Gospel of John [21:1-14]. The appendix: Fishers of men.

Class Outline:

Title: Gospel of John [21:1-4]. The appendix: Fishers of men.



The last chapter of John is almost like an appendix. None of the other gospels record these events in Galilee and it may be that by the time this gospel was written there were some confusion about these things and so John wrote to clarify.


The Galilee meeting - He told them in the upper room:


MAT 26:31 Then Jesus said to them, "You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, 'I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.' 


MAT 26:32 "But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee."


The angels told the women at the empty tomb:


MAT 28:7 "And go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going before you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you."


The resurrected Jesus told the women.


MAT 28:10 Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they shall see Me."


This doesn't exclude that fact that the Lord fully knew that He would have to appear to the disciples in Jerusalem before they departed for Galilee. It is simply emphasized that they must meet Him in Galilee. It does emphasizes His Galilean ministry. The Lord spent the greatest amount of the time of His ministry in Galilee, in fact He spent the majority of His life there. This is likely the reason for this resurrection appearance. So why have the disciples, now apostles, meet Him there? Why not just appear to the believers in Galilee?


It was important to establish the authority of the apostles in front of the many believers in Galilee, so the Lord appeared with them.


This is the best explanation for sending them to Galilee and then right back to Jerusalem where the foundation of the church would first be established.


The early church in all districts needed to establish a foundation through the apostles. This explains why the laying on of hands was used by God during this time.


ACT 8:14 Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John,


ACT 8:15 who came down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit.


ACT 8:16 For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.


ACT 8:17 Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit.


There was nothing wrong with their faith or the water baptism they received. We would conclude that the withholding of the Holy Spirit was simply a means of establishing the authority of the apostles from Jerusalem as well as establishing to the Gentile converts in Samaria that there were not two churches but one under the authority of these men. The Jerusalem church which was almost wholly Jewish was not different from the Gentile churches that were being established in Hellenized areas. If you recall, the Samaritans hated Jews and vice versa. The church had to be established unified.


By the way, while we look at a sometimes hard to understand passage like this in the book of Acts we must understand that no pattern of salvation is established here other than faith in Christ. This is revealed in that in the sequence of the component elements in this passage and others like it are not the same. Peter's hearers in Jerusalem at Pentecost believed, were baptized, and then received the HS.


ACT 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?"


ACT 2:38 And Peter said to them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.


Cornelius and his household receive the Spirit while they are still listening to the message and then are baptized. This time it was Peter and the Jerusalem church who needed to know beyond a doubt that salvation had come to the Gentiles in every measure that it had come to the Jews. Therefore in this instance there is no laying on of hands. Cornelius already accepts the authority of Peter and water baptism is done afterwards so that it is clear that salvation is an issue of faith and not of water baptism.


ACT 10:44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message.


ACT 10:45 And all the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also.


ACT 10:46 For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered,


ACT 10:47 "Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?"


ACT 10:48 And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.


While in Asia Paul had to establish his own authority as well as the authority of the gospel over the baptism of John. In this instance Paul shared the gospel from John's teaching, then he water baptized them, and then Paul laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. This instance is much like Pentecost, but added is the laying on of hands, which establishes Paul's authority as the apostle to the Gentiles to the many churches that will be established here and in Macedonia.


ACT 19:1 And it came about that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus, and found some disciples,


ACT 19:2 and he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said to him, "No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit."


ACT 19:3 And he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" And they said, "Into John's baptism."


ACT 19:4 And Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus."


ACT 19:5 And when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.


ACT 19:6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.


ACT 19:7 And there were in all about twelve men.


This begins in Galilee with the establishment of the authority of the apostles before the believers there.


It was important to establish the authority of the apostles in front of the many believers in Galilee, so the Lord appeared with them.


MAT 28:16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated.


MAT 28:17 And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.


The eleven would have begun their ministries of preaching the resurrection of Christ and His deity. On the way to Galilee there would have been many to follow them as they relayed the promise that Christ would meet them there. None of the eleven were doubtful, but we see that some who followed them to Galilee or some who lived in Galilee only went to the instructed mountain out of curiosity and not faith. There were likely very many people at this event, but we are not given any details about it.


