John 21:1-25

1 After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.

[Jesus showed himself again] After our Lord had appeared to the women and to the apostles at Jerusalem and at the tomb, he bade them go into Galilee, giving them the promise of meeting them there. Matthew 28:7.

2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.
3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.

[Peter saith...I go a fishing.] Before the crucifixion of our Lord, the temporal necessities of himself and his disciples appear to have been supplied by the charity of individuals. Luke 8:3. Now, the disciples, not fully knowing how they were to be employed, proposed to return to their former occupation of fishing in order to gain a livelihood. The seven, mentioned in verse 2, embarked on the sea of Tiberias, otherwise called the sea of Galilee.

4 But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.

[Knew not that it was Jesus] Probably because it was either not light enough, or he was at too great a distance, or, as in Mark 16:12, he had assumed another form.

5 Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.

[Children] A term of familiarity and affectionate kindness. More literally, the Greek word used here signifies "Little children" or "Beloved children."

[Any meat?] The Greek word is a combination of two words having meanings of Besides and I eat; anything that is to be eaten with bread. Since they were fishing, fish seems the likely object of the question.

6 And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

[The multitude of fishes] This was intended to be an emblem of the immense number of souls which should be converted to God by their ministry, according to the promise of Christ, Matthew 4:19.

7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.

[He was naked] Without his outer garments. He had taken off his outer coat.

8 And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.
9 As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.
10 Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.
11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

[The net...full of great fishes] Following Jesus' command yielded great success.

12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.
13 Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.
14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.

Jesus had an important assignment for them. These events established in the minds of the apostles his capability to empower them to accomplish what he would instruct them to do.

15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

[Simon...lovest thou me?] Peter had thrice denied his Lord, and now Christ gives him an opportunity to repair his fault by a triple confession.

[Lovest thou me more than these?] Scholars are divided upon the exact meaning of this question. Some feel that Jesus is asking Peter whether he loves him more than the others love him. Peter had before cast a very unkind reflection upon his brethren, Matthew 26:33, but he had now learned by dreadful experience that he who trusteth his own heart is a fool, and that man's sufficiency for good is of the Lord alone.
Other scholars hold the opinion that our Lord was referring to the provisions which they were now eating and to their secular employment. Soon they would be engaged in fishing for men and feeding the souls of believers, giving up much of what this world holds dear. See Matthew 6:19-34.

16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

[Lovest thou me?] It is remarkable in these three questions that our Lord uses the term agapao, which is to love affectionately, ardently, supremely and perfectly, but Peter always replies with the the word phileo for to love, to like, to regard, to feel friendship for another. It is as if our Lord had said, "Peter, do you love me ardently and supremely?" To which he answers, "Lord, I feel an affection for you -- I do estem you -- but dare, at present, to say no more."

18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

[Stretch forth thy hands] Wetstein observes that it was a custom at Rome to put the necks of those who were to be crucified into a yoke, and to stretch out their hands and fasten them to the end of it; and thus having led them through the city they were carried out to be crucified.

20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?

[The disciple whom Jesus loved] John is referring to himself.

21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

[And what shall this man do?] We all love prophecy. Jesus had just given Peter a prophecy regarding his death, now Peter asks for a prediction regarding his friend and fellow-apostle.

22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.
23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?

[If I will that he tarry] Peter, that is not your concern. What is your concern is that you obey what I have just now twice commanded you, "Follow thou me."

24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.
25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

[The world itself could not contain] To our western ears this sounds like an exaggeration. In fact, hyperbole of this sort was a common eastern expression used to illustrate large, more or less unmeasurable numbers. Some examples: In Daniel 4:11 mention is made of a tree, whereof the height reached unto the heaven; and the sight thereof unto the end of all the earth. In Deuteronomy 1:28 we hear of cities walled up to heaven. Who on Earth can begin to grasp the magnitude and magnificence of our Savior, Jesus Christ?

Based upon excerpts from Adam Clarke's Commentary, 2nd edition published in New York by Lane and Scott, 1850. More recent editions may be purchased from


This page updated 02/11/2007

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