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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

John 21:4

But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.

Adam Clarke Commentary

Knew not that it was Jesus - Probably because it was either not light enough, or he was at too great a distance, or he had assumed another form, as in Mark 16:12; otherwise his person was so remarkable that all his disciples readily knew him when he was at hand: see John 21:12.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on John 21:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/john-21.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Knew not that it was Jesus - Probably it was yet twilight, and in the distance they could not distinctly recognize him.


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 21:4". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/john-21.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

John 21:4

But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore

The risen Saviour on the shore

Note

I.
THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE RISEN SAVIOUR TO HIS PEOPLE. And we see at once that

1. That is the same as before. Jesus miraculously supplying their food, calling them to eat with Him--that is what He had been doing ever since they had known Him. Death had not altered what was essentially Himself. Our friends on the other side of death are the same as before! What a revelation to those who now think they are uncared for! Let them read what He was to His servants before He died, and remember that “tie is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.”

2. It is continued with greater power. Jesus was “on the shore;” not in the boat, as in the former miracle. For Him the tossings of life were over, “I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to Thee.”

Wonderful power was His before; by miraculous energy, and wisdom, He cared for and protected them, but whatever He had then, He had more when “all power was given unto Him in heaven and on earth.” It was indeed much to have Him with them in the dripping, heaving boat, but it is more, whilst we are in the boat, to have Jesus for us on the shore.

3. In fulfilling this relationship the risen Saviour may be recognized by His people. It is possible to go through life ever seeing Jesus on the shore or knowing that He is invisibly there. But the opposite is possible. “The disciples knew not that it was Jesus.” Even when the meshes strained with the fishes enclosed at His bidding, only one of them was quick to detect the stranger. The state is to be watched against; it is great impoverishment. No doubt He adopts disguises still, coming to help us through human speech and effort, but to a heart trained to sympathy with Christ, the living Saviour is seen within the disguise. We cannot estimate the joy and strength which would fill our life, if in our cares and toils we had the assurance that He is near.

II. THE INFLUENCE OF THE RISEN SAVIOUR ON THE WORK OF HIS PEOPLE. We mostly think of other aspects of our Lord’s resurrection life. Its bearing, for instance, on the Atonement as proof of the Father’s acceptance of it, and of the consequent acquittal of those whom He represents; or its bearing on His mediatorial work, admitting Him to that state in which “He ever liveth to make intercession for us,” securing the permanency of the salvation He bestows. But there is another aspect. Life is much like that Sea of Galilee, sometimes dark and turbulent, sometimes bright with the quiet reflection of heaven; now rewarding us with success, and now mocking us with disappointment; the seven disciples were but symbols of each of us, we are all toilers on the sea, but in our case, as in theirs, Jesus is watching, guiding, helping the toilers. It remains to recognize this to be blessed.

1. His interest in our work is its sanctification. What does Christ upon the throne mean but that what transpires in our lives is His appointment? It may be arduous, common, unrecognized, but it comes within the rule that the Master gives to every man his work. So Christ, then, takes the deepest interest in the home cares of the mother, the lessons of the child, the toll of the bread-winner, the duties of the servant, the burdens of the sufferer. Whether our net be full or empty is nothing to the world, but it is much to Him.

2. His guidance of our work is essential to success. What is Christ King for but to guide us, so that there is nothing we ought to do but we may say, “Lord, show us how to do it!” But we do not unreservedly follow His guidance, nor believe that He understands our business better than we do, and that only He knows the road to success. What knows He about the right side of the ship? He is no fisherman, is He aware that we were born by this lake, and have fished its waters for twenty years, what can He teach us? But they cast, and “now they were not able to draw,” &c. Only that work will prosper which is guided by the risen Saviour from the shore.

3. His blessing on our work makes it a constant means of grace. That blessing is most manifest where anxiety comes in. If those disciples had filled their boat that night, they would not have known the Divine power of the Stranger on the beach, and might have passed Him by. We have tried to succeed, we say, but can only look for failure; then sudden success has come, and we could only exclaim, “It is the Lord!” We have much to do and bear, we say that we shall sink beneath it; but a secret power has upheld us (“for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken”), we have borne and done it all; then we could only say in wonder, “This must be one of Christ’s miracles; it is the Lord!” It is a great blessing when thus the tasks of life are an opportunity of discovering the nearness, the faithfulness, the tenderness of Christ.

