34. Feed My Sheep (John 21:1-25)

James J. Tissot, ‘The Second Miraculous Draft of Fish’ (1884-96), gouache on gray wove paper, 6-1/8” x 10”, Brooklyn Museum, New York.
James J. Tissot, 'The Second Miraculous Draft of Fish' (1884-96), gouache on gray wove paper, 6-1/8" x 10", Brooklyn Museum, New York.

John's Gospel closes with a scene on the Sea of Galilee that underscores Jesus' resurrection, the importance of the disciples' ongoing mission to shepherd God's sheep, and the eventual deaths of Peter and John.

Peter and Other Disciples Go Fishing in Galilee (21:1-3)

"1  Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias.[928] It happened this way: 2  Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael[929] 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." (21:1-3)

Concerning this incident that occurred prior to Pentecost, many sermons have been preached blaming Peter and the apostles for turning back to their old ways, for fishing once more on Lake Galilee. But there's no criticism in this passage or chiding by Jesus. Disciples and their families need to eat. And doing together what they had done for years must have brought some comfort and order to this otherwise turbulent time.

According to Matthew's and Mark's account of resurrection morning, an angel at the empty tomb had directed the women,

"Go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you." (Matthew 28:7; cf. Mark 16:7)

Then Jesus himself appears to the women with the command:

"Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me." (Matthew 28:10)

 So it is entirely possible that the disciples are in Galilee in obedience to the angel's command. But they must have returned to Jerusalem later, since we know that Jesus' final ascension forty days after his resurrection (Acts 1:3) took place in the area around Jerusalem (Acts 1:4-8).

Peter and at least some of the disciples are in Galilee, probably home in Capernaum (Matthew 4:13; Mark 1:29) where their boats were pulled onshore during the day. So one evening, Peter says to his comrades, "I'm going out to fish."[930]

Throw Your Net on the Right Side of the Boat (21:4-8)

The disciples fish all night, but as dawn is approaching, they haven't caught anything. It isn't completely light and mist is probably rising from the water, making it difficult to recognize the figure onshore who is hailing them from the beach.

"4  Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. 5  He called out to them, 'Friends, haven't you any fish?'
'No,' they answered.
6  He said, 'Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.'" (21:4-6a)

Though they haven't recognized him yet, Jesus addresses his disciples with a very intimate term. "Friends" (NIV), "children" (NRSV, ESV, KJV) is paidion, a diminutive of pais, "child, servant," that refers to a very young child up to seven years old.[931] It is probably an equivalent of a colloquial expression, "boys" or "guys," or perhaps the English term, "lads."[932] Earlier in John's Gospel, Jesus addressed his disciples with a synonym, technion, "my children" (13:33),[933] though these expressions seem rare outside the New Testament.[934]

"6  He 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." (21:6-8)

It may sound strange to us that these professional fishermen would heed the directions of an unknown person on the shore. Of course, rod-and-reel fishermen in our day receive all sorts of suggestions from others on where to cast their hook, on where the fish are biting. But the disciples follow the suggestion. What do they have to lose?

Instantly their nets are hit by a large school of fish that just "happen" to be swimming on the right side of the boat.

Suddenly all hands are working with all their might to pull the heavy net on board. It is so heavy that they're not able to, so instead, they pull the heavy net to shore to land this amazing catch. Once ashore, they count 153 fish -- to them an amazingly large number for a single net of fish.

This miracle is similar, but with different details, [935] to a miracle that took place when the disciples had just met Jesus, recorded by Luke. Jesus has been teaching from Peter's boat.

"4  When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, 'Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.'
5  Simon answered, 'Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.' 6  When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7  So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
 8  When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, 'Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!' 9  For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10  and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, 'Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men.'
11  So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him." (Luke 5:4-11)

In Luke's account, Peter recognizes Jesus' holiness with awe, and the men are told they will catch men hereafter. In John's account, John recognizes it is the Risen Christ, Peter swims ashore, and is re-commissioned, this time using the analogy "feed my sheep," rather the earlier analogy to be "fishers of men."

By relating this post-resurrection incident of the miraculous catch, perhaps John is indicating that now the disciples have come full circle. They first committed their lives to Christ after another miraculous catch. And now at the end they recommit themselves to the Risen Christ after a similar miracle.

