3rd Sunday of Easter (C)

///John 21:1-19 – Peter’s Restoration – 3rd Sunday of Easter

///John 21:1-19 – Peter’s Restoration – 3rd Sunday of Easter

No posts found.

Peter’s Restoration

Homilies | John 21:1-19

The Context

Gospel commentary excerpts from a variety of sources.
Click on links to view original source material.
      Matthew Mark Luke John
152 Resurrected Jesus appears to Apostles resurrection appearance 16:9–12 24:36–43 20:19–20
153 Great Commission resurrection appearance 28:16–20 16:14–18
154 Doubting Thomas resurrection appearance 20:24–29

155 Catch of 153 fish resurrection appearance / miracle 21:1–14
Peter and Jesus 21:15-19

156 Ascension of Jesus resurrection appearance 16:19 24:50–53
Click on chevron banner to open/close content


SERMON WRITER Chapter 20 tells the story of the resurrection and Jesus’ appearances to Mary and the disciples. In 20:30-31, the Fourth Evangelist stated the purpose of this Gospel and concluded. Commentators generally agree that chapter 21 is an epilogue, although “there is no evidence that the work ever circulated without this chapter” (Bruce, 398).

Seven Disciples (vv 2-3)

Together… going fishing


2 Thomas. ch. 20:28. Nathanael. ch. 1:45–51. Cana. ch. 2:1, 11; 4:46. Jos. 19:28, Kanah. the sons. Mat. 4:21, 22.

3 I go. 2 Ki. 6:1–7. Mat. 4:18–20. Lu. 5:10, 11. Ac. 18:3; 20:34. 1 Co. 9:6. 1 Th. 2:9. 2 Th. 3:7–9. and that. Lu. 5:5. 1 Co. 3:7.


Seven Disciples mentioned

SERMON WRITER – Seven disciples are mentioned (v. 2) without explaining why only seven:

  • Simon Peter confessed Jesus as “the holy one of God” (6:69), but is famous for denying Jesus (18:15-18, 25-27). He has been deeply flawed, but becomes a different man after the resurrection. He is the leader of the disciples.
  • Thomas is famous for doubting the resurrection (20:25), but when Jesus appears to him Thomas confessed, “My Lord and my God!” (20:28).
  • Nathanael is mentioned only in this Gospel, and is best known for doubting that anything good could come out of Nazareth (1:46)—but after meeting Jesus Nathanael confessed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel” (1:49).
  • The sons of Zebedee are mentioned frequently in the Synoptics, but only here in the Gospel of John. Their names are James and John.
  • “and two others” (v. 2). One of these is “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (v. 7—see also 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20). This Gospel never names this disciple, and many scholars believe him to be the author of this Gospel.

Returning to their boats

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – Some scholars interpret the action of returning to their old occupation as an indication that these men were abandoning the path they had taken on the shores of this same lake almost three years earlier.  They suggest that the Apostles were returning to their old way of life, apparently unaware of what Jesus’ commission meant when He spoke to them in the Upper Room on Resurrection Sunday.  However, they must have known not only because of the miracle of the Resurrection event but from the knowledge they received through Jesus’ visitations and the spiritual gifts He gave them.  On Resurrection Sunday, He effused them with His spirit (Jn 20:22), gave the gift of His power and authority to forgive or bind sin (Jn 20:23), and He opened their minds and hearts to the prophetic passages of the Old Testament (Lk 24:44-49).  This knowledge is what called them in faith and obedience to return to the Galilee to meet with Jesus where He first called them to discipleship.

SERMON WRITER – When people do not know what to do, they do what they know—turn to the comfort of familiar activity. Peter is a fisherman, accustomed to the busy, physically demanding life of the sea. We should expect him to grow restless when not working and to welcome the busyness of boat and nets. He and the other disciples take up their nets, row their boats, and look for fish. Very natural! And yet, there is danger here too. Immersed in what is familiar, people sometimes fail to do other essential tasks. Will that happen to these disciples? Will they return to ministry? Jesus intervenes to insure that they will not be lost permanently to their old ways.

Catch of Fish (vv. 7-8, 11)

They were not able to pull [the net] in because of the number of fish


7 that disciple. ver. 20, 24; ch. 13:23; 19:26; 20:2. It is. ch. 20:20, 28. Ps. 118:23. Mar. 11:3. Lu. 2:11. Ac. 2:36; 10:36. 1 Co. 15:47. Ja. 2:1. when. Ca. 8:7. Mat. 14:28, 29. Lu. 7:47. 2 Co. 5:14.

8 cubits. De. 3:11.

11 and for. Lu. 5:6–8. Ac. 2:41.


Significance of 153 Fish

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – Much ink has been spilled by scholars in the attempt to answer the question concerning the symbolic significance of Peter hauling ashore the net full of this specific number of 153 fish.  Most scholars recognize that the fish are symbolic of the souls harvested by the Church for Christ.  St. Jerome noted that Greek zoologists had determined that there were 153 kinds of fish in the Sea of Galilee, which he felt was symbolic of all the different tribes of the earth being brought back into God’s covenant family.  A parallel to this theory is in Matthew 13:47 where Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a dragnet which, when thrown into the sea, gathers fish “of every kind” indicating the universality of the Christian mission.