III. THE COMMUNION OF THE RISEN SAVIOUR IN THE WEARINESS OF HIS PEOPLE. For He was not there merely to watch and help, but also to give them rest. “Come and dine.” Our weariness may be removed by the supply which He provides. Busy people, after a day when things have gone wrong and their spirit is vexed, feel like those disciples. But on the beach yonder--the beach of the quiet seclusion of their closet--Jesus is standing then,and He has a hidden fire and fish laid thereon and bread. (C. New.)


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Bibliography
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "John 21:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/john-21.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

But when day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach: yet the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.

It was very early, still not full daylight; and the disciples were still a hundred yards offshore, and this was reason enough why they had not at that point recognized the Lord.


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on John 21:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/john-21.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

But when the morning was now come,.... The day began to dawn, and light to appear, very early in the morning; for Christ visits his right early, and is a present help to them in their time of trouble.

Jesus stood on the shore: on firm ground, whilst his disciples were beating about in the waves, and toiling to no purpose. So Christ, risen from the dead, is glorified, is in heaven; but not unmindful of his people amidst all their afflictions in this world:

but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus; though he was so near them that they could hear what he said; but it not being broad daylight they could not distinctly discern him, or their eyes might be held that they could not know him. So Christ is sometimes near his people, and they know it not.


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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on John 21:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/john-21.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Jesus stood — (Compare John 20:19, John 20:26).

but the disciples knew not it was Jesus — Perhaps there had been some considerable interval since the last manifestation, and having agreed to betake themselves to their secular employment, they would be unprepared to expect Him.


Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 21:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/john-21.html. 1871-8.

People's New Testament

When the morning was now come. The Revision is correct: "When the day was now breaking."


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.
Original work done by Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.

Bibliography
Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on John 21:4". "People's New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pnt/john-21.html. 1891.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

When day was now breaking (πρωιας ηδη γινομενηςprōias ēdē ginomenēs). Genitive absolute and note present middle participle (dawn coming on and still dark). In Matthew 27:1 the aorist participle (γενομενηςgenomenēs) means that dawn had come. For “beach” (αιγιαλονaigialon) see Matthew 13:2.

Was (εστινestin). Present indicative retained in indirect assertion.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on John 21:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/john-21.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Was come ( γενομένης )

The best texts read the present participle, γινομένης , is coming. Rev., when day was now breaking. The A.V. does not agree so well with the fact that Jesus was not at once recognized by the disciples, owing in part, perhaps, to the imperfect light.

On the shore ( εἰς τὸν αἰγιαλόν )

Rev., beach. See on Matthew 13:2. The preposition εἰς , to, makes the phrase equivalent to “Jesus came to the beach and stood there.”


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The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on John 21:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/john-21.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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

They knew not that it was Jesus — Probably their eyes were holden.


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.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on John 21:4". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/john-21.html. 1765.

The Fourfold Gospel

Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing1. They say unto him, We also come with thee2. They went forth, and entered into the boat; and that night they took nothing.

  1. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. As usual, Peter was the leader.

  2. They say unto him, We also come with thee. These apostles, thinking that their apostleship had terminated, had returned to their old like as fishermen.*

    *NOTE.--We cannot 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 15:16,20,27 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).--Philip Y. Pendleton


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.

Bibliography
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on John 21:4". "The Fourfold Gospel". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/john-21.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

A MANIFESTATION OF THE RISEN LORD

‘Jesus stood on the beach: howbeit the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.’

John 21:4 (R.V.)

Perhaps of all scenes associated with the manifestations of the Risen Lord the scene upon the lake shore is the most comforting and helpful. Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, James and John the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples unnamed, go forth with nightfall to fish upon the lake. The morning breaks, and still there has been no success. They are weary and disappointed, and it is just the moment when they are least looking for, least ‘ready’ for the Presence of Christ. Then He comes to them in the grey, breaking dawn; but they do not know Him till His tender regard for their need has first drawn from Him words and actions full of power and graciousness and self-revelation. He enters into their life at just that moment that He may thus assure them of His Presence in it at all moments, ‘even unto the end of the age.’ Let us mark each step in that Royal entry of the Risen Lord into the lives and work of His servants.