I don't think John intended it this way, but, in a sense, this is a story about laboring in vain, and then listening to and heeding Jesus' command, and then seeing results far above our own abilities. It is an illustration of the power of the Spirit. The life of a disciple is to be lived in tandem with Jesus, listening, obeying, and seeing his works accomplished far beyond our abilities.

Q1. (John 21:4-8) Why did Jesus tell the disciples to cast their net on the right side of the boat? Why did the disciples obey? What was the result? What impression did it make on the disciples?

Peter Swims Ashore (21:7b)

While in Luke's account, Peter wants to get away from this holy Jesus, here, Peter can't wait to get to him, once John calls out that it is Jesus.

"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." (21:7b)

We might strip to swim ashore, but Peter is stripped for work and is a strong swimmer. He probably isn't completely naked (which would have been offensive to Jewish sensibilities), but wears only minimal clothing on board so as not to impede his work. Peter grabs his outer garment[936], girds it about him, tucking it up so it won't prevent him from swimming[937], jumps in, and swims the 100 yards or so to the place where he can wade the rest of the way. These details are the sign of an eyewitness account. Peter can't wait to get ashore to be with Jesus. He probably wants to be appropriately dressed out of respect as he greets Jesus face to face.

Fish on the Fire (21:8-11)

"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. 9  When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals[938] there with fish on it, and some bread. (21:8-9)

Jesus has come prepared with some bread from town as well as a fish. He has a fire going, perhaps from firewood along the beach, and has begun to cook the fish, in anticipation of having breakfast with his disciples. Jesus is their host once again, though he invites them to bring a few of the fish from their amazing catch to supplement the breakfast.

"10  Jesus said to them, 'Bring some of the fish you have just caught.' 11  Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn." (21:10-11)

Peter's colleagues have now rowed the boat ashore, dragging the net behind them. Now Peter climbs aboard the boat and lends his strength to pull the heavy net across the shallow rocks onto the shore -- without tearing the net in the process.

The number 153 has inspired many, many attempts to find a spiritual meaning in the number, but none of these explanations has proved convincing. It appears to be an eyewitness detail to emphasize the great number of fish caught, without any intended deeper meaning. John specifies that these were "large fish," not tiny ones!

Jesus Offers the Disciples Breakfast (21:12-14)

Now Jesus speaks again to the disciples.

 "12  Jesus said to them, 'Come and have breakfast[939].' 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. 14  This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead." (21:12-14)

Jesus calls them to have some breakfast, but no one dares[940] to ask him who he is. They know, and they also know that to ask him a stupid question is to invite a rebuke from the Master (for example, 4:27; 14:5-9; Mark 7:18; 8:17; 8:33; 9:32; 16:14). Jesus taking the bread and fish and giving it to them is quite reminiscent of the Feeding of the Five Thousand (6:11). There he was the host to thousands, but here and at the Last Supper he is host to his beloved team of men.

John counts this as Jesus' third post-resurrection appearance to his disciples as a group -- twice in the Upper Room (20:19-23 and 20:26-29) and here.

Q2. (John 21:7-14) What does Jesus preparing breakfast for the disciples say about his love for them? His provision? What does Peter's early morning swim say about his love for Jesus?

Peter, Do You Love Me? Feed My Sheep (21:15-17)

James J. Tissot, 'Feed My Lambs' (1884-96), gouache on gray wove paper, 9-5/8” x 6-3/8”, Brooklyn Museum, New York.
James J. Tissot, 'Feed My Lambs' (1884-96), gouache on gray wove paper, 9-5/8" x 6-3/8", Brooklyn Museum, New York.

In the Upper Room, Luke tells us that Jesus had the following conversation with Peter.

"'simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.''
But he replied, 'Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.'
34  Jesus answered, 'I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.'" (Luke 22:31-34)

Peter boasts of his reliability in front of the disciples, then fails miserably. Now he must be restored to ministry among them, but Jesus requires Peter to humble himself. Jesus pointedly asks Peter if -- after all that has ensued -- he still thinks that he loves Jesus more than the other disciples do.

