John 21

John 21  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 7
A great part of this chapter is more obscure than the preceding one, and this by its very nature; being a prophecy, and a prophecy under the form of a symbolical action. The disciples had gone into Galilee, according to the commandment of the Lord (Mark 14:28; 16:728But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee. (Mark 14:28)
7But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. (Mark 16:7)
), to meet Him there. In Galilee the Lord was in relation with the poor of the flock, with the Jewish remnant, and this chapter treats of this relationship. In Luke 24 we find that the Lord ascends into heaven, and blesses the disciples while departing from them; there He commissions them to preach repentance and the remission of sins among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. This Gospel has to do with heaven, and therefore we are told that Christ ascended into heaven. The Gospel that the apostle Paul preached answered most to this mission; although the Spirit through Paul joins the revelation of the union of believers, and consequently the Church. Matthew does not give us the ascension of Christ into heaven, but He is found in Galilee; and His ascension is not found in this Gospel, nor in that of John. The foundations of Christianity, as the death, the resurrection, and the glory of Christ in heaven, remain always the same. In fact, all the disciples saw Him ascend up into heaven from Bethany. But the Evangelists, Matthew and John, are not occupied with the subject, and treat of the relationship of the Lord with the Jewish remnant.
We have seen Thomas, figure of this remnant, recognize the Lord when he saw Him; and the declaration of the Lord that those (i.e., Christians) who believe without seeing are specially blessed. Now in this chapter 21, the Holy Spirit puts the subject altogether aside. The remnant of the Jews are found now gathered together, and the net is cast into the sea to gather other fishes. This is the assembly of the millennium; rather of the Gentiles and of the children of Israel. Here the net does not break, in contrast with what had happened when the Lord called the disciples; for the same figure (Luke 5) had shown before that the net broke, that is, that the gathering together of believers at that time could not be accomplished; but in the millennium, of which we have said we have a figure here, it will be accomplished; because the personal presence of the Lord will prevent the work from coming to ruin. The figure being used before makes it easy to understand it again in this chapter. The Lord had fishes already on land (ver. 9). The supper signifies, I think, that the Lord and His own are again in company on earth. In chapter 13. He had left the table, in order to become their servant and to wash the feet of His disciples; and this is what He is now doing, in His grace ascended into heaven, as He speaks of in this chapter. Here again companionship with them is renewed. It is said that this is now the third time that Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection; that is, that they were together; He alludes to the twice in the preceding chapter and to this. He appeared once to found the Church, and to send His disciples into the world; the second time when Thomas believes, because he sees, figure of the Jews in the last days; and now, the third time, when He is seen in association with His own, and gathering together all the spared Israel and the Gentiles under His authority.
Then (ver. 15) He gives Peter the care of the sheep of the circumcision; it is not a question of the Gospel sent forth into the work but He gives to Peter, under circumstances very instructive, the care of persons already gathered. He does not reprove him for his fall, nor speak of his denial of his Lord, but He searches his heart to show him the spring of his failure. Peter had said, " Though all should deny thee yet will not I"; and the Lord says to him, "Lovest thou me more than these?" With these words He destroys the false foundation, the heart is made bare, and Peter is made fit to feed the sheep. The weakness was manifested, and perfect grace, and Jesus confides His beloved sheep, the most precious objects of His love, to him who had learned his weakness and to have no confidence in himself. Peter had found a love in which he could have perfect confidence. What a lesson he had to learn in order to be fitted for the Lord's service! Behold in what a way were the two great apostles Peter and Paul educated; the first denying the Lord when he knew Him, and Paul destroying His name, had he been able to. Their mouths are closed unless they speak of the grace which they specially have tasted. But it is beautiful to see how in the moment in which the Lord shows what His servant was, He confides to his care that which was dearest to Him.
Then the Lord shows the end of the earthly career of Peter, and does it with deepest grace; by which Peter is forced to see that the will and good pleasure of man are worth nothing. He had wished to go to death for Jesus; but in the hour of danger, the voice of a servant girl was enough to frighten him. Therefore, when he would be old, another would bind him and lead him whither he would not. The privilege would be granted to him, when human will would be no longer active, of dying for the Lord; a thing he had not courage to do, when he had had a wish to do it. He had lost a precious opportunity- by unbelief; and he might have never had an opportunity of recovering it. But the Lord, having restored him in grace, gave him back what he had lost and power to accomplish it, but when human will was there no longer. Then when he has learned what he is, and the grace of the Lord, the Lord could say to him: "Follow thou me." The instruction is personal; but in this account I doubt not we find an intimation of the result of the service of Peter. The service of the Lord in the midst of the Jews has not gathered this people; and Peter must follow the Lord in the experience of a fruitless work in respect of the people, although many souls have been brought to the knowledge of the Lord.
John had another service. Peter, seeing that he was also following the Lord, wished to know what would become of him. The Lord answers in words purposely obscure-" If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee I" The disciples thought from this that He would not die, but the Lord had not said this, but "If I will " And not only did John live a much longer time than the others (when the hopes of Israel were closed, on to the coming of the judgment executed on the people), but his ministry extends on to the return of the Savior [that is, what is found in his Epistles and in the Revelation]. It is not here a question of Paul's ministry, begun after the death of Stephen: this introduces the Church united to Christ in heaven; but of the testimony of the Holy Ghost in relation with the earth, and the hope of establishing on the earth a people owned of God. This result has not been brought about by means of Peter; and, therefore, John must, as an apostle, declare that many Antichrists were there already: it proves that the last times had come; and, as a prophet, he declares the fall of the Church and the judgment of the world.