Reading through the Bible together
This chapter feels like an extra ending of this Gospel, as John had concluded things in the last chapter (20:31). John now makes clear the missionary mandate of the resurrected Lord to the world. Jesus meets them by the sea of Tiberias, the name for the Sea of Galilee. They catch 153 fish. The later church father, Jerome, points out that it’s the perfect catch, because at the time there were only 153 different varieties of fish known. To him it meant the worldwide mission Jesus has given to His disciples. They are to fish for souls among all men in all nations.
“I’m going fishing,” says Peter, and six other disciples join him. It’s a return to what they’re familiar with, because Jesus is no longer among them; they catch no fish. Then Jesus appears on the shore and says, “Throw your net on the right side.” It’s a miraculous catch without a torn net. After 3½ years they are accustomed to miracles. The first miraculous catch made the net tear and Peter declared, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). Jesus had called them from fishing to be fishers of men, and now He comes to renew that calling and to restore Peter’s calling to “Follow” Him. Jesus addresses Peter by his full name, indicating the seriousness of the questions, “Do you love Me?” Three times He asks Peter. Three times Peter says, “Yes,” but the third time he is hurt and simply replies, “You know all things, Lord. You know that I love you” (v.17). Jesus replies, “Feed my lambs . . . Feed my sheep . . . Feed my sheep.”
Yes, Jesus knows Peter loves Him but will that love equate into obedience to the mission set before him? There is need to catch fish, but also to disciple and feed the lambs and sheep. Converts are to be cared for. Believers are to be discipled. Jesus predicts Peter’s death “by which Peter would glorify God,” then He said, “Follow me!” (v.19). Peter’s offer of laying down his life would be fulfilled (John 13:37). Still impulsive, Peter wants to know what will happen to John’s destiny. Jesus tells him it doesn’t matter, just follow Me, so don’t be concerned about others.
Times have not changed. We are so prone to look at other people’s lives, to make the arrangements and work out the details for them. But Jesus simply calls us, “Follow ME.” John ends his gospel, his testimony complete, but not all the works Jesus performed were written down, but what was written is all we need to bring us to faith and life in Jesus.
Christopher Bullock, M.Div.
Pastor in Atlanta, Georgia
North American Division