You had to know the fishermen of Galilee to write this account. Nighttime was the best for fishing. The catch described here is something that often happened on the lake. The man with the net relied on the call or bell of someone who sat at a higher place to see where the shoals of fish were moving. Jesus was acting as guide to the fishermen that day.
Jesus is only recognized when He reveals Himself to people. Maybe the grey of dawn was still too dark for them to see Him clearly. Again, love brought sight. John saw and when Peter saw, he ran. Peter was only in a loincloth like all fishermen when they worked. He put on his tunic. To greet somebody was holy (a religious act) and he clothed himself for it.
The chapter was obviously added to emphasize the reality of the resurrection. Many would say that some of Jesus’ appearances were visions of the disciples, even hallucinations. The Gospels all insisted that the risen Christ was a real person. The tomb was empty and Christ had the wounds in His hands and side to prove it.
A vision was unlikely to point out the shoal of fish to the fishermen. A vision was not likely to make a fire and fry fish on it for a meal to share. John tells us in the previous chapter how Jesus showed His hands and side. Jesus insisted that they touch Him to make His resurrection real and undisputed.
Jesus conquered death. He made sure they had no doubt.
John names the number of fish for a reason. A catch of 153 fishes had to be divided between the partners on the boat. It was an exceptionally large catch but there is more.
According to the numbers and words of the ancient world hundred represented the fullness of the flock (Matthew 18:12). The good seed in fertile ground was hundred-fold. The number fifty represented the remnant of the Jews and the three is for the Trinity that does it all.
The net is the church, no exclusiveness or selectiveness. It is big enough for all. The church should embrace like Jesus did.
For the three times Peter denied the Lord, Jesus gave him three times to confirm his love for the Lord. He most certainly knew Peter was full of guilt and shame about the denial, and He made sure to bring Peter to a place where love is the topic and not shameful failure.
With each declaration of love Peter received a task. His declaration was to equip him for the task ahead. Love is privilege but also responsibility. In the end his love for Jesus had him die on a cross as well. He was crucified upside down, because he did not feel worthy to die the same way Jesus did. Incredibly the Romans obliged. What courage Peter displayed that day, after the equipping of love on this day and the touch of fire to empower on the day of Pentecost.
Peter’s role in the early church was forever established. He was a shepherd and he cared deeply for the flock of Jesus.
Jesus asked: Peter do you agapé Me? Peter answered: Lord I phileo you.
Agapé is the amazing love of God for humankind.
It is defined like this: Unconditional love, love by choice and not by chance. Love by an act of the will. The word denotes unconquerable benevolence and undefeatable goodwill. Agape will never seek anything but the highest good for fellow mankind. Agapé (noun) is the word for God’s unconditional love. It does not need an affinity, chemistry or feeling. It is a word that exclusively belongs to the Christian community. It is virtually unknown to writers outside the New Testament. It is as if the word existed in Greek and waited for Jesus to give content to its full meaning.
God loves unconditionally. Jesus on the cross was proving God’s love in the deepest and most glorious way possible.
Peter knew he was not capable to love that way. His uncertainty is reflected in the word he uses for love – phileo, which means brotherly love.
The second time Jesus asks: Peter, do you agapé Me? Peter answers: Lord I phileo you.
The third time Jesus asks: Peter, do you phileo Me? Peter answers: Lord, You know all things. You know that I phileo You.
Peter acknowledges his deficient love, very real and very truthful. He acknowledges that Jesus knows this and there is no point in pretending.
One can almost feel the raw heart to heart communication that cuts to the bone of the matter. Peter is restored and forgiven. His relationship with Jesus is cemented in the love he experiences in the words of Jesus. Jesus puts the whole burden of love for the church that will be birthed on the day of Pentecost on Peter. He knows Peter is forever changed. He knows just how deeply this man loves Him.
In the next passage (20:20-24) John says something of words spoken about himself. Peter was already concerned for his fellow disciples and John was young. Some say John was only 15 or 16 when he met Jesus. Jesus tells Peter not to worry about his brethren. Jesus will look after His own.
And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.(John 10:28)
John, while writing this Gospel, bears witness to all this. He was the one to write in his old age in Ephesus. He was also the one looking after Mary.
Christianity is sealed in experience. Meeting Jesus is the foundation of the Christian life.
Jesus says here: Do not worry about the task given to someone else. Your job is to follow me and do what I have given you to do. Jesus is the perfect shepherd over His church and us. He will manage our ministry. If we venture out to minister like others or try to be something else than he ordained us to be, we are set up for failure and disappointment. We cannot manage the whole church, big trends or doctrine. We must do what the Holy Spirit gives us to do.
Christ is limitless. His resurrection is real. His church is universal. No one competes in the Kingdom. Peter is the shepherd and John is the witness.
John thinks upon the splendour of Jesus and knows that he could write to us so that we could only grasp a fragment of who Jesus really is. He will reveal Himself. The world can never fully comprehend.
When you think you know, then know that He is much, much more.
Our mind and our books fail miserably when we have to describe the indescribable.
John ends with the innumerable triumphs, the inexhaustible power, and the limitless grace of Jesus Christ. [William Barclay]
This brings us to the end of the study of John. I hope that the many months we studied Revelation and the Gospel of John will serve as an inspiration for more deep diving into the powerful Word of God.