Sapphire Sky

February 7, 2016

The Stranger on the Shore

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: , — Steve Knaus @ 5:46 pm

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He had still not recovered.

But how could anyone recover from what he went through?

Peter’s world had turned upside-down over the last three weeks.

Three weeks ago, Peter was at the top of the world. He had traveled to Jerusalem with his teacher and close friend, the greatest man he knew. He had seen his teacher heal blind men and silence his enemies. When they entered Jerusalem three weeks ago [12], the entire city burst with excitement! Peter had known that his teacher was the rightful king and surely he would set up his kingdom now (see here and here).

Peter was with his teacher on that fateful Thursday night when, over dinner, his teacher announced that there was a traitor in their midst. This was not a time for celebration nor excitement. Their teacher was going to leave them (see here).

Peter knew that he would do anything for his teacher. He would fight for him and he would die for him. His teacher had told Peter that he would run away, but Peter protested. His teacher may be smart, but he did not understand Peter’s loyalty. Peter would never leave him!

Peter remembered that night, when they left the room and walked outside the city. He could still see the large crowd that met them on that dark night, two weeks ago. The priests, their servants, and 600 soldiers were all being guided by one of Peter’s own friends (see here). 

Peter had taken up a sword to defend his teacher. He would fight to the death for him! But Peter was a fisherman, not a soldier. He only succeeded in injuring a servant and was humiliated. He watched the soldiers drag his teacher away as he skulked away in fright.

Most of his other friends had run away, but Peter and John had gathered enough courage to follow the soldiers at a distance. He followed them to the High Priest’s palace and watched his teacher’s trial from the courtyard (see here).

Peter huddled in the crowd of servants where he could see the proceedings from a distance. He would never forget being questioned by the servants, how they were certain that Peter must be a friend of that prisoner. The servants confronted Peter three times, and three times Peter denied any knowledge or association with this teacher.

Peter saw his loyalty disappear in the face of fear. He saw his teacher beaten by the Jewish authorities. He saw the Roman soldiers bind him and subject him to inhuman torture. He saw his teacher hang on Roman cross for six hours until he died alone (see here and here).

He remembered early Sunday morning, when Mary came running in with news. She had gone to the teacher’s tomb and someone had taken the body! Peter and John had raced to the tomb, observing the scene. They saw the empty grave clothes and realized why the tomb was empty – the teacher was alive! He had come back to life! (see here)

Jesus told the disciples, on several occasions, that He would die and rise again. But they had been slow to understand Him. They did not believe Him until they saw Him in person.

Peter had seen Jesus, his teacher, three times since he had come back to life. Jesus had met with him personally that Sunday (see here). That Sunday night, Peter was with many of the the other disciples when Jesus appeared in the middle of the group gathering (see here). Finally, Jesus appeared to the disciples again on the following Monday (see here).

Jesus had instructed the disciples to go to Galilee where He would meet with them (see here). Peter and the other disciples traveled back to the northern region, Peter’s home territory.

We can only guess the thoughts that were going through Peter’s mind as he made the long journey back up north. Although he was glad to see his risen Lord, it could not erase the guilt and humiliation that Peter had felt when he denied him. Jesus had told Peter that he would run away, but Peter was sure that He was wrong. The other disciples may run away, but he would never leave Him! The others did not love Him like Peter did!

But now, this was a different Peter. He was now a broken man, who could only look back at how wrong he was. He had tried and failed. Now what could he do? Now that he was back home, Peter leaned on what he knew best. He went back to fishing.

Six other disciples joined him, and together they spent the night on the lake. Their night was been a failure. After fishing all night, they did not catch a single fish.

But there, in the morning mist, they saw a stranger on the shore. He called out to them, “Have you caught any fish?” They had been fishing all night with nothing to show for it. “Put your nets on the other side of the boat”, replies the stranger. The men obeyed, if for no other reason than that they had nothing else to lose.

On the other side of the boat, they found so many fish that they could not pull the nets back in! John was the first to realize what was happening. The same thing had happened once before, and John shouted out excitedly, “It is the Lord!”

Upon this realization, Peter stopped his fishing, put on his coat, and leaped into the water! Peter swam to the shore while the others followed in the boat.

