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The Third Sunday of Easter is May 1, 2022.

The readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

John 21:1-19

21:1 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way.

21:2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.

21:3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

21:4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.

21:5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.”

21:6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.

21:7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea.

21:8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

21:9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread.

21:10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”

21:11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.

21:12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord.

21:13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.

21:14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

21:16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

21:17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

21:18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”

21:19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

John MacArthur says that this visit from Jesus took place around the time He gave the Apostles the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20):

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

MacArthur says that the Apostles did not go immediately to the mountain and, according to him, went fishing instead:

The problem is when this narrative opens they aren’t at the mountain, they’re at the lake. So immediately were confronted with their disobedience. They are not in the place He told them to be. They shouldn’t have been where they were.

In any event, John’s account of this fishing expedition and our Lord’s preparation of breakfast for the Twelve shows, in MacArthur’s words that He will be there to provide for them — and for us:

He’s going to be there to provide. He’s going to be there to meet their needs. Even the simplest needs of their hunger, He’s going to care for them; that’s not going to change. Even though it’s after the resurrection, even though He’s in a glorified form, He will have the same compassion and care, and make the same provisions for them that they’ve known Him to make.

This is John’s third recorded account of our Lord appearing to the Apostles (verse 14).

Jesus showed Himself — manifested Himself, in some translations — to the Apostles again at the Sea of Tiberias, which is the Sea of Galilee, later renamed for the Roman emperor (verse 1).

MacArthur tells us what happened after they saw Jesus for the second time in the room where Thomas saw His wounds (last week’s reading):

Sometime between the eighth day when Jesus appeared to the apostles, and the fortieth day when He ascended into heaven, this third appearance occurred – third as it’s designated in verse 14.

We know from Acts 1:3 that He was with them for forty days. It doesn’t mean that He was with them all forty of those days, because there are only three times that He appeared to them up to this incident, and this incident happened in Galilee. They had to go from Judea to Galilee, which could be a journey that might take them some time. Before, they had seen Him in Judea in the upper room; now they’re in Galilee. They’ve been waiting awhile for Him; finally He makes an appearance. So to say that He taught them the things concerning the kingdom throughout a period of forty days is not to say that it was all forty days. Sometime between the eighth and fortieth day Jesus manifested Himself.

He uses that term twice in verse 1: manifested, manifested. You have to understand this: as a supernatural, sudden, startling appearance of Christ as if out of nowhere. In the same way, He appeared to those on the road to Emmaus, the same way He appeared to Mary Magdalene and the others, the same way He appeared to the apostles in the upper room, coming into the room and appearing instantaneously with the door shut and locked. He is now in His glorified resurrection form. He manifests Himself.

And I remind you that even though He could be seen because He was alive physically, He was not known, because His body was different. His glorified body was different. Mary Magdalene thought He was somebody else; she thought He was the gardener. The disciples on the road to Emmaus had no idea who He was, and not a glimpse, but rather a long drawn out conversation with Him in the daylight, and then in the house and around the table, and they still didn’t know who He was.

And here, again, He appears, and they don’t know who He is, because they couldn’t know who He was in the glorified form, because the glorified form is so different. He has to therefore disclose Himself. He has to identify Himself, and He does that on this occasion. His body is so different. It is a body for eternity, not a body for time. It is a body for heaven, not a body for earth.

So this time He manifests Himself in Galilee by the Sea of Tiberias. Can I just comment on that? That is a lake 12 miles long, about 7 miles wide, 650 feet below sea level in the northern part of the land of Israel in Galilee, surrounded pretty much by mountains on the west, north, and east. It is familiar in the Old Testament. It’s called Kinneret or Chinnereth or sometimes Gennesaret Lake. It is also the Sea of Galilee as we know it, because it is in the region of Galilee. The Romans renamed it to honor Tiberius Caesar and they called it the Sea of Tiberias as its Roman name.

Jesus had told the disciples to go to Galilee back in Matthew 28 after He had appeared to them from His resurrection. He said, “You need to leave for Galilee,” Matthew 28:10 – “and there you will see Me. You go to Galilee, you’ll see me there.”