I. He was watching them all the while.—Think of it, not as a beautiful picture of what once happened on the Galilæan lake, but as equally true for to-day and for our modern life.

II. He was standing on the eternal shore.—Not now in the ship, asleep, for utter human weariness. Not now even ‘walking on the sea and drawing nigh unto the ship.’ Past all shock of storm, all power of change, all peril of death; my point of rest, my goal of hope, the Eternally-glorified One, ‘from henceforth expecting,’ able from that lofty vantage-ground to direct the work of His servants; to watch their varying fortunes; to send, if need be, to their help.

III. From thence He proves the hearts of His servants.—He will see whether they will own their need. ‘Children, have ye any meat?’

IV. He comes to us in our failure.—It was direction we needed so much. He alone could see the true drift of our work, and so He alone could direct it. In order to take a proper estimate of life in its forces, its possibilities, its aims, you must see it from eternity. You must stand and look down upon it as a completed whole. You must view it in the light of God. He alone can do that. ‘Cast the net on the right side of the ship.’ ‘They cast, therefore, and now they were not able to draw for the multitude of the fishes.’ Realising the entry of Godhead and Eternity and Highest Wisdom into our work, that work itself receives a new joyousness, a new direction, a new power. The blessing is sure because something higher even yet—the Presence—is sure.

V. He calls His disciples to His feet.—‘Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.’ They go up into the ship and draw 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.’ The work is sure, the results are tested and proven, brought thus to land at His feet, even though all the deep is not emptied.

Rev. T. A. Gurney.

Illustration

‘I recall a scene some years ago in my former parish. It is the deathbed of a young, splendid fisherman. The last years of his life had been embittered by special causes, and these had intensified the spiritual reserve of a reserved nature. No word would he hear about God whilst in health. Now he had just taken his last farewell of the sea he loved so well, turning from one last hungry gaze over the bright still waters with passionate sobs, as one wishes farewell to life’s dearest love before going forth to fight with death. We spoke together of those tired fishermen, the grey dawn of disappointment the question flung across the waters, the figure of One they loved self-revealed upon the shore. How they had parried with the question rather than admit the depth of need! How the dimly-revealed Lord had loved them all the while! His heart drank it all in; I can never forget it. It was Christ standing there once more on another shore tenderly drawing another weary fisherman to Himself.’


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Bibliography
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on John 21:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/john-21.html. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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

Ver. 4. But when the morning] Mourning lasteth but till morning, 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.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on John 21:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/john-21.html. 1865-1868.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Observe here, 1. Christ was near, very near to his disciples, but they perceived it not: Jesus stood on the shore, but they knew not that it was Jesus.

Learn, Christ is not always discerned by us when he is present with us; it is a double mercy to enjoy his company, and to know indeed that it is he.

Observe, 2. Although they had laboured all the night in vain, yet at Christ's command they go to work again, and with great success: They were not able to draw the net for the multitude of fishes.

When Christ is about to do great things for his people, yet will he have them exert all possible endeavours of their own; and the want of former success must not discourage from future endeavours.

Observe, 3. What a proof Christ here gives of his divinity and godhead: how were all the fish in the sea at his pleasure, and obedient to his command! he knew where they swam, and brings them from one part of the lake to the other, where the disciples had toiled all night, and caught nothing. Christ our Mediator is true God, and as such he had a sovereign power and providence over all the creatures; the cattle on a thousand hills, and all the fish swimming in the sea, are obedient to his power, and observant of his commands.


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Bibliography
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on John 21:4". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/john-21.html. 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

4. ἔστη εἰς] See reff. A sudden appearance is indicated by the words.

The ἐστιν after ᾔδεισαν is quite in John’s manner: see reff.


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on John 21:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/john-21.html. 1863-1878.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

John 21:4. πρωΐας, the morning) when they had been toiling for a considerable length of time.