From John we learn that as they arrived in Galilee, and had not yet seen the Lord on the mountain designated, that Peter decided to go fishing. Peter is a man of action and not one of idleness.


/pic - Sea of Galilee\


The green hills and the blue sea bring back so many memories to the disciples. The feeding of the 5,000, the storms, Christ admonishing them for having little faith, Christ walking on the water, the many sermons made from the many hills around the sea and now, how different it all must look to them. Imagine how they viewed this place before being called by Christ compared to how they view it now. With spiritual growth, the very same things begin to change their appearance in the eyes of your heart as God is transforming you.


The main fish that they would have desired were sardines and tilapia. Sardines were probably not the fish caught on this day because the number of them are recorded by John. I'm no fisherman, but I don't think 153 sardines is a big catch that is hard to pull in to the boat. They found 153 tilapia in their nets and according to John, they were big ones. This is a real fish story.


Many scholars believe that Joh 21 was added by someone else other than John, however, we don't have one manuscript where Joh 21 is missing, as we do with the last portion of Mark in many manuscripts including our two oldest ones (16:9-20). This makes it unlikely that John didn't write it and at the least he narrated it. The Greek text of the chapter contains 28 words which do not appear elsewhere in the Gospel. Many of these, however, are due to the subject -matter of the first half (vv. 1-14), and we cannot fail to recognize the recurrence of a large number of characteristic Johannine features in the style of this chapter. The first eighteen verses of chapter one are called the prologue of the Gospel, and so chapter 21 would be the epilogue. And we can state with some certainty that John entrusted his associates to record the last two sentences as a sort of witness of John's authorship and his commission for them to copy it multiple times.


JOH 21:24 This is the disciple who bears witness of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his witness is true.


JOH 21:25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written.


Some think that John narrated this final chapter to his associates who recorded it and signed off on it here. Either hypothesis is possible but there is no way to know for sure. I don't think that there is substantial evidence to believe that John didn't write the last chapter, other than the last two verses.


JOH 21:1 After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way.


JOH 21:2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples.


JOH 21:3 Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will also come with you." They went out, and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.


We last saw them in Jerusalem and now we find seven of them at their old stomping grounds on the Sea of Galilee. The week after Easter, at the finish of the feast of unleavened bread, the main body of pilgrims from the north would have headed back north, clogging the roads and popular resting spots. We do not know if they traveled with the main body or left a few days later. For sure they would have encountered many on the trip and many who knew all about Jesus of Nazareth and His execution. The apostles would have had ripe fields for witnessing of His resurrection while they traveled, which was about a three day journey. This is why it was vital that they have the power of the Holy Spirit during this time, leading up to Pentecost.


There are seven of the eleven disciples. Peter is listed as the leader, as usual.


Oddly, or perhaps not so much when we know how people like to criticize others, Peter has been admonished for fishing. I would assume this has come from those who admonish everything but themselves. Some have thought that Peter was already discouraged with evangelizing and decided to go back to his fishing trade. How preposterous! They have not as of yet met up with Christ. Peter makes a good decision here to employ his time rather than to remain idle.


It is likely that all eleven are together but only six of them decide to join Peter. We are told for the first time where Nathanael is from, Cana, so we can assume that he was a fisherman also, due to its location close to the Sea of Galilee. It is likely that Nathanael is the same person named Bartholomew in the lists of the twelve in the synoptic gospels. Certainly James and John are fisherman. Thomas goes along but we know nothing of his background. Tradition has it that he was born in Antioch. That leaves two of them unmentioned. I would assume Andrew, Peter's brother and partner in fishing, would have been the sixth.


Philip is from Bethsaida, the same place as Peter and Andrew. He has a close relationship with James and John as well and also Nathanael, so there is a good chance that he is the seventh.


This develops in a way very reminiscent of their call to follow Christ full time in Luk 5. This call is now matured into a sending into the world.


JOH 21:4 But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.


JOH 21:5 Jesus therefore said to them, "Children, you do not have any fish, do you?" They answered Him, "No."


JOH 21:6 And He said to them, "Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you will find a catch." They cast therefore, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.


This miracle will reveal to them the true nature of them being sent into the world. They have already begun to be fishers of men.


LUK 5:10

"Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men."