Jesus’ generosity in the Gospel of John

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – The enormous quantity of fish in verses 7-8 is symbolic of the abundance of God’s blessings and prefigures the abundant harvest of souls these “fishers of men” will bring into the New Covenant Church, symbolized by Peter’s boat.  It is a promise Jesus made to them when He told Simon-Peter: Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men (Lk 5:10b).  This promise of the superabundance of blessings in the New Covenant also recalls the other acts and promises of Jesus’ generosity:

  1. The gift of the best new wine at the wedding at Cana in John 2:1-12
  2. The miracle of the loaves and fishes in John 6:1-15
  3. The promised spiritual blessings of the “Living Water” in John 4:14 and 7:37
  4. The life which the Good Shepherd promises to the faithful in John10:10
  5. The blessings the Holy Spirit is promised to pour out on the New Covenant in the Last Supper discourse in John chapters 14-17.

Significance of the net not breaking

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – It is significant that this time the net does not break as it did in the first miraculous catch of fish in Luke 5:6.  This time Jesus Christ is in charge of the catch!  The Fathers of the Church saw Peter’s boat as symbolic of the universal Church.  She may be tossed on stormy seas, but it is Jesus’ will that she should prevail and bring in an abundant harvest of souls.  It is why the main body of the building of a Catholic church is called a “nave,” the Latin word for “boat.”

Breakfast on the Beach (vv. 9-13)

They saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread


9 they saw. 1 Ki. 19:5, 6. Mat. 4:11. Mar. 8:3. Lu. 12:29–31.

11 and for. Lu. 5:6–8. Ac. 2:41.

12 Come. Ac. 10:41. dine. The word αρισταν, like prandere, was used for any meat taken before the cæna, or supper. durst. ch. 4:27; 16:19. Ge. 32:29, 30. Mar. 9:32. Lu. 9:45.

13 Lu. 24:42, 43. Ac. 10:41.


It is the Lord!

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY –  Suddenly, the seven disciples (Peter, John and James Zebedee, Thomas, Nathanael, and two others) saw Jesus on the shore.  He had prepared a charcoal fire and was cooking fish for them.  It was the disciple who called himself “the disciple Jesus loved” (identified by the Church Fathers as St. John Zebedee, the author of the Gospel of John) who told Peter it was the Christ who called to them.  In his excitement and his desire to be with the Master, Peter leaped into the water and swam to shore.  The old life was no longer satisfying for Peter; he longed to be with Christ.  Some scholars point out that it was John who first saw Jesus because, being the more “spiritual” disciple, he was looking with the eyes of faith.  Another possibility is that the much younger man had better eyesight than his older companions, or he was at a vantage point where he had a better view of Jesus standing on the shore.

Two Charcoal Fires

SERMON WRITER The only other time that we find this word anthrakian in the New Testament is when Peter warmed himself over a charcoal fire as he betrayed Jesus (18:18, 25-27). Now Jesus will give him a chance to redeem hims

Feed My Sheep (vv. 15-17)

Do you love me?


15 son. ver. 16, 17; ch. 1:42, Jona. Mat. 16:17, Bar-jona. lovest. ch. 8:42; 14:15–24; 16:27. Mat. 10:37; 25:34–45. 1 Co. 16:21, 22. 2 Co. 5:14, 15. Ga. 5:6. Ep. 6:24. 1 Pe. 1:8. 1 Jno. 4:19; 5:1. more. ver. 7. Mat. 26:33, 35. Mar. 14:29. thou knowest. ver. 17. 2 Sa. 7:20. 2 Ki. 20:3. He. 4:13. Re. 2:23. Feed. Ps. 78:70–72. Je. 3:15; 23:4. Eze. 34:2–10, 23. Ac. 20:28. 1 Ti. 4:15, 16. He. 13:20. 1 Pe. 2:25; 5:1–4. lambs. Ge. 33:13. Is. 40:11. Mat. 18:10, 11. Lu. 22:32. Ro. 14:1; 15:1. 1 Co. 3:1–3; 8:11. Ep. 4:14. He. 12:12, 13. 1 Pe. 2:2.

16 the second. ch. 18:17, 25. Mat. 26:72. my sheep. ch. 10:11–16, 26, 27. Ps. 95:7; 100:3. Zec. 13:7. Mat. 25:32. Lu. 15:3–7; 19:10. Ac. 20:28. He. 13:20. 1 Pe. 2:25.

17 the third. ch. 13:38; 18:27. Mat. 26:73, 74. Re. 3:19. grieved. 1 Ki. 17:18. La. 3:33. Mat. 26:75. Mar. 14:72. Lu. 22:61, 62. 2 Co. 2:4–7; 7:8–11. Ep. 4:30. 1 Pe. 1:6. Lord. ch. 2:24, 25; 16:30; 18:4. Je. 17:10. Ac. 1:24; 15:8. Re. 2:23. thou knowest that. ver. 15. Jos. 22:22. 1 Ch. 29:17. Job 31:4–6. Ps. 7:8, 9; 17:3. 2 Co. 1:12. Feed. ver. 15, 16; ch. 12:8; 14:15; 15:10. Mat. 25:40. 2 Co. 8:8, 9. 2 Pe. 1:12–15; 3:1. 1 Jno. 3:16–24. 3 Jno. 7–8.


