[25]   Epilogue (21:1-25)

Section G. Epilogue (21:1-25)

o        Some believe the Gospel ends at the end of chapter 20. But there is no manuscript of this Gospel without chapter 21. This chapter ends with a confident statement that the mission to the world will be the means by which many are saved. It is a fuller ending.


[G1]    21:1-14........... The miraculous draught of fish

21:1     Sea of Tiberias (official name after the Roman emperor) is the Sea of Galilee (popular name).

21:3     Peter’s proposal signifies his thought of turning back to their former occupation. The general impression is that they acted like men without a purpose.

21:5     The question appears to expect a negative answer: “You haven’t caught any fish, have you?”

21:7     The impulsive Peter threw his coat around him, probably to want to be sufficiently dressed when he reached the shore to give the usual religious greeting.

21:8     The boat was 200 cubits (100 yards) from the shore. Because the disciples could not lift the net, they dragged the net full of fish behind the boat to the shore.

21:10   The prepare breakfast did not contain enough food for all so Jesus requested for more fish.

21:12   There was something unusual about Jesus’ appearance.


 [G2]   21:15-23......... Peter restored

Before, in the presence of the enemy, he denied his Lord three times; now, in the presence of friends, he affirmed three times that he loved his Lord. This represents the restoration of Peter.

21:15   The word “these” is not defined. The question might mean: [the first one is most probable]

(a) Do you love me more than these men love me? Peter had explicitly professed a devotion to Jesus that exceeded that of the other apostles (13:37; 15:12-13). It may be that Jesus was asking Peter whetherhe still thought that his love for his Lord exceeded that of all the others?

(b) Do you love me more than you love these men? Where did Peter’s supreme affection lie? With his companions or with Jesus whom he denied?

(c) Do you love me more than you love these things (probably the fishing equipment which symbolizes an entire way of life)? Peter was challenged as to his whole future.

Peter used the same verb for “love” (Gr. phileo) all three times, but Jesus used agapeo the first two times and phileo the third time. This fact is explained by 3 different views.

(a) A first group of commentators believe that the word in the first two questions denotes a higher kind of love, while Peter’s answer points to a lower form of love. Jesus was questioning Peter as to whether he had a profound love for Him, and Peter, not daring to claim so much, replied that he was fond of Jesus. Then in His third question, Jesus descended to Peter’s level.

They believe that agapeo denotes a deep-seated, thorough-going, intelligent and purposeful love, involving the entire personality (not only emotions but also the mind and the will); while phileo denotes spontaneous natural affection involving emotions but not the intellect or the will. Some describe agapeo as the sacrificial love and phileo as the friendly love.

(b) A second group of commentator reverse the meaning of the two words. Jesus was inquiring whether Peter had a rather cool affection (agapeo) for him and Peter replied that he had more, he had a warm and personal love (phileo). Then in the last question, Jesus rose to Peter’s word.

They understand agapeo to mean “the esteem existing between benefactor and recipient” and phileo as “the personal affection existing between members of the same family.” The Vulgate (Latin translation of the Bible) regards agapeo as “less expressive of emotions of tenderness, of personal feeling and affection, than that verb used by Peter in his reply.” Agapeo involves more of the head than of the heart while phileo involves the warmest and most tender affection.

(c) A third group of commentators believe that there is no significant difference because: (1) It is only a stylistic variation, based on John’s habit of using different words without real difference in meaning. For example, the Beloved Disciple is mostly called “on egapa” and once “on ephilei” (20:2), different words for the same person. (2) The original conversation was probably in Aramaic so that the choice of words in Greek would only be John’s. (3) Peter seemed concerned that his love was called into question, not about the precise quality of love. (4) The commentators in early church did not treat the variation of words here as significant.

After each of Peter’s answers, Jesus made a slightly different charge: (1) feed my lambs, (2) take care of my sheep, (3) feed my sheep. Some think that the change in words indicates that Peter was charged to do more things than one. However, most take the variation as no more than stylistic. There is only one charge: Peter was being commissioned to tend the flock of Christ.

21:17   Peter was very sad because he was asked the same question three times (clearly shown in the text), not because of a change in the verb used. His sorrow at the threefold question impelled him to a somewhat fuller reply. But there was no “yes, Lord” like the two previous replies. He relied on the Lord’s intimate knowledge of all things.

21:18   I tell you the truth, again. In youth, Peter fastened his own belt and went where he willed. In old age, he would be restrained, and no longer master of his movement. The stretching forth of the hands was held in the early church to refer to Peter’s crucifixion. Tertullian tells us that Peter was crucified in Rome under Nero. Eusebius reports that Peter was crucified head downward at his own request but most scholars find little reason for accepting this.

21:19   The word “follow” is in present tense meaning “keep on following”. Peter had followed Christ, but not continuously in the past. For the future, he was to follow steadfastly.

21:22   It is no business of Peter’s what is to happen to the other. Even if Jesus wills that John remained alive until He returns, what is that to Peter? Again, “follow” is in present imperative.

21:23   John wants us to be clear on what Jesus said. His “but” is a strong adversative.


 [G3]   21:24-25......... Authentication

Here, the author is supported by others who can vouch for the truthfulness of his testimony in v.24 and he then goes on to write v.25 in his own name.

21:24   This is a testimony to the reliability of the Gospel’s author. The use of the present tense may be another indication that he was still living. “These things” refers to the whole book.


§         The only thing about which Jesus questioned Peter prior to commissioning him to tend the flock was love. This is the basic qualification for Christian service. Other qualities may be desirable, but love is completely indispensable.

§         Our knowledge of the truth is at best partial and we must remain humble (v.25).


Hymns of Life no.436 “Dear Lord and Father of mankind” (Hymns of Universal Praise no.361)

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,

Forgive our foolish ways.

Recloth us in our rightful mind;

In purer lives Thy service find,

In deeper rev’rence praise.

O sabbath rest by Galilee!

O calm of hills above!

Where Jesus knelt to share with thee

The silence of eternity,

Interpreted by love.

Breathe through the pulses of desire

Thy coolness and Thy balm,

Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;

Speak thru earthquake, wind, and fire,

O still, small voice of calm.