In John 21:13 we are told that this was the third time that Jesus had been manifested to His disciples after He had been risen from among the dead. Historically, these three appearances were – the day of resurrection; the following first day of the week; and His appearance at the Sea of Galilee.
On the first occasion the disciples were given, as the heavenly family, their fellowship and ministry. They were given the life of a risen Christ. The Lord gave them their ministry as from heaven rather than from the mountain in Galilee as in Matthew. He sent them out from himself without mentioning Jerusalem, as in Luke.
On the second manifestation, He restored Thomas personally and as a representative of Israel’s final conversion and life. To this day, Israel refuses to accept the good news of the risen Christ. Thomas represents the faithful Jewish remnant in the last days, who will believe when they see - “they will look on him whom they pierced”. Like Thomas, they will know the peace that follows belief in the work of the cross and of the person of Christ. But the Lord shows that their blessing will be inferior to that of the church. – “Because thou hast seen me thou hast believed: blessed they who have not seen and have believed”, John 20:29.
On the third, He gives the token or pledge of Israel’s future ministry and fruitfulness to God. Chapter 21 verses 1-13 look forward to the millennial reign of Christ, the manifestation of Christ and his fruits on the earth. The Lord appears to them with food to eat in a way that reminds me of His promise to the watching servants in Luke 12:37, “He will gird himself and make them recline at table, and coming up will serve them”.
Going along with His manifestation, the nations are gathered, as represented in the great fish. This time the fishing net does not break nor does the boat begin to sink as happened in Luke 5:6-7. The 153 great fish point to the nations of the earth. [The UN is made up of about 170 countries now.]
Peter. The Lord has more work to do with Peter. Let us look at Peter’s words before the crucifixion.
In Matthew 26:33, “If all shall be offended in thee, I will never be offended”. Note Peter’s comparison of himself with others.
Luke 22:31-34, “but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not; and thou, when once thou hast been restored, confirm thy brethren. And he [Peter] said to him, Lord, with thee I am ready to go both to prison and to death”.
In the account by John, in chapter 13:37, Peter had asked: Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? This was in answer to the Lord’s words: ‘Where I go thou canst not follow me now, but thou shalt follow me after”.
The Lord’s praying had preserved his faith - he did not “go away”; the Lord’s look had convicted him. Peter was truly repentant. The prayer and the look are now followed by the word. The Lord does not reproach him with his failure but sets about restoring him. Just as Joseph “worked on” his brothers, so the Lord wanted Peter to understand the reason for his failure – the root cause. I believe that we are not fully restored until we judge the source of the evil that caused the failure. Self-confidence had been the reason for Peter’s failure.
The following interchange between the Lord and Peter illustrates the use of the Greek words for ‘love’.
Phileo signifies the love of friendship and is the more intimate and intense. Translated ‘have affection for’ in the verses below.
Agapao is more often used in the N.T. It is general and refers to the settled disposition of a person rather than an emotion; it is used for God’s love to man, and for the love of men for God.
The verses are abbreviated to show the comparisons.
Verse 15 - Lovest (agapao) thou me more than these?
.....................Thou knowest that I am attached (phileo) to thee.
.....................Feed my lambs.
Verse 16 - Lovest (agapao) thou me?
.....................Knowest that I am attached (phileo) to thee.
...................Shepherd my sheep.
Verse 17 - Art thou attached (phileo) to me?
.....................Peter was grieved.
.....................Lord thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I am attached to thee.
.....................Feed my sheep.
The first question relates to Peter’s first claim that if all would be offended, yet not he.
The Lord cannot trust a person who trusts himself. It is not a lack of sincerity – Peter had been sincere, but he did not know himself. Once he had judged himself thoroughly, the Lord could entrust those whom the He loved most on earth to his care – “Feed my sheep”.
Having brought Peter to realize his own weakness, once that is reached, grace then shows itself. Peter would have reproached himself for having missed the opportunity to follow Christ, and to go prison and to die for Him, the Lord promises him those privileges, but according to the will of God. He would be bound by another, etc. Then the Lord says: Follow me, verse 19. All the things he wanted to do in his own strength, but could not, are now made good to him.
John. In his ministry John goes on to the end, to the coming of Christ to the earth in judgment. John presents the Father made known in the Son, and that as eternal life. In his epistles he presents the reproduction of the life of Christ in us and so guards us from evil teachers. In Revelation, he gives the ways of God at the end, in judgment on the earth. John’s Gospel, the epistles and the Revelation were not only the last to be written, but are aimed at the last times. Peter was the apostle of the circumcision (the Jews). The final curtain was lowered on that system at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. So John lived to see the close of that which the Lord had introduced in connection with Jerusalem. He continues here, in his ministry, until the manifestation of Christ to the world.
There is a grand conclusion in verses 19-22. The Lord leads them out in a mysterious way, as though a cloud had received them out of our site. The impression given is one of the Lord leading the Peter and John, via way of the suffering and death, to the place that he promised to prepare for them in the Father’s house - see John 14:2-3. In other gospels we find the Lord and the disciples separated at the end; in Mark, we are told of His being received up into heaven and seated at the right hand of God; in Luke we get the ascension itself; again, they were here while he was there; but in John they accompany Him. In Luke they were to go back to Jerusalem. That city is not even mentioned here. It is as though they were following Him to heaven as representatives of us; some will glorify God through death; others of us will be here when He comes.
MM 25 Jan. 2008