Tag Archives: authorship of John

John 21:20-25 – Peter and John (and John?)


Throughout the last two chapters of John, we are invited by John to see an interesting back and forth between him and Peter.


(1) John 20:3–5 (ESV) — 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.

  • Peter then arrived and without hesitation went into the tomb.
  • Then John went in and believed.
  • John thought about it – Peter acted.
  • But neither understood how Scripture taught that the Messiah was to rise.


(2) John 21:7 (ESV) — 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.

  • Here John discerns the identity of the man on the shore as Jesus.
  • Peter responds to this knowledge with abandon.
  • Again, John is portrayed as perceiving and Peter as acting.


It is after this scene that Jesus begins the process of restoring Peter as the lead disciple.

  • I don’t think it is coincidence that Peter preaches the first new covenant, post-Pentecost sermon in Acts 2.
  • And following this we have today’s text and a third back and forth with Peter and John.


(3) John 21:20–21 (ESV) — 20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?

  • Peter just learned that his call to follow Jesus will involve persecution and death.
  • We see here that Jesus’ conversation with Peter and His restoration of Peter took place as they walked along the beach.
  • And apparently, for whatever reason, John was following them.
  • Peter notices this and wants to know – “what about him” – “Lord, what about this man?


The Peter/John interactions and our text shed some insight onto three things that I want to look at.

  • (1) The nature of Peter and John’s relationship.
  • (2) The nature of Peter and John’s “following”.
  • (3) Rumors swirling in the Christian community related to Peter and John’s “following”.





(A) Peter and John – Relationship:

These two men were business partners and friends.

  • Luke 5:9–10a (ESV) — 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.
  • This of course means that Peter and John most likely lived in the same town.
  • And likely had known each other for a long time.
  • Along with Peter’s brother Andrew and John’s brother, James.


John 13:24–25 (ESV) — 24 so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?”

  • John’s extremely close relationship to Jesus (he was the one seated next to Jesus and “leaning back against Jesus”) was only rivaled by his relationship with Peter.
  • D.A. Carson suggests that for Peter to signal to John in this context, “assumes a certain intimacy between the beloved disciple and Peter”.
  • This makes sense given John and Peter’s history together.


And as Acts shows, these two men clearly got along with each other.

  • In Acts, we see Peter and John joined at the hip speaking the Gospel.
  • Peter and John were preaching in Acts 3.
  • Peter and John were described as having “boldness” in Acts 4.
  • Peter and John were sent to Samaria together as the Gospel took off there in Acts 8.


Yet, as revealed in our text and in John 20 and 21, the two men were very different.

  • And wisely, because of these differences, Jesus called them to different styles of “following”.


(B) Peter and John – Following:

So, as we said, Jesus makes clear the nature of Peter’s following.

  • Perhaps then, Peter, not just out of selfish concern but out of concern for his dear friend asks about John’s future.
  • In fact, Carson says that the relationship shared by Peter and John “makes Peter’s question more comprehensible, if not more justifiable. His own prognosis is not very good: for Peter the cost of discipleship will be high. What about him? – D.A. Carson.
  • It is “natural for him to be curious” about the ministry of his friend – Beasley-Murray.
  • Given what we know about Peter and John, we need to be careful about seeing them as competitors.


Jesus answers Peter’s question – “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!

  • No doubt this response is curt and “sharp in tone” – Beasley-Murray.
  • But the reason for this appears not to be a condemnation of jealousy on the part of Peter.
  • “There is no belittling of either disciple” – D.A. Carson.
  • “There is no hint of a desire to denigrate Peter in the interest of the Beloved Disciple” – Beasley-Murray.


The reason seems to be twofold:

  • (1) Extol the value of different “followings”.
  • (2) Extol the value of your “following”.


“The one thing that matters is that [Peter] should follow his Lord…as the risen Lord guides him and reveals his unfolding task, till the final call to follow him in a death to the glory of God” – Beasley-Murray.

