TODAY’S READING: JOHN 20-21
Christ’s resurrection (20:1-10); Christ’s post-resurrection appearances to Mary and to His disciples (20:11-31); Jesus’ reinstatement and restoration of Peter (21:1-17); Jesus’ final instructions to His disciples (21:18-25).
HIGHLIGHTS & INSIGHTS:
By the time we move into John 21 in today’s reading, Jesus has already risen from the dead (John 20). He has made numerous appearances, two of them to His disciples. But at this point, the disciples are in danger of drifting back into their old way of life (21:3). They had spent three years with the Lord, but all of that is pretty foggy right now. Things didn’t really go like they had planned. They’ve gone from disillusionment to despair. Sure, there was certainly a tremendous rejuvenation of their hearts to realize that Jesus had risen from the dead, but at this point, the disciples still hadn’t quite pieced the whole thing together.
Things were different now. For three years they had walked with the Lord and talked with Him; they were always together. Now He appears and disappears without any notice. It’s just different. And on top of that, they’re all bearing the guilt of the fact that they had forsaken the Lord. All of them but John scattered when Jesus needed them most.
And when you come to the end of chapter 20 in today’s reading, the main narrative ends with the great climax of Thomas’ confession of faith in verse 28 as he says to Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” Then John gives an explanation of his purpose in writing the book in verses 30 and 31, “and many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name,” and it’s a beautiful conclusion to the whole thing. And if you couldn’t see the other chapter just below those verses in your Bible, you would think that the Book had ended with verse 31.
But that’s not the end! There are still some extremely important things the Holy Spirit wants us to know about Peter’s situation. John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, doesn’t want his Gospel to end without telling his readers that Peter had been fully restored and reinstated. You see, without chapter 21, there would have been a major question in all of our minds about whether a person who has blown it like Peter had, could be restored in his relationship with the Lord. Peter didn’t just turn his back on the Lord as had the other disciples; he had actually denied Him on three different occasions! I mean, how could someone who had done something like that still be entrusted with the responsibility of shepherding the flock of Jesus Christ? Again, without chapter 21, the question would remain unanswered.
Also, were it not for chapter 21, it would be a mystery in all of our minds, why in the world Peter is so prominent in the first 12 chapters of the next Book of the Bible, the Book of Acts. I mean, how does a guy go from completely denying the Lord when he’s 50 feet away from Him, to the boldness exemplified on the Day of Pentecost just seven weeks later, when he looks out on the religious leaders of Israel, and all the people of Judea and Jerusalem, and faced them with the fact that they had taken God’s own Son, the Lord of glory, and by their wicked hands, had slain Him! Pretty strong stuff! How do you go form being a coward, to having that kind of courage? What takes place in chapter 21 is the missing link.
And then there is at least one other reason for chapter 21. When you come to the end of chapter 20, the last of the disciples has come to genuine faith. That, of course, was “Doubting Thomas.” They had all been convinced of the resurrection, and that, of course, was wonderful, but what now? What were they going to do about it? And chapter 21 is Jesus’ call for action.
A few other things to grab a hold of as you make your way through chapter 21:
21:3 – Perhaps we could paraphrase, “Well, I’ll tell you what fellas, I may not be a great preacher or evangelist, but there is one thing I do know how to do, and I’m gonna do that! I’m goin’ fishin’! Come on boys, let me show ya how it’s done!” Notice, they didn’t even get a bite. The one thing Peter thought he could do, he couldn’t do anymore (John 15:5), because God had put His hand on his life and was in control. Learn the lesson from Peter.
21:15-17 – No matter how our love has failed, there is restoration! Perhaps that’s the message God wants you to receive today — there IS restoration! And notice in this passage, the restoration was initiated by the Lord. He could have said, “You know what Peter, you’re a chump! You talk a big talk, but you can’t be counted on to do anything! I gave you three years of my life, and I can’t even get you to follow one simple command. Just forget it, man.” But that’s not the way it was at all. Jesus initiated the restoration, and provided the one who had denied Him three times, the opportunity to affirm his love three times!
21:17 – After the third time Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, Peter appeals to the doctrine of omniscience. He says, “Lord, thou knowest all things.” In other words, “Lord, you’re going to have to read my heart, because I know my love for you isn’t obvious by my life.” The doctrine of omniscience is a tremendous thing. I used to feel like God kind of had a way to spy on me, but now I know that if God weren’t omniscient, there would be a lot of times God wouldn’t know that I love Him, because like Peter, it isn’t always obvious from my life. I, too, have to ask Him to look on the inside, at what is in my heart.
21:15-17 – Saying, “Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep. Feed my sheep,” was Jesus’ way of saying, “I forgive you, Peter. I still believe in you, Peter. I still think you’re the right man for the job.”
The things revealed in chapter 21 of John’s Gospel were a turning point in Peter’s life. The things that took place seven weeks later on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 are the proof of that. May God use this chapter to be a turning point in our lives today!