Verse 16: “The eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated.” So they not only were told to go to Galilee, they were told to go to Galilee to a mountain, the very mountain Jesus designated. We don’t know what it was, but perhaps it was what we know as the mountain where there was the Sermon on the Mount, and can’t be certain about that. But that’s one very near that slopes up from the sea to the north. The problem is when this narrative opens they aren’t at the mountain, they’re at the lake. So immediately were confronted with their disobedience. They are not in the place He told them to be. They shouldn’t have been where they were.

A familiar list of names shows up in verse 2, ones we have run across before: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin (Didymus, in some translations, which means ‘twin’), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.

MacArthur says:

this is the group – the six of them minus Thomas – this is the group that Jesus first called as His disciples back in chapter 1. This is the group that discovered they have found the Messiah, so we know them very well ... Interestingly enough, this doubting Thomas and this denying Peter are the first two named. They’re given prominence in the list, and that’s an illustration of grace: Simon Peter the denier and Thomas the doubter. Didymus mean he was a twin, he had a twin.

MacArthur thinks they had all gone to the mountain as Jesus instructed, then decided to leave when Peter announced he was going fishing and they agreed to accompany him, although they caught nothing that night (verse 3):

Well, they’re up in the mountain for awhile; we don’t know how long, we don’t have time indicators here. “Simon Peter said to them, ‘I’m going fishing.’” And in the form of the original language that’s a final statement: “I’m going back to my old career. I’m going fishing.”

I read it differently, but I am not a Bible scholar. Fishermen went about their business at night, when waters were cooler. They also could not preach and teach at night, when people would have been asleep.

Incidentally, Matthew Henry says there was no rebellion among the Apostles and that they did the right thing by going fishing, calling it ‘an instance of their humility’:

Their agreement to go a fishing. They knew not well what to do with themselves. For my part, says Peter, I will go a fishing; We will go with thee then, say they, for we will keep together. Though commonly two of a trade cannot agree, yet they could. Some think they did amiss in returning to their boats and nets, which they had left; but then Christ would not have countenanced them in it with a visit. It was rather commendable in them; for they did it, (1.) To redeem time, and not be idle. They were not yet appointed to preach the resurrection of Christ. Their commission was in the drawing, but not perfected. The hour for entering upon action was to come. It is probable that their Master had directed them to say nothing of his resurrection till after his ascension, nay, not till after the pouring out of the Spirit, and then they were to begin at Jerusalem. Now, in the mean time, rather than do nothing, they would go a fishing; not for recreation, but for business. It is an instance of their humility. Though they were advanced to be sent of Christ, as he was of the Father, yet they did not take state upon them, but remembered the rock out of which they were hewn. It is an instance likewise of their industry, and bespeaks them good husbands of their time. While they were waiting, they would not be idling. Those who would give an account of their time with joy should contrive to fill up the vacancies of it, to gather up the fragments of it. (2.) That they might help to maintain themselves and not be burdensome to any. While their Master was with them those who ministered to him were kind to them; but now that the bridegroom was taken from them they must fast in those days, and therefore their own hands, as Paul’s, must minister to their necessities and for this reason Christ asked them, Have you any meat? This teaches us with quietness to work and eat our own bread.

Henry is generous about this gathering of apostolic fishermen and commends their model to us:

Observe here, 1. It is good for the disciples of Christ to be much together; not only in solemn religious assemblies, but in common conversation, and about common business. Good Christians should by this means both testify and increase their affection to, and delight in, each other, and edify one another both by discourse and example. 2. Christ chose to manifest himself to them when they were together; not only to countenance Christian society, but that they might be joint witnesses of the same matter of fact, and so might corroborate one another’s testimony. Here were seven together to attest this, on which some observe that the Roman law required seven witnesses to a testament. 3. Thomas was one of them, and is named next to Peter, as if he now kept closer to the meetings of the apostles than ever. It is well if losses by our neglects make us more careful afterwards not to let opportunities slip.

As for the Apostles catching nothing, which some may interpret as divine payback, Henry says that these things happen, often out of divine providence — and for good reason:

Even good men may come short of desired success in their honest undertakings. We may be in the way of our duty, and yet not prosper. Providence so ordered it that all that night they should catch nothing, that the miraculous draught of fishes in the morning might be the more wonderful and the more acceptable. In those disappointments which to us are very grievous God has often designs that are very gracious. Man has indeed a dominion over the fish of the sea, but they are not always at his beck; God only knows the paths of the sea, and commands that which passeth through them.

