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Bible Commentaries

The Fourfold Gospel

John 21

Verses 1-25


CXL.
SEVENTH APPEARANCE OF JESUS.
(Sea of Galilee.)
dJOHN XXI. 1-25.

d1 After these things Jesus manifested himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and he manifested himself on this wise. 2 There was together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee [see John 21:5; he had not come to buy, but to supply.] 10 Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now taken. 11 Simon Peter therefore went up, and drew the net to land, full of great fishes, a hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, the net was not rent. [Peter, being already wet, could lend material assistance in bringing the net to shore. John tells us the exact number of the fishes to show the magnitude of the miracle, both as to the catch and as to the unbroken nets. The latter form a sharp contrast to the broken nets of Luke 5:6. Possibly when the hour approached when they would become fishers of men, Jesus meant to show them that a greater and fuller miraculous power would attend and bless their efforts.] 12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and [756] break your fast. And none of the disciples durst inquire of him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. [It was not, as some suppose, because they stood in a new and special awe of him, that they durst not question him, but it was the nature of the question itself. They feared a mild rebuke like that once administered to Philip-- John 14:9.] 13 Jesus cometh, and taketh the bread, and giveth them, and the fish likewise. [Thus he gave to them when he fed the multitude and thus it may be hundreds of times he had given to them when they sat at meat together-- Luke 22:17-20, John 13:26.] 14 This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after that he was risen from the dead. [It was his seventh appearance, but his third appearance to a group of disciples, and the third appearance witnessed by John. John counts as follows: 1. An appearance to the apostles without Thomas; 2. an appearance to them with Thomas; 3. this appearance.] 15 So when they had broken their fast [after the eating of a meal together had calmed and quieted the excitement of the disciples, and made them susceptible of teaching], Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, lovest thou me more than these? [Jesus here means: Do you love me more than these fishes and this fishing business? John 21:1-14, Luke 5:1-11. 3. In a group around a fire of coals Peter here thrice professes his love for Christ, thus revoking the threefold denial which he had made under similar circumstances-- Luke 22:54-62.] 18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest [Peter had just shown this freedom by girding himself and plunging into the sea]: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. [Thus our Lord, by delicate but unmistakable suggestion, shows Peter that the freedom which he now enjoyed would be taken from him, and that he would lift his hands to permit others to bind him that they might lead him to martyrdom to which his flesh (though not his spirit) would go unwillingly.] 19 Now this he spake, signifying by what manner of death he should glorify God. [John, who wrote after Peter’s death, tells us what the words of Christ meant. His words show that tradition is true in saying that Peter suffered martyrdom, but it is no voucher that tradition is true as to the time (about thirty-four years after this), place (Rome), or manner (crucified head downward) of Peter’s death. There is certainly no trustworthy evidence that Peter was ever at Rome.] And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. [This saying bore the usual double sense in which Jesus employed it. Peter was to follow him now (and he did arise and follow), and he was also to follow Jesus to a violent death and a glorious immortality.] 20 Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved [John] following; who also leaned back on his breast at the supper, and said, Lord, who is he that betrayeth thee? [ John 13:25.] 21 Peter therefore seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? [Peter and John were near friends ( Acts 3:1), and understanding that the [759] Lord had prophesied a violent death for himself, Peter was naturally interested in the fate of his dear companion.] 22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me. [It was none of Peter’s business whether John’s earthly lot was easier or harder than his own; his business was to be faithful in the pathway whither the Lord led him.] 23 This saying therefore went forth among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, that he should not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? [Our Lord’s words were a puzzle when John wrote his Gospel, and to many they are a puzzle still. For an able treatment of the various interpretations of this difficult passage, see B. W. Johnson’s John 19:35, most of the critics hold that this verse was added by the elders of Ephesus to whom John committed his Gospel, and that it is the attestation of the church there to the truth and authenticity of the Gospel. But the first person singular, "I suppose," of John 21:25 is hard to account for such an hypothesis. Besides, none of the elders at Ephesus could suppose any such thing. Only an eye-witness who saw the fullness of our Lord’s ministry would be led to pen these words. We find in the first Epistle of John a condition of affairs similar to these two verses. The first chapter opens with and continues to use the editorial plural, [760] while the second chapter drops in the first person singular. We think, then, that John finished his own book. Considering the wilderness of literature which has accumulated around the sayings and doings of our Lord contained in the brief Gospels, it is little wonder that John thought a full record of the Lord’s life would fill the world with books.]

* NOTE.--We can not agree in this. Jesus had said too many things indicating his future need of the apostles for them to think that he was through with them ( Matthew 16:19, Matthew 24:9-13, Luke 22:32, John 15:16, John 15:20, John 15:27, John 16:1-3). He had told the apostles to go to Galilee, and that he would appear to them there; they had done this and were waiting for his appearance. Peter, because of his denials, may have wavered in his loyalty, but the others surely did not. By going a-fishing they did not mean to abandon their apostleship; they were merely putting in the time, while they waited for developments; but by thus returning to their old occupation they were subjecting themselves to strong temptation ( Luke 9:62).--P. Y. P.
* NOTE.--Here again we dissent. See Hengstenberg, Alford, Meyer, etc. and especially Godet. Peter had boasted of a love toward Jesus superior to that of any of the other disciples ( Matthew 26:33, Mark 14:29, John 13:37), and by refusing to have Jesus wash his feet, by being the first to draw a sword in his Master’s defense, and by even now conspicuously deserting the others to swim to meet Jesus, he had endeavored to prove his boast. Jesus therefore asks him if it is indeed true that his love is greater than that of his fellow-disciples--"Do you love me more than these love me?"--P. Y. P.
* NOTE.--Rather, "If you love me better than the others do, take the place which I have assigned you as chief servant of the flock"-- Matthew 16:18, Matthew 16:19, Luke 22:26.--P. Y. P.

[FFG 754-761]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on John 21". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tfg/john-21.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.