It would seem natural if the Gospel of John ended with chapter 20. Couldn’t John simply have concluded his book by observing that the miraculous signs Jesus performed “are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31)? How could anyone improve on that ending?
But John wasn’t ready yet to put down his inspired pen. He still had more to say—a chapter-long “P.S.” to add about Jesus’ “P.R.” (post-resurrection) activities. What do we see in the opening verses of John chapter 21?
Peter declared, “I’m going fishing,” and half of the 12 apostles joined his fishing expedition that night. Can you imagine the conversations in the boat as they continued to come to grips with the implications of Jesus’ resurrection?
Thomas was there—fresh from his life-changing encounter with the risen Christ where doubts melted away as he beheld the Lord’s nail-scarred hands. Nathanael was there—the one who three years earlier had wondered, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” James and John—the fishermen who left their nets to follow Jesus—grabbed the nets and joined the fishing expedition that night along with two other unnamed disciples. The conversation in the boat must have been intense, but the fishing itself wasn’t productive. “That night they caught nothing” (John 21:3).
The Lord called from the shore, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat,” and when the disciples followed his instructions, their fishnet filled up. John’s eyewitness description makes me smile because it sounds so true to life. As any fisherman would do, John mentions the specific number of fish they caught (153), their size, and the condition of the net, emphasizing that they were “large fish, but even with so many the net was not torn” (v. 11).
The Sea of Galilee bore the fingerprints of Jesus’ miraculous power. There he walked on water, stilled a storm, and even predicted Peter would catch a fish that had a four-drachma coin in its mouth (Matthew 17:27). The miraculous catch of fish in John 21 is so similar to another incident described in Luke 5:1-11 that the disciples couldn’t miss the resemblance. Peter certainly saw the connection. Unable to contain his enthusiasm, he dove into the water and swam to Jesus.
The disciples ate breakfast on the shore that morning, nourished by fish and bread prepared by the Lord’s own hands. We naturally are drawn to think of the Lord’s Supper whenever Scripture says, “Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them” (John 21:13). We weren’t there by the Sea of Galilee that morning, but each week the Lord prepares a meal for us and invites us to commune with him.
John notes, “This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead” (v. 14).
I’m glad John added a P.S. to the end of his Gospel. The stirring reality of Jesus’ good news message remains true even though his post-resurrection appearances took place 2,000 years ago. Because Jesus is alive, even after we die there is still more to say, more to do, and more to come.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on International Sunday School Lesson, ©2013, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.