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach, but the disciples did not recognise Him (verse 4). Again, that refers to His glorified body, which they could not identify.

Henry says this tells us that Jesus is nearby when we need Him most:

Christ’s time of making himself known to his people is when they are most at a loss. When they think they have lost themselves, he will let them know that they have not lost him … It is a comfort to us, when our passage is rough and stormy, that our Master is at shore, and we are hastening to him.

As to why Jesus did not walk on water towards the boat, scholars through the ages say that His work in that respect had now been accomplished with the Resurrection. However, the Apostles’ toil in ministry — and persecution — had only just begun:

Some of the ancients put this significancy upon it, that Christ, having finished his work, was got through a stormy sea, a sea of blood, to a safe and quiet shore, where he stood in triumph; but the disciples, having their work before them, were yet at sea, in toil and peril.

Jesus knew they had no fish but asked them nonetheless, addressing them as ‘children’, or, in British English, ‘lads’; they responded in the negative (verse 5).

Henry discusses His affectionate address and question at length, as well as the Apostles’ terse reply:

He called to them, Children, paidia–“Lads, have you any meat? Have you caught any fish?” Here, (1.) The compellation is very familiar; he speaks unto them as unto his sons, with the care and tenderness of a father: Children. Though he had now entered upon his exalted state, he spoke to his disciples with as much kindness and affection as ever. They were not children in age, but they were his children, the children which God had given him. (2.) The question is very kind: Have you any meat? He asks as a tender father concerning his children whether they be provided with that which is fit for them, that if they be not, he may take care for their supply. Note, The Lord is for the body, 1 Corinthians 6:13. Christ takes cognizance of the temporal wants of his people, and has promised them not only grace sufficient, but food convenient. Verily they shall be fed, Psalms 27:3. Christ looks into the cottages of the poor, and asks, Children, have you any meat? thereby inviting them to open their case before him, and by the prayer of faith to make their requests known to him: and then let them be careful for nothing; for Christ takes care of them, takes care for them. Christ has herein set us an example of compassionate concern for our brethren. There are many poor householders disabled for labour, or disappointed in it, that are reduced to straits, whom the rich should enquire after thus, Have you any meat? For the most necessitous are commonly the least clamorous. To this question the disciples gave a short answer, and, some think, with an air of discontent and peevishness. They said, No; not giving him any such friendly and respectful title as he had given them. So short do the best come in their returns of love to the Lord Jesus. Christ put the question to them, not because he did not know their wants, but because he would know them from them. Those that would have supplies from Christ must own themselves empty and needy.

Jesus told them to cast their net to the right side of the boat and they would find fish; there were so many that they were not able to haul in their catch (verse 6).

MacArthur says that this would have reminded the Apostles of the time three years earlier when He first called them to follow Him:

They were to drop their nets, stop fishing for fish and start fishing for men. Luke 5, listen: “Crowds pressing Jesus, He’s on the edge of the lake. He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake. The fishermen had gotten out of them, washing their nets. So He got into one of the boats, the boat was Simon’s boat. Got into Peter’s boat and asked him to put out a little way from the land. He had to push off from the shore because the crowd was pressing Him, and He needed a little distance and the water’s a pretty good conductor of voice. So when he had finished speaking from Peter’s boat He said to Simon, ‘Put out in the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’

“Simon answered Him and said, ‘Master, I need to inform you about fishing. We worked hard all night and caught nothing; this doesn’t make sense. I know you’re not a fisherman, but I’m telling You we’ve been there, done that; this is not a good time to fish. But’ – he says – ‘I will do as you say and let down the nets. I’m going to go prove my point that I know more about fishing that You do.’

“When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat” – probably belonged to some of the other disciples – “for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, ‘Go away from me Lord, for I’m a sinful man!’” He knew who he was dealing with: Lord God, and he saw his own wretched sinfulness. He was so sinful in the attitude that he had conveyed to the Lord.

“Amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken, and they were James and John and Peter. And then Jesus says to them” – in verse 10 – ‘Don’t be afraid. From now on you will be catching men.’ When they brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.” Now they’re going to go catch men …

Well, they got so many fish that it was shocking; and, of course, this had happened three years earlier, so they knew who He was immediately. So now you know that this is the same Christ, risen from the dead, performing a miracle very much like at the beginning of His relationship with them.

MacArthur says this is the only post-Resurrection creative miracle that Jesus performed, although He did enter the Apostles’ room in Judea twice after rising from the dead by passing through a wall:

… this is the one post-resurrection miracle, apart from walking through walls, which is simply the supernatural body of Christ and its capability.

Henry says this miracle is an illustration of our Lord’s generosity in the age of the New Covenant, although we must be diligent:

As a mystery, and very significant of that work to which Christ was now with an enlarged commission sending them forth. The prophets had been fishing for souls, and caught nothing, or very little; but the apostles, who let down the net at Christ’s word, had wonderful success. Many were the children of the desolate, Galatians 4:27. They themselves, in pursuance of their former mission, when they were first made fishers of men, had had small success in comparison with what they should now have. When, soon after this, three thousand were converted in one day, then the net was cast on the right side of the ship. It is an encouragement to Christ’s ministers to continue their diligence in their work. One happy draught, at length, may be sufficient to repay many years of toil at the gospel net.

The huge haul of fish caused John, the author of this Gospel — ‘that disciple whom Jesus loved’ — to exclaim to Peter that this was the Lord; Peter, having stripped down to bare essentials, put on some clothes and jumped into the sea (verse 7).

Looking at John’s character and recalling that he was the only Apostle to be at the Crucifixion, Henry says:

John had adhered more closely to his Master in his sufferings than any of them: and therefore he has a clearer eye and a more discerning judgment than any of them, in recompence for his constancy. When John was himself aware that it was the Lord, he communicated his knowledge to those with him; for this dispensation of the Spirit is given to every one to profit withal. Those that know Christ themselves should endeavor to bring others acquainted with him; we need not engross him, there is enough in him for us all.

Peter was in a conflicted state of mind at this time. How could he forget that he denied Jesus three times in the early hours of Good Friday? He loved our Lord, yet he had denied Him. He was weak, as we all are, often at the most crucial times. He felt badly and probably wanted His personal forgiveness in words.

Henry says:

John tells Peter particularly his thoughts, that it was the Lord, knowing he would be glad to see him above any of them. Though Peter had denied his Master, yet, having repented, and being taken into the communion of the disciples again, they were as free and familiar with him as ever.

2. That Peter was the most zealous and warm-hearted disciple; for as soon as he heard it was the Lord (for which he took John’s word) the ship could not hold him, nor could he stay till the bringing of it to shore, but into the sea he throws himself presently, that he might come first to Christ. (1.) He showed his respect to Christ by girding his fisher’s coat about him that he might appear before his Master in the best clothes he had, and to rudely rush into his presence, stripped as he was to his waistcoat and drawers, because the work he was about was toilsome, and he was resolved to take pains in it. Perhaps the fisher’s coat was made of leather, or oil-cloth, and would keep out wet; and he girt it to him that he might make the best of his way through the water to Christ, as he used to do after his nets, when he was intent upon his fishing. (2.) He showed the strength of his affection to Christ, and his earnest desire to be with him, by casting himself into the sea; and either wading or swimming to shore, to come to him. When he walked upon the water to Christ (Matthew 14:28), it was said, He came down out of the ship deliberately; but here it is said, He cast himself into the sea with precipitation; sink or swim, he would show his good-will and aim to be with Jesus. “If Christ suffer me,” thinks he, “to drown, and come short of him, it is but what I deserve for denying him.” Peter had had much forgiven, and made it appear he loved much by his willingness to run hazards, and undergo hardships, to come to him. Those that have been with Jesus will be willing to swim through a stormy sea, a sea of blood, to come to him …

The other Apostles stayed in the boat, dragging the net full of fish; they were only about 100 yards from the shore (verse 8).