“One of them may be called to strategic pastoral ministry (vv. 15–17) and a martyr’s crown (vv. 18–19), and the other to a long life (v. 22) and to strategic historical-theological witness, in written form” – D.A. Carson.

  • “For Peter, Christlikeness is found in martyrdom (cf. 21:19 with 12:33); for the beloved disciple, Christlikeness manifests itself in witness grounded in unparalleled intimacy with Jesus (cf. 21:20, 24 with 13:23)” – Kostenberger.

“Peter is called to pastoral ministry and martyrdom, John to a long life and strategic, written witness—both callings are vital and equally important (Carson 1991: 681). In a personal lesson on discipleship, Jesus tells Peter to be content with his own calling and to leave that of others to him. This, in turn, becomes a general lesson relevant also for the readers of the Gospel” – Kostenberger.


The relevance to us is enormous.

  • Jesus chided Peter, “what is it to you?
  • And then repeated His earlier words, “You follow me!


The legitimacy and value of our “following” is known by a comparison to other peoples “followings”.

  • The legitimacy and value is found in a parallel to the two points above.
  • (1) Value your “following” as it should be – ordained by God.
  • (2) Don’t be in the habit of comparing/concerning yourself with other styles of “following”.
    • But how well you are committed to excellence in your “following”.


BTW – there is another implication of this that hit home for me.

  • I often feel “inadequate” or “guilty” because as an American my Christian “following” is not as costly as my Chinese brothers and sisters, for example.
  • I think Jesus’ words to Peter apply here.
  • I did not “born” myself in America – Jesus did.
  • I did not “born” myself into a well-off family – Jesus did.
  • I need to embrace these elements of my “following” and praise God for them.
  • And I need to understand that these things can be both a benefit and detraction from my “following”.
  • But I need to “follow” in this context – unashamedly.


(C) Peter and John – Rumors:

John 21:23 (ESV) — 23 So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”


This is a remarkable insight into the writing of this Gospel.

  • Obviously, as years went by, there was a problem.
  • Many wrongly believed that Jesus said John was not going to die.
  • Yet as verse 23 states, Jesus was merely making a point that if John’s “following” means he will not die until Jesus comes back, so be it.
  • This fact is no concern of Peters.


We obviously don’t know why this falsehood began.

  • Jesus obviously did not say this.
  • But clearly John felt the need to correct it and he did so in his Gospel.
  • This rumor, then, must have been causing some serious problems to warrant this commentary.

Interestingly, Kostenberger suggests that, “It is not impossible that these final verses were penned by John’s disciples subsequent to his death in order to counter the charge that Jesus’ prediction had been proven erroneous by John’s death” – Kostenberger.

  • If so, this does explain why it shows up at the end of a Gospel.





John 21:24–25 (ESV) — 24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. 25 Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.


It is here that we learn that the “disciple whom Jesus loved” is the eyewitness who wrote the Gospel of John.

  • Interestingly, this is the only Gospel that claims that eyewitness authorship.
  • We know Luke’s source was Paul.
  • We know Mark’s source was primarily Peter.
  • And, “Matthew was particularly modest in writing his gospel account. He always refers to himself in the third person and nowhere speaks of himself as the author” – John MacArthur.


So who was John, the eyewitness, the disciple whom Jesus loved?


The traditional contender for the job is John the brother of James.

  • Authorship, “relates historically to John the apostle, the son of Zebedee” – Kostenberger.
  • However, John the apostle’s authorship is not certain.
  • There was another disciple of Jesus named John that some believe could also be the author.
  • Richard Bauckham advocates this alternative authorship.


We know from Irenaeus that the John who wrote “John” lived until at least 98 AD.

  • “Irenaeus says he lived into the reign of Trajan, which began in 98 CE” – Richard Bauckham.


We know from Papias that there were two disciples of Jesus named John.

