The Love of God

John 21:25. 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.

It is important to always keep in mind the purpose each of the gospel writers had in presenting Jesus. Matthew presented Christ to the Jews as Messiah, and includes Kingdom prophecy; Mark presented Him as the servant of God, recording more of His miracles than any other gospel; Luke presented Jesus as the perfect Son of Man, and records factually His life on earth; John wrote Jesus as the Son of God, Savior of mankind.

John was selective in what he recorded, because his focus was to encourage faith and belief in the redeeming power of Jesus Christ. Each writer wrote in his own voice, directed by the Holy Spirit. There are no contradictions among the four gospels, no matter how hard some try to create them.

I have two books that I treasure. One is The Harmony of the Gospels by A.T. Robertson. The other is my chronological Bible that helps align all the people and events recorded in God’s word in a chronological way. Another good tool is a chart you can find online at, under “study”–or just type “harmony of the gospels chart” in the search option. You get a four-column side by side list of every event, person, miracle, etc. including the references where they occur in each gospel in which they are discussed.

I want to encourage you, if you have never done so, to make time to read the entire Gospel of John in one sitting. One chapter flows into the next. The original manuscripts did not have chapter/verse designations. That tool was created by translators to help us locate more easily the texts being taught, studied, or preached.

And now I’m going to finish by leaving you with this wonderful old song, The Love of God.

The Disciple Jesus Loved

John 21:23-24.

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?

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

I’ve always loved this Norman Rockwell depiction of how gossip travels. It was true of human nature when he painted it. It was true of human nature when Jesus said, “IF he (John) lives until I return, what is that to you, Peter?”

It was from that simple comment that word began to spread that John would not die; that he would live until Jesus returned from wherever He was going. Since history tells us that John lived until he was at least 90, an unusually old age in that time, it may have seemed to some that it was true–John would not die.

This is what happens when we repeat something we had no business saying in the first place. Jesus’ remark was made to Peter. Those who followed along behind? Can’t you just see the expression of surprise and doubt they exchanged with each other? “What? John won’t die until Jesus returns? Well, then, it can’t be very long that we’ll have to wait for Him!”

Truth is, John outlived them all. But then he died.

In verse 24, John identifies himself clearly as the one who witnessed and wrote all that the gospel of John contains; he also affirms that his words are true.

Have you ever wondered why John gained that position of being “the disciple that Jesus loved”? I’ve done a very surface kind of study, and found that there are as many ideas and interpretations as there are purportedly theologians. Some even want to make the relationship between John and Jesus an erotic thing. We seem to be willing to go to any lengths to explain what is not always explainable.

I’ve said before that when the plain sense makes common sense, any other sense is nonsense.

Jesus had a special affection for John. Perhaps it was because of his youth. Perhaps John showed his own deep love for Jesus–brotherly love, self-sacrificing love–in a way that touched Jesus’ heart. We don’t know. We do know that every word of scripture is inspired of God, not to be disputed and distorted to make it more understandable in our own limited minds.

It is nonsensical to try to make more out of this relationship than there is recorded in God’s Word.

One more verse, and we’ll be finished with the Gospel of John.

Follow Thou Me

John 21:20-22.

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 seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

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

Even after such a profound conversation as Jesus and Peter had just had, Peter was still Peter. One of the things I love about God is that He not only fashioned us to be who we are, but He also uses us according to our own abilities, personalities, and strengths and weaknesses.

Peter, being just as human as the rest of us, wanted the spotlight to go elsewhere. He noticed John following close by, and said to Jesus, “Well, what about him? What is he going to do?”

We love to deflect, don’t we? Any time we are challenged, confronted, shown our own weakness, we tend to say, “Well, what about YOU?” We like to shift the blame anywhere else, and it’s one of the most common things I encountered in my counseling office. “Well, she. . . .” or “Yeah, but he. . . . .”

There may have been some jealousy on Peter’s part, too. John always, in his gospel, refers to himself as “the disciple Jesus loved.” He had been designated to care for Mary, Jesus’ mother. Human nature does not change from one century to another. Any child who does well in school stands in danger of the dreaded epithet teacher’s pet, which is sure to cut him down a peg or two lest he becomes too big for his britches.

Jesus knew Peter’s heart. His answer is classic. “If it is My will that he lives until I return, what is that to you, Peter? You, yourself–you must follow Me!

