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Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples


After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Jesus and the Beloved Disciple

20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” 22Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” 23So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

24 This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. 25But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

18. Verily, verily, I tell thee. After having exhorted Peter to feed his sheep, Christ likewise arms him to maintain the warfare which was approaching. Thus he demands from him not only faithfulness and diligence, but invincible courage in the midst of dangers, and firmness in bearing the cross. In short, he bids him be prepared for enduring death whenever it shall be necessary. Now, though the condition of all pastors is not alike, still this admonition applies to all in some degree. The Lord spares many, and abstains from shedding their blood, satisfied with this alone, that they devote themselves to him sincerely and unreservedly as long as they live. But as Satan continually makes new and various attacks, all who undertake the office of feeding must be prepared for death; as they certainly have to do not only with sheep, but also with wolves. So far as relates to Peter, Christ intended to forewarn him of his death, that he might at all times ponder the thought, that the doctrine of which he was a minister must be at length ratified by his own blood. Yet it appears that in these words Christ did not speak with a view to Peter alone, but that he adorned him with the honourable title of Martyr in presence of the others; as if he had said, that Peter would be a very different kind of champion from what he had formerly shown himself to be.

When thou wast younger. Old age appears to be set apart for tranquillity and repose; and, accordingly, old men are usually discharged from public employments, and soldiers are discharged from service. Peter might, therefore, have promised to himself at that age a peaceful life. Christ declares, on the other hand, that the order of nature will be inverted, so that he who had lived at his ease when he was young will be governed by the will of another when he is old, and will even endure violent subjection.

In Peter we have a striking mirror of our ordinary condition. Many have an easy and agreeable life before Christ calls them; but as soon as they have made profession of his name, and have been received as his disciples, or, at least, some time afterwards, they are led to distressing struggles, to a troublesome life, to great dangers, and sometimes to death itself. This condition, though hard, must be patiently endured. Yet the Lord moderates the cross by which he is pleased to try his servants, so that he spares them a little while, until their strength has come to maturity; for he knows well their weakness, and beyond the measure of it he does not press them. Thus he forbore with Peter, so long as he saw him to be as yet tender and weak. Let us therefore learn to devote ourselves to him to the latest breath, provided that he supply us with strength.

In this respect, we behold in many persons base ingratitude; for the more gently the Lord deals with us, the more thoroughly do we habituate ourselves to softness and effeminacy. Thus we scarcely find one person in a hundred who does not murmur if, after having experienced long forbearance, he be treated with some measure of severity. But we ought rather to consider the goodness of God in sparing us for a time. Thus Christ says that, so long as he dwelt on earth, he conversed cheerfully with his disciples, as if he had been present at a marriage, but that fasting and tears afterwards awaited them, 235235     “Mais qu’il faloit puis apres qu’ils se preparassent, pleurer et jeuner;” — “but that afterwards they must be prepared to weep and fast.” (Matthew 9:15.)

Another will gird thee. Many think that this denotes the manner of death which Peter was to die, 236236     “De laquelle Pierre devoit mourir.” meaning that he was hanged, with his arms stretched out; but I consider the word gird as simply denoting all the outward actions by which a man regulates himself and his whole life. Thou girdedst thyself; that is, “thou wast accustomed to wear such raiment as thou chosest, but this liberty of choosing thy dress will be taken from thee.” As to the manner in which Peter was put to death, it is better to remain ignorant of it than to place confidence in doubtful fables.

And will lead thee whither thou wouldst not. The meaning is, that Peter did not die a natural death, but by violence and by the sword. It may be thought strange that Christ should say that Peter’s death will not be voluntary; for, when one is hurried unwillingly to death, there is no firmness and none of the praise of martyrdom. But this must be understood as referring to the contest between the flesh and the Spirit, which believers feel within themselves; for we never obey God in a manner so free and unrestrained as not to be drawn, as it were, by ropes, in an opposite direction, by the world and the flesh. Hence that complaint of Paul,

“The good that I would I do not, but the evil that I would not, that I do,”
(Romans 7:19.)

Besides, it ought to be observed, that the dread of death is naturally implanted in us, for to wish to be separated from the body is revolting to nature. Accordingly, Christ, though he was prepared to obey God with his whole heart, prays that he may be delivered from death. Moreover, Peter dreaded the cross on account of the cruelty of men; and, therefore, we need not wonder if, in some measure, he recoiled from death. But this showed the more clearly the obedience which he rendered to God, that he would willingly have avoided death on its own account, and yet he endured it voluntarily, because he knew that such was the will of God; for if there had not been a struggle of the mind, there would have been no need of patience.

This doctrine is highly useful to be known; for it urges us to prayer, because we would never be able, without extraordinary assistance from God, to conquer the fear of death; and, therefore, nothing remains for us but to present ourselves humbly to God, and to submit to his government. It serves also to sustain our minds, that they may not altogether faint, if it happen at any time that persecutions make us tremble. They who imagine that the martyrs were not moved by any fear make their own fear to yield them a ground of despair. But there is no reason why our weakness should deter us from following their example, since they experienced a fear similar to ours, so that they could not gain a triumph over the enemies of truth but by contending with themselves.

19. Signifying by what death he should glorify God. This circumlocution is highly emphatic; for though the end held out to all believers ought to be, to glorify God both by their life and by their death, yet John intended to employ a remarkable commendation for adorning the death of those who, by their blood, seal the Gospel of Christ and glorify his name, as Paul teaches us, (Philippians 1:20.) It is now our duty to reap the fruit which the death of Peter has yielded; for it ought to be imputed to our indolence, if our faith be not confirmed by it, and if we do not keep the same object in view, that the glory of God may be displayed by us. If the Papists had considered this end in the death of the martyrs, that sacrilegious and detestable invention would never have entered into their minds, that their death contributes to appease the wrath of God, and to pay the ransom for our sins.

And when he had said this. Christ here explains what was the design of that prediction of a violent death. It was, that Peter might be prepared to endure it; as if he had said, “Since you must endure death by my example, follow your leader.” Again, that Peter may the more willingly obey God who calls him to the cross, Christ offers himself as a leader; for this is not a general exhortation by which he invites him to imitate himself, but he speaks only of the kind of death. Now, this single consideration greatly soothes all the bitterness that is in death, when the Son of God presents himself before our eyes with his blessed resurrection, which is our triumph over death.

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