Jesus appears to seven disciples. He asks Peter if he loves him. But Peter only admits to being a “buddy” of Jesus. The apostle John concludes his Gospel.
VERSE 1. After these things, Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias. He revealed himself this way.
the sea of Tiberias. This was another name for the Sea of Galilee.
He revealed himself this way. Jesus is always coming up with fresh ways to make himself known to us.
VERSE 2. Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together.
VERSE 3. Simon Peter said to them, “I’m going fishing.” They told him, “We are also coming with you.” They immediately went out, and entered into the boat. That night, they caught nothing.
I’m going fishing. Perhaps Peter misunderstood the Lord’s commission.
VERSE 4. But when day had already come, Jesus stood on the beach, yet the disciples didn’t know that it was Jesus.
the disciples didn’t know that it was Jesus. Why? It was early. Maybe there was not enough light.
VERSE 5. Jesus therefore said to them, “Children, have you anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.”
Children. This is an interesting way to refer to them.
The Greek word is “hpaidia.” It literally means “little children.” Or perhaps “lads.”
VERSE 6. He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” They cast it therefore, and now they weren’t able to draw it in for the multitude of fish.
Cast the net on the right side of the boat. They were to change what they were doing.
VERSE 7. That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he wrapped his coat around himself (for he was naked), and threw himself into the sea.
It’s the Lord! The beloved disciple (John) is the first to recognize the Lord Jesus.
John had also been first to discern the significance of the grave clothes:
John 20:5. Stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths lying, yet he didn’t enter in.
he was naked. Some people imagine Peter was only wearing a loincloth or a loose-fitting work smock. But maybe, as it says, he was literally naked.
threw himself into the sea. Peter has an impulsive nature.
VERSE 8. But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from the land, but about two hundred cubits away), dragging the net full of fish.
VERSE 9. So when they got out on the land, they saw a fire of coals there, with fish and bread laid on it.
a fire of coals there, with fish and bread. Jesus had prepared a breakfast of charcoaled fish with bread for the hungry disciples.
VERSE 10. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”
VERSE 11. Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land, full of one hundred fifty-three great fish. Even though there were so many, the net wasn’t torn.
great fish. The Greek word for “fish” is ἰχθύς (“ichthus”). Early Christians saw themselves as Christ’s “fish.” They used the fish symbol to mark the houses where they would meet. Nowadays we see the fish symbol as bumper stickers. Elsewhere, Jesus spoke of catching men (fish). Christians “catch fish” by speaking about Jesus Christ.
one hundred fifty-three. John probably mentions this as a matter of historical detail. With a group of men fishing, the common procedure would be for them to count the fish they caught and then divide them equally among the fishermen.
But that does not stop people from ascribing all sorts of allegorical and symbolic interpretations to it. Here is a common symbolic interpretation:
In those days, the number of known species of fish was 153. The number 153 meant all of the different kinds of fish. Interpreted in that way, the number 153 could represent all of humanity. God’s love is big enough for all of humanity. No one is excluded and nothing can ‘tear’ his love. We are forever caught up in it. And God’s love does not “tear.”
the net wasn’t torn. John says the net did not tear, even though it was full of every kind of fish. All people, believers or not, are caught up in the indestructible net of Christ’s love. It is just that the believers are aware of it, whereas the nonbeliever is not.
VERSE 12. Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast!” None of the disciples dared inquire of him, “Who are you?” knowing that it was the Lord.
knowing that it was the Lord. In this instance, they are fully aware that it is him.
Years later Peter spoke of himself as a reliable witness who ate and drank with Jesus after his resurrection:
Acts 10:41. not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen before by God, to us, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
VERSE 13. Then Jesus came and took the bread, gave it to them, and the fish likewise.
VERSE 14. This is now the third time that Jesus was revealed to his disciples after he had risen from the dead.
Earlier Peter had publicly denied Jesus beside a fire. Now beside another fire he is restored publicly.
VERSE 15. So when they had eaten their breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I have affection for you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me? In front of everybody, Jesus asks Peter this embarrassing question.
That’s an interesting question. It’s interesting that Jesus asked Peter that question. And it’s perhaps even more interesting that Jesus did not ask Peter some other question.
Jesus does not ask Peter, for example, about his doctrines. Jesus doesn’t ask Peter about his teachings, even though Peter will go on to officiate a lot of Christian teachings, and even though purity of doctrine is important.
Nor does the Lord ask Peter about the Bible, even though Peter will go on to write some key parts of the New Testament, and even though the Bible is really important.
The Lord doesn’t even ask Peter his views about ecclesiology, which means the structure of the church, even though Peter will be the first shepherd of the Church, and even though correct ecclesiology is important for our spiritual life.