 "15  When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?'
'Yes, Lord,' he said, 'you know that I love you.'
Jesus said, 'Feed my lambs.'
16  Again Jesus said, 'Simon son of John, do you truly love me?'
He answered, 'Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.'
 Jesus said, 'Take care of my sheep.'
17  The 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.'" (21:15-17)

He has denied Jesus three times. Now Jesus renews his "call to preach" three times -- "Feed my sheep." Jesus assures Peter that he has been restored to the ministry of caring for God's flock. What a wonderful example of grace! [941]

Much has been made out of the variations in Jesus' words to Peter in verses 15-17:

1. "Do you truly love (agapaō) me more than these?" "You know that I love (phileō) you." "Feed (boskō) my lambs (arnion)."
2. "Do you truly love (agapaō) me?" "You know that I love (phileō) you." "Take care of (poimainō) my sheep (probaton)."
3. "Do you love (phileō) me?" "You know that I love (phileō) you." "Feed (boskō) my sheep (probaton)."


Because John varies his words, some people see a subtle interplay between Jesus asking whether Peter loves him with agape love (agapaō[942]), while Peter can only answer that he loves with filial love (phileō[943]). I don't believe that Jesus intended this. After all, it reflects the subtlety of two Greek words, not Aramaic words. John's style is known for using synonyms for the sake of variety. It is clear in verses 15-17 that he varies the words he uses for sheep (probaton[944]) and lambs (arnion[945]) and to shepherd (poimainō[946]) and to feed (boskō[947]). He doesn't intend for us to make anything of this variation. The variation is only to keep it from being repetitious and boring. The same is true of the variation between agapaō and phileō.[948]

Q3. (John 21:15-17) Why does Jesus repeat the question and the assurance three times? What does this teach us about God repeating the lessons he wants us to learn? What does it say about God's mercy and willingness to restore sinners to ministry?

Jesus Prophesies Peter's Death (21:18-19)

Now Jesus gives a prophecy of Peter's death.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go. 19  Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, 'Follow Me!'" (21:18-19, NASB)

I believe the NIV and ESV over-translate zōnnymi / zōnnuō as "dressed/dress," where the basic meaning is probably intended: "gird someone[949]." The NRSV's "fasten your own belt" is better, and the NASB/KJV "gird" is best, because when zōnnymi / zōnnuō is used in the second half of the verse, it probably means being tied to the cross-beam (as we'll discuss below), not having to be dressed as a feeble old man.

Notice John's explanation of the prophecy in the verse 19.

"Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God." (21:19)

It is possible that Jesus is referring to a proverb or aphorism popular in his day that compares the freedom of youth with the restrictions of old age (though we have no examples of such a proverb available to us today[950]). But by adding the phase, "you will stretch out your hands," he shifts the saying to a prophecy of Peter's crucifixion.

The phrase, "you will stretch out[951] your hands" makes no sense if Jesus is talking about a feeble old man. But it makes lots of sense when we realize that the language of stretching out one's hands was widely used in the ancient world to refer to crucifixion.[952] Early church writers indicate that Peter died in Rome by crucifixion in 64 AD at the time of the great fire.[953]

When you put together the reference to crucifixion with being girded or tied by another, you realize that this prophecy probably refers to the common Roman practice of tying the cross-piece onto the condemned's man's shoulders prior to the crucifixion, and then, carrying the cross-piece, led to the place of crucifixion. This seems to be how John understood the prophecy, which had already taken place by the time John's Gospel was written.

Now that we've interpreted the prophecy, I want to draw your attention to two additional elements in verse 19.

First, John says that the prophecy signifies by what kind of death he would "glorify God." Since when does death "glorify God"? You'll remember a number of times Jesus connected his death with being glorified (See Appendix 6. "Glory" and "Glorify" in John's Gospel). A century ago the idea of a "good death" was a popular concept. The ideal would be to die at home, able to spend time with friends and relatives during the last days, and pass on with a testimony of God's goodness on your lips. When I read verse 19, I wonder how my life -- and eventual death -- will "glorify God." I want my life to count. And I pray that at my death people will continue to see consistency in my faith.

