John 21:1–25—Fish Fry & Peter Reinstated

1 Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. This is how it happened. 2 Several of the disciples were there—Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples.

 3 Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.”

“We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.

 4 At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. 5He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?”

“No,” they replied.

 6 Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.

 7 Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. 8 The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore. 9 When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.

 10 “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn.

 12 “Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish. 14 This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead.

 15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”

“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

 16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”

“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

 17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.

 18 “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.”

 20 Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved—the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who will betray you?” 21 Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?”

 22 Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” 23 So the rumor spread among the community of believers that this disciple wouldn’t die. But that isn’t what Jesus said at all. He only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

 24 This disciple is the one who testifies to these events and has recorded them here. And we know that his account of these things is accurate.

 25 Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.

Points of Interest

‘they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it’—they don’t recognize his voice or appearance, but they do recognize the fish. One final time, John makes reference to a part of the story he never told. In Luke’s version of the story, Jesus first grabs the disciples’ attention with a similar miraculous catch following an empty-netted night (Luke 5:1-11). Here he does it again.

‘they found breakfast waiting for them’—the big catch isn’t even strictly necessary. Jesus already has plenty of fish for breakfast cooking over the fire. I love the fact that the resurrected (and possibly ascended) Jesus just stops in for breakfast … and cooks it!

‘Then feed my lambs’—Peter isn’t a fisherman anymore; he’s a shepherd of Jesus’ flock. Jesus brings together themes from a few of his major discourses from the last week before his crucifixion: the good shepherd and the hired hand (10:11-13); the feet-washing, at which Jesus says, ‘you should also wash one another’s feet’ (13:14); and the story about the vine, when he gives his new commandment, ‘Love one another’ (15:17). Now that Jesus has moved on, it’s not a time for Peter to go back to his old life, but to step forward, taking over Jesus’ mission and experiencing the same love from the Father (16:27-28).

‘A third time he asked him’—it seems a little mean to keep at him in this way. I think Jesus asks Peter three times because of Peter’s three denials (18:15-18, 25-27). Peter gets to—or has to, depending on how you look at it—commit himself as many times as he denied Jesus.

‘by what kind of death he would glorify God’—Peter, like Jesus, will be crucified; he’ll be led to death as a prisoner, and he’ll stretch out his arms for his death. Weirdly enough, I think this grim prediction is actually Jesus’ big affirmation of Peter. Earlier, Jesus had said Peter wasn’t ready to really follow him:

‘But why can’t I come now, Lord?’ [Peter] asked. ‘I’m ready to die for you.’

‘Jesus answered, ‘Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.’

Now, he’s ready. Jesus believes that Peter does love him, and will feed his sheep, and will follow him, to the very end.

‘This disciple is the one who testifies to these events’—the author finally reveals himself. He doesn’t give us a name (‘John,’ for example), but he does tell us that he’s the beloved disciple.

‘we know that his account of these things is accurate’—who’s ‘we’? Just the sentence before, the beloved disciple reveals himself as the author. Now, there’s some ‘we’ who are doing the writing, vouching for him. Maybe this is just a one-line ‘signature of witness’ from a wider group of people. Or perhaps chapter 21 as a whole is an addendum written by someone else. It could even be after John’s death, in which case the problem they’re addressing is why John died when Jesus had allegedly promised he wouldn’t. Maybe John died just before publication, or maybe this is like a second edition, with a new afterword.

‘the whole world could not contain the books that would be written’—one last time, John lets us know that he has picked and chosen a very few examples of the things Jesus did. They’re just a handful of signs of what Jesus did, and of what Jesus can do for anyone who believes in him.

Taking It Home

For you: It feels a little strange that Jesus’ final instructions are, ‘Follow me,’ as if it’s something new. Isn’t that what they’ve been doing ever since John the Baptist first said, ‘Look, it’s the Lamb of God,’ way back when (1:35-37)? Why tell them what they already know? Maybe Jesus knows that they would need some constant reminders to keep following him. In what ways do you feel like Jesus is currently asking you to keep following him? Where do you feel like Jesus is leading you? Are there any open doors before you? Closed doors? Are there any inklings of what Jesus might be asking you to pursue during this season? Tell Jesus you want to follow him and ask for his help to do that today.

For your 6: The disciples are so blown away by Jesus’ abundance that they awkwardly (putting on a cloak before jumping into the water seems like an odd choice) bumble through the water to get to him as quickly as possible. Pray that your 6 would be blown away by Jesus’ abundance. Ask Jesus to give them a taste of that abundance today.

For our church: Breakfast on the beach with Jesus —don’t you want in? The supernatural abundance of it, the togetherness, and feeling of relaxation is so awesome. Ask Jesus to help our church be like the breakfast feast he offers to his disciples. Ask Jesus to feed us, sustain us, and give us all that we need. Ask Jesus that all of our church’s gatherings—whether large or small—would feel like an intimate gathering place of friends and Jesus.