Henry says that we all have our own personalities and characteristics; God makes use of all of these in the Church:

Now here we may observe, (1.) How variously God dispenses his gifts. Some excel, as Peter and John; are very eminent in gifts and graces, and are thereby distinguished from their brethren; others are but ordinary disciples, that mind their duty, and are faithful to him, but do nothing to make themselves remarkable; and yet both the one and the other, the eminent and the obscure, shall sit down together with Christ in glory; nay, and perhaps the last shall be first. Of those that do excel, some, like John, are eminently contemplative, have great gifts of knowledge, and serve the church with them; others, like Peter, are eminently active and courageous, are strong, and do exploits, and are thus very serviceable to their generation. Some are useful as the church’s eyes, others as the church’s hands, and all for the good of the body. (2.) What a great deal of difference there may be between some good people and others in the way of their honouring Christ, and yet both accepted of him. Some serve Christ more in acts of devotion, and extraordinary expressions of a religious zeal; and they do well, to the Lord they do it. Peter ought not to be censured for casting himself into the sea, but commended for his zeal and the strength of his affection; and so must those be who, in love to Christ, quit the world, with Mary, to sit at his feet. But others serve Christ more in the affairs of the world. They continue in that ship, drag the net, and bring the fish to shore, as the other disciples here; and such ought not to be censured as worldly, for they, in their place, are as truly serving Christ as the other, even in serving tables. If all the disciples had done as Peter did, what had become of their fish and their nets? And yet if Peter had done as they did we had wanted this instance of holy zeal. Christ was well pleased with both, and so must we be. (3.) That there are several ways of bringing Christ’s disciples to shore to him from off the sea of this world. Some are brought to him by a violent death, as the martyrs, who threw themselves into the sea, in their zeal for Christ; others are brought to him by a natural death, dragging the net, which is less terrible; but both meet at length on the safe and quiet shore with Christ.

When the Apostles reached the shore, they found that Jesus had made breakfast for them — bread and fish — with the aid of a charcoal fire (verse 9). How wonderful! It was the best tasting breakfast in history, because He made it.

The resurrected Jesus was still serving His disciples. How many other religions can say that their original leader did the same? Not one.

Of this creative miracle, Henry says:

When they came to land, wet and cold, weary and hungry, they found a good fire there to warm them and dry them, and fish and bread, competent provision for a good meal. (1.) We need not be curious in enquiring whence this fire, and fish, and bread, came, any more than whence the meat came which the ravens brought to Elijah. He that could multiply the loaves and fishes that were could make new ones if he pleased, or turn stones into bread, or send his angels to fetch it, where he knew it was to be had. It is uncertain whether this provision was made ready in the open air, or in some fisher’s cabin or hut upon the shore; but here was nothing stately or delicate. We should be content with mean things, for Christ was. (2.) We may be comforted in this instance of Christ’s care of his disciples; he has wherewith to supply all our wants, and knows what things we have need of. He kindly provided for those fishermen, when they came weary from their work; for verily those shall be fed who trust in the Lord and do good. It is encouraging to Christ’s ministers, whom he hath made fishers of men, that they may depend upon him who employs them to provide for them; and if they should miss of encouragement in this world, should be reduced as Paul was to hunger, and thirst, and fastings often, let them content themselves with what they have here; they have better things in reserve, and shall eat and drink with Christ at his table in his kingdom, Luke 22:30. Awhile ago, the disciples had entertained Christ with a broiled fish (Luke 24:42), and now, as a friend, he returned their kindness, and entertained them with one; nay, in the draught of fishes, he repaid them more than a hundred fold.

Jesus instructed the men to bring some of the fish they had just caught (verse 10).

Henry says this is because He wanted them to enjoy the fruits of their labour:

The command Christ gave them to bring their draught of fish to shore: “Bring of the fish hither, which you have now caught, and let us have some of them;” not as if he needed it; and could not make up a dinner for them without it; but, [1.] He would have them eat the labour of their hands, Psalms 128:2. What is got by God’s blessing on our own industry and honest labour, if withal God give us power to eat of it, and enjoy good in our labour, hath a peculiar sweetness in it. It is said of the slothful man that he roasteth not that which he took in hunting; he cannot find in his heart to dress what he has been at the pains to take, Proverbs 12:27. But Christ would hereby teach us to use what we have. [2.] He would have them taste the gifts of his miraculous bounty, that they might be witnesses both of his power and of his goodness. The benefits Christ bestows upon us are not to be buried and laid up, but to be used and laid out. [3.] He would give a specimen of the spiritual entertainment he has for all believers, which, in this respect, is most free and familiar–that he sups with them, and they with him; their graces are pleasing to him, and his comforts are so to them; what he works in them he accepts from them. [4.] Ministers, who are fishers of men, must bring all they catch to their Master, for on him their success depends.

