This final chapter of John’s gospel reminds us of the effective pastoral work by the Lord Jesus. Mention has already been made of His approachability, sensitivity, and His perfect knowledge and insight into the character of people. He is, after all, the one through whom all things were made (John 1:3) and ″he knew what was in each person″ (2:25).
Jesus appears for the third time to His disciples, but this time it was in their world-that of the fisherman. They had caught nothing all day (v. 3). He redirects their nets and the result is a huge catch: John reports, with eyewitness vividness, a total of 153 fish (v. 11). Elsewhere, it was recorded that the net breaks (Luke 5:1-11). Here it is full but intact.
Jesus has promised to send the disciples ″out to fish for people″ (Mark 1:17). What an encouragement to know that He will direct their mission and its fruitfulness will depend on Him, the risen and soon to be ascended Saviour, who is himself the Director of the church’s life-God being the great Evangelist, the great Missionary.
Jesus, the sensitive Pastor, now restores the thrice-denying Peter with the three-fold repetition, ″Do you love me?″ (vv. 15-17). The last time Peter was at a fire he denied Jesus (John 18:25); now he affirms his love for Christ. Peter’s sin must be faced and dealt with, even if it is hurtful (v. 17). Failure is never final with God. Here is the condition of fruitful service-dealing with sin.
For Peter, the outflow of such love for Christ is seen in his care for the sheep. Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14), Peter calls Him the ″Chief Shepherd″ (1 Peter 5:4), but sees his own role with his fellow elders in being shepherds of God’s flock (1 Peter 5:1-2). Peter’s life would now be one of shepherding God’s flock, culminating in his own martyrdom (v. 18). Tradition has it that in AD 64, at his execution in Rome, Peter considered himself unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as his master, and so was crucified head-down on an inverted cross.
John concludes his gospel by correcting a rumour that he will still be alive at the second coming of Christ (v. 23). John’s ministry will be different from Peter’s. He will outlive Peter by nearly 30 years and die, probably of old age, in exile on the isle of Patmos (Revelation 1:9). ″What is that to you?″ (v. 22). Jesus directs the mission; He is Lord of the church; He directs each into their particular field of productivity. We can trust Him with our lives of service.
John asserts the trustworthiness of his record, while recognizing that it is not exhaustive (vv. 24-25). This is similar to statements in John 19:35 and 1 John 1:1-4.
The King of love my shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his
And he is mine forever.
-H. W. Baker
″Failure is never final with God.″ How would remembering this truth you in your service to God?
How are you encouraged by the fact that the Lord Jesus continues to direct His church and make it productive? What is your response to such direction?