More than these?

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – It is not clear what Jesus means when He asks Peter “do you love me more than these?”  There are two possible interpretations:

  1. Does Peter love Jesus more than the other Apostles?
  2. If Jesus is gesturing to the boat with the catch of fish, is Jesus asking Peter if he loves Him more than Peter’s old way of life?

The first possibility is preferred by some Bible translators who include the words “more than these others do” in their translationinterpreting Jesus’ question to be is Peter’s love for Jesus greater than the other Apostles’ love for Him. However, all the interpretations agree that Jesus is asking Peter to declare his ultimate loyalty.  Perhaps Peter was remembering Jesus testing of the strength of his commitment when he, in writing to the ordained ministers of the Church in 1 Peter 5:1-4 urges them:

So I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.  Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint by willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.  Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock.  And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Clipart by Fr. Richard Lonsdale © 2000. Click image to view more clipart for this Sunday.

Peter’s triple profession

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – Peter’s triple profession of love for Jesus in John 21:15-17 forgives Peter’s triple denial, and once again Jesus invests Peter as the chief Shepherd of the Good Shepherd’s flock.  A three-times repetition oath is a common Semitic practice and recalls Abraham’s triple covenant formula with Yahweh in Genesis 23:3-20.


The dialogue of Peter’s triple repetition investiture uses several Greek synonyms. There are two different nouns for “sheep,” two different verbs for “feed” or “tend,” and two different verbs for “know” and “love” (IBGE, vol. IV, page 318).

  • The first word used for “love” is apape [agapas], a self-sacrificing, spiritual love; it is the kind of love God has for humanity and the kind of love Jesus has commanded us to have for each other.  The second word for “love” is phileo [philo/phileis], the love of family or friends.
  • The two nouns used for sheep are arnion, translated as “lamb” and probation/probate which means “sheep.”  Arnion only appears this one time in the New Testament except for the Book of Revelation where it is used 30 times for the resurrected Christ.  Some scholars translate this word as “little lamb.”  It is an archaic Greek word not often used in Greek texts.  Otherwise, the word for lamb used in John’s Gospel is amnos in 1:28 and 36, and in the Gospels and other books of the New Testament the noun aren is used for lamb and probation/probata for sheep.
  • The verb boskein/boske is used both literally and figuratively for feeding animals [providing nourishment], while the verb poimainein/poimaine includes shepherding duties toward the flock such as guiding, guarding, and ruling, whether literally or figuratively.  A quote from the 1st century AD Jewish theologian Philo of Alexandria employs both verbs, “Those who feed [boskein] supply nourishment…but those who tend [poimainein] have the power of rulers and governors” (Philo, Quod Deterius Potiori Insidiari Soleat, viii #25).
  • The other verbs are oida/odias and ginoskein/ginoskeis, meaning to know.  The word ginoskein often appears in the Greek text in the context of covenant knowledge, which is the intimate knowledge of God in the covenant relationship.

What then is significant in the use of the two verbs for feed or nourish and to guide or rule as well as the use of the two nouns for lambs and sheep?  The two verbs boskein and poimainein (to nourish and to rule) combine with the two words for lamb and sheep to express the fullness of the pastoral duty assigned to Peter as Vicar of Christ’s Church.  He guides and feeds the lambs who are the laity, and feeds and rules the sheep who rule over the lambs and are the members of the ordained ministerial priesthood.

Some scholars interpret the lambs as the spiritually immature and the sheep as the spiritually mature members of the congregation, but this interpretation does not take into account the difference in meaning between the verbs for “feed” and “rule.” Philo’s quote is an important guide to the use of these two verbs.  As noted above, Philo of Alexandria (a contemporary of St. John) wrote, “Those who feed [boskein] supply nourishment … but those who tend [poimainein] have the power of rulers and governors.”

Click on chevron banner to open/close content

Peter’s Self-Sacrificing Love

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – In the Greek language, the word agape defined a spiritual kind of love as opposed to eros, physical love, or philio, brotherly or family love.  However, Christians changed the meaning of the word agape to define Jesus’ unique, self-sacrificial love for humanity.  In the first two exchanges, Jesus uses the verb form apage, which for Christians signifies Jesus’ self-sacrificial love and the kind of self-sacrificing love with which He calls Peter to love His Church.  However, Peter responds each time with the word philo, meaning brotherly love or love of family.  What might Peter’s response indicate?  Some scholars contend that the use of the two the verbs for “love” means nothing significant, but St. John never uses double words or double meaning words without some hidden significance.  It is possible that the difference in meaning between these two verbs for “love” signifies that Jesus is calling Peter to a higher form of love, but Peter is not yet ready to commit himself to that kind of self-sacrificing love.

The question is will Peter grow spiritually mature enough to commit himself to that kind of agape = self-sacrificing love that Jesus encourages him to give?  The answer is “Yes.”

