John 21 Bible Study

Bible Study of John Chapter 21

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John 21 Bible Study


JOHN 21:1-3  1 After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 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 are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.

Where is the "Sea of Tiberias" (John 21:1)?
"Sea of Tiberias" is another name for the Sea of Galilee, which is also called the Lake of Gennesaret. Tiberias is the resort city that Herod built on the western shore of this body of water and named after Caesar Tiberias.

Which and how many of Jesus' eleven disciples were there?
Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John ("sons of Zebedee" - John 21:2) and "two others", so seven of them.

Why were they there in the first place?
They were heeding the angel at the tomb of resurrection: "But the angel answered and said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.' So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word." (Matthew 28:5-8)

JOHN 21:4-8  4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish.

Why didn’t they recognize Jesus when He called out to them?
According to John 21:8, He was about 100 yards away (1 cubit = 18 inches, which is half of 1 yard).

What else may have impeded the recognition?
If Jesus was calling from the eastern shore, the "morning" (John 21:4) sun could have been rising behind Him.

Who shouted, “It is the Lord! (John 21:7)”
The "disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 21:7), which is how John, the writer of this Gospel refers to himself.

How was he able to see Jesus?
He most likely wasn’t.

Then how did he know it was "the Lord"?
The monster catch probably reminded him of how Jesus originally had called them to be His disciples: "When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, 'Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.' But Simon answered and said to Him, 'Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.' And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!' For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, 'Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.'" (Luke 5:4-10)

What was Peter's reaction?
He left everything - the fish, the boat, the other disciples - behind and plunged into the water to get to Jesus first.

Why did he at least put on his outer garment?
He had been fishing in his undergarment and probably want to stand before Jesus in more than just that.

What does John and Peter’s reaction here remind you of?
How they reacted when Mary Magdalene brought news that Jesus' body wasn't in the tomb. On both occasions, John was the faster, both to get to the tomb and to recognize Jesus on the shore. But Peter was the first to step in, both into the empty tomb, and into the water to get to Jesus in the passage above. And for that, Peter has the upper hand: while it's important to recognize Jesus for who He is, to make Him our Lord, we must step or plunge into a relationship with Him.

What's especially commendable about Peter being the one to try to get to Jesus first?
The last time Peter was the focus of Jesus' attention, this is what had happened: "Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house. But Peter followed at a distance. Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, “This man was also with Him.” But he denied Him, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.” And after a little while another saw him and said, “You also are of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, “Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!” Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So Peter went out and wept bitterly." (Luke 22:54-62) Given how he had failed, one would expect Peter to keep to himself and shy away from even raising his eyes toward Jesus. Instead, he couldn't wait to come before his Lord, and that holds a valuable lesson for Christians when we fail and sin. Our pride and the enemy will try to tempt us to hide from God as Adam and Eve did after sinning. Instead, we must heed Peter's example and come before the Lord yet again, confess our sins to Him, believing "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) and seek His help to repent from those sins.

JOHN 21:9-14  9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” 11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?” -knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish. 14 This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.

How many "large fish" (John 21:11) did they catch?
153, so many so that "they were not able to draw it" (John 21:6) into the boat

So who provided the food for the breakfast?
Jesus. He already had "fish laid" (John 21:9) on coal and "bread" (John 21:9) prepared, and even the 153 fish were His doing. He just let the disciples enjoy the privilege of participating in His work.

What had Peter and the others who were experienced fishermen caught before Jesus showed up?
"Nothing." (John 21:3)

What lesson is there for us and the so-called 'modern' techniques of evangelism?
The church in the West is awash in seminars, conferences, books and videos on strategies and techniques of evangelism. Yet when the dust settles, the number of fish that can be dragged ashore and presented before the Lord are few. In contrast, the church in the developing world neither has nor even knows about such strategies and resources. All they have is the Bible and prayer, yet their nets get filled full of large fish. When people in the "developed" West depend on human knowledge and expertise, which is sold for money, to do God's will, is it any wonder that He lets them catch as much as the disciples caught by relying on theirs? If we want our nets to be filled again, we must clean out the clutter from Christian bookstores, seminars and conferences, and fill them with the Word of God, and then drop to our knees and pray to God to do His will His way and to receive all of the credit and glory for the catches.