Peter found Jesus waiting for him, with a fish grilling on a charcoal fire at the shore. There were no lectures or warnings. The other disciples joined them from the boat, as Jesus gave only an invitation, “Come and have breakfast.”

Jesus looked of the other disciples, then he looked at Peter. “Do you love me more than these?” Peter had claimed earlier that that he was more devoted to Jesus than the other disciples. Now Jesus asked him if he really believed that he has a greater love that the others.

Peter’s response showed that, possibly for the first time, he was humbled. He knew that he did not have a greater love than the others. He could not promise to love Jesus fully as he should. But he did love his Lord, and he knew that Jesus knows it.

Jesus repeated the question three times. “Do you love me?” Three times, Peter replied that Jesus knew that that he loved Him. All three times, Jesus told Peter, “Since you love me, take care of my sheep.”

Jesus had one more instruction for Peter. Peter had said earlier that he was ready to die for Him. Jesus told Peter that when he is old, he will die as a martyr for God. But with this promise also came the instruction: when everything gets crazy, just keep on following me.

Keep on following me!

Don’t worry about being in control of your own life. Don’t worry about what is going to happen to the others. Just keep on following me!

 

Remember!

  • Be encouraged! This story is about Peter’s restoration. As Jesus restored Peter from his failures, so he can restore us when we fail.
  • Do we love Jesus? Before we can give anything else to Jesus, we need to give Him our love!
  • Follow Him! When life is out of our control, we keep following Him. Don’t worry about others, but only focus on Him!

Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

 

Previous post: He is Risen!


John 21
After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished 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.” He said to him 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, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.


John 21:1-3
After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

We know that Jesus had left the disciples in Jerusalem with the instructions to meet him in Galilee. Jesus had met with most of the disciples, excluding Thomas, on the evening of his resurrection (John 20:19-25) . He then met with them again, including Thomas, eight days later (John 20:26-29). Afterward, the disciples journeyed to Galilee where the scene in John 21 took place.

Peter announced that he was going fishing (on the sea of Galilee) and six other disciples joined him. Many commentators believe that the two unnamed disciples here are Philip and Andrew. Therefore, the disciples that morning consisted of: Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, Philip, Andrew.

Many Bible scholars have debated over the details of Peter’s actions. Why did he go fishing? Was Peter disobedient in doing this? Why did the other disciples follow him?

Jesus instructed the women after the resurrection, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Matthew 28:10). Using this reference, some Bible scholars believe that Peter was disobedient in going fishing. However, the problem with this argument is that we have very little detail about Jesus’ command. Peter was in Galilee waiting for Jesus, and there was nothing in Jesus’ command which prohibited them from other activity while they waited for Him. Also, Jesus never rebuked their actions. The entire theme of John 21 is of consolation and restoration. Therefore, it is best to understand that Peter and the other disciples were not being disobedient when they went out at the lake.

Why did Peter go fishing? We can only guess what Peter’s intentions were at this time. Peter may have been looking for a way to pass the time and pay the bills. Peter also may have wanted to go back to familiar territory after everything that happened, and so he returned to the profession that he knew best.

Either way, the disciples found only frustration that night on the water. They spent all night fishing in familiar territory and yet caught nothing.

“The point of the story is not disobedience. It is rather to teach us what happens when we try to accomplish spiritual things by our own strength and at our own direction.” – James Montgomery Boice [1]

The “Sea of Tiberias” is another name for the Sea of Galilee (see also John 6:1).

The reference to “the boat” is a definite article. It suggests that the boat may have been Peter’s own fishing vessel. [3]

 

John 21:4-6
Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.

In the early morning light, a stranger called out to them from the shore, “Children, do you have any fish?” The stranger then instructed the fishermen to throw the net on the other side of the boat. The men did not recognize the stranger yet they obeyed, and caught so many fish that they could not haul the nets back into the boat.

“The difference between success and failure was the width of the ship!” – Warren Wiersbe [4]

 

John 21:7-8
That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

 

It is the disciple John who recognized the stranger at this moment – it is the Lord!

Peter then did a most unusual thing: he rose from the fishing, put on his coat, and jumped into the water! Why does Peter get dressed before jumping into the water? We can only guess, but some Bible students have proposed that Peter may have hoped, in the excitement of seeing Jesus again, to walk on water one more time.

While Peter swam the hundred yards to shore, the rest of the disciples followed in the boat, dragging the fish.

