On the Gospel of John 21

John 21  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 7
This last chapter is purposely mysterious, and it presents to us what will take place when Jesus returns; but besides, the restoration of Peter's soul dig his fall. Verses 1-14 show what follows the return of Jesui, the third time He shows Himself. The first time is the day of His resurrection; the second time, a week after, when Thomas was there; these two occasions present the remnant become the church, and the remnant at the end. Here, in this chapter, it is what is called the millennium. It is the third time that Jesus shows Himself to them, when they are together; in figure it was first of all for Christians, then for the Jewish remnant, and finally for the Gentile world. This is why Jesus had already here some fish on the fire, that is to say, the Jewish remnant.
But, throwing the net into the sea of nations, the disciples gather together a mass of fish, without however, the net breaking. In the beginning (Luke 5) they had taken a mass of people, but then the net gets broken. The administrative order that contained the fish could not keep them according to that order, but here the presence of the risen Savior changes everything. Nothing breaks, and He is again associated with His own, and in the power of the fruit of His work.
After this mysterious scene, He restores Peter, but it is by probing his heart, in making him known to himself. This is what the Lord always does. Peter had said, that if all denied Him, he would not. The Savior asks him if he loved Him more than the others loved Him. Peter appeals to the knowledge that the Savior had; Jesus confides His lambs to him. Once humbled, and having lost all confidence in ourselves, the Lord can confide to us that which is most dear to His heart: " Feed my lambs," He says to him. Note well that Jesus does not reproach Peter with anything that he had done, but that He goes, for his good, co the very bottom of his soul, even to that false confidence in himself that had brought about his fall. Then, repeating His question even to the third time, which should have recalled to Peter his denial, three times repeated, He widens the sphere of His confidence, and says to him, " Take care of my sheep." Peter had strengthened the expression of his affection, saying, " Thou knowest that thou art dear to me." The Lord takes up the word, and says, " Am I dear to thee? " Peter was troubled because the Lord again called in question his affection, and said to Him: " Thou knowest all things, thou knowest that thou art dear to me." He appeals to that knowledge that sounds all hearts, but this was to confess that it needed that in order to know it; for, according to all appearances, when put to the proof, he showed himself unfaithful at the moment that demanded devotedness on his part, and men might have said that Peter had proved a hypocrite. But, thank God, notwithstanding all our weaknesses, there is One who knows what He Himself has put at the bottom of our hearts, and if He searches us and compels us to know both ourselves, and the root of evil in us, He recognizes still deeper down that which He has created there; blessed be His name; and He overwhelms with grace that which His grace has put there, and trusts, once we are humbled enough, this grace in us, maintained, however, by the continual flow of His grace.
We see further in this passage, how dear His sheep are to Jesus. It is of them He thinks in going away, to provide their food and the care they need. But there is more in His grace towards poor Peter. He had lost the fine opportunity he had had. To save his life he had denied the Savior, and that which the want of faith had lost is not always given back, even if something better be given us. If we cross the Jordan, we cannot go up the mountain of the Amorites any more, we wander in the barren desert. Only, God accomplishes His counsels. But here, the strength of Peter's will having been proved to be weakness before the power of the enemy, the immense blessing of suffering and even of dying for the Lord is granted to him; and that should take place, when it should no longer be a question of his will, but of submission to the power of others, where his faithfulness should be set in a clear light. Another should bind him, and carry him whither he would not. He should die, after all, for the Lord. It is then, when there is no more will of our own, no more strength, that we can follow the Lord.
Afterward, in terms purposely mysterious, John's ministry and work are stated. The lambs and sheep of Jesus were the Jewish believers confided thus to Peter. The testimony was to be rejected by the nation, and terminated by Peter's death. But it should be otherwise with that of John. Peter, who sees him also following Jesus, asks the Lord what would happen to him. " If I will," says the Savior, " that he remain till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me! " He did not say, as was supposed, that he would not die; but in fact his ministry makes known the ways of God to the end. All is left in suspense after him, until Jesus come, whilst the sphere of Peter's ministry has disappeared from off the earth.
Remark, too, that it is no question here of Paul's ministry. Peter had the ministry of the circumcision; the earth was the scene of it, and the promises its object, leading at the same time individually to heaven. John, whilst revealing the Person of the Son and eternal life come down from heaven, occupies himself also with that which is upon earth, then with the government and the judgment of God at the Savior's manifestation down here. Paul treats of God's counsels in Christ, and of His work, to introduce us into the same heavenly glory, like Him before the Father, His brethren already down here. This is not the subject of our Gospel.