JOHN 21:15-17  15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, 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 again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, 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 Jonah, 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 all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.

What does Jesus call Peter?
"Simon, son of Jonah." (John 21:15-17)

Why do you think He called him that?
What had made Simon into Peter, the rock, was his relationship with Jesus. Since that relationship had been compromised by Peter's denial of Jesus, Simon was being called Simon until that relationship could be re-established, which is what Jesus is doing in this passage.

What does Jesus ask Peter?
If he loves Him.

Why?
Jesus wasn't asking because He didn't know the answer. Peter was correct in saying, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." (John 21:17) Jesus was doing it to have Peter confront his sins, which had to be addressed and removed before he could be commissioned to tend to the Lord's sheep.

Does this apply to today?
Absolutely. Every Christian used by God is like a scalpel used by a surgeon. Just as the scalpel must be clean to be used, so must the Christian.

How many times did Jesus ask Peter?
3 times.

Why did He repeat the same question three times?
Because Peter had denied Him three times as described above.

Are Jesus’ questions exactly the same?
Actually not.

What are His three questions?
“Do you love Me more than these?” (John 21:15)
“Do you love Me?” (John 21:16)
“Do you love Me?” (John 21:17)

Who are the “these” in John 21:15?
The other disciples with whom they had just "eaten breakfast."

Why do you think Jesus might have asked Peter if he loved Him more than them?
Before His crucifixion, when Jesus had said that the disciples will be scattered, Peter had declared in effect that he loved Jesus more than the other disciples did: "Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘ I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee." Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” (Matthew 26:31-33)

Do you think the 2nd and the 3rd questions are the same or different?
Although they read the same in English, they are actually different in the original Greek. While English has only one word for “love”, there are quite a few in Greek. There is eros for erotic love (none of the Greek words in the New Testament translated "love" in English is eros), philos for friendship, storge for affection from familiarity among family members or others brought together not my their choice, philostorgos, which combines philos and storge, and philadelphia for brotherly love. And then there’s agape, the self-sacrificing, unconditional love. In the passage above, Jesus uses the verb form of agape in the first two of His three questions and the verb form of philos in the third, while Peter responds with the verb form of philos all three times. What’s happening is this. Jesus firstly asks Peter if he loves Him self-sacrificially "more than these." (John 21:15) Instead of addressing the comparison, Peter answers by claiming his love for Jesus as a friend. After having betrayed Jesus, there was no way that he could claim anything more than that. Jesus then drops the comparison and asks Peter if he simply loves Him self-sacrificially. Peter sticks to his claim of friendly love. With His third question, Jesus drops the level of love down to Peter’s and there’s a match. Jesus will start working on us with whatever level of love we have for Him, but He does demand humility, which is what Peter displayed in John 21:15-17 in contrast to his prideful declaration in Matthew 26:31-33.

JOHN 21:18-19  18 Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” 19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”

What is Jesus telling Peter in John 21:18-19?
How Peter will die.

How did he die?
Some claim that he asked to be crucified upside down because he didn’t consider Himself worthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. Jesus' words above that Peter will "stretch out your hands" (John 21:18) appear to support death by crucifixion, but the Bible does not record how Peter died.

JOHN 21:20-25 20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21 Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” 23 Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?” 24 This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true. 25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.

So, after being reinstated, does Peter shape up?
True to form, he messes up right away again and is scolded by Jesus.

Who was Peter referring to with, "But Lord, what about this man?" (John 21:21)
John who wrote this Gospel.

How much of an exaggeration is in John 21:25?
None. Since Jesus has been alive for eternity, what He has done amounts to infinity, which cannot fit into a finite space, not even one as large as our planet.

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