COMMENTARY ON JOHN 21

The Book of John is unique among the Gospel accounts. You may read it when you are yet in shallow waters near the shore, and you will find Jesus there. You may read it and find yourself totally immersed in deep truths about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I will go deep, and if it is too much, don’t worry! Stay in the shallow waters for a bit. He will take you deeper, as you get to know Him!

In John 21, Jesus shows Himself to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. He shows them (and you) that until they are filled with His Spirit, they will be drawn back to their old ways. He shows them (and you) that they are to be fishers of men, not natural fish, and they can do nothing apart from Him. He gives them (and you) a lesson on agape, God’s actual love, which is far more excellent than human love. And He shows you Peter’s (and your) heart, prior to Pentecost. A powerful chapter!

Verses 1-3 — Jesus reveals Himself to some of His disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. Why are they there? Because they are not yet filled with the Holy Spirit, they only know how to fish naturally, and so they return to that which they know how to do.

But their all-night fishing expedition produced nothing.

IMPORTANT POINT: Until you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you will go back to natural ways. But you can do nothing apart from Him (John 15:5).The modern church tries to draw people by natural means — carnivals, bounce houses, great musicians and singers, using business practices like motivational speaking and Peter Drucker’s management by objectives, and last but not least, the “me gospel,” which is me-centered instead of Christ-centered.

Oh, how I pray for the church to be filled, because these things produce nothing for the kingdom! They draw people, but what do they draw them to? I have heard the teaching of many who have huge congregations, and the Jesus they teach is not the Jesus of the Word of God. There is no call to repentance from sin. There is no mention of sin. There is no mention that we are under the wrath of God until we come to Christ (John 3:36). What, then, are we saved from, if all these things are not mentioned?

Verses 4-6 — Along comes Jesus, at the break of dawn. Ah, light to the still-darkened minds and hearts of His disciples! His disciples do not understand that the Man standing on the beach is Jesus. So He says, “Children,” for that is what they still were. And they were children of God because they believed Jesus is the Christ. “You do not have any fish, do you?” Ummm . . . no.

“Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you will find a catch,” says Jesus. The disciples are reminded of the same words that He spoke to them earlier (see Luke 5:4-9).

So they obey Him, and cannot haul the catch in, because it is so great!

IMPORTANT POINT: If the church, and you, O Christian, will obey Christ and seek His assistance and depend on Him to make you adequate and know that only He can give you what you need to catch men, He will give you a very great catch, so much you cannot haul it in! Throw all the rest to the moles and the bats, for all the rest are forms of idolatry (Isaiah 2:20)!

Verses 7-8 — John, who always calls himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” realizes it is Jesus, and tells Peter, “It is the Lord.” So Simon Peter, who had denied Christ three times on the night Jesus was tried and convicted and sentenced to death on a cross, puts on his outer garments and swims for the shore. But the rest come via the boat, since they are only about a hundred yards from the shore.

IMPORTANT POINT: Many who have denied Jesus will jump at the opportunity to come to Him, pushing through crowds, jumping into the sea, with great natural passion. But they are yet powerless and loveless until they are filled with His Spirit. You will soon see it.

Verses 9-11 — The disciples find the fire laid, and fish already on it, and bread. You see, Jesus is the One who multiplies loaves and fishes (Matthew 14:17ff and elsewhere). But He is here to teach His disciples one more time. That’s why He sends them back out, that’s why they have a miraculous catch, and that’s why He says the next thing.

“Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.” Now that He has helped them, they have fish to present to Him. They cannot catch a thing without Him. He wants them to see this truth. He wants you to see it, too.

And even though the catch was huge, the net was not torn. What happens when a net tears? You lose some of the catch. But when the Lord orders them to cast out the net for His catch, none will be lost (John 17:12).

IMPORTANT POINT: Again, you cannot catch men without His assistance. And you will lose none that He gives to you.

Verses 12-14 — This is the third time Jesus shows Himself to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead. He invites them to breakfast, and none questions who He is, because they knew it was the Lord. He looked somewhat different to them, in His resurrected body.

I discussed this in my commentary on John 20. He bore the marks of His crucifixion. And He did what only God could do, before AND after He was resurrected.

Jesus feed His disciples the breakfast He has made for them.

IMPORTANT POINT: Jesus is the living Bread, the Bread of Life. You must receive from Him. He must feed you. That means you must humble yourself and accept His invitation. Do not be like the church at Laodicea, thinking you are rich and in need of nothing, when you are wretched and poor and blind and naked. Church and Christian, He knocks on the door to your heart. Open, and He will sup with you, and you with Him (Revelation 3:17, 20). Those whom He loves, He reproves and disciplines (Revelation 3:19).

Verses 15-17 — Now you will see that the disciples, including Peter, are yet loveless — that is, they do no not have God’s actual love in their hearts.

Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, do you love Me more than these?” In the original Greek, it is “Do you agapeo Me?” Jesus asks Peter if he loves Jesus with the same love the Father has for the Son, God’s actual love.