“I shall not hesitate also to put into properly ordered form for you (sing.) everything I learned carefully in the past from the elders and noted down well, for the truth of which I vouch. For unlike most people I did not enjoy those who have a great deal to say, but those who teach the truth. Nor did I enjoy those who recall someone else’s commandments, but those who remember the commandments given by the Lord to the faith and proceeding from the truth itself. And if by chance anyone who had been in attendance on the elders should come my way, I inquired about the words of the elders — [that is,] what [according to the elders] Andrew or Peter said (eipen), or Philip, or Thomas, or James, or John, or Matthew, or any other of the Lord’s disciples, and whatever Aristion and the elder John, the Lord’s disciples, were saying (legousin). For I did not think that information from books would profit me as much as information from a living and surviving voice (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3.39.3-4)” – Quote from Papias from Richard Bauckham.


And we see in Papias’ words a distinction between John the brother of James and John the elder.

  • Additionally, Papias also called the “elder John” a disciple of Jesus.
  • In other words, he was a long lived eyewitness of the ministry of Jesus.
  • This is certainly intriguing but not a ditch to die in.


I merely want to point this out to demonstrate just how rich the Gospel of John is as both a Gospel of Jesus Christ and as an historical document full of awesome implications for church history.

  • It is no wonder that so many – Kostenberger, Carson, Bauckham and others – have invested so much time into this Gospel, its meaning and history.
  • It is for these reasons that we spent the last 2.5 years diving deep into its pages.
  • I hope that our time in Gospel has borne much fruit.
  • It certainly did for me!




John 20:30-31 – Gospel Writing and Signs


I want to deal with a couple of things quickly and then spend more time on:

  • John’s role in writing his Gospel.
  • The signs he wrote about.


John tells us that he wrote his Gospel “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ” (vs. 31).

  • We spoke last week of Thomas’ confession that Jesus is the “kyrios” which includes Jesus as Messiah.
  • So we needn’t revisit the meaning of this confession now.
  • However, we can quickly survey John for the presence of His stated purpose.


Jesus the Messiah – a few examples:

  • John 3:28 (ESV) — 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’
    • John the Baptist testifies that Jesus is the Messiah.
  • John 4:25–26 (ESV) — 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
    • Jesus tells the woman at the well that He is the Messiah.
  • John 7:40–43 (ESV) — 40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” 43 So there was a division among the people over him.
    • A crowd at Jerusalem testifies that Jesus is the Messiah.


Now, the purpose of this purpose, John tells us, is to bring life.

  • If we believe that Jesus is the Messiah, we will “have life in his name” (vs. 31).
  • What is this life?


We recently spent 12 weeks or so studying resurrection.

  • We learned that the phrase “eternal life” literally refers to “life in the age to come”.
  • And in second-Temple Judaism, “life in the age to come” is bodily resurrection life.
  • Is John alluding to this?


I think it is clear that resurrection is a significant part of John’s meaning.

  • The intermediate stage of heaven, and even the present life lived before death under Jesus’ Messiahship can certainly be in view as well.
  • But the following texts are unmistakably resurrection verses.
  • John 5:24 (ESV) — 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
    • We know this is resurrection life both because judgment happens at resurrection and eternal life is “life in the age to come” which is resurrection life.
  • John 5:29 (ESV) — 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
  • John 6:40 (ESV) — 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
    • “life in the age to come” = “eternal life” = “raise him up on the last day”
  • John 6:54 (ESV) — 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
  • John 11:25 (ESV) — 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,
    • Live how? – Through resurrection life.


D.A. Carson sums up well John’s stated purpose and the purpose of his stated purpose.

“He writes in order that men and women may believe a certain propositional truth, the truth that the Christ, the Son of God, is Jesus, the Jesus whose portrait is drawn in this Gospel. But such faith is not an end in itself. It is directed toward the goal of personal, eschatological salvation: that by believing you may have life in his name. That is still the purpose of this book today, and at the heart of the Christian mission (v. 21)” – D.A. Carson.





which are not written in this book” (vs. 30) & “many other things that Jesus did

  • When we think about the inspiration of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16) it is worth considering to the extent possible, what the writers’ role in this process was.
  • Clearly, we believe, as Jesus taught in John, that the Holy Spirit aided the disciples in remembering the words of Jesus and what they meant.
    • John 14:26 (ESV) — 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.


