The last chapter in the gospel of John has two key narratives revolving around two animals: fish and sheep.
The fish story is generally accepted to foreshadow the evangelistic work of the church. The sheep story foreshadows the pastoral work of the church. Both should not be neglected. There are many ways for the church to ‘catch’ a large number of people. I would question, though, whether the western church in general has lost its zeal for fishing. The 153 fish caught represents a bounty. In today’s postmodern society people are spiritually hungry but they are tired of the church. Like the disciples, the people of today need a transformational encounter with Jesus. The Holy Spirit brings the life of Jesus into our lives and that life in us changes the lives of those around us. However, what kind of passion and what kind of message are the members of God’s church cultivating in themselves.
The pastoral aspect of the church is weak in the west, too. Either churches are infected by consumerism and offer programs that therapeutically soothe the conscience of the masses. Other churches are introspective, isolationist and even cruel in their pursuit of truth. Of course, some churches still grow their members in a discipleship that equips them to reach others. Some churches feed their sheep in such a way that whole communities are changed. This latter example seems to be more in line with Jesus’ request of Peter.
Have you involved yourself in both fishing and shepherding?
1 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee.[a] It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus[b]), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
6He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.[c] 9When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
Jesus Reinstates Peter
15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 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.” 19Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”
24This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
- How many times does Jesus ask Peter if he loves him?
- What is Jesus doing in his conversation with Peter?
- Why does John tell the story of the catch of fish?
- How has Jesus equipped you to ‘catch fish’?
- How has Jesus commissioned you to ‘feed the flock’?
We have finished John. I will write a brief review tomorrow. What book would be good to study next? Nahum?