Tag Archives: peter and 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 21:1-14 – Spirits and Dead Men Don’t Make Breakfast



John 21:1–2 (ESV) — 1 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together.


The disciples seem to be in weird state of flux after Jesus’ resurrection.

  • After His resurrection, they spent eight plus days hiding out in Jerusalem.
  • And now we see at least seven of them have made their way back to Galilee.
    • We don’t know where the other four are.


What are they doing?

  • They don’t appear to be advancing the Kingdom.
  • Sadly, they kind of look like how we live our Christian lives.
  • And as profound and significant as seeing the bodily risen Jesus Christ was, there is far more to following Jesus that profound and significant experiences.
  • And they certainly would have known this too, I suspect.


It almost appears as if they decided to return back to their normal lives.

  • After all, Peter, James and John were in the fishing business together before Jesus showed up (Luke 5:10).
  • And now here they are again – fishing together.


But Matthew may shed some light on the disciples actions.

  • Matthew 26:32 (ESV) — 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”
    • Before He is arrested, Jesus tells them he will meet them in Galilee.
  • Matthew 28:7 (ESV) — 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”
    • And at the empty grave, we are told that an angel also told them about a meeting in Galilee.

So, “There is no evidence that Peter and the others had gone to Galilee in order to fish [take up fishing as a career again]. The most reasonable assumption is that they went in obedience to the Lord’s command” – D.A. Carson.


Yet, D.A. Carson points out that, “…this fishing expedition and the dialogue that ensues do not read like the lives of men on a Spirit-empowered mission. It is impossible to imagine any of this taking place in Acts, after Pentecost.”

  • I want to point this out because it highlights once again the significance of Jesus’ words in John 17 concerning the Holy Spirit.
  • John 16:7 (ESV) — 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.


In John 16, Jesus went on to list all the things the Spirit would do:

  • Convict world concerning sin (vs. 8)
  • Convict world concerning righteousness (vs. 8)
  • Convict world concerning judgment (vs. 8)
  • Guide disciples into truth (vs. 13)
  • Declare to disciples the “things that are to come” (vs. 13)
  • Glorify Jesus by declaring Jesus’ work and teaching (vs. 14)


One need only read Acts to see the impact of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the disciples and believers in general.

  • At Pentecost, the “what’s next” arrived and the world was never the same.
  • The disciples no longer had to sit around, hiding and waiting to encounter the risen Jesus.


But, oddly, we can sometimes live like the pre-Pentecost disciples.

  • It’s as if we are waiting for the “what’s next”.
  • The “what’s next” has already begun!
  • So what’s our excuse?
    •  “C’mon, son!” – Ed Lover.





John 21:3–8 (ESV) — 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 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. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.


The setting for this third bodily appearance of Jesus is a fishing trip on the Sea of Galilee.

  • They may have been waiting in obedience for the “what’s next”, but at least they weren’t lazing around.
  • And Beasley-Murray reminds us that even though Jesus had been raised, the disciples still needed to eat.


John tells us they had been fishing all night long.

  • But, they had caught nothing.
  • It was common at that time to fish at night, “That way, fish caught before daybreak could be sold fresh in the morning” – Kostenberger.
  • This scenario was very similar to an encounter they had with Jesus at the beginning of His ministry.
  • Luke 5:4–6 (ESV) — 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.


But unlike Luke 5, this time Jesus was unrecognizable on the shore, not speaking to a crowd from Peter’s boat.

  • He speaks a term of endearment to the seven disciples in the boat – “paidion” (children).
    • This would have been quite weird for a stranger.
  • The word conveys that the speaker is “on terms of fatherly intimacy w. those whom he addresses” – BDAG.
  • He then asks if they had caught any fish – “do you have any fish” (vs. 5).
  • The fishing trip then plays out like it did in Luke 5.


Interestingly, we then see an example of what we observed about Peter and John last week.

  • John as a “perceptive witness” – Bauckham.
    • He deduces the man on the shore must be Jesus – “It is the Lord” (vs. 7).
  • Peter engaging in “active service” – Richard Bauckham.
    • He “threw himself into the sea” at 100 yards out (vs. 7).
    • “In characteristic fashion, the beloved disciple displays spiritual discernment, while Peter exhibits decisive action” – Kostenberger.
    • “The beloved disciple exhibits quick insight, and Peter quick action” – D.A. Carson.
    • And then it was time to have breakfast.





John 21:9–14 (ESV) — 9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.


A quick rabbit trail – we earlier alluded to Luke 5 and the similarity between these two fishing trips.

  • However, there is at least one significant difference that John points out to us.
  • Luke tells us in Luke 5:6 that, “they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.
  • John tells us that in this post-resurrection fishing trip, “although there were so many, the net was not torn” (vs. 11).
  • Given how John writes as the “perceptive witness”, I think he wants us to see something here.
  • My best guess is that we have a foretaste of resurrection life in the Kingdom – restoration, re-creation, things put right, things not breaking.
  • And/or, “This may suggest that the gospel net will never break, that there is no limit to the number of converts it catches” – D.A. Carson.


So the disciples, the six and Peter, made it back to shore and they see that Jesus has breakfast ready to go.

  • Jesus asks Peter to finish hauling the net full of fish up onto the beach and bring some of the fish when he comes back.
  • Peter must have been a strong dude.


And as the remaining narrative unfolds, the behavior of the disciples comes off as very awkward.

  • It seems obvious that Jesus was expecting them and prepared breakfast for them.
  • Yet they appear to all be standing around dumbfounded.
  • Jesus has to speak with words what His actions already conveyed – “Come and have breakfast” (vs. 12).


Furthermore, John shares with us the strange inner dialogue the disciples were having.

  • They all knew this to be the risen Jesus.
  • They had seen Him twice before.
  • Yet, John tells us that although “They knew it was the Lord” “none of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’” (vs. 12).
  • In other words, they knew it was Jesus.
  • But they still wanted to ask if it was Jesus.
  • What is up with that?


We know that although His resurrected body looked the same, it also looked different.

  • Mary, for example, was staring right at Him and didn’t recognize Him.
    • She thought He was the gardener.

So “What is plain is that the Jesus whom they were meeting in his Easter glory was living in a different mode of existence from that of his former earthly conditions” – Beasley-Murray.


Plus we are still dealing with a huge category shift with the Jewish notions of resurrection and Messiah.

  • Something we just spent 12 weeks or so learning about.
  • These shifts probably took a while to sink in.
  • Not to mention that Jesus died.
    • And dead men don’t bodily rise from the dead and cook breakfast.


D.A Carson sums up this strange encounter as follows:

“But whether because they could see Jesus was not simply resuscitated (like Lazarus), but appeared with new powers, or because they were still grappling with the strangeness of a crucified and resurrected Messiah, or because despite the irrefutable power of the evidence presented to them resurrection itself seemed strange, they felt considerable unease—yet suppressed their question because they knew the one before them could only be Jesus” – D.A. Carson.


All of this serves as a reminder to us about progress in our understanding of Jesus.

  • It doesn’t come at once.
  • Yet, it is something that we should be constantly pursuing.


Mary Jo Sharp says this:

  • We profess to follow the greatest Teacher in the world.
  • How can we claim to follow the greatest Teacher in the world and not love to learn?


John then finishes the narrative by showing the bodily risen Jesus serving breakfast to His disciples.

  • And John, in effect says, spirits and dead men don’t make breakfast.
  • This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead” (John 21:14).
  • Jesus is not dead and He is not a spirit.
  • He is bodily raised from the dead.
  • And He is serving breakfast.