  • The Book of Acts records Peter’s transformation after the miracle of Pentecost in his fearless preaching of the Gospel.
  • The Acts of Apostles also record Peter’s courageous testimony before the same Jewish court that condemned Jesus as well as other actions that testify to the strength and force of his commitment to the New Covenant Church.
  • Peter’s letters to the Church in 1 and 2 Peter demonstrate that he more than rose to the level of self-sacrificing love and fulfilled Jesus’ calling, not only in his ministry by spreading the Gospel of Salvation and in leading the Kingdom of the Church, but in his martyrdom.


SOURCE: James Wetzstein, Lutheran pastor.


FR. GEORGE SMIGA – How much frustration do we have in our life because the people in our life are not the people we want them to be.

  • We want our leaders in the church and in government to be wise and to anticipate problems and to solve them before those problems hurt us.  But very frequently those leaders fall short.  They get behind the curve and they appear confused or inadequate.
  • We want our spouse to be understanding and attentive. But many times we experience him or her as harsh or preoccupied.
  • We want our boss to be creative and flexible. But many times all that is asked of us is attention to routine detail.
  • If only our children would be more motivated; if only our parents could be less stubborn; if only our friends would be on time.

In matters large and small the people in our life often fall short of who we want them to be.  And the message that comes to us from Jesus’ action with Peter is that we are still to accept them as the people that they are.  We are to love them for the goodness that they offer us rather than criticize them for the goodness that they lack.

Peter’s Death Foretold (v 18-19)

“You will stretch out your hands…”


18 but. ch. 13:36. Ac. 12:3, 4. another. Ac. 21:11. thou wouldest not. ch. 12:27, 28. 2 Co. 5:4.

19 by. Phi. 1:20. 1 Pe. 4:11–14. 2 Pe. 1:14. Follow. ver. 22; ch. 12:26; 13:36, 37. Nu. 14:24. 1 Sa. 12:20. Mat. 10:38; 16:21–25; 19:28. Mar. 8:33–38. Lu. 9:22–26.


Follow Me

SERMON WRITER – Earlier Peter said, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you” (13:37).  Jesus responded by predicting that Peter would deny him three times (13:38).  Now Jesus says that Peter will glorify God by his death just as Jesus glorified God by his (v. 19; see also 7:39; 12:16; 13:31-32; 14:13; 17:1-5). It is likely that Peter was martyred during Nero’s persecution of Christians in 65 A.D.—prior to the writing of this Gospel.  Legend has it that Peter asked to be crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to emulate his Lord, but evidence for this is weak.

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – The first time Jesus called to Peter to “follow me” was after the huge catch of fish on the Sea of Galilee years earlier (Mt 4:19; Mk 1:17).  Now He uses the same words again, but this time there is a double meaning to the command “Follow me.”  Peter will indeed “follow” Jesus and spread the Gospel message across the known world, but he will also follow Jesus not only in imitation of His life but also His death.

When did John write his Gospel?

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – Some scholars believe the fourth Gospel was written several decades after Peter’s death and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.  However other scholars, including the Navarre theologians and Dr. Scott Hahn, believe John’s Gospel was completed before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 since there is no mention of that great tragedy that was the end of the world for the Jews and fulfilled Jesus’ prophecy.  It is highly unlikely that the Gospel writers would have failed to declare that what Jesus prophesized about Jerusalem and the Temple came true in AD 70; therefore, the destruction must have occurred after their Spirit inspired Gospels, as the Church Fathers later testified.



AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – Peter, the first Pope [Papa] of the Universal [Catholic] Church will demonstrate his agape love for Jesus when he is crucified upside down in Rome.  St. Peter was crucified upside down at his own request because he said he was unworthy to be crucified in the same position as his Lord (Eusebius, Church History, III.1.1; and Origen, Commentary on Genesis, vol. III).  Scholars debate the exact date, but most accept that it was in AD 67.  St. Jerome testifies that after leaving Judea Peter spent seven years with the Christian community in Antioch, Syria and then left for Rome where he served as Bishop of Rome for twenty-five years (Jerome, De vir. ill. c.1).  The Church testifies: “Christ sent the Apostles as he himself had been sent by the Father, and then through the Apostles, made their successors the bishops, sharers in his consecration and mission” (Vatican II, Presbyterorum Ordinis 2).  It was in Rome that St. Peter, as prophesized by Jesus in John 21:18, stretched out his hands upon a wooden cross and suffered martyrdom for his faith, stepping across the threshold of this life and following His Lord and Savior into a blessed eternity.



Depiction of St. Peter’s Death

Our Deaths Give Glory to God

– We may wish to continue forever, speaking, acting, making, sharing life, and being part of this world. Yet all lives come to an end. The depiction of the martyrdom of St Peter as if it were the work of carers, who look after an old man, speaks of the true purpose of God. He it is who binds us up, takes away our freedom, and wraps us up for the new life. If we live in faith and hope, then no matter who our death comes to us, sudden or not, peaceful, or violent, understood or while we are unaware, that death will give glory to God. Meanwhile, come and follow him.

CROSS REFERENCES SOURCE: B. Blayney, Thomas Scott, and R.A. Torrey with John Canne, Browne, The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, vol. 2 (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, n.d.).

The Different Responses
of Peter and John

Chrysostom: When they recognized him, the disciples Peter and John again exhibited their different temperaments. The one was more fervent, the other more contemplative. The one was ready to go, the other more penetrating. John is the one who first recognized Jesus, but Peter is the first to come to him. HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 87.2.

