JOHN 21 - THE EPILOGUE
An epilogue is a section at the end of a book that wraps up the story to explain what happened or to tell what happened to the characters after the story ends.
Jesus Appeared in Galilee
“After this” means after the events of Chapter 21, including Jesus’ appearance to the disciples with Thomas. It does not tell us how much time has gone by since the end of chapter 21.
Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John (sons of Zebedee), and two others, retreated to Galilee, by the Sea of Tiberias, which is also known as the Sea of Galilee.The 7 disciples mentioned may all have been from that area, so it would be natural to go there. Plus Jesus had told them, through Mary Magdalene, that he would see them in Galilee.
Peter decided to go fishing. (3) Some commentators criticize him for that and accuse him of abandoning the mission. But, was he really wrong to go fishing? You could accuse him of a return to former profession? But, he may have been killing time, waiting for Jesus to appear?
Or, was it an economic necessity? He may have needed the income to support his family. And, maybe he was simply obeying Jesus by going to Galilee. It is unfair to judge his motives when the Scripture does not tell us what they were.
John did not record it, but Jesus did instruct the disciples to go to Galilee and wait for him. This is recorded in Matthew 28:7 & 10 and Mark 14:28.
So, most likely, they went there to obey Jesus, then they went fishing either to keep busy or to make some money while they waited for him.
The disciples did not catch anything during the night even though it was considered the best time to fish. But also seems symbolic given John’s frequent use of the contrast between darkness and light. In darkness they attempt a task in their own power and fail; in the light they succeed in the power of Jesus!
Jesus appeared on the shore at daybreak, when light first began to appear. (4) The disciples did not recognize him.
The disciples had not caught any fish throughout the night. Jesus called out to them & told them to cast on the other side of the boat. In his omniscience, Jesus knew there were many fish on the other side (or even sent the fish to that side). They did and caught a lot of fish.
John recognized Jesus and told Peter “it is the Lord!”. He may have made the connection to the event of Luke 5:1-11, when Jesus called the first disciples by giving them fish to catch. Or, maybe because it was a miracle, he recognized Jesus as the cause.
Peter (impetuously) jumped in the water and swam to shore (7). This shows us that, despite his earlier denials, Peter loved Jesus and wanted badly to see him. The others followed in the boat, dragging the net (8)
Jesus had made some breakfast, having built a fire and started cooking fish and bread. (9) Jesus served breakfast to the disciples who had worked all night, still being the humble servant & knowing what they needed (13) He told them bring more fish, so Peter hauled the net full of fish to shore by himself (strong man!) because he was
eager to please.
John gives a specific count of the fish (153) to show it was an enormous and miraculous catch. He also recorded that the net was not broken despite the large catch (another miracle). Jesus was demonstrating to the disciples, via the miracles, that it was he appearing to them. And so, they recognized that it was Jesus. (12)
The disciples must have still be hesitant and maybe even fearful. Jesus had to tell them to “come and have breakfast” (12) and “None of them dared to ask him…”, indicating some fearfulness on their part.
This was the third post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to the disciples (14) The number “3” is symbolic of something complete and good. For example, saying something 3 times (calling Samuel, going to Gethsemane to pray, instructing Peter to feed his sheep), or repeating the same word 3 times (holy, holy, holy) (woe is…). Through this, John shows us that Jesus completely and sufficiently revealed himself to the disciples to prove he was resurrected and alive.
Jesus & Peter
Jesus questioned Peter 3 times about his love for Jesus. The first time, Jesus asked him if he loved Jesus “more than these?”, meaning more than these other men\disciples love Jesus. Peter always acted like he did before his denials.
Peter appealed to Jesus’ deity\omniscience, saying “you know that I love you”. Since Jesus knows all things, he knows Peter loves him. (17) Jesus accepted Peter’s declaration. He commissioned Peter: feed my lambs.
Jesus had Peter declare his love 3 times just as he denied Jesus 3 times.
It would be a complete declaration of love just as it was a complete denial of Jesus (3 times).
Jesus answered each declaration of love with “feed\tend my sheep”. Peter was to show his love for Jesus by teaching and taking care of believers (the sheep). Jesus was the true shepherd on earth, and passed that duty down to Peter and the other apostles.
No authority is given here - simply a commission to serve the flock.
Peter later passed the responsibility down to elders, writing:
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the suffering of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising overseeing, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in our charge, buy being examples to the flock”. (1 Peter 5:1-3)
Jesus told Peter how he would die. To “stretch out your hands” refers to crucifixion. Peter faithfully served for about 3 decades with this prophecy hanging over his head.
Jesus & John
Jesus & Peter took off walking down the beach. (20) John followed. He was the disciple whom Jesus loved, the one reclining at table close to Jesus when he revealed who would betray him.
Peter, having been told of his own death, wanted to know John’s fate.
But Jesus told him it was none of his business. Peter’s job was to follow Jesus.
That is true for all of us. We do not need to waste question Jesus about his plan and will for others so that we can compare it to his plan for us. Rather, we are to concentrate on following him.
John did not write down everything Jesus did. (25) He did not think all of those things could be contained in all the books written - his testimony to Jesus’ greatness. That seems to be true - look how many books have been written about Jesus since then!