The Lord Jesus renews his Appearance to his Disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. He feeds his Disciples: gives a particular Charge to Peter. John ends his Gospel.
(John 21:1) After these things, Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.
It seemed by the close of the foregoing Chapter, as if the Evangelist had then ended his Gospel, the last verses having all the appearance of a conclusion. But it is our mercy that God the Holy Ghost directed the mind of the beloved Apostle to go on, and add this sweet Chapter, for it is indeed a sweet one. It is not said what an interval there was between the former manifestations the Lord Jesus made of himself, and this here recorded; but we are told in a subsequent verse, that this was the third time the Lord had been so gracious. See John 21:14.
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.
If the Reader counts over the number here said to be together, he will find it to be seven. No doubt, all upon the lookout for the renewed visits of the Lord Jesus. And as those here spoken of, were now at the borders of the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias, see John 6:1 it is evident that they were come here from Jerusalem in obedience to Christ's commands, and as the Lord had promised, to see him. Matthew 28:10; Mat_28:16.
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. (4) But when the morning was now come, Jesus
stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.
There is somewhat very interesting in this account. And the plain and artless representation of the history is much more beautiful, than had the account been dressed up in all the pomp of language. The want of success in those fishers, and the Lord Jesus early in the morning standing on the shore, formed a blessed occasion for the manifestation of his person and grace, which were to follow. When the Lord is about to reveal himself to his people, how graciously he sometimes prepares the way for the greater display of his love!
Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? they answered him, No. (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. (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. (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.
It is rather surprizing, that when Jesus called to them by so tender a name, and which was the very same words, little children, as he had used before, (see John 13:33) that they had not immediately discovered who it was. But this was reserved for the miracle which he added, and which produced the effect. I pray the Reader to notice, from all these tender incidents of the Lord Jesus, how near his heart his people are. He saith now as much as then, Children, have ye any meat? Cast on the right side, and ye shall find. If we are backward to seek our spiritual sustenance from him, Jesus will be found of them that seek him not. And how often doth Jesus make himself known by his gracious acts, as here to John, when outward revelations do not always effect it. Is not the Lord known by his providence, and by his grace, in numberless instances where we least expected him?
As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. (10) Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. (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. (12) Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine . And none of his disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. (13) Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise. (14) This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.
The first manifestation the Lord made of himself, in proof who he was, he shewed in calling them by the tender name in which he had so lately spoken to them, and following this with causing them to enclose a multitude of fishes. And now, as soon as they step on shore, they find immediate provision made for them in the same miraculous manner. Both instances could not fail to bring to their recollection, how Jesus, near the same spot, had fed the multitude in the wilderness, and gave them success also on the water. John 6:1-14; Luke 5:1-11. Some have thought, and probably it might be so, that beside the supply those mercies gave to their present necessities, these things had respect to the Apostles' future ministry. And as those fishermen had caught nothing before they met with Jesus so all labors in the word and doctrine are unprofitable without Him. John 15:5. And as at Christ's command their capture was so abundant, so is it with all faithful ministers of salvation, when, at the direction of Jesus, and the presence of Jesus, they cast the net of the Gospel on the right side.
There is somewhat very sweet and gracious in the invitation of the Lord to come and dine. Though they knew him, and though Jesus had sufficiently shewn by such attention to them, that there was no alteration in his love towards them, yet, since the Lord was now come forth out of the invisible world, there was, no doubt, a certain somewhat in his aspect, which induced an holy solemnity in the Apostles. It must have been a solemn interview, though so highly gracious. The Lord's presence cannot but fill the mind with awe. A child of God will have the most lively sense of his own creatureship and unworthiness, in those seasons when Jesus is giving out most largely of his love.
And was there not somewhat sacramental in this repast? Jesus took bread it is said, as well as gave to them. Precious Lord! how doth every view of thy tender words and actions, minister to the endearment of thy Person and Character?
The Evangelist saith, that this was the third time of Jesus shewing himself to his disciples after his resurrection. But he meant the third time in a public manner to the disciples in a body. For the Lord had shewn himself five times, before this. First, to Mary Magdalene. Mark 16:9. Secondly, to the other Women who went early to the Sepulchre, who at the command of the Angel, while running to tell the disciples of Christ's resurrection, were met by Jesus, saying, All hail! Matthew 28:9. Thirdly, by the two disciples, in their walk to Emmaus. Luke 24:13, etc. Fourthly, to the Eleven, as they sat at meat. Luke 24:36, etc. And fifthly, the same day week after, when the Lord spoke particularly to Thomas. John 20:26. But the Evangelist, by the third time meant the third visit to the disciples as a body. But Paul seems to intimate, as if Peter had been blessed with a visit and manifestation of Jesus alone, beside those which the Lord had granted him in common, with the other Apostles. For Paul, when speaking of Christ's resurrection saith, that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve. And I pray the Reader to observe, with what an air of triumph the Apostle adds, after that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom (saith Paul) the greater part remain unto this present. As much as to say, if any of you doubt the fact itself of the resurrection of Jesus, you may enquire for yourselves; for they are alive and will inform you. For this thing (as Paul said on another occasion,) was not done in a corner. Acts 26:26; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. See Commentary also on that Chapter. And see for a testimony of the resurrection of Christ, by the Holy Ghost's teaching. Acts 25:19.
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. (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. (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. (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 shalt gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. (19) This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. (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? (21) Peter seeing him, saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? (22) Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me. (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? (24) This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony 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 could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.