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on John 21:4". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/john-21.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Probably their distance from him was the cause that they did not know him, though they had seen him once and again since his resurrection from the dead: others think, that by the providence of God their eyes were holden that they should not know him, as Luke 24:16.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on John 21:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/john-21.html. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

John

THE BEACH AND THE SEA

John 21:4.

The incident recorded in this appendix to John’s Gospel is separated from the other appearances of our risen Lord in respect of place, time, and purpose. They all occurred in and about Jerusalem; this took place in Galilee. The bulk of them happened on the day of the Resurrection, one of them a week after. This, of course, to allow time for the journey, must have been at a considerably later date. Their object was, mainly, to establish the reality of the Resurrection, the identity of Christ’s physical body, and to confirm the faith of the disciples therein. Here, these purposes retreat into the background; the object of this incident is to reveal the permanent relations between the risen Lord and His struggling Church.

The narrative is rich in details which might profitably occupy us, but the whole may be gathered up in two general points of view in considering the revelation which we have here in the participation of Christ in His servants’ work, and also the revelation which we have in the preparation by Christ of a meal for His toiling servants. We take this whole narrative thus regarded as our subject on this Easter morning.

I. First we have here a revelation of the permanent relation of Jesus Christ to His Church and to the individuals who compose it, in this, that the risen Lord on the shore shares in the toil of His servants on the restless sea.

The little group of whom we read in this narrative reminds us of the other group of the first disciples in the first chapter of this Gospel. Four out of the five persons named in our text appear there: Simon Peter, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, James and John. And a very natural inference is that the ‘two others’ unnamed here are the two others of that chapter, viz. Andrew and Philip. If so, we have at the end, the original little group gathered together again; with the addition of the doubting Thomas.

Be that as it may, there they are on the shore of the sea, and Peter characteristically takes the lead and suggests a course that they all accept: ‘I go a fishing.’ ‘We also go with thee.’

Now we must not read that as if it meant: ‘It is all over! Our hopes are vain! We dreamed that we were going to be princes in the Messiah’s Kingdom, we have woke up to find that we are only fishermen. Let us go back to our nets and our boats!’ No! all these men had seen the risen Lord, and had received from His breath the gift of the Holy Spirit. They had all gone from Jerusalem to Galilee, in obedience to His command, and were now waiting for His promised appearance. Very noble and beautiful is the calm patience with which they fill the time of expectation with doing common and long-abandoned tasks. They go back to the nets and the boats long since forsaken at the Master’s bidding. That is not like fanatics. That is not like people who would be liable to the excesses of excitement that would lead to the ‘hallucination,’ which is the modern explanation of the resurrection faith, on the part of the disciples.

And it is a precious lesson for us, dear brethren! that whatever may be our memories, and whatever may be our hopes, the very wisest thing we can do is to stick to the common drudgery, and even to go back to abandoned tasks. It stills the pulses. ‘Study to be quiet; and to do our own business’ is the best remedy for all excitement, whether it be of sorrow or of hope. And not seldom to us, if we will learn and practise that lesson, as to these poor men in the tossing fisherman’s boat, the accustomed and daily duties will be the channel through which the presence of the Master will be manifested to us.

So they go, and there follow the incidents which I need not repeat, because we all know them well enough. Only I wish to mark the distinct allusion throughout the whole narrative to the earlier story of the first miraculous draught of fishes which was connected with their call to the Apostleship, and was there by Christ declared to have a symbolical meaning. The correspondences and the contrasts are obvious. The scene is the same; the same green mountains look down upon the same blue waters. It was the same people that were concerned. They were, probably enough, in the same fishing-boat. In both there had been a night of fruitless toil; in both there was the command to let down the net once more; in both obedience was followed by instantaneous and large success.

So much for the likenesses; the contrasts are these. In the one case the Master is in the boat with them, in the other He is on the shore; in the one the net is breaking; in the other, ‘though there were so many, yet did it not break.’ In the one Peter, smitten by a sense of his own sinfulness, says, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’ In the other, Peter, with a deeper knowledge of his own sinfulness, but also with the sweet knowledge of forgiveness, casts himself into the sea, and flounders through the shallows to reach the Lord. The one is followed by the call to higher duty and to the abandonment of possessions; the other is followed by rest and the mysterious meal on the shore.

