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Bible: What Does John 21 Teach Us About the Relationship Between Jesus and Peter?

Updated on September 9, 2016

The Apostle John

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Jesus" "Have You Any Food?"

The Apostle John records a seaside scene in Galilee that involves a resurrection appearance of Christ, this time to seven of the eleven apostles—undoubtedly because they were all fishermen.

The lesson concerns catching "fish" (read “men”), and sets the stage for the beginning of the Apostolic Age (vv. 1-2).

[Note that John lists Simon Peter first, including both of his names; Thomas (called the Twin) is present, but not Matthew, since the latter used to be a tax-collector, not a fisherman; Nathanael (called Bartholomew in Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18 and Luke 6:14); John does not identify himself or his brother James by name, but only by the designation “the sons of Zebedee”; he does not name two of the disciples also present. Why John omits their names is unknown.]

As leader of the band, Peter—apparently weary of waiting for Jesus’ next instructions and needing to earn a living—decides to go fishing; the others follow his direction and launch out for a night catch, only to net nothing (v. 3).

When morning comes, they see a Man, unrecognizable to them from the sea, standing on shore and shouting out to them, “Have you any food?” (vv. 4-5).

[First of note, Jesus addresses them as “Children” (boys or lads, according to Ryrie, New Testament Study Bible, 201), yet His disciples are probably all young men.

Jesus’ physical appearance and way of expressing Himself must have manifested One whose maturity vastly exceeded His years.

Second, His leading question (asked as though ignorantly) would have reminded the apostles of their failure, but probably did not cause any ire toward Him.

The disciples’ succinct answer suggests that they might have felt this way.]

The Catch of A Lifetime

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A Lesson From Failure


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153 Fish

Oddly, they neither ask the Stranger any questions nor voice any objections to His directive to cast their net on the right side for a catch—perhaps they were too tired to argue, or maybe they thought he could see a swarm from the shore—, they simply obey Him and consequently net an enormous load (v. 6).

[Looking back at Jesus’ question, knowing now that He knew that they had caught nothing, makes the reader chuckle at the Lord’s sense of humor—a gentle, yet very effective, barb at the apostles’ attempts to do something that God had no longer called them to do.]

John matter-of-factly takes credit for being the first one to recognize that the Stranger on the shore is Jesus, and states that he told Peter about his intuition (v. 7a).

Unwilling to wait until the whole company reached shore, the latter dresses himself more appropriately and swims back to land, burdening the others in the little boat with the heavy work of dragging in the net full of fish (v. 7b-8).

[A huge catch of fish meant nothing to Peter anymore.]

Jesus invites them all to the breakfast that He had already prepared, yet He allows them to bring a few of the fish that they had just caught (vv. 9-10).

[It was unnecessary for them to labor all night; Jesus had already provided for them. What other lesson might John be suggesting by this description of the scene?]

Now Simon Peter helps drag in and count the fish, showing that the impetuous apostle did not mean to show insensitivity to his friends; he had just temporarily lost his perspective when he heard that Jesus stood on shore (v. 11).

[One hundred fifty-three large fish has no symbolic significance; it just turned out to be the total number caught.

John records this detail not only because of the vast number, but also because the net remained unbroken. Talk about two astounding miracles worthy of reportage!]

Perhaps something in His manner—His generosity?—convinces them all that this Stranger is Jesus; apparently, His appearance has changed so much that they could not recognize Who He was (v. 12).

[Why John should even mention the fact that none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are you?” is odd.

What other reason—other than He looked different than He did a few weeks earlier—would they have for finding it difficult to recognize Him?]

Christ assumes the roles of both host and servant again, performing the tasks He had so often done for them in the past (v. 13).

John summarizes the scene, informing his readers that this latter resurrection appearance to them was Jesus’ third (v. 14; cf. 20:19, 26).

The Apostle Peter

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The Crucifixion of Simon Peter

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Jesus: "Simon, Do You Love Me?"

After breakfast, the Lord pulls Peter aside and carries on a crucial conversation with him, asking the same question three times: “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?” (vv. 15a, 16a, 17a)

[The initial question also includes the phrase “more than these,” i.e., “Do you love Me more than the other disciples love Me?”

Ryrie (204) points out that Peter had made a boastful statement on the day before the Crucifixion claiming as much (cf. Matt. 26:33)].

Peter responds affirmatively in each case, even to the first, and adds that Christ’s knowledge of him and of all things prevents him from hiding this fact from Him (vv. 15b, 16b, 17b).