It is unusual that the disciples did not recognize Jesus until after the catch of fish. They had already seen him after the resurrection so he could not have been physically different. The disciples were waiting for Jesus in Galilee, so they were not taken by surprise by his appearance. This is one more instance where the we see that Jesus prevented people from recognizing Him until He wanted to be recognized (see here). Note also that He was a distant figure in the early morning mist, so it would have been easy for Him to go unrecognized.

 

John 21:9-14
When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

 

Jesus already had a fire for them with fish cooking on it. Note that Jesus had breakfast for them before they brought the fish ashore. Therefore, Jesus had personally provided a fish for breakfast, that was not caught by the fishermen.

John was very specific about the details of that morning, including the number of fish that they caught (153). This is one example in this gospel account to show that it was written by an eyewitness of the things that had happened.

The disciples were unable to physically recognize Jesus, yet they knew that it was Him. He did not let them recognize Him physically, but they knew Him by his actions and his caring for them.

This had to have been a very difficult time for Peter. Peter still had his three denials of Jesus Christ ringing in his ears and he saw his Lord and Master suffer and die on the Roman cross. Jesus had risen again, but Peter had only been able to see him briefly for three times.

Peter had tried to defend Jesus, to fight for Jesus, and he vowed that he would never leave him. Even now, after the resurrection, Peter could not even be a good fisherman. He had led the other disciples on a fishing expedition which yielded nothing.

Yet Jesus came to them all with care and consolation. He had a meal prepared for them and his words to Peter were, “Come and have breakfast.”

“Let’s end this separation and share a meal together.”

In the Middle Eastern culture, to eat a meal with someone that has wronged you is to express your forgiveness to that person. [5]

 

John 21:15-17
When they had finished 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.” He said to him 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, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Jesus had a question for Peter. “Simon, do you love me?” This short exchange straits directly at Peter’s heart, laying open his broken present, the rashness and boasting of his past, and the man he was when he first met Jesus.

 

Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” Jesus was asking Peter for total commitment (agapaō, ἀγαπάω).

Peter replied with, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Peter replies with deep affection (phileō, φιλέω).

Jesus answered Peter, “Feed my lambs.”

 

Jesus asked a second time, “Do you love me?” Once again, Jesus asked for total commitment.

Peter replied again, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Peter replied again with deep affection.

Jesus answered Peter, “Tend my sheep.”

 

Jesus asked a third time, “Do you love me?” This time, Jesus did not ask for total commitment but asked about Peter’s deep affection.

Peter was grieved at the third time and replied, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Peter replied with the deep affection.

Jesus answered Peter the third time, “Feed my sheep.”

 

Jesus’s words used the highest form of love. He asked Peter if he can really commit to him with all that he has. Peter’s response was with deep affection but not total commitment [9]. After all his boasting, Peter knew that he cannot commit to Jesus with the love that is Lord requires.

Most Bible scholars agree that Jesus was addressing Peter in the context of his failures. Peter has not been the “rock” that Jesus called him to be (John 1:42, see here). That may very well have been why Jesus addressed him with his original name, “Simon”.

Jesus’ first question to Peter is of comparison. “Do you love me more than these?” Peter had boasted about his commitment to Jesus, and claimed that he would never leave Him, even when the others fell away (Matthew 26:33, Mark 14:29). Peter had corrected Jesus, as if he knew more than his Lord. [6]

But now, Peter no longer presumes to know more than Him. Note Peter’s response to Jesus each time, “You know I love (phileō) you.” Peter knew he did not have the ability to love Jesus with a total commitment, so he fell on Jesus’ knowledge of him. “You know that I care about you.”

Peter has changed. Previously, he would have tried to convince Jesus what was in his heart. Now, he acknowledges that Jesus knows what is in his own heart. [7]

Jesus never scolded nor rebuked Peter for his inability to confess total commitment. Instead, he redirected him. Show your love for me by taking care of my sheep.

There is a close parallel between Jesus’ questions and Peter’s denials. Peter had denied Jesus three times at His arrest, and now Jesus asked Peter to affirm his love for him three times. Peter’s threefold denial might have been the reason for Jesus repeating the question to Peter three times. However, the best explanation for this repetition is to be that Jesus was emphasizing His point. What matters most is that we love him!