Charles Haddon Spurgeon is a great favorite of mine. I’m going to close with his words:

“I have come to the conclusion that, instead of trying to set all my Master’s servants right at once, my first and most important work is to follow my Lord; and I think, my brother, that it will be wise for you to come to the same conclusion.” 

Blue Letter Bible

Follow Me!

Jhn 21:18-19.  

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. 

This spake He, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He saith unto Him, Follow Me.

We don’t know exactly how old Peter was when this conversation took place, but we do know he was past the youthful days of complete freedom and coming and going as he pleased. We know, for instance, that he was married, because Jesus healed his mother-in-law (Luke 4:38-41).

In verse 18, Jesus reminded Peter that when he was younger, he chose his clothing and freely went wherever he wanted. However, the day would come when Peter would stretch out his hands and someone else would “gird” him (the Greek word would actually be better translated as bind) and force him to go to a place he would not have chosen. Jesus’ words showed the manner of Peter’s death to be crucifixion, with his hands stretched out and arms wide open.

 “Ancient writers state that, about thirty-four years after this, Peter was crucified; and that he deemed it so glorious a thing to die for Christ that he begged to be crucified with his head downwards, not considering himself worthy to die in the same posture in which his Lord did. So Eusebius, Prudentius, ChrysostomAugustin.” (Clarke)

“Jerome says, that ‘he was crowned with martyrdom under Nero, being crucified with his head downwards and his feet upwards because he alleged himself to be unworthy of being crucified in the same manner as his Lord.’” (Alford)

Blue Letter Bible

Christians are being martyred today, just as they have been even before Jesus walked the earth. Some of the Old Testament prophets suffered both in their service and in their deaths, always bringing glory to the God they worshipped and served. Isaiah served as a prophet in Judah through the reigns of six different kings, often reproving those kings in strong words of rebuke. Tradition tells us that he had taken refuge in a hollow tree, but was surrounded and sawed to death through the tree. Hebrews 11: 37 could be a reference to that event.

Even in the early days of the founding of America, being an outspoken biblicist was not always looked upon with favor. The first 13 colonies refused to ratify the newly- drafted Constitution until specific laws were added that guaranteed freedom of speech and worship–the first of the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights. It is a freedom we have long taken for granted, and which we are in danger of losing. And if we do lose those freedoms, it will be for the same reason Israel and Judah were taken captive down through the centuries; they had turned their backs on God and participated in the idolatry of the nations around them. Only a return to God and His Word can save us. I hope that you are praying with me that God will send a Holy Spirit revival in our country. If He does, it will be because His people were praying, speaking, leading others to Him in obedience to His Word.

Do You Love Me?

John 21:15-17.

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.

He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? He saith unto Him, Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith unto him, Feed My sheep.

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.

There have been countless lessons, sermons, and commentaries on these verses. Digesting it all has been the work of several days, and condensing it to a reasonable length is difficult. Simply stated, I believe that this conversation was Jesus’ way of showing His forgiveness to Peter for Peter’s denial of Christ before He was crucified. I believe it was meant to restore Peter in the eyes of the other disciples, none of whom could boast of their own courage during all that took place; but it is easy for us to pay the most attention to one who had become a leader, and who had failed miserably in his avowed loyalty to Jesus.

Repetition is one of the Seven Laws of Learning. You probably remember, as an elementary school student, memorizing your times tables and repeating them over and over again. Do they still do that? I hope so! Anyway, one of the questions asked about this passage is, “Why did Jesus ask the same question three times in a row?” I’m guessing that Peter didn’t miss the reason. He had denied Jesus three times. The reminder must have brought him immense sorrow.

“Do you love Me more than these?” In Matthew 26:33, Peter had claimed that he did indeed lovedJesus more than any of the other disciples did. Jesus may have gestured to the other disciples as He asked the question. “These men love Me, Peter. Do you love Me even more than they do?”

Jesus knew what was in Peter’s future. He knew that Peter would choose to be crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to die exactly has the Lord had died. He knew that Peter would question, resist, doubt, and yet rise to become one of the greatest names in Christian history.

So He asked Peter the same question three times. After each of Peter’s answers, Jesus said, “Feed My lambs; feed My sheep; feed My sheep.”

In the first two questions, Jesus used the word agapas, which is an all-consuming, unselfish love indicating total devotion without any reservation.

In Peter’s first two answers, he used the word philio, which indicates a reciprocal, brotherly affection. That’s not what Jesus was looking for. Peter was saying, “Lord, You know I am Your friend!”

After Peter’s first two responses, Jesus said, first, “Feed My lambs.” Peter was to teach and instruct new believers. The second time Peter responded, Jesus said, “Feed My sheep.” In the second of Jesus’ directives, the verb Jesus used actually indicates taking on the responsibilities of a shepherd over the flock, much more responsibility than simply seeing that the sheep were fed.

The third time Jesus put His question to Peter, he changed the verb, using phileis, asking Peter if he did indeed have a brotherly affection and devotion to Himself. Peter, knowing that Jesus knew all things, was very sorry, grieved, that Jesus questioned him the third time. “Yes, Lord, You know me better than I know myself. You know that my love for You is deep and abiding.”

Jesus’ third instruction, “Feed My sheep,” restored Peter completely to his natural place of leadership, and challenged him to the work that was ahead. The other disciples who were present must have heard this conversation, and understood that the resurrection didn’t mean everything was settled, but that they were expected to prepare themselves for work they didn’t really understand yet.

God wants more than our lip service. He wants–needs–our hearts to be in our service. All that we do in His Name is to be done from a heart of deep, abiding love rather than just as duty.

Come and Dine

John 21:12-14.

Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask Him, Who art Thou? knowing that it was the Lord.

Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.

This is now the third time that Jesus shewed Himself to His disciples, after that He was risen from the dead.

I believe this was a precious time of reunion and blessing as Jesus broke bread, passed the fish to His disciples, and they enjoyed this early morning meal in the peace and quiet before the bustle of the day’s activities began.

I’ve always been intrigued by the words none of the disciples durst ask Him, Who art Thou? knowing that it was the Lord. They didn’t recognize Him right away when they first noticed Him on the shore. Not until John said, “It is the Lord!”

The word that is translated ask carries the sense of seeking proof, of detailed examination. They knew Who He was. They would not question His authority in such a way.

Just as Mary did not immediately recognize Him at the tomb, until He spoke to her, it would seem that there was something different about Jesus after His suffering, death, and resurrection. I would not presume to try to say definitively what it was. Some have suggested that, in His resurrected body, there was an aura or a glow surrounding Him. Some believe He may still have had the scars on His face from the beatings He endured, leaving His face so marred that He didn’t look human. I don’t know about any of that, and neither does anyone else. I tend to think it was more likely that, because they didn’t expect to see Him, they didn’t immediately recognize Him. But just think of the joy and delight when they did, as seen in Peter’s behavior. He had thrown his cloak around himself and jumped out of the boat in his eagerness to be near Jesus.

Jesus’ invitation, “Come and dine,” was an invitation to breakfast with Him. There are other places in which Jesus invited others:

“· Come and see (John 1:39)

· Come and learn (Matthew 11:28-29)

· Come and rest (Mark 6:31

· Come and inherit (Matthew 25:34-36)”

Boice, Blue Letter Bible

Always, when Jesus invited people to come, He was offering something of great value. This time, it was not just fish and bread, but fellowship with Him, the risen Lord. Gives me goosebumps.

Then Jesus served them, and we are told that it was the third time He had appeared to them after His resurrection, to prove that He was indeed alive.

I had to hunt a bit to find this song that has been echoing in my mind this morning:

Jesus Fed the Disciples

John 21:9-11.

As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.

Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.

Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

As the disciples neared the shore, they realized that Jesus was preparing breakfast. He had fish cooking over the fire, and there was bread.

Remember, this was the risen Savior! He was Lord of Lords, had conquered sin and death, and would soon return to heaven to sit on the right hand of the Father. Yet here He was, humbly cooking their breakfast as if He were a mere servant.

This is ministry done right. Meeting the needs of the people around us, doing what we can to reach them not just with food for the body, but for the soul. No matter how well we feed it, the body dies. The soul, however, lives forever. It is ministry to direct the souls of others toward heaven.

Jesus told the men to bring the fish they had caught to the shore. They were going to have a down-home fish fry! It is worth noting here that, for whatever reason, Peter took hold of the nets by himself and dragged them to shore. It seems likely to me that he just didn’t have the patience to wait for the others to get out of the boat. It is also a tribute to his physical strength. Those fish were big ones, not little one-serving bites. There were 153 of them. If each one weighed at least five pounds, which is well within reason, that would have been 765 pounds of fish, struggling in a big, wet net! Peter was a strong, hearty working man, not a wimpy guy by any measure. Of course the water was helpful in buoying up the fish, but still. That’s a lot of fillets 🙂

Is the number of fish, 153, significant? Some have thought so, down through church history. There have been many efforts to spiritualize the number. Personally, I like the old saying: “If the plain sense makes common sense, then any other sense is nonsense.” These fishermen were in the habit of counting their catch. I think the number 153 is exactly that–the number of fish in the net. Quite a haul for a few minutes’ work.