Second, Jesus concludes this word about Peter's death with the familiar words, "Follow me" (21:19), followed a few sentences later by the statement, "You must follow me" (21:22). The words have been used to call Jesus' disciples (Mark 1:17; 2:14; 8:34; 10:21; John 1:23; 10:27). But why does Jesus say these words on this occasion? I think John is looking back to a conversation Peter had with Jesus at the Last Supper.

"36  Simon Peter asked him, 'Lord, where are you going?'
Jesus replied, 'Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.'
37  Peter asked, 'Lord, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.'
38  Then Jesus answered, 'Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!'" (13:36-38)

The disciples are confused. Where is Jesus going? Why can't they follow him now? Because he is going to the cross. Peter can't follow immediately, "but you will follow later" (13:36b). In John 21:19 and 22, Jesus is saying to Peter: You must follow me to the cross, not immediately, but later. That is the way you will die.

Q4. (John 21:18-19) What does death have to do with glorifying God? How will your life and death bring glory or credit to God? What does this passage teach us about God's foreknowledge?

Jesus Predicts John's Long Life (21:20-23)

By this time, Peter and Jesus are walking together, probably along the beach. But John is right behind them listening.

"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?') 21  When 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.' 23  Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers 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?'" (21:20-23)

 As mentioned in the Introduction above, much has been written about who the author of John really is. It is clear that this Beloved Disciple was close to Jesus (13:23, 24), trusted by Jesus with the care of his mother (19:26-27), was the only disciple who remained at the cross when Jesus died (19:34-35), the disciple who raced Peter to the tomb (20:2-5, 8), and the one who recognized Jesus on the shore after the resurrection (21:7). It is the Beloved Disciple who Jesus hinted might outlive St. Peter (21:20-23). Of course, the term "the disciple that Jesus loved," is a strange way to indentify oneself. But it is also a strange way to identify someone else! There are clear evidences of eyewitness testimony, and much more. As mentioned above, I take the Beloved Disciple, the author of John's Gospel, to be John the Apostle, son of Zebedee.

Peter asks Jesus how John will die, and Jesus effectively tells him, "It's none of your business." Jesus says cryptically, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me," that is, to the cross (21:21).

John (or one of his close disciples who edited the Gospel) takes pains to quash a rumor that John wouldn't die. John emphasizes that Jesus' statement was a hypothetical ("if"), not an actual prediction. This was important, since John's Gospel was written towards the end of a long life. John didn't want people to be upset when he died, thinking that Jesus' prediction didn't come true.

The Written Testimony of an Eyewitness (21:24-25)

And now we come to the end of the Gospel.

"24  This 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." (21:24-25)

The "we" of verse 24 indicates that these two verses were not written by John himself, but are an attestation that John personally wrote the Gospel and they know from him personally that his "testimony" is true. Verse 25 explains that John's Gospel isn't a comprehensive recording of all of Jesus' acts and teachings. In a similar way, we were told at the end of chapter 20 of the reason for John's selection of events and teachings:

"These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (20:31)

Selections were made with one purpose in mind: to help people believe in Jesus and experience his life. The Gospel concludes with the author (or editor) musing -- with a bit of understandable exaggeration:

"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." (21:25)

But perhaps it's not so much of an exaggeration after all. Luke's Gospel covers "all that Jesus began to do and to teach" (Acts 1:1), but Jesus continues to do and teach through his apostles, and pastors, and Sunday school teachers, and people who love him even now. The living Christ is alive today continuing to write His story through our lives day by day.

Lessons for Disciples

John's Gospel: A Discipleship Journey with Jesus, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Entire study is available in paperback, Kindle, and PDF formats.

I see a number of lessons for us disciples in this final chapter of John's Gospel.

