John 21 Study Notes
21:1-25 This epilogue narrates Jesus’s third and final resurrection appearance recorded in this Gospel and contrasts the callings of Peter and “the disciple Jesus loved.”
21:2 The names of Zebedee’s sons are given in the Synoptic Gospels as James and John (Mt 4:21). Luke mentions that they were “Simon’s partners” (Lk 5:10) in the fishing business before they were called to follow Jesus as disciples (see note at Jn 1:40).
21:7-8 The disciple . . . Jesus loved must be one of the seven mentioned in v. 2, which included Zebedee’s sons, and was almost certainly John the son of Zebedee, author of this Gospel (see note at v. 24).
21:10-11 Various attempts have been made to interpret the number 153 symbolically, but most likely it simply represents the actual number of fish. Large numbers elsewhere in John are meant literally as well (2:6; 12:3).
21:15 On Simon, son of John, see note at 1:42. Jesus’s question do you love me more than these? probably meant, “Do you love me more than these disciples do?” rather than, “Do you love me more than these fish [i.e., his profession]?” or “Do you love me more than you love these men?” though each of the three meanings is possible.
21:18 Stretch out your hands refers to crucifixion, where a person’s hands and arms are spread out and nailed to the crossbeam. Tradition says Peter chose to be crucified upside down because he felt himself unworthy of dying in the same exact manner as Jesus.
21:19 The reference to indicate by what kind of death Peter would glorify God echoes the reference “to indicate what kind of death he [Jesus] was about to die” in 12:33. This verse therefore establishes a connection between the deaths of Jesus and Peter. As God’s Lamb, Jesus died for the sins of the world (1:29,36); Peter died a martyr’s death, giving his life as a witness to his faith in Jesus.
21:21-23 Like the final chapter of Matthew, the closing verses of John’s Gospel dispel a rumor. Matthew denied that Jesus’s disciples stole his body (Mt 28:11-15; cp. Mt 27:62-66) while John sought to lay to rest the rumor that Christ had promised to return during John’s lifetime.
|Greek pronunciation||[fihl EH oh]|
|Uses in John’s Gospel||13|
|Uses in the NT||25|
|Focus passage||John 21:15-17|
Although agapao (verb) and agapÄ“ (noun) are commonly known as the Greek words for love, the verb phileo can be used in the same way. The phileo word family has more than thirty terms in the NT, including philos (friend), philadelphia (brotherly love), and philÄ“ma (kiss). But phileo is also used to describe the Father’s love for the Son (Jn 5:20), the Father’s love for believers (Jn 16:27), Jesus’s love for believers (Jn 11:3; 20:2; Rv 3:19), and believers’ love for the Lord (1Co 16:22) and for each other (Ti 3:15). Both agapao (Jn 13:23; 19:26; 21:7,20) and phileo (Jn 20:2) are used to describe “the disciple Jesus loved,” and the meaning is the same. Thus it is better not to make a sharp distinction in Jn 21:15-17 between agapao (Jesus’s term in vv. 15-16) and phileo (Jesus’s term in v. 17 and all three times by Peter). Peter’s threefold confession of his love for Jesus, which corresponds to his earlier threefold denial of Jesus, should not be understood as a secondary form of love.
21:24 This is the disciple is a third-person authorial self-reference. Again, this is “the disciple Jesus loved” (cp. v. 7; see note at 13:23), one of the Twelve (cp. 21:20), John the son of Zebedee, the apostle John, who referred to himself by the epithet “the beloved disciple.” We know represents an instance of the authorial “we,” by which the author included himself along with his audience.