Peter boarded the boat and hauled the net ashore, full of 153 fish, the weight of which did not tear the net (verse 11), unlike the first time three years before.

These fish are now called St Peter’s fish (John Dory). The dark, round mark each has is said to be St Peter’s thumbprint.

Peter must have been a large and strong man to bring the net in himself.

MacArthur says:

This is where he gets the term “the big fisherman.” Years ago there was even a book and a movie when I was a little kid called The Big Fisherman, and I used to ask, “Why does everybody think Peter is big?” This is it right here, because six guys have been dragging this thing in, the other disciples in verse 8.

But in verse 11 it says, “Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, large fish.” A large fish in the Sea of Galilee, I’ve eaten those fish; some of you have been there. They’re now called St. Peter’s fish; they weren’t then, but they are now, obvious reason. They can get as big as two pounds plus.

The number is fascinating to me. This is something Scripture does very frequently to let you know the reality of it. This isn’t mystical, this is actually 153 fish, times two pounds, you’re looking at three hundred pounds of fish in wet nets and paraphernalia; and this is where Peter gets the name “big fisherman,” because he pulls it ashore by himself. He’s a formidable guy. So he drags in 153 fish, and even though there were so many, too many for the nets to hold, the net was not torn – which is another part of the miracle.

Jesus invited the Apostles to breakfast; none of them asked who He was because they knew it was He (verse 12).

Jesus then took the bread and gave it to them before doing the same with the fish (verse 13). Note that He continued to serve them throughout. He did not ask them to help themselves.

MacArthur makes an important point:

the risen Christ is not some detached ethereal being. The risen Christ can sit down and have breakfast with His disciples; and more importantly, He’s not all of a sudden disinterested in them, because He’s back in His heavenly mode and they don’t matter anymore. He makes sure they have breakfast and He serves it to them.

John makes it clear that this was the third time Jesus had appeared to them after the Resurrection (verse 14).

After breakfast, our Lord turned His attention to Peter, knowing what remorse was in the Apostle’s heart (verse 15); He addressed him by his birth name, Simon son of John, or Simon bar-Jona(s), as a way of humbling him, which Peter certainly would have understood.

‘Bar’ means ‘son’. ‘Bat’ means ‘daughter’. Hence, Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah. In Arabic, the equivalents are ‘bin’ and ‘bint’.

Henry explains Peter’s state of mind and Christ’s tenderness towards him, waiting until after breakfast to talk to him:

It was after they had dined: they had all eaten, and were filled, and, it is probable, were entertained with such edifying discourse as our Lord Jesus used to make his table-talk. Christ foresaw that what he had to say to Peter would give him some uneasiness, and therefore would not say it till they had dined, because he would not spoil his dinner. Peter was conscious to himself that he had incurred his Master’s displeasure, and could expect no other than to be upbraided with his treachery and ingratitude. “Was this thy kindness to thy friend? Did not I tell thee what a coward thou wouldest prove?” Nay, he might justly expect to be struck out of the roll of the disciples, and to be expelled the sacred college. Twice, if not thrice, he had seen his Master since his resurrection, and he said not a word to him of it. We may suppose Peter full of doubts upon what terms he stood with his Master; sometimes hoping the best, because he had received favour from him in common with the rest; yet not without some fears, lest the chiding would come at last that would pay for all. But now, at length, his Master put him out of his pain, said what he had to say to him, and confirmed him in his place as an apostle. He did not tell him of his fault hastily, but deferred it for some time; did not tell him of it unseasonably, to disturb the company at dinner, but when they had dined together, in token of reconciliation, then discoursed he with him about it, not as with a criminal, but as with a friend. Peter had reproached himself for it, and therefore Christ did not reproach him for it, nor tell him of it directly, but only by a tacit intimation; and, being satisfied in his sincerity, the offence was not only forgiven, but forgotten; and Christ let him know that he was as dear to him as ever. Herein he has given us an encouraging instance of his tenderness towards penitents, and has taught us, in like manner, to restore such as are fallen with a spirit of meekness.

Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him more than ‘these’ (verse 15).

MacArthur says that Jesus is not speaking of the other ten Apostles gathered but of boats and fishing:

He says, “Do you love Me more than these?” These what, these men? No, because they had all done the same thing. They were all guilty of a loveless disobedience. He means nets, boats, fish. “Do you love Me more than these things that go with your former life? Are you prepared to give this up, to abandon all your successes, your chosen career? Are you willing to give it all up? Do you love Me enough to do that?

Then, there is the word that Jesus used for ‘love’:

the word He uses is agapaó. That’s that high love – the noblest, purest, best; the love of the will. We talk about agape love; that’s a noun form of it. It is love in its fullest sense, love in its deepest sense, love in its greatest sense, love, I guess you could say, in its purest form – divine love.

“Do you really love Me, Peter, at the highest level?” That is the critical question. And that is the key to commitment

“Do you love Me enough to live for Me? Do you love Me enough to walk away from this? Are you constrained by loving Me? Do you have a love for Me” – in the words of Paul in Ephesians 6:24“that is incorruptible love? Do you really love Me in the fullest sense?”

Peter answered in the affirmative (verse 15) but used a milder word for love, because he did not want our Lord to call him out for hypocrisy:

So Peter replies, “He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’” But he changed the word. Jesus used the word agapaó, Peter used the word phileó, he dropped down a notch. Phileó is a kind of brotherly love, kind of warm affection, a friendship love.

Look, Peter couldn’t say, “Yes, You know that I love You at the highest level of love.” That just wouldn’t fly. I mean he had denied Him, and now He had disobeyed Him, and he had enough sense not to be an absolute hypocrite and say, “Of course, I love You at the highest level.” So he says, “Lord, I have great affection for You.” He dared not claim agapaó, but he did claim phileó. But even with that, he has to lean on omniscience: “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

Our Lord asked Peter if he loves Him a second time, as if this were to make up for Peter’s second denial of Him. Peter again said, ‘Yes, Lord. You know that I love you’, to which Jesus replied, inviting him to tend His sheep (verse 16).

Notice that Jesus refers to ‘My sheep’.

MacArthur makes these observations:

This is amazing. He said to him, “Tend” – or – “feed” – boskó is the verb – “pasture My lambs, pasture My lambs.” Amazing. With a less than perfect love, with a less than ideal love, with a less than noble love, with a less than elevated love, the Lord accepts him and says, “Pasture My lambs. Feed My lambs.”

And I just want to call to your attention that personal pronoun is very important, because whoever we shepherd doesn’t belong to us. This is a calling that Peter reminds all of us about in 1 Peter 5 when he writes and he says, “We are all under-shepherds and Christ is the Chief Shepherd.”

If you’re in ministry, if you’re caring for any other believers in any way, you are shepherding His sheep, not yours. No congregation belongs to a pastor or an elder. No Sunday School class belongs to a teacher. No believers in a family belong, in a spiritual sense, to parents. They’re His. It’s a stewardship that in some ways is really frightening. That’s why in Matthew the Lord tells us to be careful how we treat each other, because not only do they belong to Christ, but Christ is in them. So many people don’t understand pastoral ministry as caring for His sheep.

Jesus asked Peter the same question a third time, which hurt Peter, because he knew our Lord was referring to Peter’s three denials of Him; Peter replied the same way, although acknowledging His omniscience in his answer, and Jesus told him to feed His sheep (verse 17).

Peter is the Apostles’ leader and our Lord has restored him to the fold in order to carry out that mission.

MacArthur says:

Back in chapter 10 He talked about how He loved the sheep, how He gave His life for the sheep, how the sheep knew Him and He knew them. And now He’s handing them over to Peter. “I’m entrusting you with them, and I need to know that you love Me more than you love this, so that you’re going to be faithful to give your life for them.”

