Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
(That this chapter was added by another hand has been asserted, against
clear evidence to the contrary, by some late critics, chiefly because
the Evangelist had concluded his part of the work with
Joh 20:30, 31.
But neither in the Epistles of the New Testament, nor in other good
authors, is it unusual to insert supplementary matter, and so have more
than one conclusion).
1, 2. Jesus showed himself again--manifested himself again.
and on this wise he manifested himself--This way of speaking shows
that after His resurrection He appeared to them but
occasionally, unexpectedly, and in a way quite unearthly, though
yet really and corporeally.
2. Nathanael--(See on
3-6. Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing--(See on
that night . . . caught nothing--as at the first
miraculous draught (see on
no doubt so ordered that the miracle might strike them the more by
contrast. The same principle is seen in operation throughout much of
Christ's ministry, and is indeed a great law of God's spiritual
procedure with His people.
4. Jesus stood--(Compare
Joh 20:19, 26).
but the disciples knew not it was Jesus--Perhaps there had been some
considerable interval since the last manifestation, and having agreed to
betake themselves to their secular employment, they would be unprepared
to expect Him.
5. Children--This term would not necessarily identify Him, being not
unusual from any superior; but when they did recognize Him, they would
feel it sweetly like Himself.
have ye any meat?--provisions, supplies, meaning fish.
They answered . . . No--This was in His wonted style, making them
tell their case, and so the better prepare them for what was coming.
6. he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship--no
doubt, by this very specific direction, intending to reveal to them His
knowledge of the deep and power over it.
7-11. that disciple whom Jesus loved, said, It is the
Lord--again having the advantage of his brother in quickness of
recognition (see on
to be followed by an alacrity in Peter all his own.
he was naked--his vest only on, worn next the body.
cast himself into the sea--the shallow part, not more than a hundred
yards from the water's edge
not meaning therefore to swim, but to get sooner to Jesus than in the
full boat which they could hardly draw to shore.
8. the other disciples came in a little ship--by ship.
9. they saw--"see."
a fire of coals, and fish laid thereon, and bread--By comparing
and similar passages, the unseen agency by which Jesus made this
provision will appear evident.
10. Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish ye have now
caught--Observe the double supply thus provided--His and theirs.
The meaning of this will perhaps appear presently.
11. Peter went up--into the boat; went aboard.
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 manifest reference here to the former miraculous draught
furnishes the key to this scene. There the draught was
symbolical of the success of their future ministry: While "Peter
and all that were with him were astonished at the draught of the fishes
which they had taken, Jesus said unto him, Fear not, from henceforth
thou shalt catch men." Nay, when first called, in the act of "casting
their net into the sea, for they were fishers," the same
symbolic reference was made to their secular occupation: "Follow
Me, and I will make you fishers of men"
(Mt 4:18, 19).
Here, then, if but the same symbolic reference be kept in view, the
design of the whole scene will, we think, be clear. The
multitude and the size of the fishes they caught
symbolically foreshadowed the vast success of their now fast
approaching ministry, and this only as a beginning of successive
draughts, through the agency of a Christian ministry, till, "as the
waters cover the sea, the earth should be full of the knowledge of the
Lord." And whereas, at the first miraculous draught, the net "was
breaking" through the weight of what it contained--expressive of the
difficulty with which, after they had 'caught men,' they would be able
to retain, or keep them from escaping back into the world--while
here, "for all they were so many, yet was not the net broken," are we
not reminded of such sayings as these
"I give unto My sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish,
neither shall any pluck them out of My hand" [LUTHARDT]? But it is not through the agency of a
Christian ministry that all true disciples are gathered. Jesus Himself,
by unseen methods, gathers some, who afterwards are recognized by the
constituted fishers of men, and mingle with the fruit of their labors.
And are not these symbolized by that portion of our Galilean repast
which the fishers found, in some unseen way, made ready to their
12-14. none . . . durst ask him, Who art thou, knowing it was the
Lord--implying that they would have liked Him just to say, "It is
I"; but having such convincing evidence they were afraid of being
"upbraided for their unbelief and hardness of heart" if they ventured to
put the question.
13. Jesus . . . taketh bread--the bread.
and giveth them, and the fish likewise--(See on
14. This is the third time that Jesus showed himself--was manifested.
to his disciples--His assembled disciples; for if we reckon His
appearances to individual disciples, they were more.
15-17. when they had dined, Jesus saith--Silence appears to have
reigned during the meal; unbroken on His part, that by their mute
observation of Him they might have their assurance of His identity the
more confirmed; and on theirs, from reverential shrinking to speak
till He did.
Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?--referring
lovingly to those sad words of Peter, shortly before denying his Lord,
"Though all men shall be offended because of Thee,
yet will I never be offended"
and intending by this allusion to bring the whole scene vividly before
his mind and put him to shame.
Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee--He adds not, "more than
these," but prefixes a touching appeal to the Saviour's own omniscience
for the truth of his protestation, which makes it a totally different
kind of speech from his former.
