctor, the master, as Magistri nostri Parisienses. So the Sorbonists will needs be styled. The schoolmen have their Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Seraphicus, Doctor resolutissimus. So Bacon the Carmelite was called, because he would endure no guessing or maybes. The Italian friars, as they increase in their supposed holiness, so they proceed in their titles, from Padre Benedicto to Padre Angelo, then Archangelo, Cherubino, and lastly, Cerephino, which is the top of perfection. Our evangelist delights not in any of these swelling titles. He doth not so much as name himself in all this work of his, takes no other style than the beloved disciple, makes no more of himself than a witness to the truth, a recorder of what he had heard and seen. The proud person speaks "great swelling words of vanity," 2 Peter 2:18 ; he loves uppermost rooms, and to be called Rabbi, Rabbi, to be cried up and pointed at for a nonesuch,Matthew 23:6; Matthew 23:6 . I hear, saith Tertullian (speaking of the pope, who then began to peep out), that there is a decree published in peremptory terms, Pontifex scilicet Maximus, Episcopus episcoporum, … I ever hated the pride of that Roman Church, saith Basil. Odi fastum illius ecclesiae. Hunc οφρυν δυτικην appellare solitus est. Ambition, like the crocodile, groweth while it liveth; like the ivy, which rising at the feet, will overtop the highest wall; or, like the marigold (a flower of no good smell), which opens and shuts with the sun. Humility, on the contrary, is like the lily, saith Bernard, or violet which grows low to the ground, hangs the head downward, and hides itself with its own leaves. It prefers the Euge well done of conscience before the Hic est This is of the world: and were it not that its fragrant smell betrays it to the observation of others, would choose to live and die in its well contenting secrecy.

Verse 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 could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

I suppose that even the world itself, …Nec Christus, nec caelum patitur hyperbolen, saith one. In speaking of Christ or his kingdom, a man can hardly hyperbolize. Much had St John said of our Saviour, yet nothing to what he might have said. All that ever he did was divine, and deserved to be chronicled. That commendation that Velleius Paterculus falsely gives to Scipio, that Nihil in vita nisi laudandum aut fecit, aut dixit, aut sensit, He never in all his life did, spoke, or thought anything but what was praise worthy, is true only of Christ. That which the Ecclesiastical History relates of Bennus, that he was never seen or heard by any to swear, lie, or be rashly angry, to speak or do anything that beseemed not God’s servant, is a praise proper to Christ, even as he was man. (Sozom. vi. 28.) But, consider him as God, and then that of Gratian the emperor is true, in his Epistle to St Ambrose, Loquimur de Deo, non quantum debemus, sed quantum possumus: We speak of God, not so much as we ought, but so much as we can. Nemo sapientiam Dei immensam in omnem eternitatem exhauriet. No one will be able to exhaust the infinite wisdomm of God in all eternity. He is indeed like the pool Polycritus writes of, which in compass, at the first, scarcely seemed to exceed the breadth of a shield; but if any went in it to wash, it extended itself more and more. Tantum recedit, quantum capitur, saith Nazianzen. When therefore the apostle saith, "That the world itself could not contain the books that should be written," Hoc non vult, saith Augustine, de mole librorum, nec de locali capacitate, sed quod Spiritus Sanctus nostri habuerit rationem, et ea selegerit conscribenda, quae in hac infirmitate credentes capere possint.

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on John 21". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/john-21.html. 1865-1868.
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