What a beautiful and interesting discourse immediately took place, as soon as the Lord and his disciples had finished their repast at this holy table. Oh! that the Lord's people had it frequently in remembrance. How truly blessed would it be if the tables of the Lord's faithful ones were thus closed: and when the imperious demands of the body had been satisfied; the soul was not suffered to go lean. Deuteronomy 6:25; Malachi 3:16-17.
I pray the Reader not to overlook, in this most interesting conversation of the Lord Jesus with Peter, the chief test Jesus put to him in proof of his sincerity, was love. The Lord doth not say; hast thou honored me or obeyed me, or what proofs canst thou bring of thy duties towards me; but simply, dost thou love me? And although the Lord repeated the question three times, which Peter's conscious heart, in his threefold denial, interpreted to have been the cause; yet it is not said, no neither is it at all intimated by the Lord Jesus, as if this was the cause, for which the Lord asked him thrice the question. Indeed I rather think, from the well known and long proved love and grace of Jesus to his people, that the Lord rather intended to give Peter the opportunity of thrice repeating the assurances of his love, to do away the impression of his thrice denial. The Lord knew from what cause Peter had fallen. And the Lord knew that his whole Church must have fallen from the same cause, did not his all powerful grace keep up, and preserve. It appears, therefore, in my view, one more of those numberless instances we have upon record, of the tenderness of Jesus to his people, that in those circumstances where they have shewn greater weakness, his grace may be the more manifested, in enabling them to shew greater love!
There is somewhat very blessed also in the Lord's giving the Apostle such firmness of faith; not only to assert his love, but to appeal to Him, who could, as God, read his heart, and knew that love to be there. Though Peter felt grieved, as it is said, at the third demand of Jesus, lovest thou me? yet I venture to think, it was but the grief of the moment. Yea, I am inclined to believe, that the Apostle afterwards rejoiced at it; when from being led into the mind of Jesus, he discovered the Lord's grace, and intention in it. This was the third, if not the fourth time, Peter had seen his Lord, after he arose from the dead: and not a word (as far as we know from the Gospel,) had passed between the Lord and his servant, on the subject of Peter's denial. No doubt the Apostle longed for an interview to tell Jesus of his shame, and to receive his pardon from the mouth of Jesus. And what then could be more satisfactory to Peter, than thus for Jesus to ask of him concerning his love; and in proof that the Lord knew the extent of that love, had committed to him the care of his Lambs and his Sheep.
I need not in this place enlarge on the subject of Jesus's charge to Peter. Christ himself is the great Pastor, and Shepherd of his flock. And it is his province to feed them. For He is both the life and sustenance of all his fold; being the bread of life, and the water of life: and his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed. But the Lord doth condescend to appoint under pastors, to feed his people with understanding and knowledge. And they are supposed as in this charge to Peter, to have respect to the different ages of his flock; to lead the sheep of the fold, and to regard the tender state of the lambs. But one great character Jesus points out, in his demands of Peter, as the first quality of a pastor, is, the love of Jesus For whatever abilities of head knowledge they possess, the whole is nothing without this love of the heart.
In what follows of the Lord's foretelling Peter by what death he should glorify God, and the Apostle's curiosity to know what was to become of John; it were unnecessary to dwell. John's testimony to the truth of the Gospel, which bears his name, is more interesting to regard. And while he knew, that his testimony was true, and the Church then in being, knew the same; it will be blessed both to the Writer and Reader of this Poor Man's Commentary, if from the witness of God the Holy Ghost in each of our hearts, we can bear a like testimony. 1 John 5:20. And while we bless God for this precious portion of his holy word, which is able to make us wise unto salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus; we may truly say with John, that the world, yea, the whole creation of God, is not large enough in its bosom to contain all that might be said, if all were said of Jesus, since his riches and wisdom are unsearchable, and of Himself, as the sacred Writer hath expressed it, there is no end of his greatness. Psalms 145:3.
Blessed Lord Jesus! what praise, what thanks, what love, doth thy Church owe thee, dearest Lord, for the many repeated manifestations which thou didst so kindly shew to thy poor despised disciples, after thy resurrection from the dead. Miracles upon miracles: and grace for grace. Oh! let it teach my poor soul, and the souls of all thy redeemed, from such striking testimonies as are here recorded, how very nigh Jesus is to his people, when they are unconscious of it. Yea, Lord! how much thou art watching over all their concerns, and providing, both for their bodily and spiritual sustenance, when they can provide for neither. Oh! for the grace shewn Peter, to comfort all the exercised members of Christ's mystical body. Oh! for faith, and love, to be able to appeal, as Peter did to Jesus, saying, Lord thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee!
Praised be the Father, Son, and Spirit, for all the revelations which Jehovah hath graciously made to the Church of God's dear Son. Lord! grant that all thy redeemed under the Holy Ghost's teaching, may, with the disciple, which hath testified of these things, and wrote these things, be able to add, from their own assurance, and say, as the Church then did; we know that his testimony is true.
Farewell! for the present, thou beloved Apostle John! We hope to meet thy further records of thy dear Lord, and our dear Lord, when we come to those precious writings of thine, under the inspiration of God the Holy Ghost, which are in the same sacred volume. But here we thank thee, for thy labors in this Gospel, and for all the precious relations thou hast given, of Christ our Lord. And blessed, forever blessed be He, that called thee to this service, in his Church. Shortly the whole Church of God will be called to see Him, in whose bosom the beloved Apostle lay, who wrote these things of his divine Lord. And then, all the redeemed with John will surround the throne, and sound their united praises, in one full hymn of thanksgiving, to God and the Lamb, forevermore. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on John 21". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany