John 21 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of John 21)

Verse 4

[4] But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.

They knew not that it was Jesus — Probably their eyes were holden.

Verse 6

[6] And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

They were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes — This was not only a demonstration of the power of our Lord, but a kind supply for them and their families, and such as might be of service to them, when they waited afterward in Jerusalem. It was likewise an emblem of the great success which should attend them as fishers of men.

Verse 7

[7] Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.

Peter girt on his upper coat (for he was stript of it before) - Reverencing the presence of his Lord: and threw himself into the sea - To swim to him immediately. The love of Christ draws men through fire and water.

Verse 12

[12] Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.

Come ye and dine — Our Lord needed not food.

And none presumed — To ask a needless question.

Verse 14

[14] This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.

The third time — That he appeared to so many of the apostles together.

Verse 15

[15] So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

Simon, son of Jonah — The appellation Christ had given him, when be made that glorious confession, Matthew 16:16, the remembrance of which might make him more deeply sensible of his late denial of him whom he had so confessed.

Lovest thou me? — Thrice our Lord asks him, who had denied him thrice: more than these - Thy fellow disciples do? - Peter thought so once, Matthew 26:33, but he now answers only - I love thee, without adding more than these.

Thou knowest — He had now learnt by sad experience that Jesus knew his heart.

My lambs — The weakest and tenderest of the flock.

Verse 17

[17] He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

Because he said the third time — As if he did not believe him.

Verse 18

[18] Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

When thou art old — He lived about thirty-six years after this: another shall gird thee - They were tied to the cross till the nails were driven in; and shall carry thee - With the cross: whither thou wouldest not - According to nature; to the place where the cross was set up.

Verse 19

[19] This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

By what death he should glorify God — It is not only by acting, but chiefly by suffering, that the saints glorify God.

Follow me — Showing hereby likewise what death he should die.

Verse 20

[20] Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?

Peter turning — As he was walking after Christ.

Seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following him — There is a peculiar spirit and tenderness in this plain passage. Christ orders St. Peter to follow him in token of his readiness to be crucified in his cause. St. John stays not for the call; he rises and follows him too; but says not one word of his own love or zeal. He chose that the action only should speak this; and even when he records the circumstance, he tells us not what that action meant, but with great simplicity relates the fact only. If here and there a generous heart sees and emulates it, be it so; but he is not solicitous that men should admire it. It was addressed to his beloved Master, and it was enough that he understood it.

Verse 22

[22] Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

If I will that he tarry — Without dying, till I come - To judgment. Certainly he did tarry, till Christ came to destroy Jerusalem. And who can tell, when or how he died? What is that to thee? - Who art to follow me long before.

Verse 23

[23] Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?

The brethren — That is, the Christians. Our Lord himself taught them that appellation, John 20:17.

Yet Jesus did not say to him, that he should not die — Not expressly. And St. John himself, at the time of writing his Gospel, seems not to have known clearly, whether he should die or not.

Verse 24

[24] This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

This is the disciple who testifieth — Being still alive after he had wrote.

And we know that his testimony is true — The Church added these words to St. John's, Gospel, as Tertius did those to St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, Romans 16:22.

Verse 25

[25] And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

If they were to be written particularly — Every fact, and all the circumstances of it.

I suppose — This expression, which softens the hyperbole, shows that St. John wrote this verse.