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John 21:1-14

1. After these things Jesus manifested himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and he manifested himself thus. 2. Simon Peter, and Thomas, who is called Didymus, 225225     “Qui est dit Gemeau;” — “who is called Twin.” and Nathanael, who was of Cana of Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples, were together. 3. Simon Peter saith to them, I am going to fish; they say to him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. 4. And when it was morning, Jesus stood on the shore; and the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. 5. Jesus saith to them, Children, have you ally thing to eat? 226226     “Avez-vous quehtue petit poisson k manger?” — “Have you any little fish to eat?” They answered him, No. 6. But he said to them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and you will find. They cast it, therefore; and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. 7. Therefore the disciple whom Jesus loved saith to Peter, It is the Lord. When, therefore, Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girded his coat about him, (for he was naked,) and threw himself into the sea. 8. And the other disciples carne in the boat, (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes. 9. As soon, then, as they came to land, they saw a fire burning, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10. Jesus saith to them, Bring some of the fish which you have now caught. 11. Simon Peter, therefore, went up, and drew the net to land, full of great fishes, a hundred and fifty-three; and although they were so many, the net was not broken. 12. Jesus saith to them, Come and dine. And not one of the disciples dared to ask him, Who art thou? knowing that he was the Lord. 13. Jesus therefore cometh, and taketh the bread, and giveth it to them, and fish likewise. 14. This is now the third time that Jesus manifested himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.

 

1. After these things Jesus manifested himself again. The Evangelist still labors to prove the resurrection of Christ, and relates, that he appeared to seven disciples, among whom he mentions Thomas, not out of respect to him, so much as because his testimony ought to be the more readily believed in proportion to the obstinacy of his unbelief. The Evangelist enters sufficiently into detail; for he carefully collects all the circumstances which contribute to prove the truth of the history. We have formerly mentioned that the Lake of Tiberias, according to the Hebrew custom, is called the Sea of Tiberias.

3. I am going to fish. That Peter gave his attention to fishing, ought not to be regarded as inconsistent with his office. By breathing on him, Jesus had ordained him to be an Apostle, as we saw a little before; but he abstained from the exercise of the apostleship for a short time, till he should be clothed with new power. For he had not yet been enjoined to appear in public for the discharge of his office of teaching, but had only been reminded of his future calling, that he and the others might understand that they had not in vain been chosen from the beginning. Meanwhile, they do what they were accustomed to do, and what belonged to men in private life. It is true that Paul, in the midst of his employment as a preacher, gained the support of his life by his own hands, but it was for a different reason; for his time was so arranged, that the labors of his hands did not withdraw him from teaching. Peter and his companions, on the other hand, give themselves up entirely to fishing, because they are not hindered from doing so by any public employment.

And that night they caught nothing. God permitted them to toil to no purpose during the whole night, in order to prove the truth of the miracle; for if they had caught any thing 227227     “S’ils eussen, fait quelque prinse de poissons;” — “if they had had any take of fishes.” what followed immediately afterwards would not have so clearly manifested the power of Christ, but when, after having toiled ineffectually during the whole night, they are suddenly favored with a large take of fishes, they have good reason for acknowledging the goodness of the Lord. In the same manner, also, God often tries believers, that he may lead them the more highly to value his blessing. If we were always prosperous, whenever we put our hand to labor, scarcely any man would attribute to the blessing of God the success of his exertions, all would boast of their industry, and would kiss their hands. But when they sometimes labor and torment themselves without any advantage, if they happen afterwards to succeed better, they are constrained to acknowledge something out of the ordinary course; and the consequence is, that they begin to ascribe to the goodness of God the praise of their prosperity and success.

