1 After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. And He manifested Himself in this way:2 Simon Peter and Thomas, called Didymus, and Nathanael from Cana of Galilee and the sons of Zebedee and two others of His disciples were there together.
3 Simon Peter said to them, I am going fishing. They said to him, We also are coming with you. They went forth and got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.
4 Now as soon as the morning broke, Jesus stood on the shore; however the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
5 Then Jesus said to them, Little children, you do not have any fish to eat, do you? 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. They cast therefore, and they were no longer able to haul it in because of the abundance of fish.
7 Then that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, It is the Lord! Therefore when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment around himself, for he was naked; and he threw himself into the sea.
8 But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about two hundred cubits away, dragging the net of fish.
9 Then when they got out onto the land, they saw a fire of coals laid there, and fish lying on it and bread.
10 Jesus said to them, Bring some of the fish that you have just now caught.
11 Simon Peter therefore went up and hauled the net to the land full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.
12 Jesus said to them, Come and have breakfast. But none of the disciples dared to inquire of Him, Who are you? knowing that it was the Lord.
13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise.
14 This was now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples after He had been raised from the dead.
15 Then when they had eaten 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 again 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, Shepherd My sheep.
17 He said to him the third time, Simon, son of John, do you love Me? Peter was grieved that 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.
18 Truly, truly, I say to you, When you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go. 19 Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had said this, He said to him, Follow Me.
20 Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also reclined on His breast at the supper, and said, Lord, who is the one betraying You?
21 Peter therefore, seeing him, said to Jesus, Lord, and what about this man?
22 Jesus said to him, If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.
23 This word therefore went out among the brothers, that that disciple would not die, yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?
24 This is the disciple who testifies concerning these things, and the one who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.
25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which, if they were written one by one, I suppose that not even the world itself could contain the books written.
The matter of our living is very practical. This is why the Gospel of John has this additional chapter. Since we are the sons of God who have been regenerated and committed with the divine commission, the Lord will certainly take care of our living. We must learn the lesson of not giving up the Lord’s commission because of our living. We must not give up the Lord’s burden in order to care for our existence. We are not the people of the world; we are the children of God. We must seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then the Lord will add the practical supply to us (Matt. 6:33). He will take care of our need. If we have been truly commissioned by the Lord for His burden, for His work, and for His testimony, we may be at peace and rest assured that the Lord will grant us the provision we need. This is the lesson in this portion of John 21.
In 21:1-14 we see the Lord moving and living with the believers. In resurrection, the Lord was not only meeting with the brothers but also moving and living with them. He is not only with us when we meet; He is even with us in our daily walk. Wherever we go, He goes. Whatever we do, He is there with us. Whether we are right or wrong, the Lord is with us.
Verse 1 says, “After these things, Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias.” This proves that His coming to the disciples in 20:26 was actually a manifestation, for here it says that He “manifested Himself again.” Once again, He was training them to practice His invisible presence. It was not a matter of His coming, but of His manifestation. Whether they were conscious of His presence or not, He was with them all the time. But for the sake of their weakness, He sometimes manifested His presence in order to strengthen their faith in Him.
The Lord manifested Himself to the disciples in chapter twenty-one to train them, especially Peter, to live by faith in Him. John 21:2-14 reveals two main things: the weakness of the regenerated people who have been committed with the divine mission of God, and the all-sufficient provision of the Lord who can help us live on this earth for His commission, for His purpose, and for His testimony.
The miracle of catching no fish was a lesson to Peter and the other disciples, and it is a lesson for us today. We should not think that we can just go out, find a job, and make a living. If the Lord keeps all the jobs away, we shall never be able to find one. Do not think that you can go to the sea and easily catch some fish. If our fishing is under the Lord’s guidance and according to His will, we shall surely catch some fish. But if it is not according to the Lord’s will and we go out on our own, all the fish might be frightened away, sovereignly being kept away from us. As Christians who have been regenerated and commissioned by the Lord, we must go and do things according to the Lord’s will, even in the matter of making a living. Since we have been regenerated and the Lord has committed to us a divine, heavenly mission, we must walk according to His will. We should not think of making a living naturally. Others can, but we cannot.
When the disciples got out onto the land, “they saw a fire of coals laid there, and fish lying on it and bread” (v. 9). Peter and the disciples very clearly saw the fish on the coals of fire and the bread. There had been no need to catch any fish from the sea, for there were some fish on the land already. The Lord performed this miracle to teach the disciples that under His will they will find fish at any place, even on the land. But if it is not under His will, they will not find any fish even if they go to the sea. Catching fish does not depend upon the natural way; it depends upon His will. He is sovereign, and everything is under His control. Even in a place where people think that there is no fish naturally, the Lord will prepare fish for us. This is not the fish in the sea; this is the fish already cooked and prepared for us.
The Lord is working as the Shepherd to build up the church by shepherding His flock (21:15-17; 10:16). There are three aspects of the Lord as the Shepherd: the good Shepherd (10:11), the great Shepherd (Heb. 13:20), and the chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4). Shepherding is not for individuals; it is for the flock. The flock is the church, and the church is the building. By reading John 21 and 1 Peter we can see that shepherding is for the building of the church.