That is to say, whilst both of the stories point the lesson of service to the Master, the one of them exhibits the principles of service to Him whilst He was still with them, and the other exhibits the principles of service to Him when He is removed from struggling and toiling on the billows to the calm of the peaceful shore in the morning light.

So we may take that night of toil as full of meaning. Think of them as the darkness fell, and the solemn bulk of the girdling hills lay blacker upon the waters, and the Syrian sky was mirrored with all its stars sparkling in the still lake. All the night long cast after cast was made, and time after time the net was drawn in and nothing in it but tangle and mud. And when the first streak of the morning breaks pale over the Eastern hills they are still so absorbed in their tasks that they do not recognise the voice that hails them from the nearer shore: ‘Lads, have ye any meat?’ And they answer it with a half surly and wholly disappointed monosyllabic ‘No!’ It is an emblem for us all; weary and wet, tugging at the oar in the dark, and often seeming to fail. What then? If the last cast has brought nothing, try another. Out with the nets once more! Never mind the darkness, and the cold, and the wetting spray, and the weariness. You cannot expect to be as comfortable in a fishing-boat as in your drawing-room. You cannot expect that your nets will be always full. Failure and disappointment mingle in the most successful lives. Christian work has often to be done with no results at all apparent to the doer, but be sure of this, that they who learn and practise the homely, wholesome virtue of persistent adherence to the task that God sets them, will catch some gleams of a Presence most real and most blessed, and before they die will know that ‘their labour has not been in vain in the Lord.’ ‘They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.’

And so, finally, about this first part of my subject, there stands out before us here the blessed picture of the Lord Himself, the Risen Lord, with the halo of death and resurrection round about Him; there, on the firm beach, in the increasing light of the morning, interested in, caring about, directing and crowning with His own blessing, the obedient work of His servants.

The simple prose fact of the story, in its plain meaning, is more precious than any ‘spiritualising’ of it. Take the fact. Jesus Christ, fresh from the grave, who had been down into those dark regions of mystery where the dead sleep and wait, and had come back into this world, and was on the eve of ascending to the Father-this Christ, the possessor of such experience, takes an interest in seven poor men’s fishing, and cares to know whether their ragged old net is full or is empty. There never was a more sublime and wonderful binding together of the loftiest and the lowliest than in that question in the mouth of the Risen Lord. If men had been going to dream about what would be fitting language for a risen Saviour, if we had to do here with a legend, and not with a piece of plain, prosaic fact, do you think that the imagination would ever have entered the mind of the legend-maker to put such a question as that into such lips at such a time? ‘Lads, have ye any meat?’

It teaches us that anything that interests us is not without interest to Christ. Anything that is big enough to occupy our thoughts and our efforts is large enough to be taken into His. All our ignoble toils, and all our petty anxieties, touch a chord that vibrates in that deep and tender heart. Though other sympathy may be unable to come down to the minutenesses of our little lives, and to wind itself into the narrow room in which our histories are prisoned, Christ’s sympathy can steal into the narrowest cranny. The risen Lord is interested in our poor fishing and our disappointments.

And not only that, here is a promise for us, a prophecy for us, of certain guidance and direction, if only we will come to Him and acknowledge our dependence upon Him. The question that was put to them, ‘Lads, have ye any meat?’ was meant to evoke the answer, ‘No!’ The consciousness of my failure is the pre-requisite to my appeal to Him to prosper my work. And just as before He would, on the other margin of that same shore, multiply the loaves and the fishes, He put to them the question, ‘How many have ye?’ that they might know clearly the inadequacy of their own resources for the hungry crowd, so here, in order to prepare their hearts for the reception of His guidance and His blessing, He provides that they be brought to catalogue and confess their failures. So He does with us all, beats the self-confidence out of us, blessed be His name! and makes us know ourselves to be empty in order that He may pour Himself into us, and flood us with the joy of His presence.

Then comes the guidance given. We may be sure that it is given to us all to-day, if we wait upon Him and ask Him. ‘Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find.’ His command is followed by swift, unanswering, unquestioning obedience, which in its turn is immediately succeeded by the large blessing which the Master then gave on the instant, which He gives still, though often, in equal love and unquestioned wisdom, it comes long after faith has discerned His presence and obedience has bowed to His command.

