It’s been quite a while since I was in high school, but I still clearly remember my English Literature teacher emphasizing the importance of how to start a piece of writing, and how to finish well. She insisted that we had to capture the readers’ attention, and then eventually tie it all up into a satisfactory conclusion, leaving the reader wanting more!
I think the Apostle John would have gotten an A in her class! Thinking back to the prologue in chapter one, where John definitely got us hooked as he introduced Jesus, who He was, and why He came. Here at the end of the book, on a literary level, it may seem that it makes more sense for John to have finished at the end of chapter twenty—there’s the thrill of the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection, His appearance to Mary and then to the disciples, His reassurance to doubting Thomas, all then culminating in yesterday’s SOAP verse that there is so much more than we know of the miraculous signs Jesus did! The purpose of the book was so we would believe Jesus is the Messiah who offers eternal life when we believe in His name (John 20:30–31)!
So, we may ask, why do we have chapter twenty-one? Is it really necessary? My head and my heart give a resounding YES! Let’s remind ourselves now what God wanted us to know when His Spirit inspired John to continue writing and end the book with this chapter!
Jesus appeared for a third time since His resurrection on the shores of Galilee where some of the disciples, led by Simon Peter, had gone back to fishing. Even with all their experience, after a whole night’s work, they caught nothing (John 21:3)
The next morning, when Jesus appeared on the beach He called out fishing advice to them! They threw the net down as He said, though not yet recognizing who He was, and the result was an abundant catch!
At this point I can’t help but wonder if Peter had a ‘Déjà vu’ moment and recalled the life changing event that Luke recorded for us in chapter five of his Gospel: Simon Peter had fished all night, caught nothing, and Jesus gave him fishing advice which resulted in an abundant catch! This was the key moment in Peter’s life, when he realized who Jesus really is, and was then commissioned to follow Him and catch people instead of fish!
Here we have another key moment in Peter’s life. He met his resurrected Lord, the One he declared he would follow until death, but whom he denied all knowledge of.
Peter is one of the Bible characters I can really identify with on many occasions. He’s passionate, but puts his foot in it. He’s reactionary and means well but gets it all wrong. He wanted to be a faithful follower but he (from our standards) let Jesus down.
So I love Peter’s reaction when John recognized who Jesus was and tells Peter “It is the Lord” (John 21:7). Immediately, Peter clothed himself and threw himself into the sea to wade back to Jesus, for he could not even wait for the boat to come the hundred yards back to shore!
Instead of hiding or drawing back with guilt, shame, and fear because of his failure, Peter ran to the One who calls, loves, forgives, cleanses, and restores!
After breakfast, the conversation between Jesus and Peter was precious. John knew how important it would be for his readers to see how tenderly Jesus restored and recommissioned Peter three times, redeeming Peter’s three denials.
Let’s take a moment to consider that, in calling Peter back to Jesus’ mission where he would be a shepherd of God’s people, Jesus did not start by asking Peter “Does he love the flock?” It is not “Peter, do you love the sheep I’m calling you to?” No! Jesus asked Peter “Do you love me?” (John 21:15)
Love for Jesus is where all mission starts. Living in service to Him has got to come as an overflow from hearts that love the Savior, letting our love find expression in reaching out in Jesus’ name.
Today, could Jesus be gently reminding us that we are to follow Him, despite our past failings, into the unknown of what lies ahead, declaring afresh our love for Him that will include faithful obedience, commitment, and sacrifice?
We’ll leave Peter for now and finish off our consideration for today with John as he finished this magnificent gospel. In his final note (John 21:24–25), John was keen to remind us that we can trust his testimony and all he shared about Jesus because he was a first-hand witness to it all. John re-emphasized this in his first letter (1 John 1:1), writing that he was proclaiming what he had heard, seen with his own eyes, looked at, and touched.
We can believe all that John tells us of Jesus for John ‘saw His glory’ (John 1:14), he was there at the cross and the empty tomb, and this is a trustworthy eyewitness account.
Oh, how we need the reminder of that in these days we are living in, where there is no absolute truth and people choose to believe whatever suits themselves. God’s Word is our firm foundation and we stand on its unshakeable truth. John introduced us to Jesus who, Himself alone, is the way, and the truth and the life (John 14:6).
Finally, to add to all that John told us of Jesus and the amazing things He did, John finished by declaring there is so much more we don’t know!
The world’s largest library is the Library of Congress in Washington D.C, USA with over 170 million items in it. This is nothing compared to John telling us that the whole world would not have room for the books if everything that Jesus did had been written down! As a writer, we accept that John may be using language here that seems to be amplifying or overstating the case, but the point he wanted us to realize is that not even time nor space can contain who Jesus is and all He has done.
How exciting then, that there is always so much more for us to discover and know of our Savior! Will we commit to…
- Searching His word
- Answering His call
- Seeking after His ways
- Living out of His inexhaustible fullness
- Loving Him whole-heartedly
- Being transformed into His likeness
- Sharing the good news that Jesus is the Son of God and the only way to eternal life
…for our God is still writing His story in and through the lives of His people today!
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