Peter says, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love You.” In the original Greek, it is, “You know I phileo you.” Peter says he is very fond of Jesus, that Jesus is his friend.

“Tend my lambs.” Peter, I will make you a shepherd of My flock. Feed them and keep them for Me. The Lord reconciles Peter, who had denied Him three times.

Jesus says again, “Simon, do you love Me?” Again, it is agapeo.

Peter answers again, “Yes Lord, you know that I love You.” Again, it is phileo.

Jesus says, “Shepherd My sheep.” Supervise them and lead them. They are Mine, but I command you to take care of them for Me.

Jesus says a third time, “Simon, do you love Me?” This time, it is phileo. Why? Jesus knows that Peter can only love Him in that way, for now. But at Pentecost, things will change.

Peter is grieved because Jesus asked the third time. It is an echo of his three denials. He says, “Lord, You know all things. You know that I love You.” Again, it is phileo.

Jesus says, “Tend my sheep.” Peter will soon be made able to do what Christ commands him to do. Pentecost is coming!

IMPORTANT POINT: You cannot love Jesus with God’s actual love until you experience your own personal Pentecost. Until then, you see Him as  your friend, and you are fond of Him. But then — you find out what His love is all about!

The actual love of God was called agape by the newly born church because none of the common Greek words for “love” properly described it. God’s actual love filled their hearts! It was like nothing any human could muster! What would they call it? They took an unused Greek word for love — agape — and used that to define what God had done in their hearts!

Oh, I tell you , it is the more excellent way (1Corinthians 12:31)! There is nothing that can compare with it! It is His love, not human love. And He will fill your heart with it (Romans 5:5), if you ask Him!

Verses 18-19 — Jesus tells Peter how he will die. He will be crucified. His hands stretched out. It will be when Peter has grown old. He will be led where he does not want to go — crucifixion, as I have described, is an extreme form of torture and a slow death. Then He exclaimed and commanded Peter, “Follow Me!”

IMPORTANT POINT #1: I tell you that this is what Jesus meant in Matthew 16:24 and elsewhere. You will not have to be crucified in the natural, but your “self” will be crucified, so you no longer live, but Christ lives in you (Galatians 2:20)!

Church tradition records that Peter, when led to the cross, asked to be crucified upside down, because he did not feel worthy to be crucified in the same way as the Christ whom he then loved with God’s actual love.

IMPORTANT POINT #2: Jesus knows everything in advance. He will share much with you, through the Holy Spirit, when you are filled with His Spirit and He and the Father dwell in you, large and in charge. And before that, He will share with you what you need to know, in order to see your need to be filled.

Verses 20-22 — Peter’s competitive spirit is seen. He looks at John, who rested his head on the Lord’s bosom at the Last Supper. “What about this man?” If I am to shepherd Your sheep, what will this one’s role be? Will it be higher or better than mine? Will he die, too, like me?

Jesus says, “If I want John to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” Why do you care, Peter? Why is that important to you? Do you not know that I will do with John exactly according to My plan for his service to Me and to My gospel?

IMPORTANT POINT: Get your eyes off others. Do what the Lord has commanded you to do. Do not compare yourself with others. You will only be able to obey when you experience your own personal Pentecost and ask the Lord to put your selfish nature on the cross and crucify it. Then you will look to Him only. Then you will only be concerned with how He wants you to serve Him.

Verse 23 — Well, the disciples still didn’t understand. Pentecost had not yet come. So they assumed Jesus meant John would not die, even though that is not what Jesus said.

IMPORTANT POINT: You, too, will misunderstand many of Jesus’ words, but then you experience your own personal Pentecost, and you will understand.

Verse 24-25 — John testifies to these things (1John 1:1-2), he is the writer of this gospel account, and his testimony is true.

And there are many things that Jesus did that John did not record, because if he had detailed all of them, there wouldn’t be enough room in the world to contain the books and books that would have to be written. But as he wrote in John 20:30-31, the Holy Spirit led him to choose specific miracles and words from Jesus that would lead people to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that you may have eternal life, in Him.

IMPORTANT POINT: Jesus did many things beyond what John recorded. There were so many, it would not be possible for the world to hold all the books that would have to be written!

He is God the Son, the eternally existent One, sent to the earth that you may believe in Him and be saved from God’s wrath. Praise His holy name!

IMPORTANT POINT: Who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed (see Isaiah 53:1)? To the one who believes the message.

John’s gospel account is used more than any other to lead people to believe in Jesus Christ.

All scripture is Spirit-inspired (2Timothy 3:16), and not cleverly devised tales (2Peter 1:16), but is the result of men being moved (bringing, carrying, being driven, being led) to speak by the Holy Spirit.

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Author: Susan Wynn, servant of Jesus Christ

Healed by Jesus Christ of MS in 2001, in the middle of the night! Proclaiming His gospel, His healing, His heart. Author of From Death To Life--A True Story of Healing, Hope and Being Set Free. Our ministry: My Father's Place, a ministry without walls, proclaiming Jesus Christ to the world.

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