John 21:10-17

Henry Mahan

(Vs. 10) The disciples landed their boat with the net full of fish dragging behind, ran to where Peter and the Master were standing beside a fire of coals, and all stood amazed and delighted before a complete meal of bread and fish prepared by the Lord. Before they were to dine and talk, their fish must be cared for; so the Master said, "Bring your fish to land."

(Vs. 11) Simon Peter (I'm sure all of the disciples helped him, but Peter was the leader) drew the net to shore and counted one hundred fifty-three great fish. Usually this many fish would break a net, but there was not a tear in it (Luke 5:4-9). Everything connected with this incident is miraculous in order to strengthen the faith of these disciples who would carry the gospel to the world (Heb. 2:3-4).

(Vs. 12) Evidently not much conversation had taken place, only the instructions of the Lord. The disciples were silently stunned and awed in His presence and before His great power. They landed the boat, stood about in silent wonder observing Him and the meal He had provided, emptied the net, and counted their catch as He had instructed them; and now He said to them, "Come and eat breakfast." None of them asked any questions, for they knew that it was the Lord. Their doubts, unbelief, and questions about His resurrection were all resolved. Their Master was again with them, providing for them and serving them. They were satisfied and happy. They knew it was the Lord Himself.

(Vs. 13-14) The Lord took the bread and fish, which He had prepared and gave it to them. It is so important to observe that the banquet of mercy is provided and served to hungry sinners by the blessed Lord Himself (Psalm 23). Christ, Himself, is the fountain of all grace and the source of all mercy. John Flavel wrote that (1) all spiritual blessings are in and through Christ, (2) those blessings are ours by a living union with Him, (3) that union with Christ is through faith, and (4) faith is the gift of God and comes by hearing the Word. This was the third time He appeared to His disciples since His resurrection (John 20:19; John 20:26; John 21:7).

(Vs. 15) After they had finished eating and had refreshed themselves, the Lord singled out Simon Peter and said to him, "Lovest thou Me more than these?" This setting was similar to the one in which Peter had denied the Lord. It was around a fire, and Peter denied the Lord three times. Some suggest the Lord pointed to the boats, the nets, and the sea, which had been Peter's life and occupation. Now his life was to be Christ and his occupation to preach and to feed the Lord's sheep. Others say Christ asked if Peter really loved Him more than THE OTHER DISCIPLES loved Him; for Peter had said, "Though all shall be offended because of Thee, yet I will never be offended" (Matt. 26:33).

Peter did not hesitate nor boast of the degree of his love; he simply replied, "Lord, you know that I love you." With modesty and humility, yet acknowledging the omniscience of Christ and his own affection for Christ, he declared his love for the Master. "Feed My lambs," Christ said. Feed the new-born, the weak believer, and the Lord's little children (I Peter 5:1-2).

(Vs. 16) The second question is a little different from the first in that the Lord left out, "more than these," and simply asked, "Do you love Me?" Peter replied in the same way as before, as if to say, "What more can I say or do? You know that I love you." "Feed My sheep"–both the sheep of Israel and the sheep among the Gentiles (Ezek. 34:1-6).

(Vs. 17) Peter was grieved when the Lord asked him the third time, "Lovest thou Me?" It has been suggested that the Lord asked this question three times because Peter had denied Him three times. I'm sure that the memory of that incident added to Peter's grief that the Lord should keep repeating this same question. Peter appealed to the Lord's complete knowledge of all things, of all men's hearts and thoughts, and replied, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I do love you." This is the vital issue and question of questions for all professed Christians, "Do you love Christ?" Not, "do you love the word, the doctrine, the church, the law, the people of God?" though you certainly will if you love Christ. But do you love HIM? This is where life and hope and grace are born–love for Christ (I Cor. 16:22). Again the Lord said, "Feed My sheep." It may be observed from the repetition of this phrase following Peter's declaration of love for Christ that the only proper persons to feed the Lord's sheep are THOSE WHO TRULY LOVE HIM! There are pretended shepherds who feed themselves and in time of trouble leave the flock, or who feed goats and not sheep, or who feed them not the true bread. But since the work is so laborious, the opposition from the religious world so great, the reproach of the world so constant, and conflict with powers of darkness so real, only TRUE LOVERS OF CHRIST faithfully perform the work of feeding the sheep. They are faithful to preach and teach the word because they love Christ, they love the gospel of His grace, and they love His sheep. They also know that God will bless, honor, and prosper His preached word (Isa. 55:11). They are motivated by Christ's love for them and their love for Him (II Cor. 5:9-15).

Henry Mahan
Ashland, Ky.