6. Cast the net on the right side of the ship. Christ does not command with authority and power as Master and Lord, but gives advice like one of the people; and the disciples, being at a loss what to do, readily obey him, though they did not know who he was. If, before the first casting of the net, any thing of this sort had been said to them, they would not have so quickly obeyed. I mention this, that no one may wonder that they were so submissive, for they had already been worn out by long and useless toil. Yet it was no small proof of patience and perseverance, that, though they had labored unsuccessfully during the whole night, they continue their toil after the return of daylight. And, indeed, if we wish to allow an opportunity for the blessing of God to descend on us, we ought constantly to expect it; for nothing can be more unreasonable than to withdraw the hand immediately from labor, if it do not give promise of success.

That Simon Peter Was Naked, is a proof that the disciples had labored in earnest; and yet they do not hesitate to cast the net again to make another trial, that they may not neglect any opportunity. Their obedience to the command of Christ cannot be ascribed to faith; for they hear him speak as a person who was unknown to them. Now, if we dislike our calling, because the labor which we undertake appears to be unproductive, yet, when the Lord exhorts us to steadiness and perseverance, we ought to take courage; in the end we shall obtain a happy result, but it will be at the proper time.

And now they were not able to draw it 228228     In the Latin original of the Commentaries, the illustration of this clause comes before that of the 7th verse; but I have consulted the convenience of the reader, by following the French version, which, in this respect, may be supposed to give us the latest thoughts of the Author., and in which this clause is restored to its natural order. — Ed. Christ here exhibited two proofs of his Divine power. The first consisted in their taking so large a draught of fishes; and the second was, when, by his concealed power, he preserved the net whole, which otherwise must unavoidably have been broken in pieces. Other circumstances are mentioned, namely, that the disciples find burning coals on the shore, that fishes are laid on them, and that bread is also prepared. As to the number of the fishes, we ought not to look for any deep mystery in it. Augustine enters into ingenious reasonings about the statement of the number, and says that it denotes the Law and the Gospel; but if we examine the matter carefully, we shall find that this is childish trifling.

7. Therefore the disciple whom Jesus loved saith to Peter. The Evangelist shows, by his example, that it is our duty to raise our hearts to God, whenever we succeed in any thing beyond our expectation; because we ought instantly to remember that this act of kindness has flowed from the favor of Him who is the Author of every blessing. That holy recognition of the grace of God, which dwelt in the heart of John, led him also to the knowledge of Christ; for he does not perceive Christ with his eyes, but, being convinced that the great multitude of fishes has been brought to him by the hand of God, he concludes that it was Christ who had guided his hands. But, as John goes before Peter in faith, so Peter afterwards excels him in zeal, when, disregarding personal danger, he throws himself into the lake. The rest follow in the ship. True, all come to Christ at length, but Peter is actuated by a peculiar zeal in comparison of the others. Whether he crossed over to the shore by walking or by swimming, is uncertain; but let us rest satisfied with knowing that the act of leaving the ship and going on shore was not the result of folly and rashness, but that he advanced beyond the others in proportion to his zeal.

10. Bring some of the fishes which you have now caught. Though the net was filled in a moment, without any great labor on their part yet the taking of them is not ascribed by Christ to the disciples, thus, we call the bread which we daily eat, OUR bread, and yet, by asking that it may be given to us, we acknowledge that it proceeds from the blessing of God, (Matthew 6:11.)

12. And not one of his disciples dared to ask him. It may be inquired, What hindered them? Was it shame arising from reverence, or was it any thing else? But if Christ saw that they were in a state of uncertainty, he ought to remove their doubt, as he had done on many other occasions. I reply, there was no other reason for shame, but because they were not sufficiently certain that he was the Christ; for it is not usual with us to inquire about matters that are doubtful and obscure. The Evangelist, therefore, means that the disciples did not ask Christ, because they were afraid of doing him wrong; so plain and manifest were the signs by which he had made himself known to them.

14. The third time. The number three refers to the distance of time. Christ had already appeared to his disciples more than seven times, but all that had been transacted in one day is included in one manifestation. The Evangelist, therefore, means that Christ had been seen by the disciples at intervals, in order to confirm their belief of his resurrection.


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