Henry makes these observations:

Three times Christ committed the care of his flock to Peter: Feed my lambs; feed my sheep; feed my sheep. [1.] Those whom Christ committed to Peter’s care were his lambs and his sheep. The church of Christ is his flock, which he hath purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28), and he is the chief shepherd of it. In this flock some are lambs, young and tender and weak, others are sheep, grown to some strength and maturity. The Shepherd here takes care of both, and of the lambs first, for upon all occasions he showed a particular tenderness for them. He gathers the lambs in his arms, and carries them in his bosom. Isaiah 40:11. [2.] The charge he gives him concerning them is to feed them. The word used in John 21:15; John 21:17, is boske, which strictly signifies to give them food; but the word used in John 21:16; John 21:16 is poimaine, which signifies more largely to do all the offices of a shepherd to them: “Feed the lambs with that which is proper for them, and the sheep likewise with food convenient. The lost sheep of the house of Israel, seek and feed them, and the other sheep also which are not of this fold. Note, It is the duty of all Christ’s ministers to feed his lambs and sheep. Feed them, that is, teach them; for the doctrine of the gospel is spiritual food. Feed them, that is, “Lead them to the green pastures, presiding in their religious assemblies, and ministering all the ordinances to them. Feed them by personal application to their respective state and case; not only lay meat before them, but feed those with it that are wilful and will not, or weak and cannot feed themselves.” When Christ ascended on high, he gave pastors, left his flock with those that loved him, and would take care of them for his sake … the particular application to Peter here was designed, First, To restore him to his apostleship, now that he repented of his abjuration of it, and to renew his commission, both for his own satisfaction, and for the satisfaction of his brethren … Secondly, It was designed to quicken him to a diligent discharge of his office as an apostle. Peter was a man of a bold and zealous spirit, always forward to speak and act, and, lest he should be tempted to take upon him the directing of the shepherds, he is charged to feed the sheep, as he himself charges all the presbyters to do, and not to lord it over God’s heritage, 1 Peter 5:2; 1 Peter 5:3. If he will be doing, let him do this, and pretend no further. Thirdly, What Christ said to him he said to all his disciples; he charged them all, not only to be fishers of men (though that was said to Peter, Luke 5:10), by the conversion of sinners, but feeders of the flock, by the edification of saints.

Jesus ended by telling Peter how he would die, beginning with ‘Very truly’, meaning that it would be a certainty. He told the Apostle that when he was younger, he was in charge of his own life, but, as an older man, he would stretch out his hands — meaning crucifixion, which happened in Rome some years later — and someone else would fasten his belt, taking him to a place he did not wish to go (verse 18).

John confirms that verse 18 meant a martyr’s death, one that would glorify God; after that, Jesus told Peter, ‘Follow Me’ (verse 19).

Some might wonder why Jesus told him that.

MacArthur says it was to let Peter know that he would continue to glorify Christ — and, by extension God, throughout his ministry:

… it’s important to tell him that. He needed to know what? He needed to know that the next time he got in a life and death situation he would not deny his Lord. He needed to know that. He needed to know that when they took him and captured him, and tied him up, and stretched out his hands, and nailed him to a cross, he would glorify God.

I think he lived the rest of his life with a newfound confidence that overcame his self-doubt, because he had been such a failure at the trial of Christ. I think this put power into his life. I think this put hope into his heart. I think this added confidence to him and boldness. I think he may have otherwise feared that, “If I ever get into that situation again, what am I going to do?” and that would have sucked all of his confidence out. This is a great gift to this man: “You’re going to be arrested, crucified. You’re going to die, but in it, you’re going to glorify God.” Good news.

This is the ultimate sacrifice, and that’s how believers live. This is the extreme requirement for a committed life. Peter had said, Luke 22, “I’m ready to go with you to prison and death.” Didn’t work out that way first time; it would work out that way the last time. In the end, he will die for his Lord. This is a beautiful life-changing promise. Peter has to be ecstatic, thrilled. His heart has to be soaring. His hopes are flying. His boldness is being elevated as he heads toward a triumphant encounter with those who will kill him for his faithfulness to Christ. That’s what dedication is.

The third thing: a life that is truly dedicated to the Lord is compelled by love for Christ, characterized by sacrifice for Christ, and content with following Christ. The end of verse 19: “When Jesus had spoken the words about Peter’s death, He said this to him, ‘Follow Me! Follow Me!’” So important: “Follow Me!” Simple enough.

I have read and heard this passage many times before, but the expositions from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur really gave it new meaning.

I hope that you benefited similarly, especially those of us, like myself, who have more Petrine than Pauline in our personalities.

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