John 21:3 I’m going out to fish, Simon Peter told them, and they said, We will go with you.
As long as Peter was following Jesus, Jesus took care of Peter’s needs. It was not always first class, but there was always enough. But after the resurrection, Jesus was harder to follow, and Peter was low on cash. So he went back to fishing, and the others said, We will go with you.
They fished all night without any luck, until a stranger on the shore gave them some advice. Throw your net on the right side of the boat (John 21:6), he said. Then they caught so many fish that they could hardly get them back to shore. Jesus was teaching his disciples that he could still provide for their needs.
John 21:9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
Ever since we fell into sin, God has been bringing us back to his table. Moses, Aaron and others went up a mountain where they saw God, and they ate and drank (Exodus 24:11). Likewise, the Israelites ate at the temple, in the presence of the Lord (Deuteronomy 12:7). And here, the disciples had breakfast on the shore with Jesus as their cook. Eating with God is a sign of our intimate fellowship with him.
Likewise, the night before his death, Jesus sat at table with his disciples. They broke bread, drank wine, and Jesus said, do this in remembrance of me (1 Corinthians 11:24). Whenever we receive the Lord’s Supper we are having table fellowship with God.
Furthermore, when Christ returns, he will dress himself to serve, will have [us] recline at the table and will come and wait on [us] (Luke 12:37), said Jesus. Imagine sitting down for dinner, in the kingdom of God, with Jesus as our waiter. He cooked for the disciples on the shore, and he will be our waiter in the age to come. Jesus has made us children of God, and we will eat at his table forever. This will be better than the Garden of Eden.
John 21:17 Simon son of John, do you love me? . . . He said, Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you. Jesus said, Feed my sheep.
Shortly before the crucifixion, Peter denied Jesus three times with a curse (John 18:15-27, Matthew 26:69-75), and Jesus wanted to clear that up. He had big plans for Peter, but in the eyes of others, Peter may have lost some credibility. So Jesus wanted to re-commission Peter, before the other apostles, so they would know he was still in good standing. This is a helpful model for the church.
A pastor fell behind in his work, and instead of preparing a sermon, he stole one from the internet. It was by a pastor who was famous, however, and someone in the congregation recognized it. Since the Bible is against stealing (Exodus 20:15), there was some question whether this man was fit to be the pastor. In fact, they decided to let him go. But was this right?
There are a few examples in the Bible of spiritual leaders who fell. Aaron would become the high priest of Israel, but he made a golden calf and led the nation into idolatry (Exodus 32:1-4). You might expect God to find someone else, but Aaron served as high priest for the rest of his life.
King David stumbled badly when he committed adultery with Bathsheba, and had her husband killed (2 Samuel 11). You might expect God to find someone else, but David was also allowed to continue as king for the rest of his life.
Likewise, Peter failed badly when he denied Jesus three times with a curse. You might expect Jesus to find someone else, but Peter was allowed to serve Christ and the church for the rest of his life.
This is not to say that Christian leaders should get away with idolatry, adultery, murder or disavowing Jesus Christ. But God’s treatment of Aaron, David and Peter suggest a gentle approach. Church discipline is not for everyone who sins, but for those who refuse to repent—in order to help them repent. Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently (Galatians 6:1), wrote Paul.
John 21:18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.
To stretch out your hands was a euphemism for crucifixion, and there is reason to believe that Peter was crucified under Caesar Nero, around AD 65. Peter was not perfect, but he never gave up. He glorified Christ with his life, and followed him in death.
Whether we die a martyrs death, or something less dramatic, the purpose of death is to glorify God (John 21:19). That is what Jesus did when he prayed, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46). And Stephen prayed, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit (Acts 7:59). These are good words to rehearse, so we will know what to say when death comes for us.
John 21:22 If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.
Jesus and Peter were walking together, and John was following behind. When Peter saw him, he asked, Lord, what about him? (John 21:21). Jesus told Peter to mind his own business, and keep following him. Since Jesus is the only way to heaven, it is no surprise that the words follow me are found on his lips no fewer than twenty times throughout the gospels. The most important thing we can ever do is to follow Jesus Christ.
Reflection and Review
Why will Jesus serve us dinner in the age to come?
What is the purpose of church discipline?
How can we glorify God through death?