SOURCE: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Luke), Edited by Thomas C. Oden, InterVarsity Press ©2005, Used with permission.

John 21:1-11

1. After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.

2. There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.

3. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.

4. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.

5. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.

6. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

7. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.

8. And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.

9. As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.

10. Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.

11. Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxii) The preceding words of the Evangelist seem to indicate the end of the book; but He goes on farther to give an account of our Lord’s appearance by the sea of Tiberias: After these things Jesus shewed Himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvii) He says, Afterwards, because He did not go continually with His disciples as before; and, manifested Himself, because His body being incorruptible, it was a condescension to allow Himself to be seen. He mentions the place, to shew that our Lord had taken away a good deal of their fear, and that they no longer kept within doors, though they had gone to Galilee to avoid the persecution of the Jews.

BEDE. The Evangelist, after his wont, first states the thing itself, and then says how it took place: And on this wise shewed He Himself.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvii) As our Lord was not with them regularly, and the Spirit was not given them, and they had received no commission, and had nothing to do, they followed the trade of fishermen: And on this wise shewed He Himself. There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee; he who was called by Philip, and the sons of Zebedee, i. e. James and John, and two other of His disciples. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing.

GREGORY. (Hom.) It may be asked, why Peter, who was a fisherman before his conversion, returned to fishing, when it is said, No man putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for kingdom of God. (Luke 9:62.).

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxii) If the disciples had done this after the death of Jesus, and before His resurrection, we should have imagined that they did it in despair. But now after that He has risen from the grave, after seeing the marks of His wounds, after receiving, by means of His breathing, the Holy Ghost, all at once they become what they were before, fishers, not of men, but of fishes. We must remember then that they were not forbidden by their Apostleship from earning their livelihood by a lawful craft, provided they had no other means of living. For if the blessed Paul used not that power which he had with the rest of the preachers of the Gospel, as they did, but went a warfare upon his own resources, lest the Gentiles, who were aliens from the name of Christ, might be offended at a doctrine apparently venal; if, educated in another way, he learnt a craft he never knew before, that, while the teacher worked with his own hands, the hearer might not be burdened; much more might Peter, who had been a fisherman, work at what he knew, if he had nothing else to live upon at the time. But how had he not, some one will ask, when our Lord promises, Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you? (Matt. 6:33) Our Lord, we answer, fulfilled this promise, by bringing them the fishes to catch: for who else brought them? He did not bring upon them that poverty which obliged them to go fishing, except in order to exhibit a miracle1.

GREGORY. (Hom. lxxxiv.) The craft which was exercised without sin before conversion, was no sin after it. Wherefore after his conversion Peter returned to fishing; but Matthew sat not down again for the receipt of custom (ad telonii negotium resedit). For there are some businesses which cannot or can hardly be carried on without sin; and these cannot be returned to after conversion.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvii) The other disciples followed Peter: They say unto him, We also go with thee; for from this time they were all bound together; and they wished too to see the fishing: They went forth and entered into a ship immediately. And that night they caught nothing. They fished in the night, from fear.

GREGORY. (Hom.) The fishing was made to be very unlucky, in order to raise their astonishment at the miracle after: And that night they caught nothing.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvii) In the midst of their labour and distress, Jesus presented Himself to them: But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. He did not make Himself known to them immediately, but entered into conversation; and first He speaks after human fashion: Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? as if He wished to beg some of them. They answered, No. He then gives them a sign to know Him by: And He said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. The recognition of Him brings out Peter and John in their different tempers of mind; the one fervid, the other sublime; the one ready, the other penetrating. John is the first to recognise our Lord: Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord; Peter is the first to come to Him: Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto Him, for he was naked.

BEDE. The Evangelist alludes to himself here the same way he always does. He recognised our Lord either by the miracle, or by the sound of His voice, or the association of former occasions on which He found them fishing. Peter was naked in comparison with the usual dress he wore, in the sense in which we say to a person whom we meet thinly clad, You are quite bare. Peter was hare for convenience sake, as fishermen are in fishing.

THEOPHYLACT. Peter’s girding himself is a sign of modesty. He girt himself with a linen coat, such as Thamian and Tyrian fishermen throw over them, when they have nothing else on, or even over their other clothes.

BEDE. He went to Jesus with the ardour with which he did every thing: And did cast himself into the sea. And the other disciples came in a little ship. We must not understand here that Peter walked on the top of the water, but either swam, or walked through the water, being very near the land: For they were not far from land, but as it were about two hundred cubits.

GLOSS. A parenthesis; for it follows, dragging the net with fishes. The order is, The other disciples came in a little ship, dragging the net with fishes.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvii) Another miracle follows: As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. He no longer works upon already existing materials, but in a still more wonderful way; shewing that it was only in condescension1 that He wrought His miracles upon existing matter before His crucifixion.

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxii) We must not understand that the bread was laid on the coals, but read it as if it stood, They saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on the coals; and they saw bread.

THEOPHYLACT. To shew that it was no vision, He bade them take of the fish they had caught. Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. Another miracle follows; viz. that the net was not broken by the number of fish: Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxii) Mystically, in the draught of fishes He signified the mystery1 of the Church, such as it will be at the final resurrection of the dead. And to make this clearer, it is put near the end of the book. The number seven, which is the number of the disciples who were fishing, signifies the end of time; for time is counted by periods of seven days.

