2. There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana
in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.
[Simon Peter, and Thomas, &c.] Here are seven of the disciples mentioned,
and but five of them named. Those two whose names are not recited probably were Philip and
Andrew; as the four that were absent at the time were the sons of Alpheus, Matthew, Judas,
Simeon, and James. Compare those that are mentioned, chapter 1; and you may reasonably
suppose the person not named there, verses 37, 40, might be Thomas.
3. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with
thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught
[I go a fishing.] Christ had ordered his apostles to meet him at a mountain in
Galilee, Matthew 28:16. It is plain, verse 14, that he had not yet appeared to them there:
so that it is something strange how they durst keep away from that mountain, and how the
four newly mentioned durst be absent from the rest of their number. They knew the mountain
without doubt; and if they knew not the time wherein Christ would make his appearance
amongst them, why should they not abide continually there in attendance for him?
It should seem, that they did not look for him till the Lord's day, which had not yet
been since they were come into Galilee. And perhaps the sons of Alpheus had, in their
return from Jerusalem, betaken themselves amongst their relations, determining to be at
that mountain on the Lord's day. These seven dwelt not far off the mountain, which was
near Capernaum, and hard by the sea of Galilee: only Nathanael, who dwelt more remote in
Cana, towards the extreme north parts of that sea. He was not yet gone home, but, waiting
the appointed time, stayed here. Peter and Andrew dwelt in Capernaum, and so, probably,
did James and John: Philip in Bethsaida, and Thomas (as we may conjecture from his Greek
name Didymus) probably lived amongst the Syro-Grecians in Gadara, or Hippo, or some
place in that country of Decapolis, not very far from Gennesaret.
5. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.
[Children.] By what word soever Christ expressed this children to them,
it seems to be a very familiar and gentle compellation, that his disciples, from that very
salutation of his, might discern him. They did not know him by sight, as appears, verse 4:
he would have them know him, therefore, by the title he gave them.
[Any meat.] Very usual amongst the Rabbins may not unfitly be rendered meat
for one single repast: as if Christ should have said, "Children, have ye any meat
with you sufficient for a breakfast or a dinner?" But if any meat should
signify any sort of meat that must be eaten with bread, as Camerarius thinks, then
Christ's words seem to have this meaning: "Here, I have bread with me: have you taken
any thing, that we may eat this bread?" and so meat may be distinguished from bread.
15. So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas,
lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love
thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
[Lovest thou me more than these?] Why more than these? Might it not have
been enough to have said, "as well as these?" For what reason had he to
expect that Peter should love him more than the rest did? especially more than St.
John, whom Christ himself had so loved, and who had stuck so close to him?
Christ seems, therefore, to reflect upon Peter's late confidence, not without some kind
of severity and reproof: q.d. "Thou saidst, O Simon, a little while ago, that thou
wouldst never forsake me, no, not though all the other disciples should. Thou didst
profess beyond all the rest that thou wouldst rather die than deny me; thou wouldst follow
me to prison, to death; nay, lay down thy own life for me. What sayest thou now, Simon?
Dost thou yet love me more than these? If thou thinkest thou art provided, and
canst hazard thy life for me, feed my sheep; and for my sake do thou expose thy life, yea,
and lay it down for them."
[Feed my lambs.] If there be any thing in that threefold repetition, Feed,
Feed, Feed, we may most fitly apply it to the threefold object of St. Peter's
ministry, viz. the Gentiles, the Jew, and the Israelites of the ten tribes.
I. To him were committed, by his Lord, the keys of the kingdom of heaven, Matthew 16;
that he might open the door of faith and the gospel to the Gentiles, which he did in his
preaching it to Cornelius.
II. In sharing out the work of preaching the gospel amongst the three ministers of the
circumcision, his lot fell amongst the Jews in Babylon. James's lot was amongst the Jews
in Palestine and Syria: and John's amongst the Hellenists in Asia.
III. Now amongst the Jews in Babylon were mixed the Israelites of the ten tribes; and
to them did the gospel come by the ministry of St. Peter, as I have shewn more at large in
To this, therefore, have the words of our Saviour a plain reference; namely, putting
Peter in mind, that whereas he had, with so much confidence and assurance of himself, made
such professions of love and constancy beyond the other disciples, pretending to a
wonderful resolution of laying down his very life in that behalf, that he would now shew
his zeal and courage in 'feeding the sheep' of Christ:--"Thou canst not, Simon, lay
down thy life for me, as thou didst once promise; for I have myself laid down my own life,
and taken it up again. 'Feed thou my sheep,' therefore; and be ready to lay down thy life
for them, when it shall come to be required of thee."
So that what is here said does not so much point out Peter's primacy, as his danger;
nor so much the privilege as the bond of his office, and at last his martyrdom: for that
our Saviour had this meaning with him, is plain, because, immediately after this, he tells
him by what death he should glorify God, verse 18.
24. This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things:
and we know that his testimony is true.
[And we know that his testimony is true.] The evangelist had said before,
chapter 19:35, "He knoweth that he saith true"; and here in this place he
changeth the person, saying, "We know that his testimony is true."
I. One would believe that this was an idiotism in the Chaldee and Syriac tongue, to
make 'We' know, and 'I' know, the same thing: which is not unusual in other
languages also; Joshua 2:9, I know. The Targumist hath which you would believe to
be We know. 1 Samuel 17:28, I know. Targumist, We know.
II. We suppose the evangelist, both here and chapter 19:35, referreth to an eyewitness.
For in all judicial causes the ocular testimony prevailed. If any person should testify
that he himself saw the thing done, his witness must be received: for true
when it is said of any testimony, does not signify barely that which is true, but
that which was to be believed and entertained for a sure and irrefragable evidence.
So that the meaning of these words is this: "This is the disciple who testifies of
these things and wrote them: and we all know that such a testimony obtains in all
judgments whatever; for he was an eyewitness, and saw that which he testifies."