Lamb-feeding is by the nourishing with the riches of the inner life, and sheep-shepherding is for the building of the church. Shepherding is for the “flock” which is the church (Acts 20:28). Therefore, it is related to God’s building (Matt. 16:18). Later, in his first Epistle, Peter indicated this by saying that growth, by feeding on the pure milk of the Word, is for the building of God’s house (1 Pet. 2:2-5) and by charging the elders to shepherd the flock of God (1 Pet. 5:1-4). The growth by nourishing is for the building. The Lord is still working with His disciples in this way. Today, by lamb-feeding and sheep-shepherding, the Lord is working with us for the building of the church.
This chapter is a picture showing that after we have been regenerated and commissioned by the Lord, we must love the Lord at any cost and follow Him to the end at any sacrifice. By following the Lord in this way, we shall accomplish the Lord’s purpose to feed His lambs and to feed and shepherd His sheep.
Why did Christ need to manifest Himself to His disciples by a miracle of fishing?
How did the Lord’s providing bread and fish for His disciples train them to believe in Him for their living?
His moving with His disciples to the sea and manifesting Himself to them in a miracle of fishing was to train them to realize His invisible presence and to live by faith in Him - John 21:1 (footnotes 1 & 2), 3 (footnotes 1 & 2), 5 (footnotes 1 & 2), 6 (footnote 1), 11.
His walking with His disciples was to instruct them to follow Him in His invisible presence–whether unto death or living until He comes – and to wait for Him to come in His visible presence - John 21:18-23, 19 (footnote1), 22 (footnote 1), 23 (footnote 1).
His working with His disciples was to stir up their love toward Him and charge them to feed His lambs and shepherd His sheep for the building of the church, God’s flock—John 21:15 (footnotes 1 & 4), 16 (footnote 1) 10:11 (footnote 1), 16 (footnote 2).
He Knows, He Knows
- Fear not, He knows;
My soul why fret and tremble?
Fear not, He knows;
Your life is in His hands.
Fear not, He knows;
And you know He is able
To care for You,
So trust the best is planned!
Oh Lord, You know;
'Tis a thought so joyous!
Though I don't know,
What need have I to fear?
You know, You know;
Thank and praise You, Jesus!
Through all unknowns,
You make Yourself so dear!
- Just trust, He knows
Life's still unwritten letter.
Just trust, He knows
Plans time would now disguise.
Just trust, He knows,
He sees which turn is better;
At the right time
He'll open up your eyes!
- Just rest, He knows;
With Him blindness is pleasant!
Just rest, He knows;
Sightless, you see Him best!
Just rest, He knows;
My soul, don't waste the present
On those "what-if's".
Just turn to Him and rest!
- Just seek, He knows;
Seek first His heart's great yearning.
Just seek, He knows;
Serve Him, in Him abide.
Just seek, He knows;
Have peace and rest while turning.
Put His cares first;
All else He will provide.
The span of things covered in John 20 and 21 is very broad. It begins with the discovery of the Lord’s resurrection and ends with His coming back. These two chapters show everything that will happen to us between the Lord’s resurrection and His coming back. Between these two events are all the things related to the Christian life during the church age: seeking the Lord with love toward Him, especially in the personal morning watch; seeing the Lord in resurrection; receiving the revelation of the issue of the Lord’s resurrection concerning the “brothers” and the “Father” by experiencing His manifestation; meeting with the believers to enjoy the Lord’s presence; being breathed on by the Lord with the Holy Spirit and being sent by the Lord with His commission and authority to represent Him; learning how to live by faith in the Lord and to trust in Him for our daily living; loving the Lord with our natural strength having been dealt with and having learned the lesson of being broken, of losing our self-confidence, and of putting our trust in the Lord; shepherding the flock for the building of the church; practicing the Lord’s invisible presence in which some follow Him even to death to glorify God, not by self-will but according to His leading, and some live until He comes back.
As we have seen, the Gospel of John begins with the Word in eternity past. After passing through the long process of incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection, this Word has become the life-giving Spirit, the holy pneuma, the holy breath (20:22). In Greek, the word pneuma is used for both breath and spirit. The very eternal Word has become such a breath, such a Spirit. This is the processed God for our enjoyment. He is now the life and the Spirit in resurrection, moving, living, working, and walking with us. Furthermore, He meets with us all the time. As the life, the Spirit, the holy breath, in resurrection He is constantly with us invisibly. He will continue with us invisibly, meeting, moving, living, working, and walking with us, until He comes visibly. This is the very Jesus Christ in whom we believe; the very Lord whom we have received; the very God whom we serve, worship, and enjoy; and the very all-inclusive Spirit who is always with us and within us. Praise Him!
The Gospel of John has no conclusion. This book is not closed; it is still under the Spirit’s composition. Perhaps today’s Gospel of John has two or three thousand chapters. This book is still being composed, and we are included in its composition. Praise the Lord!