The Epilogue in John 21



In literature an epilogue is known as an afterword, and we see precisely just that in the 21st chapter of John. The gospel could well have finished in chapter twenty as it ended climactically but in this epilogue we read some things that were written for our deeper understanding. 


We break into the scene where Peter and some of the other disciples are fishing. Dawn has just broken and they have been unsuccessful and someone on the shore in the distance advises them to put there net on the other side of the boat. When they follow that suggestion they are overwhelmed at how many fish they are able to catch and are afraid their net will break. At that moment John recognizes the individual on the shore is the risen Lord Jesus Christ and he says to Peter “It is the Lord”. Without hesitation Peter jumps into the water and goes to him. 


As we pause here, let us ask ourselves another time when Peter the disciple jumped into the water towards the Lord? (Matthew 14:30) What is the difference between these two occasions? 


The first time was during a storm where the disciples saw the Lord and were sure that a ghost was appearing to them. Christ’s reassurance motivated Peter to attempt walking on water; in reading that account  we see how Peter in a short period of time loses his faith and his nerve and begins to sink. His cry to the Lord shows his dependence on Him and the Lord Jesus says to him in Matt. 14:31, “You of little faith, why did you doubt”. As we consider this event, I would suggest Peter’s wonder and amazement over the fact that Christ is walking on the water was more compelling to him than anything else. In other words, he may of thought of this miracle as being an impressive thing to try. When we see someone else doing something amazing we want to try it, Peter may have been superficial in his understanding of what the Lord was trying to teach him and the other disciples. 


The second time we read of Peter going towards the Lord in the water, the scenario and reasons are vastly different. Just before Christ’s death it is recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Luke and John how Peter vowed he would not fall away no matter what others did. After the Lord’s arrest we read of Peter following Him from a distance. During this time he is approached on three occasions by people who suspect that Peter is one of Christ’s followers. Peter denies this and in Matthew 26:34 we read how the prediction came true. With this in mind Peter charges out of the boat in John 21 to speak to the Lord whom he has denied. This time Peter is not interested in walking on water, he does not care about the distance to the shore, he is not worried about getting chilled in the early morning. His interest was in meeting with the Lord Jesus and rectifying the situation. We do not read of what Peter says to Jesus but we do read what Jesus does and says to him. 


Peter’s Reinstatement 

My first observation is that Peter did not hesitate to jump in the water and go to the Lord. How often when we have offended someone and clearly we are in the wrong; how do we react? We usually avoid the situation, Peter did not. I suggest the reason is that he knew the Lord’s reaction towards him. He had seen the way Christ had handled the broken and the repentant before; He does not turn them away. 


Secondly, the Lord provided for Peter physically by cooking breakfast for him and his fellow disciples. Sharing a meal is always a sign of care and friendship. We eat our meals with family or friends, people who we have clear and pleasant relationships with; this was a sign of true fellowship with Christ. Unforgiving hearts would not eat together. The image we can appreciate here is that the Lord is always ready to receive and pardon us and he will take care of all our needs. 


Thirdly, Peter received instructions from the Lord. First of all Jesus uses the image and  metaphor of a shepherd who cares for sheep. He was commissioned to tend, to herd and to lead toward pasture those who God was going to entrust him with. In the book of Acts we see how Peter was very significant in the early church based out of Jerusalem and beyond; these were the ones he was given to shepherd. The second part of this is when Peter receives the prophecy of how he would die he was not deterred and fulfilled his calling by the Lord Jesus Christ. 


Hebrews 4:16 sums it up succinctly: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”


By: David Jones