  1. Jesus may have performed the miraculous catch of fish to catch the disciples' attention. But there's more to it. Part depends on our perspective. We can be toiling away for hours, where just a few feet away is the Lord's provision, if we'll just listen and shift our focus.
  2. Jesus anticipates meeting with his disciples by fixing breakfast. It shows love and compassion -- as well as a desire to spend time with us. I think there's a lesson here about spending time with Jesus each day (21:7-14).
  3. This passage is also a reminder of Jesus the Provider, who supplied bread and fish to 5,000 people and to this band of men. He will provide for you!
  4. Peter's eagerness to come to Jesus is surely an example for us to emulate. It shows his deep love (21:7b).
  5. The story of Jesus restoring Peter by asking him to reaffirm his love even to the point of offending him, reminds us of the importance of repeated lessons, when we think to ourselves that we learned it the first time (21:15-17).
  6. The lesson is clear that Jesus can restore us to ministry and good reputation in his kingdom even after grievous sin. His grace is abundant to sinners who repent! (21:15-17).
  7. We see that Jesus knows our futures and can reveal some of that when it suits his purposes. Our lives are under his watchful care, the One who knows the end from the beginning (21:18-19).
  8. It's easy to misunderstand Jesus, and then repeat an error so many times that we believe it is true (like the mistake that John would live until Jesus returned). It behooves us to carefully study what the Scripture actually says, not what people say it says. The Bereans, we read, were of noble character because they "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11).

I want to say a final word to you, one who has studied John's Gospel along with me. We've been on a journey together and it has been good. Keep following the Master! Amen.


Lord Jesus, I've had such a good time studying John's Gospel after all these months. I'm going to miss it. And so will my sisters and brothers who have been studying with me. Thank you for teaching us. Thank you for the depth of your Word. Thank you for teaching us about glory and life and abiding -- and all the other themes of this Gospel. It has been rich! I pray that I will learn to incorporate in my life more fully a dependence upon you, a tender ear to discern your voice, and courage to obey you. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

Key Verses

"When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?' 'Yes, Lord,' he said, 'you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Feed my lambs.'" (John 21:15, NIV)

"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." (John 21:1-25, NIV)

End Notes

[928] The Sea of Galilee is known by different names in the Bible. Galilee is the name of the district. Gennesaret is the fertile plain at the north end of the lake (1 Maccabees 11:67; Luke 5:1; Josephus). Tiberias (6:1; 21:1) is Herod's capital city on the west shore. In the Old Testament it is known as the Sea of Chinnereth or Chinneroth (Numbers 34:11; Joshua 13:27; 12:3), after an ancient Canaanite town on the northwest shore (William W. Bueler, "Galilee, Sea of," ISBE 2:391-392).

[929] Nathanael, mentioned here and in 1:45-49, seems to be one of the apostles, or very closely associated with them. Since the ninth century, it has been proposed that Nathanael is the Bartholomew mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels, because: (1) John doesn't mention a Bartholomew, (2) Bartholomew is coupled with Philip in the Synoptic lists of the apostles, and (3) Bartholomew is mentioned immediately after Thomas here and in Acts 1:13. However, Church Fathers Chrysostom and Augustine saw him as a disciple outside the circle of the Twelve. We can't be sure (Victor R. Gordon, "Nathanael," ISBE 3:492).

[930] The verb is halieuō, "to fish," used only here in the New Testament (BDAG 44), from halieus, "sailor, fisherman," from hals, "salt" (BDAG 44), probably because the Greeks were saltwater fishermen and sailors.

[931] Here paidion is used "as a form of familiar address on the part of a respected person, who feels himself on terms of fatherly intimacy with those whom he addresses (BDAG 749, 3b).

[932] Carson, John, p. 670. Robertson, Word Pictures.

[933] In John's First Epistle, the apostle uses paidion to address his readers: "little children" (1 John 2:18). A similar term is used elsewhere in First John as well as in John 13:33 -- technion, a diminutive of teknon, "child," which could be rendered, "little child" (1 John 2:1, 12, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21). Paul uses it in Galatians 4:19 (BDAG 994).

[934] Morris, John, p. 862.

[935] The differences between the miracles are that: (1) In the early incident the nets began to break, here they held, but barely (21:11). (2) In Luke's account, they transferred the fish from the nets into two boats, while here they dragged the net ashore. (3) Luke's account takes place early in Jesus' ministry, while John's account takes place at the end. (4) In Luke's account Jesus directs them to put their nets out, while in John's account their nets seem to be out, but are to be put to the other side of the boat. Brown (John 2:1089-1091) sees John's and Luke's accounts as different traditions of the same event, but I disagree.

[936] "Outer garment" (NIV, ESV), "some clothes" (NRSV), "fisher's coat" (KJV) is ependytēs, "a garment put on over another garment, outer garment, coat" (BDAG 361).