But we need to be aware that the Gospel writers compiled Jesus’ teachings, His signs and wonders, and His actions in ways that reflected their personalities, style and purpose.

  • For example, “Peter and the Beloved Disciple represent two different kinds of discipleship: active service and perceptive witness” – Richard Bauckham.
  • These perspectives manifested themselves in their writings.


For example, John admits to us that he edited His Gospel to exclude many of Jesus’ signs – “Jesus did many other signs…which are not written” (vs. 30).

  • But he did so for a specific purpose – “so that you many believe” (vs. 31).
  • “John restricted his choice of signs to a group that were especially instructive” – Beasley-Murray.


Another example that may demonstrate John’s “perceptive witness” is how he weaves into his Gospel the story of a “cosmic lawsuit” – Richard Bauckham.

This lawsuit, “includes the literal events of judicial proceedings against Jesus by the Jewish authorities, acting in the name of the ‘law’ of Moses, and by Pilate. In deutero-Isaiah [Isaiah 40-55] YHWH brings a case against the gods of the nations and their supporters in order to determine the identity of the true God. He calls on the worshipers of the other gods to demonstrate their reality and supremacy, while he himself calls as witnesses his people Israel and the figure of the Servant of YHWH. It is this lawsuit that the Gospel of John sees taking place in the history of Jesus, as the one true God demonstrates his deity in controversy with the claims of the world. He does so by calling Jesus as chief witness and by vindicating him, not only as true witness but also as incarnate representative of God’s own true deity” – Richard Bauckham.


In Isaiah, we saw that the chief witness was the Servant of YHWH.

  • In John’s Gospel, this is Jesus.
  • But John also presents us 6 more witnesses for a total of seven.
    • We will encounter this number seven again in a moment.


“The seven witnesses, in order of appearance, are John the Baptist (1:7, etc.), Jesus himself (3:11, etc.), the Samaritan woman (4:39), God the Father (5:32), Jesus’ works or signs (5:36), the Scriptures (5:39), and the crowd who testify about Jesus’ raising of Lazarus (12:17)” – Richard Bauckham.

  • Isaiah 43:10 (ESV) — 10aYou are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.”
  • John 5:36 (ESV) — 36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.
  • John 20:30–31 (ESV) — 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.


Luke also shows us the nature of the Gospel writers’ involvement.

  • Luke 1:1–4 (ESV) — 1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
  • He tells us that he “followed all things closely” and that he was a recipient of eyewitness testimony.
  • So from both the eyewitness testimony and his own research, he decided to “write an orderly account” of what Jesus did and taught.


There are a few important implications concerning the writers’ of the Gospel from these insights.

  • (1) They weren’t robots.
  • (2) “The first Christians were not all illiterate peasant laborers and craftsmen, as the form critics supposed, but evidently included people who studied the Scriptures with current exegetical skills and could write works with the literary quality of the letter of James” – Richard Bauckham.
  • (3) “The early Christian movement was interested in the genuinely past history of Jesus…” – Richard Bauckham.
    • As we said last week, Christianity is not just spiritual it is profoundly historical.





John admits that there were many other signs Jesus performed.

  • However, he chose not to write about them.
  • What he did choose to do is to highlight signs that helped serve his stated purpose.
  • And in fact, He specifically highlighted seven signs just as he highlighted seven witnesses.


What are the signs?


Kostenberger, who specializes in John, spent a great deal of time seeking a definition of a “sign” from John’s Gospel and came up with the following:

“A sign [in John] is a symbol-laden, but not necessarily ‘miraculous,’ public work of Jesus selected and explicitly identified as such by John for the reason that it displays God’s glory in Jesus who is thus shown to be God’s true representative (cf. 20:30–31)” – Andreas Kostenberger.