THEOPHYLACT. In the night time before the presence of the sun, Christ, the Prophets took nothing; for though they endeavoured to correct the people, yet these often fell into idolatry.

GREGORY. (Hom. xxiv.) It may be asked, why after His resurrection He stood on the shore to receive the disciples, whereas before He walked on the sea? The sea signifies the world, which is tossed about with various causes of tumults, and the waves of this corruptible life; the shore by its solidity figures the rest eternal. The disciples then, inasmuch as they were still upon the waves of this mortal life, were labouring on the sea; but the Redeemer having by His resurrection thrown off the corruption of the flesh, stood upon the shore.

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxii) The shore is the end of the sea, and therefore signifies the end of the world. The Church is here typified as she will be at the end of the world, just as other draughts of fishes typified her as she is now. Jesus before did not stand on the shore, but went into a ship which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. In a former draught the nets are not thrown to the right, or to the left, so that the good or the bad should be typified alone, but indifferently: Let down your nets for a draught, (Luke 5:4) meaning that the good and bad were mixed together. But here it is, Cast the net on the right side of the ship; to signify those who should stand on the right hand, the good. The one our Lord did at the beginning of His ministry, the other after His resurrection, shewing therein that the former draught of fishes signified the mixture of bad and good, which composes the Church at present; the latter the good alone, which it will contain in eternity, when the world is ended, and the resurrection of the dead completed. But they who belong to the resurrection of life, i. e. to the right hand, and are caught within the net of the Christian name, shall only appear on the shore, i. e. at the end of the world, after the resurrection: wherefore they were not able to draw the net into the ship, and unload the fishes, as they were before. The Church keeps these of the right hand, after death, in the sleep of peace, as it were in the deep, till the net come to shore. That the first draught was taken in two little ships, the last two hundred cubits from land, a hundred and a hundred, typifies, I think, the two classes of elect, circumcised and uncircumcised.

BEDE. By the two hundred cubits is signified the twofold grace of love; the love of God and the love of our neighbour; for by them we approach to Christ. The fish broiled is Christ Who suffered. He deigned to be hid in the waters of human nature, and to be taken in the net of our night; and having become a fish by the taking of humanity, became bread to refresh us by His divinity.

GREGORY. To Peter was the holy Church committed; to him is it specially said, Feed My sheep. That then which is afterwards declared by word, is now signified by act. He it is who draws the fishes to the firm shore, because he it was who pointed out the stability of the eternal country to the faithful. This he did by word of mouth, by epistles; this he does daily by signs and miracles. After saying that the net was full of great fishes, the number follows: Full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three.

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxii) In the draught before, the number of the fishes is not mentioned, as if in fulfilment of the prophecy in the Psalm, If I should declare them, and speak of them, they should be more than I am able to express; (Ps. 41:7) but here there is a certain number mentioned, which we must explain. The number which signifies the law is ten, from the ten Commandments. But when to the law is joined grace, to the letter spirit, the number seven is brought in, that being the number which represents the Holy Spirit, to Whom sanctification properly belongs. For sanctification was first heard of in the law, with respect to the seventh day; and Isaiah praises the Holy Spirit for His sevenfold work and office. The seven of the Spirit added to the ten of the law make seventeen; and the numbers from one up to seventeen when added together, make a hundred and fifty-three.

GREGORY. (Hom. xxiv.) Seven and ten multiplied by three make fifty-one. The fiftieth year was a year of rest to the whole people from all their work. In unity is true rest; for where division is, true rest cannot be.

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxii) It is not then signified that only a hundred and fifty-three saints are to rise again to eternal life, but this number represents all who partake of the grace of the Holy Spirit: which number too contains three fifties, and three over, with reference to the mystery of the Trinity. And the number fifty is made up of seven sevens, and one in addition, signifying that those sevens are one. That they were great fishes too, is not without meaning. For when our Lord says, I came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil, by giving, that is, the Holy Spirit through Whom the law can be fulfilled, He says almost immediately after, Whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. In the first draught the net was broken, to signify schisms; but here to shew that in that perfect peace of the blessed there would be no schisms, the Evangelist continues: And for all they were so great1, yet was not the net broken; as if alluding to the case before, in which it was broken, and making a favourable comparison.

Bread Alludes to the Sacrament

Augustine:Mystically, the broiled fish is Christ who suffered. And he is the bread that came down from heaven. The church is united to his body in order to participate in everlasting blessedness. This is why he says, “Bring of the fish that you have now caught,” in order to signify that all of us who have this hope and are in that number seven of disciples, which represents the universal church here, partake of this great sacrament and are admitted to this bliss. TRACTATE ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 123.2.

SOURCE: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Luke), Edited by Thomas C. Oden, InterVarsity Press ©2005, Used with permission.

John 21:12-14

12. Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.

13. Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.

14. This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxiii) The fishing being over, our Lord invites them to dine: Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvi) John does not say that He ate with them, but Luke does. He ate however not to satisfy the wants of nature, but to shew the reality of His resurrection.