Verse 11 tells us that they were “great fish,” not minnows. And even though the catch was huge, the nets did not break.

James 1:17 tells us: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

God loves to give us not only what we need, but what our hearts desire. His gifts are always good and perfect. I have experienced many times through the course of my life when God has blessed me with what I need, sometimes before I knew I would need it. His provision is never skimpy. It is always enough and more than enough. It isn’t always things, either. It is often simply a matter of the perfect peace that comes with resting in Him, knowing that He is watching and taking care of me.

Did the disciples need all those fish? No, of course not. Well, then, wasn’t it wasteful of Jesus to allow them to catch so many? No, of course not. Remember, they were fishermen by trade. They had families to feed. I’m sure the fish were sold that very day in the markets along the shores of Galilee.

Anyway, why should we dwell on such things? The point is that Jesus not only provided their breakfast. He also provided food for many, many others that morning, and reminded the disciples of His power and control over every detail of their lives, and of His sovereignty over the entirety of creation.

He also modeled the heart of a true leader, who is willing to serve those who follow his leadership. He showed His loving care for these men that He loved, and was soon to leave to carry on His work.

It is the Lord!

John 21:7-8.

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.

And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.

Before we look at the details of these two verses, I want to take a look at a similar situation recorded in Luke 5:1-11. In that story, Jesus had needed some respite from the crowds that followed Him. He saw two boats, one of which belonged to Simon Peter. He got into the boat and finished teaching the people from there; then He asked Peter to push off into deeper water where the people would not follow. He also instructed Peter to let down his nets, perhaps wanting to catch some fish for supper. Peter responded that they had fished all night but caught nothing. Nevertheless, at Jesus’ request they would cast their nets again, and this time there were so many fish that the nets began to break. Peter called for help from the men in the other boat, and together they were able to haul the huge catch to shore. Peter knelt at Jesus’ feet, confessing his unworthiness, along with his partners. And this was the time and place at which Jesus said, “Don’t worry, Peter. I will make you to be fishers of men!”

Don’t you think that this incident was in the minds of Peter and the others when John spoke up and said, “It is the Lord!” Our impulsive Peter couldn’t wait for the boats to reach the shore. He’d been stripped down for work, so he quickly pulled on his outer garment and jumped into the water. I wonder if he hoped, once again, to experience the thrill of walking on top of the water! He ran to Jesus, excited and apparently surprised to see Him. The others continued to row to shore, hauling the full net behind them.

The rest of what I have to say this morning is strictly my own observation on these two separate incidents. To me, the most outstanding feature in both is that when God is directing the work, which He has established, He will also abundantly bless the efforts of the workers. Those blessings may not be immediately evident. There are, for instance, missionaries who have labored for years with very little fruit. However, sometimes after the death of the missionary, others have turned to faith in God and the work has grown and expanded in remarkable ways.

We may not always see the fruits of our labors. The five men who were killed by the Auca Indians in 1956 did not get to see nearly everyone in the tribe come to Christ, but one of the wives, Elisabeth Elliot, went on to continue the work there and saw wonderful miracles of the saving grace of God.

I am reminded of Paul’s words in I Corinthians 3:6-8:

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.

So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.

The work of evangelism had not yet begun when Peter jumped out of the boat to meet Jesus on the shore. Peter had no idea, yet, of what his life’s work would be. But God was preparing him, as well as the other disciples, to trust Him and obey His directions. He was getting them ready to start the work that has never stopped, and will not stop until God says so.

Little is Much

John 21:4-6.

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

Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered Him, No.

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.

My mind is full of children’s songs right now: James, John and Peter in a sailboat; I will make you fishers of men. Maybe I’ll find one for you in a few minutes.

They had fished all night, but their nets were empty. How discouraging.

These fishermen did not sit idly in the boat waiting for the fish to come. They would gather in the nets every little while and then toss them out again in a little different direction, hoping for better results.