It may be that we shall not see the results of our toil till the morning dawns and the great net is drawn to land by angel hands. But we may be sure that while we are toiling on the tossing sea, He watches from the shore, is interested in all our weary efforts, will guide us if we own to Him our weakness, and will give us to see at last issues greater than we had dared to hope from our poor service. The dying martyr looked up and saw Him ‘standing at the right hand of God,’ in the attitude of interested watchfulness and ready help. This Easter morning bids us lift our eyes to a risen Lord who ‘has not left us to serve alone,’ nor gone up on high, like some careless general to a safe height, while his forsaken soldiers have to stand the shock of onset without him. From this height He bends down and ‘covers our heads in the day of battle.’ ‘He was received up,’ says the Evangelist, ‘and sat on the right hand of God, and they went forth and preached everywhere.’ Strange contrast between His throned rest and their wandering toils for Him! But the contrast gives place to a deeper identity of work and condition, as the Gospel goes on to say, ‘The Lord also working with them and confirming the word with signs following.’

Though we be on the tossing sea and He on the quiet shore, between us there is a true union and communion, His heart is with us, if our hearts be with Him, and from Him will pass over all strength, grace, and blessing to us, if only we know His presence, and owning our weakness, obey His command and expect His blessing.

II. Look at the other half of this incident before us.

I pass over the episode of the recognition of Jesus by John, and of Peter struggling to His feet, interesting as it is, in order to fix upon the central thought of the second part of the narrative, viz. the risen Lord on the shore, in the increasing light of the morning, ‘preparing a table’ for His toiling servants. That ‘fire of coals’ and the simple refreshment that was being dressed upon it had been prepared there by Christ’s own hand. We are not told that there was anything miraculous about it. He had gathered the charcoal; He had procured the fish; He had dressed it and prepared it. They are bidden to ‘bring of the fish they had caught’; He accepts their service, and adds the result of their toil, as it would seem, to the provision which His own hand has prepared. He summons them to a meal, not the midday repast, for it was still early morning. They seat themselves, smitten by a great awe. The meal goes on in silence. No word is spoken on either side. Their hearts know Him. He waits on them, making Himself their Servant as well as their Host. He ‘taketh bread and giveth them and fish likewise,’ as He had done in the miracles by the same shore and on that sad night in the upper room that seemed so far away now, and in the roadside inn at Emmaus, when something in His manner or action disclosed Him to the wondering two at the table.

Now what does all that teach us? Two things; and first-neglecting for a moment the difference between shore and sea-here we have the fact of Christ’s providing, even by doing menial offices, for His servants.

These seven men were wet and weary, cold and hungry. The first thing they wanted when they came out of the fishing-boat was their breakfast. If they had been at home, their wives and children would have got it ready for them. Jesus had a great deal to say to them that day, a great deal to teach them, much to do for them, and for the whole world, by the words that followed; but the first thing that He thinks about is to feed them. And so, cherishing no overstrained contempt for material necessities and temporal mercies, let us remember that it is His hand that feeds us still, and let us be glad to think that this Christ, risen from the dead and with His heart full of the large blessings that He was going to bestow, yet paused to consider: ‘They are coming on shore after a night’s hard toil, they will be faint and weary; let Me feed their bodies before I begin to deal with their hearts and spirits.’

And He will take care of you, brother! and of us all. The ‘bread will be given’ us, at any rate, and ‘the water made sure.’ It was a modest meal that He with His infinite resources thought enough for toiling fishermen. ‘One fish,’ as the original shows us, ‘one loaf of bread.’ No more! He could as easily have spread a sumptuous table for them. There is no covenant for superfluities, necessaries will be given. Let us bring down our wishes to His gifts and promises, and recognise the fact that ‘he who needs least is the nearest the gods,’ and he that needs least is surest of getting from Christ what he needs.