[Does Peter mean that he still loves Jesus more than all of the others love Him, or is he merely stating that he loves Him more than he loves the other apostles?

Ryrie thinks that Jesus uses the two Greek words for love—agapao and phileo—synonymously.

Therefore, students should not seek any nuanced meanings here (204).]

In light of Peter’s three affirmations, Jesus issues three imperatives that delineate His commission to the apostle.

“Feed My lambs” instructs Peter to teach and care for young believers (v. 15c); “Tend (or Shepherd) My sheep” suggests oversight of the mature (v. 16c); and “Feed My sheep” also involves a teaching ministry (v. 17c).

[Obviously, one should leave considerable room for overlap of meaning.]

Verse 18 features a prophecy comparing Peter’s freedom during his youth to the lack thereof in his “last days”; verse 19a interprets the prophecy as signifying the apostle’s God-glorifying death.

Jesus then simply commands Peter to follow Him (v. 19b).

Peter's Responsibility


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Imminent Return of Jesus

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Peter's Curiosity and John's Reply

The last exchange in this gospel depicts Peter’s curiosity, as he asks Jesus about John’s future.

For some reason, the evangelist adds the distinctions that differentiate him from all of the others (“the disciple whom Jesus loved,” “who also had leaned on His breast at the supper,” and his question, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?”) [vv. 20-21]

[Did competition, friendly or otherwise, exist between John and Peter?]

Jesus, in essence, tells Peter to mind his own business (“You follow Me”) and to cease wondering whether John would still be alive when Christ returned (v. 22).

[Peter knew that he was going to die in his old age before Christ’s return.

How does this prophecy square with the doctrine of the imminent return of Christ?]

John reports that a rumor that he would not die circulated among the believers, but he quells it by pointing out that Jesus did not categorically affirm his survival until the Parousia (v. 23).

[Apparently, the rumor persisted until John put it to rest when he wrote this gospel.]

John finally identifies himself as the witness and gospel writer, tacking on, “. . . and we know that his testimony is true” (v. 24).

[The apostle must be using the authorial “we” here.]

He concludes this account by noting that his gospel contains but a sampling of the multitude of Jesus’ miracles.

If authors should record every work of power the Lord performed during those three plus years of ministry, he writes, they would require an innumerable number of volumes to complete the job (v. 25).

Study Questions for The Gospel of John

The Greek term logos signifies logic, thought, and concept, and expresses “_________ and ___________ ________” to the Greek mind (Ryrie 161).