[937] "Wrapped" (NIV), "put on" (NRSV, ESV), "girt" (KJV) is diazōnnymi, "tie around" (BDAG 228), used in 13:4-5 of the towel Jesus tied around himself when washing the disciples' feet. It is possible that Jesus is already wearing the outer garment loosely already and now cinches it up. Brown (John 2:1072) pictures it: "Clad only in his fisherman's smock, Peter tucks it into his cincture so that he can swim more easily, and dives into the water."

[938] "Fire of burning coals" (NIV, cf. KJV), "charcoal fire" (NRSV, ESV) is anthrakia (from which we get our term "anthracite" coal), "a charcoal fire" (BDAG 80), also at 18:18.

[939] "Have breakfast" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "dine" (KJV) is the verb aristaō. Since the time of Hippocrates, it has meant "eat breakfast," though it can also refer to any meal or any type of food (BDAG 131, 1).

[940] "Dared" (NIV), "durst" (KJV) is tolmaō, "dare, have the courage, be brave enough" (BDAG 1010, aα).

[941] See my short story, "Feed My Sheep" joyfulheart.com/easter/feed-sheep.htm

[942] Agapaō (which the NIV translates "truly love") is the word most often used in the New Testament for self-giving love. It is seldom found in classical Greek, and was given its unique content as God-like, unselfish love by its use in the New Testament Scriptures.

[943] Phileō (which the NIV translates "love") is the word commonly used for love for one's family or friends: "have affection for, like, consider someone a friend." But it is also used for the type of love the Father has for the Son (5:20) and his disciples (16:27) (BDAG 1056, 1).

[944] Probaton, "sheep," is used of cattle or small cattle in Greek, but not in the New Testament, where it is only used of sheep (BDAG 866).

[945] Arnion "little lamb," is the diminutive of arēn, "lamb" under a year old (Liddell-Scott). Danker says arnion can refer to "a sheep of any age, sheep, lamb" (BDAG 133).

[946] Poimainō means "to herd, act as a shepherd." Here it is used figuratively of people: "to watch out for other people, to shepherd," of activity that protects, rules, governs, fosters (BDAG 842, 2aα).

[947] Boskō, "feed" means specifically, "to tend to the needs of animals, herd, tend," probably linguistically related to bous, "ox, head of cattle, cow"(BDAG 181, 1).

[948] That the use of agapaō and phileō here is merely stylistic variation is argued effectively by Brown, John 2:1102-1103; Carson, John, pp. 676-678; Morris, John, pp. 872-874.

[949] Zōnnymi / zōnnuō BDAG 431), the imperfect active of customary action (Robertson, Word Pictures).

[950] So Rudolf Bultmann, The Gospel of John (Oxford: Blackwell, 1971), pp. 713-714; cited by Beasley-Murray, John, p. 408.

[951] "Stretch out/forth" is ekteinō, "to cause an object to extend to its full length in space, stretch out," here, of one who is crucified (BDAG 309, 1).

[952] Carson, John, p. 679, cites E. Haenchen, translated by R.W. Funk, Commentary on the Gospel of John (1984), 2:226-227) for a comprehensive listing of references. This language, for example, occurs in the so-called Epistle of Barnabas 12.4 (80-120 AD); Justin Martyr, First Apology 90 (155-157 AD); and the apocryphal Acts of Peter 38.  Secular writers, too, attest this usage, for example Epictetus: "You have stretched yourself in the manner of those crucified" (Discourses 3, 26, 22).

[953] In the late first century, Clement of Rome indicates that Peter was martyred (Corinthians 5). About 195 AD Tertullian says, "How happy is its church, on which apostles poured forth all their doctrine along with their blood! where Peter endures a passion like his Lord's, where Paul wins his crown in a death like John's [i.e., beheaded]..." (Against Heretics, 36). About 203-204 AD Tertullian says, "Then is Peter girt by another, when he is made fast to the cross" (Scorpiace 15), referring to our passage. Eusebius confirms that Peter was crucified under Nero (Church History 2.25.5). Later, the apocryphal Acts of Peter (150-200 AD) indicates that Peter was crucified upside down (Acts of Peter, 35-38).

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