Text–(John 21:1-19 ESV) After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Summary–Here is the book end of John’s gospel to the church. The key to understanding this chapter is to see it as a parallel to the first part of chapter 1. John 1:1-14 is the prologue in which the pre-incarnate activity of the Lord is summarzied. John 21 is the epilogue which emphasizes the post-resurrection ministry of the Lord in which he rules his church and directs its members in their Christian growth and service. Here we read of Peter’s restoration to Christ after rejecting him during Christ’s trial and crucifixion. Here also we learn that, like Peter, we must never rely on our own strength in serving Christ for without our Lord, we will fall. With our Lord, we will have the strength to follow him in righteousness to glorify the father and serve our neighor.
Insight–Church history is full of stories about heroic figures who stand in the face of God’s enemies without faultering. How many Christians went to their deaths being burned at the stake, eaten by lions, torn to pieces all for the sake of Christ? But Church history also records those who refused to stand under the pressure of persecution. How many Christians chose to bow before Ceasar so as to avoid the hungry lions? These don’t make good stories to tell our children but they must be told. Otherwise when we face challenges and fail in them, we feel as if there is no way back into God’s favor. But there is a way back. We read of such a path in this last chapter of John. To understand why Jesus asks Peter what he does, and asks him the way he does it, we need to see that Peter failed him. Headstrong Peter told Christ that he would follow him anywhere, even to death itself in need be. Matthew records Peter’s claim, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” (Matt 26:33). But while Christ faced his accusers that would eventually lead to his death, Peter waited next to a charcoal fire and denied him. He denied him three times. Peter’s self-confidence was toppled in a matter of minutes when he said, “I don’t know the man, I don’t know what you are talking about, I am not his disciple.” Christ stood next to another charcoal fire and asked Simon, son of John, three times, “Do you love me?” Christ restored Peter to service of his flock by reversing the three denials with three affirmations. Headstrong Peter was humbled. He was stripped of his selfish pride and showed what it takes to truly follow Christ. There will be times when you will be asked to stand firm in your faith. When that happens, what will you rely on? Will you lean on your own strength? If you do, be ready to fall. Your own strength did not give you the ability to trust Christ and it won’t get you through whatever trial you may face. If you follow Peter’s example in John’s account, and love the Lord above everything else, you will be able to stand even if you stumbled in the past.
Catechism–(Q) How many times did Peter reject Christ and how many times did Christ restore Peter? (A) Three times
Discussion–What do you do when you stumble in your faith? Do you go fishing like Peter? How can Christ restore you to himself when you fail in your faith?
Prayer–Heavenly Father, you are our rock and our fortress. Before you spoke the world into existence, you chose us and adopted us throught Jesus Christ by the good pleasure of your Holy will. While we rebelled against you, you loved us. Lord, grant us the grace to reflect your love to the world by serving you with our whole hearts. Lord, we ask this in your perfect name, through Christ our Lord and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
Contributed by Michael Fenimore