They did the same thing the same way over and over, hoping for better results. I think it was Einstein who said that doing so was a sure sign of insanity 🙂

Not saying the disciples were insane. Just that they were lacking in imagination, or stuck in a rut. Maybe they were all left-handed. Maybe it was just the way they always had done it. I don’t know. In any case, they caught nothing after a long night of effort.

In the dusky early morning, they saw Someone standing on the shore, not realizing it was Jesus.

The One standing on shore called out to them, “Children, do you have any meat?”

The word for children would be better translated lads, or fellows, a common greeting among workmen.

They must have been a bit embarrassed when they had to say, “No!” They had nothing to sell, nothing to offer for their efforts of the entire night.

In response, the Man on shore called out to them, “Try casting your nets on the other side of the boat. You’ll find all the fish you can handle!”

Why did the disciples do as the Man said? So far, they hadn’t recognized Him. There must have been something about Him, though, because they didn’t question His suggestion. They were still far enough out on the water that they could cast their nets, and they did–on the other side of the boat. And suddenly, the nets were so full of fish that the men couldn’t even pull them in.

And now another song is floating around in my head. I’ll find it in a minute. What was the difference? Simply put, Jesus was involved in their efforts when they cast their nets on the other side of the boat. He hadn’t been there when they decided to go fishing. Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have gone fishing, or that they had done anything wrong. It is, I believe, an excellent picture to illustrate that we will have success when God is directing our efforts.

This incident, of course, could be a metaphor for the coming evangelistic efforts of the disciples. They would “catch” people by the thousands when they started preaching, under His direction, the gospel of salvation. When God is present, directing the work, the results are always exactly as He wants them to be.

Here’s the song I was just thinking about:

I’m Going Fishing

John 21:1-3.

After these things Jesus shewed Himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed He Himself.

There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of His disciples.

Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.

I don’t know much about fishing. It hasn’t been part of my experience, really, over the course of my life. So my first question, and maybe yours, is “Why did they go fishing at night?” Those of you who are smiling at my ignorance, be patient. I really wanted to know, so I did a little searching.

First, the nets the disciples used were made of linen, and were less visible to the fish after dark. I didn’t know that.

Second, there are fish that are just more active at night as the water temperature cools. In the heat of the day, the fish tend to dive deep for the cooler water. At night they rise closer to the surface. We used to go canoeing at Lake Nockamixon, and toward evening the fish would start jumping to catch mosquitoes and other tasty bugs just above the surface of the water. So that part, I understand.

Also, there was no ice available to keep the fish fresh, so it was better to fish at night and have the fresh catch to sell early in the morning.

My second question: After their incredible experiences of the past several days, why did they go fishing at all? I mean, shouldn’t they have been having a praise-and-prayer meeting or something? A planning session?

I think they went fishing because they had to make a living. It comes down to something as mundane as putting food on their tables. And it’s what they were before they met Jesus–fishermen. It’s what they knew, what they were good at. I suspect, for the most part, they loved what they did. Who wouldn’t love getting into a boat, pushing off into the dusky evening after a hot day, enjoying the fresh breezes off the lake. The silence of the water, away from other people, must have been a wonderful experience. Did they talk about Jesus? I don’t know, but I surely wouldn’t be surprised. I’m sure He was uppermost in their minds as they threw their nets out into the depths of the lake and waited for the fish to come.

Who went on this expedition? Well, the verse is clear. Peter, Thomas, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, who were James and John. There were two others, unnamed in this passage.

Why are they unnamed? I don’t know. One commentator says they are representative of all the unknown followers of Christ down through the centuries, faithful but unknown except to the Lord Himself. That may be spiritualizing it a bit, but it is part of God’s inspiration in John, so it matters. If nothing else, we know that there were seven experienced fishermen in the boat that night.

Where is the Sea of Tiberias? It is the same as the Sea of Galilee, which is identified by several different names including Genneseret and Kinneret. It is the largest fresh-water lake in Israel, and was subject, because of its geography, to some pretty wild storms. It was also the richest source of fish, providing income as well as sustenance.

One more thing: Why had they gone back to Galilee from Jerusalem? Because Jesus had told them to do so (Matthew 28:728:10). They didn’t question Him; they simply obeyed. He had told them to tell His brothers that He was alive, and also that He would meet them in Galilee.

They had always been active men, so while they waited they did what they knew. They went fishing.

Why didn’t these experienced fishermen catch anything? Wait and see!