John 20-21
(Just a Sampling)
November 10th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

- John 20:30-31 (NRSV)

Summary of Chapters

The final chapters of John record the discovery of the empty tomb by Mary and her role as the first person to encounter and recognize the Risen Christ. This account is followed by a number of appearances by Jesus with the disciples. In one instance he breathes the Holy Spirit into them, an act that may remind us of the scripture in Genesis in which the Father gives life to Adam by breathing into him.

John provided more details and examples from this period of time than the other Gospel writers, including a story that takes place by the Sea of Tiberius (Sea of Galilee) after The Resurrection. Some of the disciples had been out fishing all night and had caught nothing. Jesus appears at the shoreline in the early morning and tells them to throw the net overboard. "When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish (John 21:6 - NIV)."

The disciples rushed to greet him and found that he had been cooking bread and fish for them over a fire of coals. They shared breakfast together around the fire. During this time, Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to reinstate himself. He asked Peter three different times if he loved him. Peter said yes, yes, yes, and Jesus responded by telling Peter to feed his sheep. The rock was solid again:

    When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter,"Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?"

    "Yes, Lord," he said, :you know that I love you."

    Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."

    Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"

    He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."

    Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."

    The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"

    Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."

    Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."

    - John 21:15-17 (NIV)

John concludes by noting that this book represents only a sampling of what Jesus had done:

    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.

    - John 21:25 (KJV)

Reflection and Application

The story of Jesus appearing on the shoreline is one of my favorites in all the Gospels. Imagine the opportunity to sit around an early morning fire with Jesus, eating fresh cooked fish and bread, exchanging stories and laughing, knowing that Jesus had conquered the biggest opponent of all: Death.

Peter was given the opportunity to re-take his Test. He passed with flying colors, and became the rock that Jesus knew he would be. In the next book of the New Testament, Acts of the Apostles, we will read about many of the acts of strong faith demonstrated by Peter. He will make more mistakes, but his heart for Jesus allows him to overcome those every time.

Why did Jesus ask Peter three times if he loved him? Some experts have noted that it gave Peter a chance to unwind the three times he denied Jesus. Others explain that the original Greek transcription recorded the use of two different words that equate to the English word love. The first two times Jesus uses "agape (which means selfless love)" and Peter responds with "philo (friendship)," then Jesus uses "philo." You might see a closer approximation of the original version if you read it in translation that depicts the distinction between different words for love, such as the Spanish version of the NIV. In this translation, Jesus' first and second question to Peter uses the verb amar, which is a very deep and profound love. Peter responds using the verb querer, which in this case means to love like a friend. In his last question to Peter, Jesus uses querer:

    Cuando terminaron de desayunar, Jesús le preguntó a Simón Pedro:

    —Simón, hijo de Juan, ¿me amas más que éstos?

    —Sí, Señor, tú sabes que te quiero —contestó Pedro.

    —Apacienta mis corderos —le dijo Jesús.

    Y volvió a preguntarle:

    —Simón, hijo de Juan, ¿me amas?

    —Sí, Señor, tú sabes que te quiero.

    —Cuida de mis ovejas.

    Por tercera vez Jesús le preguntó:

    —Simón, hijo de Juan, ¿me quieres?

    A Pedro le dolió que por tercera vez Jesús le hubiera preguntado: «¿Me quieres?» Así que le dijo:

    —Señor, tú lo sabes todo; tú sabes que te quiero.

    —Apacienta mis ovejas —le dijo Jesús—.

    Juan 21:15-17 (Nueva Version International)(emphasis added)

In Spanish and other Latin language translations we can also see that the disciples used the familiar form for addressing Jesus, because although he was their master and teacher he is also their friend, as explained by Jesus in John 15:15 ("los he llamado amigos" - NVI). We can also address Jesus in the familiar, because although he is our Lord and Savior, he is also our friend: " 'I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you' (John 15:15 - NIV)."

You may notice the other use of synonyms in the dialog between Jesus and Peter, as Jesus interchanged the words sheep and lamb and the verbs he used to describe the act of caring for them. First he instructed Peter to feed his lambs (the little ones), then he says to tend (or shepherd in some versions) his sheep, and finally he recombines the synonyms as he says feed my sheep. In addition to providing a reconciling opportunity for Peter this passage also appears to make clear that Peter is to be the leader after Jesus' Ascension.

Regarding the intention of Jesus when addressing Peter in this scene, other experts say that in the time of Jesus that these two Greek words for love were used interchangably, but perhaps the original conversation was in Aramiac, so we shouldn't read too much into the specific words in this case. Nevertheless, this truth remains: Peter denied Jesus, but was forgiven and welcomed back when he expressed his love for Jesus.

The haul of the fish can be considered on a symbolic level, like a living parable. By listening to Jesus, these disciples will catch so many men in the net of Jesus' Grace that they will not be able to haul it in. We can find a parallel in the story of Pentecost in the book of Acts. When we listen to Jesus, we can do more than we ever imagined.

How appropriate for John to close the Gospels by reminding the readers that this is just a sampling. Some of Jesus acts were recorded in all four Gospels, such as the feeding of thousands and the entry into Jerusalem. Some were in two or three or just one book -- such as this story of the Risen Christ cooking bread and fish over the fire.

Many others were not recorded. There must have been many other worthy events during his 3-year ministry, and after the resurrection, and even beyond the Ascension and up until the present age. In fact, in a later book we will read the observation that Jesus appeared to 500 people. Yet only a sampling of these events is recorded. Let us be encouraged by John and the other Gospel writers to share a sampling of our stories of what Jesus has done for us in our lives.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is your favorite type of fish or seafood that you like to eat?
    2. What was the most inspiring part of John's Gospel for you?
    3. What is one of your stories of how Jesus has changed your life? How would you like to share that with someone?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, the stories of what you have done for us are as endless as your power and as deep as your love. Help us to understand what is written and share what we experience.

    Prayer Concern

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Overview of Acts and Study of Acts 1-3 (Incendiary Growth)

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