He saith unto him, Feed my lambs--It is surely wrong to view this
term as a mere diminutive of affection, and as meaning the same thing as
"the sheep" [WEBSTER and
WILKINSON]. It is much more according to usage
to understand by the "lambs," young and tender disciples, whether in
age or Christian standing
1Jo 2:12, 13),
and by the "sheep" the more mature. Shall we say (with many)
that Peter was here reinstated in office? Not exactly, since he was not
actually excluded from it. But after such conduct as his, the deep
wound which the honor of Christ had received, the stain brought on his
office, the damage done to his high standing among his brethren, and
even his own comfort, in prospect of the great work before him,
required some such renewal of his call and re-establishment of his
position as this.
16. He saith to him . . . the second time . . .
lovest thou me,
&c.--In this repetition of the question, though the wound was meant to
be reopened, the words "more than these" are not repeated; for
Christ is a tender as well as skilful Physician, and Peter's
silence on that point was confession enough of his sin and folly. On
Peter's repeating his protestation in the same words, our Lord rises
higher in the manifestation of His restoring grace.
my sheep--It has been observed that the word here is studiously
changed, from one signifying simply to feed, to one signifying to
tend as a shepherd, denoting the abiding exercise of that
vocation, and in its highest functions.
17. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou
me? Peter was grieved because he said the third time, &c.--This
was the Physician's deepest incision into the wound, while yet smarting
under the two former probings. Not till now would Peter discern the
object of this succession of thrusts. The third time reveals it all,
bringing up such a rush of dreadful recollections before his view, of
his "thrice denying that he knew Him," that he feels it to the
quick. It was fitting that he should; it was meant that he should. But
this accomplished, the painful dialogue concludes with a delightful
"Feed My sheep"; as if He should say, "Now, Simon, the last speck of the
cloud which overhung thee since that night of nights is dispelled:
Henceforth thou art to Me and to My work as if no such scene had ever
18, 19. When thou wast young--embracing the whole period of life to
the verge of old age.
thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest--wast thine
when . . . old thou shalt stretch forth thine hands--to be bound for
execution, though not necessarily meaning on a cross. There is no
reason, however, to doubt the very early tradition that Peter's death
was by crucifixion.
19. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God--not,
therefore, a mere prediction of the manner of his death, but of the
honor to be conferred upon him by dying for his Master. And, indeed,
beyond doubt, this prediction was intended to follow up his triple
restoration:--"Yes, Simon, thou shall not only feed My lambs, and feed
My sheep, but after a long career of such service, shalt be counted
worthy to die for the name of the Lord Jesus."
And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me--By thus
connecting the utterance of this prediction with the invitation to
follow Him, the Evangelist would indicate the deeper sense in which the
call was understood, not merely to go along with Him at that moment, but
to come after Him, "taking up his cross."
20, 21. Peter, turning about--showing that he followed immediately
seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on
Jesus' breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth
thee?--The Evangelist makes these allusions to the peculiar
familiarity to which he had been admitted on the most memorable of all
occasions, perhaps lovingly to account for Peter's somewhat forward
question about him to Jesus; which is the rather probable, as it was at
Peter's suggestion that he put the question about the traitor which he
(Joh 13:24, 25).
21. Peter . . . saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?--What
of this man? or, How shall it fare with him?
22, 23. Jesus saith to him, If I will that he tarry fill I come, what
is that to thee? follow thou me--From the fact that John alone of the
Twelve survived the destruction of Jerusalem, and so witnessed the
commencement of that series of events which belongs to "the last days,"
many good interpreters think that this is a virtual prediction of fact,
and not a mere supposition. But this is very doubtful, and it seems
more natural to consider our Lord as intending to give
no positive indication of John's fate at all, but to signify that
this was a matter which belonged to the Master of both, who would
disclose or conceal it as He thought proper, and that Peter's part was
to mind his own affairs. Accordingly, in "follow thou Me," the word
"thou" is emphatic. Observe the absolute disposal of human life
which Christ claims: "If I will that he tarry till I come," &c.
23. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple
should not die--into which they the more easily fell from the prevalent
expectation that Christ's second coming was then near at hand.
yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die--The Evangelist is
jealous for His Master's honor, which his death might be thought to
compromise if such a misunderstanding should not be corrected.
Joh 21:24, 25.
24. This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote
these things--thus identifying the author of this book with all that
it says of this disciple.
we know that his testimony is
25. And there are many other things which Jesus did--(Compare
Joh 20:30, 31).
if . . . written every one, I suppose--an expression used to show
that what follows is not to be pressed too far.
even the world itself would not hold the books, &c.--not a mere
hyperbolical expression, unlike the sublime simplicity of this writer,
but intended to let his reader know that, even now that he had done, he
felt his materials so far from being exhausted, that he was still
running over, and could multiply "Gospels" to almost any extent within
the strict limits of what "Jesus did." But in the limitation of
these matchless histories, in point of number, there is as much of that
divine wisdom which has presided over and pervades the living oracles,
as in their variety and fulness.