The Gospel of John. Chapter 21

John 21  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 6
I cannot help thinking that [chap. 21] is the exhibition of the resurrection power of the ministry of Jesus. But I think it has a further meaning. The former manifestations of Jesus were personal; peace, and Church mission, and character. I have spoken sufficiently on that as to this reference to believing on Jesus, and the mission of faith by the Spirit; Church position, its advantage, faith's advantage, over sight. There it is witness; here it is not witness, but gathering power. Now certainly in a sort this was true in apostolic ministry, and so had its proportionate realization.
The power of resurrection did bring in a great multitude, but it has surely a further force. When Peter once before on the Lord's manifestation let down his net at the Lord's word, his net brake. Here it is specifically noticed, for all they were so many his net did not break. Now, it is true that, preached by the apostles, there was a large ingathering compared with the testimony of the unrisen Jesus; but surely it has, as the former, to the Church position, having received the Holy Ghost, to the work of Jesus in the world, calling them to dine, and therefore primarily applied to the Jews. When they were first called the net brake, and filling the ships they began to sink; but now the real time of the full manifestation of the power of the Lord Jesus' resurrection, being the latter day among them, when, after the interval, from His manifestation in Church reception, they go alone to fish again. That night they toil to no purpose; but in the morning Jesus, unawares to them, is on the shore. Under the direction of the yet unknown Savior they fill their nets; and now they are no longer broken. They could not however draw it then for the multitude of fishes, and the Lord is discovered to them by the discerning thought of John, well acquainted with Him in the spirit of love. Peter leaves the ship, and joins Him on hearing it from him; and they drag consequently the net to shore, full of great fishes and unbroken. They were in a " small ship " now, and but one (which note). Nor were they far from shore. But there was already food, fishes prepared, brought, not by them, there; as to which they had nothing to say; but Jesus was there, and all was ready to their sitting down to eat before Him; that is, prepared. They were charged to bring of their gains; and then, when dragged to shore, they found what they had gathered, had caught. Till they got to shore out of the ships they did not see the fire and the fishes there, and bread.
16-18. Manifestation to the remnant called by name, though sinners; but not now taking His Kingship, for He must ascend first. Verse 19 to the end, His revelation to the Church, and its character. Here the revelation of the future ingathering brought to shore; called to dine; Jesus then there gathering; brought to shore, and yet Jesus having fish prepared there with Him already, the fruit of other toil and power. And though I have said “Jews," it is not necessarily that all shown ashore were Jews, but that it was a Jewish work, after a bidding, though not a known manifestation, of the Lord. Then in work there shall be no net breaking, but the netful drawn to shore. Jesus' words: “Which ye have now taken."
There is something very peculiar in the manner of our Lord's revelations. How John and Peter are ever together in their interest in the Lord, and so in each other! It gives a peculiar interest to the relation of the circumstances in which they were engaged. There is always decency in reverence.
Then this word “cometh" shows Jesus not at the place till they were come there, though the fire, etc., was prepared. Then He is present with them in the same familiar kindness as heretofore at supper. It was the same Jesus. He then personally joins them. All this, it appears to me, is the Lord's dealing with the Jews in the latter day. It is quite clear that these were the direct simple testimony to the Lord's resurrection; but I cannot help thinking that the allusion to the Jewish Church and latter day manifestation of the Lord are here.
15. The commission given to Simon is one of much importance. Conferred in grace in retrospect of his fall, it showed to all the manner of graciousness. But the Lord is paramount in grace, and confers as well as restores, abounding in His own riches, as well as patient to our defects; and whether in Paul or Peter, our utter weakness and evil is shown as fitting for service; denying or destroying the Lord, man's preparation for preaching Him and feeding the sheep. There is much more here therefore than mere restoration. He restores his heart as towards Him, on the rejected appeal to His own knowledge of him, that knowledge now more fully owned, which had known him about to deny Him. The same knowledge now constituted him before the Church the feeder of His lambs, etc. It is again, we may remark, personal, not entitling, but calling by name; as when He said, “Thou art Peter"; so now, "Feed." But "poimaine" (shepherd) is a different thing from "boske" (feed), and it mars it to translate it the same; for "poimaine" means all the care of leading, guiding protecting from wolves, etc., as in Acts 20:28, 2928Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. (Acts 20:28‑29); the whole care of those taken forth, exposed to danger. Then afterward, "Feed my sheep."
17. Strange man! He who went on (left to himself) to deny the Lord thrice without stint, is grieved because he is asked thrice, "Lovest thou me." Yet what grace in it! He did know all things. Happy for Peter, He knew and saw only the good, His Father's work now. It is a great thing to say, "Thou knowest that I love thee."