  1. In John’s writings, “light” usually means ________ ______________.
  2. Delineate and discuss characteristics of the Word, according to John’s first chapter.
  3. What must individuals do in order to receive authority to become God’s children?
  4. What is necessary for people to come to know who Christ is?
  5. What is another name by which Nathanael goes?
  6. What was Jesus’ characterization of Nathanael?
  7. How many “signs” does John record in which Jesus’ “glory” was manifested?
  8. Of what Scripture was John reminded after witnessing Jesus’ cleansing of the temple?
  9. What does “being born of water and of the Spirit” mean?
  10. Interact with some of the “great spiritual truths” that Jesus imparted to Nicodemus in chapter three.
  11. How does John the Baptizer represent himself as a subordinate to Christ?
  12. Does Jesus merely wish to reveal intimate facts about the Samaritan woman’s relationships with six men—facts that a stranger would not know—in order to prove to her that He is, at the least, a prophet? Or is He broaching a moral issue with her?
  13. Which miracle does John label “the second sign”? .
  14. How does Jesus’ calling God His own Father make Him equal with God?
  15. Does this economy—Jesus’ dependence upon the Father—exist only in His state of humiliation, or does it also extend into His ontological Trinitarian relationship? Argue for your position.
  16. Who now has the prerogative to preside over all judgment?
  17. Argue the position adhering to two separate resurrections.
  18. Who and what bear witness to the validity of Jesus’ claims as the Messiah?
  19. What is the third of Jesus’ “signs”?
  20. What is the only thing that people need to do in order to do God’s work?
  21. Compare the economic relationship between the Father and the Son in the salvation of people.
  22. What does it mean to “appropriate” Christ?
  23. Interact with Jesus’ statements in chapter six which argue for divine sovereignty and mankind’s responsibility in salvation?
  24. What is significant about Jesus’ offering Himself as the water of life on the eighth day of the Feast of Pentecost?
  25. Who stands up for Jesus’ legal rights among the Sanhedrin?
  26. What does Jesus mean when He says that “the truth shall make you free”?
  27. What are at least three ways in which the Pharisees label Jesus in chapter eight?
  28. Discuss some of Jesus’ claims to deity in this gospel, especially the I AM statement of chapter eight.
  29. What are the three assumptions of His disciples regarding the blind man’s condition?
  30. What is the meaning of Jesus’ declaration that He and the Father are one?
  31. In His response to the Jews on this occasion, how does Jesus assert His belief in the verbal, plenary inspiration of OT Scripture?
  32. Why did Jesus make Judas, and not Matthew, the apostolic treasurer?
  33. According to the Evangelist, what Scriptures does Jesus fulfill on Palm Sunday?
  34. What does Greek interest in Christ signify to John?
  35. Of which OT figure is Judas the antitype (fulfillment)?
  36. What novel commandment does Jesus issue to His disciples?
  37. When does God affirmatively answer believers’ prayers?
  38. What are other names of the Holy Spirit?
  39. Discuss the absolute dichotomy that exists between the world’s relationship to the Spirit and that of the disciples’.
  40. Why does Jesus refer to the Father as “One greater than I”?
  41. What does it mean to “abide in the vine”?
  42. What demonstrates the greatest degree of love?
  43. What does the disciples’ not choosing Jesus imply?
  44. What Scriptures does the world fulfill by its uncaused hatred of Jesus?
  45. What is the Spirit’s threefold ministry with regard to the world?
  46. Discuss Jesus’ presentation of the Spirit’s ministry in John 14-16.
  47. What are the three divisions of Jesus’ High Priestly prayer?
  48. Was Judas eternally lost, or merely physically destroyed? Argue your position with Scripture.
  49. What three objectives does the indwelling of believers by the Father and the Son aim to accomplish?
  50. Why did Jesus command the apostles to purchase swords?
  51. What evidence does John provide which may show that he and Peter competed with each other?
  52. How might one explain the divergences among the gospel accounts?
  53. Of what crime did the Jews accuse Jesus before Pilate?
  54. Whom bears more culpability for Jesus’ death than Pilate?
  55. What did Pilate have written on the sign affixed above Jesus’ head, and in what languages was it written?
  56. Where did Pilate sit in judgment upon Jesus?
  57. Which Scripture was fulfilled when the soldiers gambled over Jesus’ clothes?
  58. What does the Greek word tetelestai mean, and what does it signify regarding Jesus’ death?
  59. Why was Jesus taken off the cross and placed in Joseph’s sepulcher so soon after death?
  60. What does blood and water exiting Jesus’ lance wound signify?
  61. What does the Greek word airo signify concerning the stone before Jesus’ tomb?
  62. Jesus warns Mary not to cling to Him because He has not yet ascended. Does that mean people clinging to Jesus would only be appropriate after He ascends? What possible harm is there in an embrace before He ascends?
  63. What was the purpose of Jesus’ breathing upon them in the hiding place?
  64. What was the Evangelist’s two-fold purpose in composing his gospel?
  65. Summarize Jesus’ instructions to Peter.
  66. Peter knew that he was going to die in his old age before Christ’s return. How does this prophecy square with the doctrine of the imminent return of Christ? Can it be argued that Christ “returned” in A. D. 70 when Jerusalem fell under Titus?

© 2014 glynch1

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    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 3 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      I don't always take the quizzes, but I do look at the questions. I don't know if it would make any difference or not, but I wonder if putting the questions at the end would help. The reason I don't always take the quiz is because the answer usually is plainly stated to the left of the question.

      I think another reason I may not always take the quiz (and I can only speak for myself) is that with my schedule if I have time to just read the hubs, I feel like I've accomplished something. Just some thoughts!

    • glynch1 profile image
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      glynch1 3 years ago

      I usually provide two quizzes for each hub in order to fulfill the suggested requirements. Yes, they normally contain just one question. I don't expect people to post me their answers to the study questions at the end of each book, but I would like to see them take the regular quizzes (and even the occasional poll).

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 3 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Are you talking about the one question quizzes in the sidebar, or the quiz at the end of the book study?

    • glynch1 profile image
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      glynch1 3 years ago

      You are welcome. I wish I could have found a general picture that portrayed the truth about him, but I am glad you like the one I have. Question: Could you suggest how I can arrange my hubs so that more people would take the quizzes? Perhaps the questions I ask are not challenging enough.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 3 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Another study completed. Thanks for the information. I liked your picture of "Pope" Peter.