But then, besides that, the supply of all other deeper and loftier necessities is here guaranteed. The symbolism of our text divides, necessarily, the two things which in fact are not divided. It is not all toiling on the restless sea here, any more than it is all rest and fruition yonder; but all that your spirit needs, for wisdom, patience, heroism, righteousness, growth, Christ will give you in your work; and that is better than giving it to you after your work, and the very work which is blessed by Him, and furthered and prospered by Him, the very work itself will come to be moat and nourishment. ‘Out of the eater will come forth meat,’ and the slain ‘lions’ of past struggles and sorrows, the next time we come to them, will be ‘full of honey.’

Finally, there is a great symbolical prophecy here if we emphasise the distinction between the night and the morning, between the shore and the sea. We can scarcely fail to catch this meaning in the incident which sets forth the old blessed assurance that the risen Lord is preparing a feast on the shore while His servants are toiling on the darkling sea.

All the details, such as the solid shore in contrast with the changeful sea, the increasing morning in contrast with the toilsome night, the feast prepared, have been from of old consecrated to shadow forth the differences between earth and heaven. It would be blindness not to see here a prophecy of the glad hour when Christ shall welcome to their stable home, amid the brightness of unsetting day, the souls that have served Him amidst the fluctuations and storms of life, and seen Him in its darkness, and shall satisfy all their desires with the ‘bread of heaven.’

Our poor work which He deigns to accept forms part of the feast which is spread at the end of our toil, when ‘there shall be no more sea.’ He adds the results of our toil to the feast which He has prepared. The consequences of what we have done here on earth make no small part of the blessedness of heaven.

‘Their works and alms and all their good endeavour Stayed not behind, nor in the grave were trod.’

The souls which a Paul or a John has won for the Master, in their vocation as ‘fishers of men,’ are their ‘hope and joy and crown of rejoicing, in the presence of our Lord Jesus.’ The great benediction which the Spirit bade the Apocalyptic seer write over ‘the dead which die in the Lord,’ is anticipated in both its parts by this mysterious meal on the beach. ‘They rest from their labours’ inasmuch as they find the food prepared for them, and sit down to partake; ‘Their works do follow them’ inasmuch as they ‘bring of the fish which they have caught.’

Finally, Christ Himself waits on them, therein fulfilling in symbol what He has told us in great words that dimly shadow wonders unintelligible until experienced: ‘Verily I say unto you, He shall gird Himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth, and serve them.’

So here is a vision to cheer us all. Life must be full of toil and of failure. We are on the midnight sea, and have to tug, weary and wet, at a heavy oar, and to haul an often empty net. But we do not labour alone. He comes to us across the storm, and is with us in the night, a most real, because unseen Presence. If we accept the guidance of His directing word, His indwelling Spirit, and His all-sufficient example, and seek to ascertain His will in outward Providences, we shall not be left to waste our strength in blunders, nor shall our labour be in vain. In the morning light we shall see Him standing serene on the steadfast shore. The ‘Pilot of the Galilean lake’ will guide our frail boat through the wild surf that marks the breaking of the sea of life on the shore of eternity; and when the sun rises over the Eastern hills we shall land on the solid beach, bringing our ‘few small fishes’ with us, which He will accept. And there we shall rest, nor need to ask who He is that serves us, for we shall know that ‘It is the Lord!’


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Bibliography
MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on John 21:4". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/john-21.html.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

4. ἐπὶ τὸν αἰγ. Pregnant construction; ‘He came to and stood on the beach.’ Comp. John 1:32-33, John 3:36 (John 19:13, John 20:19); Matthew 3:2. ΄έντοι, howbeit or nevertheless, implies that their not knowing was surprising: μέντοι, besides here, occurs four times in S. John (John 4:27, John 7:13, John 12:42, John 20:5); elsewhere three times [11]. For οὐκ ᾔδεισαν see on John 20:14.


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Bibliography
"Commentary on John 21:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/john-21.html. 1896.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

4. Knew not that it was Jesus—The distance and the dimness of the morning light might account for their not knowing him. But still the narrative intimates that our Lord maintained a supernatural reserve, so that his apostles could scarce discern his identity. So, while his ministry and Church are here on this sea of life, he ever stands on yonder high shore of immortality, earnestly watching them, though but dimly recognized by them.