No, the Lord asks Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?”
How does Peter answer? He replied, “Yes, Lord; you know that I have affection for you.” That so nice and simple. It sounds like the right answer. But Peter did not even answer the question.
There is an important subtlety in two of the original Greek words. There are two different words for “love” here. Jesus asks, “Do you do you [ agapao ] me?” Agapao means to love unselfishly, sacrificially.
Peter replies with a different word: “Yes, Lord, you know that I [ phileo ] you.” Phileo means to share interests, to be “friends,” to be buddies.
In other words, Peter ducked the question. Maybe he’s too embarrassed to admit he loves Jesus. Or maybe he’s lost his love for Christ.
Do you get the subtlety there? Jesus asks, “Peter, do you agapao me?” And Peter replies, “Yes, Lord, you know that I phileo you.” Peter doesn’t answer the question.
Feed my lambs. The lambs belong to Jesus Christ. They do not belong to Peter.
VERSE 16. He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I have affection for you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
He said to him again a second time. The Lord gives Peter a second chance.
Jesus asks Peter again, “Do you agapao me?” Do you love me unselfishly, sacrificially?
And once again, Peter ducks the question: “Yes, Lord, you know that I phileo you.” I share your interests; I’m your buddy.
Tend my sheep. The sheep belong to Jesus Christ. They do not belong to Peter.
VERSE 17. He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you have affection for me?” Peter was grieved because he asked him the third time, “Do you have affection for me?” He said to him, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I have affection for you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
He said to him the third time. The Lord gives Peter a third chance.
Jesus asks a third time, but reverses it: “Simon, son of John, do you phileo me?” Do you share my interests; are you my friend? Are you my buddy?
It’s like the Lord is trying to jolt Peter into seeing the light. Maybe it was reverse psychology.
Peter is distressed: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I phileo you.” You know that I share your interests, that I’m just your friend.
So the Lord let it rest.
Feed my sheep. The sheep belong to Jesus Christ. They do not belong to Peter.
VERSE 18. Most certainly I tell you, when you were young, you dressed yourself and walked where you wanted to. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you don’t want to go.”
when you are old. In the years to come, Peter did indeed find his way back to a love-relationship with Jesus Christ.
There’s evidence of that in his First Letter. He writes, “whom not having known [Jesus Christ], you love him” (1 Peter 1:8).
In that verse, which Greek word for love did Peter use? It wasn’t phileo, friendship, brotherly friendship, but rather, agapao, self-sacrificing deep love.
By that point in his life, Peter had fallen back in love with Christ. And later, for Jesus Christ, his greatest love, Peter was crucified.
VERSE 19. Now he said this, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. When he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”
signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. Eusebius wrote that in old age, Peter’s hands were stretched and tied to a cross. (Reference: The Ecclesiastical History, 2.25)
Follow me. The task for Peter is not governance of a church. Rather, it is to walk with Jesus Christ.
For people in ministry, their task is not ministry. It is never ministry. Rather, it is to walk with Jesus Christ.
VERSE 20. Then Peter, turning around, saw a disciple following. This was the disciple whom Jesus loved, the one who had also leaned on Jesus’ breast at the supper and asked, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”
the disciple whom Jesus loved. That is, John the Apostle. He is often referred to as the beloved apostle or the beloved disciple.
VERSE 21. Peter seeing him, said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”
VERSE 22. Jesus said to him, “If I desire that he stay until I come, what is that to you? You follow me.”
until I come. This probably refers to his return in glory at the end of days.
VERSE 23. This saying therefore went out among the brothers, that this disciple wouldn’t die. Yet Jesus didn’t say to him that he wouldn’t die, but, “If I desire that he stay until I come, what is that to you?”
John corrects a faulty inference made by some believers that John would not die.
This section is sometimes referred to as the “colophon”
VERSE 24. This is the disciple who testifies about these things, and wrote these things. We know that his witness is true.
This is the disciple who testifies. John the Apostle wrote this book.
about these things. This most likely refers to the entire Gospel of John.
VERSE 25. There are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they would all be written, I suppose that even the world itself wouldn’t have room for the books that would be written.
many other things which Jesus did. The Bible does not tell us everything. Rather, it only tells us only what we need to know for salvation.
Isaiah 30:8. Now go, write it before them on a tablet, and inscribe it in a book, that it may be for the time to come forever and ever.
John 21:25. There are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they would all be written, I suppose that even the world itself wouldn’t have room for the books that would be written.
Revelation 1:11. saying, “What you see, write in a book and send to the seven assemblies: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”
even the world itself wouldn’t have room for the books that would be written. If everything the infinite Son of God said and did during his earthly Incarnation were pondered, the resulting commentary would be endless.
Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.