“Do You Love Me?”

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John 21

Chapter 20 is John’s record of events concerning the risen Christ in Jerusalem; chapter 21 is John’s story from Galilee.  Why the disciples had traveled there isn’t given, but it makes sense that they wouldn’t be staying on in Jerusalem after all of the recent events.  I would imagine that the disciples weren’t entirely sure what to do with themselves after following Jesus for over three years…  The scene opens with a cast of seven disciples near the Sea of Galilee when Peter announces that he’s going fishing.

Note that John refers to the “Sea of Tiberius” which is another name for the Sea of Galilee in those days.  Tiberius is the name of a large town, which in those days was a new Roman town located on the shore of the lake.  Today it is the largest city in the area.  The guys all joined Peter in the boat for a night of casting the fishing net, but their results were lacking entirely, and by early morning there was a man on the shore who noticed their bad luck.  John identifies this man as Jesus, although they could not yet recognize Him from the boat.

From the beach, Jesus calls out to them and recommends that they cast their net on the other side of the boat.  A fishing boat of the time would normally remain close to shore and cast on the shore side to get the best catch of fish, so most likely Jesus was telling them to try the lake side instead, and what a payoff!  They caught so many fish that they couldn’t haul it into the boat.  John realizes that it was Jesus who was on the shore, and Peter grabs his clothes and jumps into the water swimming to shore leaving the others to tow the nets to land. When they arrive, it seems that Jesus had a campfire going and was cooking breakfast. Jesus had a menu of bread and fish, something that we’ve seen Jesus do before, but this time, instead of the disciples rounding up fish and loaves that Jesus multiplied, Jesus has fish and loaves and the catch of the disciples will be the multiplier; Jesus has passed the torch, you might say.

John provides us with some eyewitness details in this portion of the text: there were 153 large fish in the net, Peter drags it ashore and Jesus is not only the cook, but the server.  Interesting isn’t it?  A guy who was executed, dead and buried is putting on a fish fry!  He is no ghost, for I can’t recall a single time when I’ve ever heard of a ghost eating fish:  Jesus had arisen from the grave bodily.

After their meal, Jesus walks off a distance with Peter and asks him three times if he loves Jesus.  Each time Peter assures Him that he does, but by the third time Peter’s feelings were hurt because Jesus kept asking.  Much has been made of the Greek used here, but it seems to me that Greek nuance isn’t the point that Jesus is making.  Peter had denied Jesus three times on the night of His arrest, and Jesus asks him three times if he loves Him.  Could it be that that had dawned on Peter?  Could it be that Peter felt terrible guilt over his cowardly denial?  Let’s not forget that this is the first time that they had been off together since Jesus’ death, and Jesus has some business to settle with him.  Peter must learn to care for the other followers of Jesus, His “sheep,” and this means taking the charge seriously and selflessly, a lesson that must not be lost on all leaders of the church today.

In v. 18 Jesus gives Peter some insight into the manner in which he would die as a martyr for the Gospel, as John points out in v. 19, and then says: “Follow me!”  This is the same imperative with which Jesus began His ministry in 1:43 and sets the tone for the conclusion.

At this point, Peter notices John following behind them and says “What about him?” Jesus is not having any of this; it would have been better if Peter had said something more like, “Yes sir!” Jesus lets Peter know that whatever He has in mind for John is none of Peter’s business, for Peter’s call is to follow Jesus.  None of us is in a position to know what adventures we will experience in following Jesus, but we must know that our call is to follow Him, and not to question whether or not someone else might have an easier time of it, and Jesus makes this abundantly clear. Peter’s imperative was to “follow” Jesus, and so is ours.

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About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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16 Responses to “Do You Love Me?”

  1. Pete says:

    Well said. I think often we get too concerned about why someone else can get away with this or that, or why we have so many more trials than they seem to have. We need to work out our own salvation, not be concerned with theirs. Paul tells us in Galatians 6 to bear one another’s burdens, and also to bear our own burdens. Nowhere does hesay to compare those burdens. Comparison comes only from pride, and God wants none of that!

  2. I think Peter needed some real shoring up. He had apparently lost all confidence that he could do the job Jesus set out for the apostles. So, Jesus spent this time saying, “Okay, Peter, you can take care of my lambs, that’s good.” Then “Okay, Peter, you can take care of my sheep. You’re getting there.” Then “Okay, Peter, you can shepherd them. You are forgiven and you are stronger than you think you are.” (BTW, Jesus had told them to go to Galilee, so they did.) Good job as always.

  3. dwmartens says:

    “11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three” from the referenced KJV; “there were 156 large fish” from your commentary. Where is Frank when you need him?! (For other readers: this is an inside joke.)

  4. Re Galilee:
    From the KJVS because it has the Greek
    Matthew 28;1-10
    The Resurrection
    (Psalm 16:1-11; Psalm 49:1-20; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-9)

    1In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first [day] of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. 2And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: 4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead [men]. 5And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. 6He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

    8And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. 9And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. 10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.

    Different circumstances but it wa to Galilee they were sent by the angels – also Mark 16:7 7 “But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.’””

    • Don Merritt says:

      The other Gospels mention this; quite right. Yet John leaves it out: Why? Could this have been unimportant to him? Was it an oversight; maybe he just didn’t remember… Or could there be a reason?

      I don’t know. Scholars have theorized, yet unconvincingly, at least for me. I can’t help thinking there’s a pearl in here somewhere. 🙂

  5. on 153

    4. A zoomorphic and soteriological arithmetic
    Other interpretations have been offered concerning these 153 Johannine fishes.41 One sug-
    gests that this number reveals a zoological allusion to the supposed 153 species Of fishes,
    each fish representing one species and symbolising one nation or human category

    . Jerome
    thus comments:
    Aiunt qui de animantium suipscrc ct proprietatc, qui halieutica tam latino, quam
    graeea didieere sermone, de quibus Oppianus Cilix est. poeta doctissimus, centum
    tria esse genera pi.semm.
    Hoskyns/Davey (eds.), up. p, SS6.

    https://books.google.com.au/books?id=AMOQZfrZq-EC&pg=PA241&lpg=PA241&dq=which+genera+equals+153&source=bl&ots=q6DACcUwMh&sig=8C-25cAYYoknpayNEht0R2H3r4A&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjE1J2dvebPAhUS2mMKHVNQAs8Q6AEIKTAC#v=onepage&q=which%20genera%20equals%20153&f=false

  6. Sorry about the mess.

  7. Pingback: “Do You Love Me?” | The Life Project | franciscansonthemountains

  8. Pingback: “Do You Love Me?” | A disciple's study

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