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Bibliography
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on John 21:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/john-21.html. 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Likewise the breaking of this new day is perhaps symbolic of the new era that was opening up for them as Jesus" disciples, though they did not realize that yet. Jesus" instruction would change the course of their lives forever.

The disciples could not identify Jesus as He stood on the shore within shouting distance from where they fished ( John 21:8). This may have been due to the twilight, the distance, Jesus" altered appearance, or some other reason (cf. Luke 24:16).


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Bibliography
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 21:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/john-21.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

John 21:4. But when morning was now coming, Jesus stood on the shore; the disciples however knew not that it was Jesus. Night passed away, and the day began to break. Then Jesus stood on the shore, but they did not recognise Him,—it may be that the light was insufficient, it may be that it was not yet His wish that He should be known.


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Bibliography
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on John 21:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/john-21.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

John 21:4. πρωΐας δὲ ἤδη γενομένης, “but early morning having now arrived,” i.e., when all hope of catching fish was past, ἔστη ἰησοῦς εἰς [or ἐπὶ] τὸν αἰγιαλόν, “Jesus stood upon the beach”; for ἔστη, cf. John 20:19; John 20:26. It seems to indicate the suddenness of the appearance, οὐ μέντοιἐστί, “the disciples, however, were not aware that it was Jesus”.


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Bibliography
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on John 21:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/john-21.html. 1897-1910.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

now = already.

on. Greek. eis. App-104.

knew. Greek. oida. App-132.

not. Greek. ou. App-105.


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on John 21:4". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/john-21.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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 was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Perhaps there had been some considerable interval since the last manifestation, and having agreed to betake themselves to their secular employment, they would be unprepared to expect Him.


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 21:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/john-21.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(4) Jesus stood on the shore.—Comp. John 20:19; John 20:26. The words express the sudden appearance without any indication of His coming. He was then standing in the midst, or on the shore, but no one knew whence or how.

The disciples knew not that it was Jesus.—Comp. John 20:14.


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Bibliography
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on John 21:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/john-21.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.
but
20:14; Mark 16:12; Luke 24:15,16,31

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on John 21:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/john-21.html.

The Bible Study New Testament

As the sun was rising. This is after they had fished all night without success.


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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on John 21:4". "The Bible Study New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/john-21.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ver. 4. "But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore; but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus."

Morning is the type of dawning salvation: comp. on ch. John 20:1; Psalms 30:6; Psalms 59:17; Psalms 90:14; Psalms 143:8. For πρωΐας, comp. ch. John 18:28, John 20:1, in both cases πρωΐ. We have in Matthew 27:1 the full πρωΐας δὲ γενομένης literally. That passage and Matthew 20:1 are the only two besides this in the New Testament where πρωΐ occurs; and both times in a connection where the guilt and the rejection of the Jews are spoken of, when the new day of Christ's glorification breaks among the Gentiles: comp. ἡ ἀποβολὴ αὐτῶν καταλλαγὴ κόσμου, Romans 11:15; and τῷ αὐτῶν παραπτώματι ἡ σωτηρία τοῖς ἔθνεσι, Romans 11:11.—"On the shore:" the combination of ἔστη and εἰς is as in ch. John 20:19; John 20:26. Here Jesus stands on the margin. At the first fishing, Luke 5:4, He went up into the ship; in ch. John 6:19, He came to the disciples on the sea. That He here remained standing on the bank, points to the fact that now, withdrawn from the sea of the world. He belonged to another stage of being. To Him applied what will one day be true of all His people, "There was no more sea," Revelation 21:1 (compare my commentary on this passage). That He was on the bank, and His disciples on the sea, was an illustration of His word, ch. John 17:11, "I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world." In the parable of the net, in Mark 13 , the margin signifies in ver. 48 , according to ver. 49 , the future state, the "end of the world."

"The disciples knew not that it was Jesus:" so precisely of Mary Magdalene, ch. John 20:14, "And she knew not that it was Jesus." Here again our Lord appeared "in another form," because it was not His will to be recognised at once. In this manner the impression upon the disciples would be deepened; at the same time they would be led into a perception of the truth, that Jesus was always with them, although their eyes might not always be able to discern Him.


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Bibliography
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on John 21:4". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/heg/john-21.html.

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