John 21:3–7a, 15–17, 20–23 comment (0)
February 20, 2014
By Dale Younce
Related Scripture: John 21:3–7a, 15–17, 20–23
Explore the Bible
Professor of Christian Ministries, University of Mobile
Follow with Renewed Purpose
John 21:3–7a, 15–17, 20–23
The term “backslider” was commonly used a generation ago to refer to a believer who had fallen into sin (or neglect of the Christian life). What hope is there for a backslider? Believers may be backsliders in such a lethargic spiritual state that they do not think of restoration to service; others may have a sensitive conscience about certain sins in their lives but believe they cannot be restored to useful Christian service. Believers who are not backslidden may become positive agents of change for fellow believers. All believers can be encouraged to be faithful followers of Christ and to seek His restoration when they falter. This lesson teaches that Christ calls imperfect humans to follow Him as they are trusting Him for strength and guidance.
What Are You Fishing For? (3–7a)
This chapter in John’s Gospel is an epilogue added by John to highlight Peter’s restoration to public leadership among the disciples. It also points out three needs possessed by all who follow Jesus: to obey Him, to love Him and to follow Him.
The Lord had earlier (Matt. 28:10) instructed the disciples to meet Him in Galilee, which explains why they were at the Sea of Tiberias (Galilee). Six disciples and Peter composed the group and, when Peter announced that he was going fishing, the others agreed to go with him. They probably did not intend to return permanently to commercial fishing, which had been their former occupation. Peter, at least, had a need to be spiritually restored and to refocus on the work Jesus had for him to do.
Although the disciples were experienced commercial fishermen who knew well the waters of the lake, they labored all night and yet caught nothing. When dawn came, a man standing on the shore asked if they had caught any fish. (They did not recognize Him as Jesus, perhaps because of the lingering morning darkness.) Their disappointed response, “No,” was followed by His instruction to cast their net on the right side of the boat and they would find fish. They cast the net and caught a huge number of fish. Because of the high catch or, more likely, because he had experienced a similar event earlier in Jesus’ ministry (Luke 5:3–7), John recognized the man as Jesus. The point here is that Jesus directs the lives of His own. He gives instructions and we are to obey. Our great need — like the struggling fishermen/disciples — is to obey Him.
Do You Love Me? (15–17)
In this interview the Lord restored Peter to public leadership among the apostles. Jesus and Peter had previously met and privately taken care of Peter’s sins (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5). Since Peter had denied the Lord publicly, there was a need for public restoration. Reading this present account teaches us that the one all-important prerequisite for ministry is love for Jesus. Peter had denied the Lord three times; so three times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” and three times Peter answered in the affirmative and three times Jesus re-commissioned Peter by instructing him to tend His followers. By this Jesus meant consistently feeding and nourishing believers spiritually. (This is a good reminder that the primary responsibility of Christ’s messengers is to teach God’s Word.) We demonstrate our love for Jesus when we repent of focusing on self-centered plans and return to following and serving Him in the ways that He wants. Our actions demonstrate that we love Him.
What About Others? (20–23)
When Peter asked Jesus about what would happen concerning the disciple Jesus loved (John), Jesus responded that Peter should focus on his own discipleship rather than speculate about other followers. We must not permit our curiosity about others to distract us from following the Lord. He has His plans for us; He also has His plans for our Christian associates. But how He works in their lives is not my business; it is His business. Our business is to follow Him.