If it be asked, What means "touton" (than these)? I say Everything except Christ, the Lord Jesus Christ.
This was the general care of ministration; not mission, but ministry. Authoritative commission before, it was suffering for and content to glorify God now, in authority of mission and governance. I cannot help thinking here again that the reference to Peter is the founding of the care and ministry of the Church of God in the circumcision, and its apostolate. And I suspect that the triple charge refers to the triple circumstances in which the Church or ministry was set: Jewish remnant, scattered and abroad, and Jewish remnant, etc., again. There was the promise withal that he would be given to follow (in the strength of Christ's resurrection, what he could not do when Jesus had to suffer) Jesus, as he had spoken before. It should be the subjection of his will, not voluntary acting.
The whole of Peter here seems to represent the ministry as standing on Jewish ground, and of direct association with the Lord. John, on the other hand, as before now, signifies general or Gentile Church ministration. If the Lord choose it to tarry till He comes, that was nothing; Peter had his own association with the Lord; he was to follow Him.
There seems also to be a progress in the way the Lord questions Peter, though Peter's association is constant: “Lovest thou me more than these?" “More than these"; the things in which he was occupied during the absence of the Lord, to which he had turned after he had lost Him on his denial. He had seen Him since, but it is manifest he was receiving a quite fresh, redintegrated commission to him as a person: “Simon, son of Jonas." And when there is any denial or failure to the Lord, though we may even go on again in His company, there must be this redintegration, “conversion." From hence his service springs.
The next question is, “Lovest thou me?" Then, “Hast thou affection for me?" hast thou thine heart in Me? as, "Lord, he whom thou lovest is sick."
Peter's assertion moreover is uniform. “Knowest" (ginos-keis, v. 57), is a stronger word than "knowest” (oidas, vv. 55, 16), denoting recognition. But, save setting the circumcision at the head in ministry, and the triple character of it, there is more in this than the Lord yet gives me to see. The sheep primarily are the Jewish remnant; but there are others not of that fold, we find, where the Lord's special love rests. When this is drawn out towards Him thus He turns it: Feed (care for) My sheep.
The double portion of the Church, then; death, and tarrying till Jesus come; one following Him, the other if His will; and it may be a more toilsome service, but His will. Love to Jesus may lead us to death; but Jesus' love so tasted may often set us in ministry where we might be glad to follow Him so. The circumstances of John were left comparatively dark; merely “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” But Peter was to be more specially identified with the Lord in circumstances. The apostle therefore, or the Lord, does not explain this; only denies its applicability to the reverse of what Peter's was personally, as though it referred to his personal death. We know that John continued till the whole system of the Church was broken up (see beginning of Revelation); and therefore, as it were, to the Lord's coming. The rest was only prophesied apostasy till He come. Thus he stood as the representative of the system; as Paul of its energy in commencement. We have an instance here of the falseness of drawing conclusions here from Scripture. The point was not denying the conclusion (What has God to do with it?) but “Jesus said not to him."
This is always the answer. It was not a part of the conception of the Church in its strength in Jewish association to be cognizant of its positive endurance in any continued or protracted form. It was merely thrown out, as in the compass of divine will, to be shown by that will, not the professed purpose in character in which the Church was set forth (which note) as in Adam's innocence. Yet the purpose, as so dependent, is darkly thrown out. It is not merely, “What is that to thee?” but, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” It did not affect the duty on which the call to Peter rested, nor affect the position in which he was placed. There might be other and wider scenes of God's purpose, but the command of God, and place of the apostle, rested on what was thus spoken to him. After state might show the concern and use which the Lord had for another instrument, person or things.
It is very remarkable the way the Lord discloses, and yet conceals, His will here, and opens out the force and meaning, I apprehend, of this, and the nature and time of the protraction of the dispensation; specially knowing the use made, in point of fact, of John, active after. For it was not Paul, the inceptive energy of the Church, whom we find ministering the Churches in Asia at their (real) close, but John. That was set aside, and he became the witness of the character of its protraction through and onward, till the meeting-point of the Lord's coming indeed, with the (moral) judgment and prophecy (providential chiefly) meanwhile; and then the great result; that is, the awful system formed. The real secret of what it was to result in, which begins from Rev. 12 properly; and compare this, verses 21, 22. The real result with the Lord, God and the Lamb; and then [the] close of all, which [is] in Rev. 21:11And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. (Revelation 21:1), etc.
But if all the things of His glory were written the world indeed would not contain the books. Amen.