AUGUSTINE. (xiii. de Civ. Dei, c. xxii) The bodies of the just, when they rise again, shall need neither the word of life that they die not of disease, or old age, nor any bodily nourishment to prevent hunger and thirst. For they shall be endowed with a sure and inviolable gift of immortality, that they shall not eat of necessity, but only be able to eat if they will. Not the power, but the need of eating and drinking shall be taken away from them; in like manner as our Saviour after His resurrection took meat and drink with His disciples, with spiritual but still real flesh, not for the sake of nourishment, but in exercise of a power.

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxii) No one dared to doubt that it was He, much less deny it; so evident was it. Had any one doubted, he would have asked.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvii) He means that they had not confidence to talk to Him, as before, but sat looking at Him in silence and awe, absorbed in regarding His altered and now supernatural form, and unwilling to ask any question. Knowing that it was the Lord, they were in fear, and only ate what, in exercise of His great power, He had created. He again does not look up to heaven, or do any thing after a human sort, thus shewing that His former acts of that kind were done only in condescension: Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxiii. 2) Mystically, the fried fish is Christ Who suffered. And He is the bread that came down from heaven. To Him the Church is united to His body for participation of eternal bliss. Wherefore He says, Bring of the fishes which ye have now caught; to signify that all of us who have this hope, and are in that septenary number of disciples, which represents the universal Church here, partake of this great sacrament, and are admitted to this bliss.

GREGORY. (Hom. xxiv.) By holding this last feast with seven disciples, he declares that they only who are full of the sevenfold grace of the Holy Spirit, shall be with Him in the eternal feast. Time also is reckoned by periods of seven days, and perfection is often designated by the number seven. They therefore feast upon the presence of the Truth in that last banquet, who now strive for perfection.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvii) Inasmuch, however, as He did not converse with them regularly, or in the same way as before, the Evangelist adds, This is now the third time that Jesus shewed Himself to His disciples, after that He was risen from the dead.

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxiii. 3) Which has reference not to manifestations, but to days; i. e. the first day after He had risen, eight days after that, when Thomas saw and believed, and this day at the draught of fishes; and thenceforward as often as He saw them, up to the time of His ascension.

AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Evang. iii. 25.) We find in the four Evangelists ten occasions mentioned, on which our Lord was seen after His resurrection: one at the sepulchre by the women; a second by the women returning from the sepulchre; a third by Peter; a fourth by the two going to1 Emmaus; a fifth in Jerusalem, when Thomas was not present; a sixth when Thomas saw Him; a seventh at the sea of Tiberias; an eighth by all the eleven on a mountain of Galilee, mentioned by Matthew; a ninth when for the last time He sat at meat with the disciples; a tenth when He was seen no longer upon earth, but high up on a cloud.

Bearing the Lord’s Brand

Augustine: Feed “my” sheep; he did not say “yours,” did he? Feed, good servant, the Lord’s sheep that bear the Lord’s brand. After all, was Paul crucified for you, or were you baptized in the name of Peter and Paul? So feed his sheep, washed in his baptism, sealed in his name, redeemed with his blood. “Feed,” he says, “my sheep.” SERMON 295.5.

SOURCE: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Luke), Edited by Thomas C. Oden, InterVarsity Press ©2005, Used with permission.

John 21:15-17

15. So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

16. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

17. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

THEOPHYLACT. The dinner being ended, He commits to Peter the superintendence over the sheep of the world, not to the others: So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?

AUGUSTINE. Our Lord asked this, knowing it: He knew that Peter not only loved Him, but loved Him more than all the rest.

ALCUIN. He is called Simon, son of John, John being his natural father. But mystically, Simon is obedience, John grace, a name well befitting him who was so obedient to God’s grace, that he loved our Lord more ardently than any of the others. Such virtue arising from divine gift, not mere human will.

AUGUSTINE. While our Lord was being condemned to death, he feared, and denied Him. But by His resurrection Christ implanted love in his heart, and drove away fear. Peter denied, because he feared to die: but when our Lord was risen from the dead, and by His death destroyed death, what should he fear? He saith unto Him, Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee. On this confession of his love, our Lord commends His sheep to him: He saith unto him, Feed My lambs: as if there were no way of Peter’s shewing his love for Him, but by being a faithful shepherd, under the chief Shepherd.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxviii. 1) That which most of all attracts the Divine love is care and love for our neighbour. Our Lord passing by the rest, addresses this command to Peter: he being the chief of the Apostles, the mouth of the disciples, and head of the college. Our Lord remembers no more his sin in denying Him, or brings that as a charge against him, but commits to him at once the superintendence over his brethren. If thou lovest Me, have rule over thy brethren, shew forth that love which thou hast evidenced throughout, and that life which thou saidst thou wouldest lay down for Me, lay down for the sheep. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? He saith unto Him, Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee.

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxii) Well doth He say to Peter, Lovest thou Me (ἀγαπᾶς diligis), and Peter answer, Amo Te (φελῶ amo), and our Lord replies again, Feed My lambs. Whereby, it appears that amor and dilectio are the same thing: especially as our Lord the third time He speaks does not say, Diligis Me, but Amas Me. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? A third time our Lord asks Peter whether he loves Him. Three confessions are made to answer to the three denials; that the tongue might shew as much love as it had fear, and life gained draw out the voice as much as death threatened.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxviii) A third time He asks the same question, and gives the same command; to shew of what importance He esteems the superintendence of His own sheep, and how He regards it as the greatest proof of love to Him.