Jesus’ commands are to “Feed (pasture) my lambs”, “Take care of (shepherd) my sheep”, and “Feed (pasture) my sheep”. The first and third imply only taking the sheep to pasture where they are fed; the second implies the total guardianship a shepherd exercises. See also 1 Peter 5:1-2, where Peter instructs all teachers to be shepherds. [3]

“Never say, ‘ I can do it, Lord. I know I can. I know my heart.’  Say rather, ‘Lord, you know what is there. You put it there. You know what love I have for you. Take it and make it into something that will abound to your glory.’” – James Montgomery Boice [1]

“The most important thing the pastor can do is to love Jesus Christ.” – Warren Wiersbe [4]

 

John 21:18-19
Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Peter had previously boasted that he would die for his Lord. Jesus now promised that Peter will have that chance. Peter is to live a life of loving his Lord and feeding His sheep. When Peter is old, he will die a martyr’s death for Him.

But what must Peter do with this knowledge? He must follow Him. Not one time, but always — keep on following Him!

Note that Peter had already been killed by the time that John’s gospel account was written. [10]

 

John 21:20-23
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

Peter noticed John following them and in a moment of distraction, he asked Jesus, “What about him?”

Jesus’ response to Peter was, “That is none of your business. You just keep on following me!”

“We all have different distinctives, but each type has its problems too. The solution is to follow Jesus. If we follow Jesus, then our eyes will be in Jesus and he, not our own weaknesses, will be the standard of Christian service. We will also see that we are at best unprofitable servings. There is no room for boasting.” – James Montgomery Boice [1]

“To be distracted by ourselves, our circumstances, or by other Christians is to disobey the Lord and possibly get detoured out of the will of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)” – Warren Wiersbe [4]

 

John 21:24-25
This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.  Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

This is as close as John gets to signing his own name to this gospel account. John is the one who has written these things, and his testimony (John’s) is verified to be true.

John concludes with the reminder that this is far from a comprehensive biography. There are not enough books in the world to write a complete account of the Lord Jesus Christ!

“John didn’t include everything we would like to know. He included everything we needed to know.” – Stephen Davey [11]

 


 

[1] James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of John, Vol. 5, John 21, pages 1623-1664

 

[2] The post resurrection words of Christ [1]:

 

[3] The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, John 21, pages 197-203

 

[4] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, John 21, pages 316-319

 

[5] Stephen Davey, A Refresher Course . . . Fishing 101, John 21:1-14

 

[6] There are three common interpretations of Jesus’ question, “Do you love me more than these?”

  • “Do you love me more than you love these fishing nets?” In this case, Jesus would be asking Peter if he is ready to leave his fishing profession.
  • “Do you love me more than you love the other disciples?” In this case, Jesus would be asking Peter if his love for Jesus is supreme over his love for other men.
  • “Do you love me more than these disciples love me?” In this case, Jesus would be asking Peter if he still thinks he has a greater love than the other disciples. My preference is for this interpretation, since this fits in the best with the rest of the passage. The rest of the passage is about Peter’s level of love for Jesus, and it is in contrast with Peter’s previous boasting and denying Him.

 

[7] Stephen Davey, Broken Things, John 21:15-17

 

[8] Stephen Davey, Broken Vessels, John 21:15-19

 

[9] Expositors disagree on the significance for John’s use of two different words for love. But John tends to be precise in his language and he deliberately used two different words to record this conversation, therefore it must be significant. [8]

 

[10] Stephen Davey, Snooping, Comparing & Other Natural Diseases, John 21:18-23

 

[11] Stephen Davey, John’s Final Words, John 21:24-25

 

[12] We do not know the actual time frame of the events in John 21. We know that Jesus was in Jerusalem for the final week before the crucifixion (John 12-18), and that the disciples stayed at least eight days after the resurrection before journeying to Galilee (John 20:24-29). Acts 1:3 tells us that Jesus was on earth for 40 days after the resurrection.

The disciples traveled to Galilee after His second appearance to them, and it was in Galilee that they met Jesus, as told in John 21. The disciples would have needed time to prepare for the journey back to Galilee, at least two days of travel (depending on the route taken), and time to settle after their arrival. Therefore, I am assuming for simplicity that it had been about three weeks since Jesus entered Jerusalem, or two weeks since the resurrection.

 

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