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B.W. Johnson Commentary on John 21:1-14

From The People's New Testament, B.W. Johnson, 1891.



The Risen Lord at the Sea of Galilee.

SUMMARY.--The Disciples Fishing in Galilee. Jesus Seen on the Shore. The Miraculous Draught of Fish. Lovest Thou Me More Than These? Peter's Manner of Death Foretold. If He Tarry Till I Come.

1. After these things. Compare Matt. 28:7; Mark 16:7. Sea of Tiberias. Another name of the Sea of Galilee. The disciples had been commanded by the Savior to gather in Galilee (Matt. 28:7).

2. There were together. Seven disciples are named, most of whom, if not all, belonged to that very neighborhood. Nathanael is named in John 1:45. The rest were apostles, and many suppose that Nathanael was also; the same as the one called "Bartholomew," which only means "the son of Tholmaius." Nathanael is thought to have been the son of Tholmaius.

3. Simon Peter saith, . . . I go a fishing. His old calling.

4. When the morning was now come. The Revision is correct: "When the day was now breaking."

7. It is the Lord. Until the net was thus filled, the Lord was not recognized in the dim light. John first knew him. Two hundred cubits. About one hundred yards. [409]

12, 13. And none . . . durst ask him, Who art thou? The disciples knew that it was the Lord, but there was something in his mien, his majesty, his altered appearance, that amazed them, filled them with awe, and prevented them from asking questions that they were curious to know.

14. The third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples. John does not say that this was the third appearance of Jesus, but the third time he had showed himself to the disciples, or apostles, for that is the sense in which disciples is here, and often, used. The first time was his appearance to the ten apostles, on the evening of the day of the resurrection (John 20:19). The second was to the eleven (Thomas was now present) one week later (John 20:26).

15. Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? At the close of the feast, the Lord turned to Peter with this question, one that he repeated twice. On the night of the betrayal, when Christ intimated that his disciples would forsake him in the trial he was about to suffer, Peter spoke up and asserted that though all others forsook him he would never forsake him. What Christ had said might be true of the rest, but he was so loving, faithful and true, that he would die for him. Yet before the cock crow of the next morning he had thrice denied that he knew Jesus, even with his oaths. Such was the collapse of the confident disciple who "loved the Master better than these" other disciples. Since that fall, Christ had met with Peter among the rest of the disciples, but had not referred to this subject, but now has come the time for a restoration of Peter. Hence, he probes him with the question, "Lovest thou me more than these?" That question would at once recall to Peter his boastful claim, his awful fall, and would pierce him to the heart. He no longer claims that he is the truest of the apostolic band, does not even affirm confidently, but answers, "Thou knowest my heart; thou knowest that I love thee." Then said the Savior, Feed my lambs.

16. Feed my sheep. A second time the Lord probes Peter with the question. Let it be noted that he does not call him Peter, "the rock," any longer. So frail a disciple could only be called Simon. The Christ again commissions him to work, "Feed my sheep." Not only the lambs, but he may look after the sheep of the fold, watch over the disciples of the Lord, young and old. Three times Peter had denied the [410] Master; three times the Master questions his love; three times he gives him charge concerning his work. The questioning was painful, Peter was grieved, but the grief was wholesome, and Peter's whole subsequent life bore proof of the discipline. His rashness was forever gone.

18. When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself. Peter had denied his Master to save his own life. Now that he is reinstated in the old confidence and charged with the Master's work, he is told that he will be called on to die for it. He will be girded, not with a girdle, but with bonds, and he shall be led where he would not, unto death.

19. By what death he should glorify God. These two verses can only be understood as declaring that Peter should die the death of a martyr. John wrote after Peter's death, and may be understood as affirming that he did thus "glorify God." The universal testimony of the ancient Church is that he did thus die. It is asserted that Peter was crucified, a fact that is probable, as he was not a Roman citizen. Follow me. He had once forsaken Christ through fear of death. Now, with a prospect of violent death before him, he is bidden to resume the Master's work and to follow him. He did this, from this time, faithfully.

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