There are six signs in John that are recognized indisputably as signs – Kostenberger.

  • 1) Water into wine (2.1-11)
  • 2) The official’s son (4.46-54)
  • 3) The paralysed man at the pool (5.2-9)
  • 4) Multiplication of loaves (6.1-14)
  • 5) The man born blind (9.1-7)
  • 6) The raising of Lazarus (11.1-44)


And most agree, given the symbolic importance in John of “seven”, that there must be a seventh sign.

  • The problem is that though “commentators widely agree on six Johannine ‘signs’” there is not much consensus on the seventh – Kostenberger.


The most common candidate is when Jesus walked on water in John 6.

  • Andreas Kostenberger makes a very good case that the seventh sign is when Jesus cleared the temple.
  • N.T. Wright, however, argues that the seventh sign is Jesus’ crucifixion.
    • I find his reasoning fascinating.


He says, “the crucifixion is the climax and culmination of the ‘signs’ which Jesus has given, following the sevenfold sequence of the old creation” – Wright.

  • The “climax and culmination” of creation was the sixth day – a Friday.
  • The “climax and culmination” of Jesus’ work was the sixth day – a Friday.
  • Wright suggests John wants us to make the connection.
  • Why?


He says that the sequence of the seven signs “was always about the new creation bursting in on the old” – Wright.

  • John wants us to see the parallel between these two creations and how Jesus was at the center of both.
  • In Genesis, creation burst into existence from nothing through the “Word”.
  • In John 20, new creation burst into existence from the resurrection of the “Word”.


How does John’s Gospel make this connection?


“John declares from the start, with the obvious allusion to Genesis 1.1, that his book is about the new creation in Jesus” – N.T. Wright.

  • Wright, and virtually everyone else, says that “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1) is a clear allusion to the beginning of creation in Genesis – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1).
  • And let’s not forget the parallel between the breath of life from Genesis and the resurrection breath of Jesus in John 20.


Additionally, we can’t forget the “first day” parallel.

  • And there was evening and there was morning, the first day” (Gen. 1:5).
    • In Genesis, creation began on the first day.
  • In John 20, John makes sure that we are aware that “Easter was ‘the first day of the week’” – N.T. Wright.
    • Now on the first day of the week” (John 20:1)
    • the first day of the week” (John 20:19)


In other words, in John 20, the “first day” brought the beginning of a new creation grounded in Jesus’ resurrection.

So “with the resurrection itself, the ultimate ‘sign’ which will explain what Jesus has been doing” new creation has begun – N.T. Wright.

  • “Easter is the start of the new creation” – N.T. Wright.


It is worth repeating.

  • In Genesis, creation burst into existence from nothing through the “Word”.
  • In John 20, new creation burst into existence from the resurrection of the “Word”.


Wright also suggests that the parallels John is drawing to Genesis 1 go beyond the first day of creation.

  • He argues that John intends us to note direct parallels to days 6 and 7 of creation as well.

“On the sixth day of the creation narrative, humankind was created in the divine image; on the sixth day of the last week of Jesus’ life, John has Pilate declare, ‘Behold the man!’ echoing the creation of humankind on the sixth day of creation” – N.T. Wright.

  • “And, On the cross [on the sixth day] Jesus finishes the work the father has given him to do (17.4), ending with the shout of triumph (tetelestai, ‘it is accomplished’, 19.30), corresponding to the completion of creation itself” – N.T. Wright.
  • “The seventh day is the day of rest for the creator; in John, it is the day when Jesus rests in the tomb” – N.T. Wright.
    • Genesis 2:2 (ESV) — 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.
  • We need to remember, the link is metaphorical here not literal.


We could continue by now showing how these seven signs and resurrection demonstrated that Jesus is the Messiah.

  • The very thing John intended then to show.
  • But we dealt with that a little last week.
  • I think we get it.
  • They not only show that Jesus is the Messiah, but that the Messiah is God.