THEOPHYLACT. Thence is taken the custom of threefold confession in baptism.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxviii) The question asked for the third time disturbed him: Peter was grieved because He said unto him the third time, Lovest thou Me? He was afraid perhaps of receiving a reproof again for professing to love more than he did. So he appeals to Christ Himself: And he said unto Him, Lord, Thou knowest all things, i. e. the secrets of the heart, present and to come.

AUGUSTINE. (de Verb. Dom. serm. 50) He was grieved because he was asked so often by Him Who knew what He asked, and gave the answer. He replies therefore from his inmost heart; Thou knowest that I love Thee.

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxiv) He says no more, He only replies what he knew himself; he knew he loved Him; whether any else loved Him he could not tell, as he could not see into another’s heart: (non occ.). Jesus saith unto him, Feed My sheep; as if to say, Be it the office of love to feed the Lord’s flock, as it was the resolution of fear to deny the Shepherd.

THEOPHYLACT. There is a difference perhaps between lambs and sheep. The lambs are those just initiated, the sheep are the perfected.

ALCUIN. To feed the sheep is to support the believers in Christ from falling from the faith, to provide earthly sustenance for those under us, to preach and exemplify withal our preaching by our lives, to resist adversaries, to correct wanderers.

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxiii) They who feed Christ’s sheep, as if they were their own, not Christ’s, shew plainly that they love themselves, not Christ; that they are moved by lust of glory, power, gain, not by the love of obeying, ministering, pleasing God. Let us love therefore, not ourselves, but Him, and in feeding His sheep, seek not our own, but the things which are His. For whoso loveth himself, not God, loveth not himself: man that cannot live of himself, must die by loving himself; and he cannot love himself, who loves himself to his own destruction. Whereas when He by Whom we live is loved, we love ourselves the more, because we do not love ourselves; because we do not love ourselves in order that we may love Him by Whom we live.

AUGUSTINE. (Serm. Pass.) But unfaithful servants arose, who divided Christ’s flock, and handed down the division to their successors: and you hear them say, Those sheep are mine, what seekest thou with my sheep, I will not let thee come to my sheep. If we call our sheep ours, as they call them theirs, Christ hath lost His sheep.

Peter will Glorify God

Chrysostom: Christ told Peter not that he would die, but that he would “glorify God.” In this way, we learn that suffering for Christ is both an honor and glory for the sufferer. “And when he had spoken this, he said, “Follow Me.” Here again Jesus alludes to his tender carefulness, and to Peter’s being very closely attached to himself. If anyone should ask, “How then did James assume the see at Jerusalem?” I reply that Christ appointed Peter, not as Bishop of this see, but as Doctor of the whole world. HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 88.1.

SOURCE: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Luke), Edited by Thomas C. Oden, InterVarsity Press ©2005, Used with permission.

John 21:18-19

18. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

19. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvii) Our Lord having made Peter declare his love, informs him of his future martyrdom; an intimation to us how we should love: Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest. He reminds him of his former life, because, whereas in worldly matters a young man has powers, an old man none; in spiritual things, on the contrary, virtue is brighter, manliness stronger, in old age; age is no hindrance to grace. Peter had all along desired to share Christ’s dangers; so Christ tells him, Be of good cheer; I will fulfil thy desire in such a way, that what thou hast not suffered when young, thou shalt suffer when old: But when thou art old. Whence it appears, that he was then neither a young nor an old man, but in the prime of life.

ORIGEN. (super. Matt.) It is not easy to find any ready to pass at once from this life; and so he says to Peter, When thou art old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hand.

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxiii. 5) That is, shalt be crucified. And to come to this end, Another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. First He said what would come to pass, secondly, how it would come to pass. For it was not when crucified, but when about to be crucified, that he was led whither he would not. He wished to be released from the body, and be with Christ; but, if it were possible, he wished to attain to eternal life without the pains of death: to which he went against his will, but conquered by the force of his will, and triumphing over the human feeling, so natural a one, that even old age could not deprive Peter of it. But whatever be the pain of death, it ought to be conquered by the strength of love for Him, Who being our life, voluntarily also underwent death for us. For if there is no pain in death, or very little, the glory of martyrdom would not be great.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxviii) He says, Whither thou wouldest not, with reference to the natural reluctance of the soul to be separated from the body; an instinct implanted by God to prevent men putting an end to themselves. Then raising the subject, the Evangelist says, This spake He, signifying by what death he should glorify God: not, should die: he expresses himself so, to intimate that to suffer for Christ was the glory of the sufferer. (non occ.). But unless the mind is persuaded that He is very God, the sight of Him can in no way enable us to endure death. Wherefore the death of the saints is certainty of divine glory.

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxiii) He who denied and loved, died in perfect love for Him, for Whom he had promised to die with wrong haste. It was necessary that Christ should first die for Peter’s salvation, and then Peter die for Christ’s Gospel.

SOURCE: ECATHOLIC 2000 Commentary in public domain.