The Last Breakfast
Tim Temple


We tend to think about the death and the burial and the resurrection and ascension of Christ in that order. That is correct, of course, except for the fact that the Gospels also record that there was a brief interlude inserted between the Resurrection and the Ascension of Christ. That little interlude is what we find described in the last two chapters of John's Gospel. It is as if John wants to make sure, as he closes his book, that we understand that the Resurrection did take place, that it was not a rumor or a myth, and that there were eyewitnesses to it. So he goes into some detail about what happened during those brief days between the time that Christ rose from the dead and the time that He ascended into Heaven.

Chapter 21 is built around the third of three appearances which Jesus made exclusively to the disciples. Paul, in I Corinthians, chapter 15, lists a number of other people to whom Jesus also appeared and John has listed some other people too, but He tells us in verse 14 of this chapter that Jesus appeared three times specifically to the disciples alone as a group. So the third of those appearances form the outline for this last chapter. The chapter falls into three parts. We have the fishing scene in verses 1-8, a fireside scene in verses 9-19, and a fellowship scene in verses 20-25.

Preparation for the Breakfast

In our last lesson, we talked about that fishing scene in verses 1-9. We will be looking at the fireside scene in verses 9-19. The first thing that is described in those verses is the breakfast that we read about in verses 9-14, and we will begin by looking at the preparation of it. Notice, beginning in verse 9:

John 21

9As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.
10Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.
11Simon 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.

Remember, in verses 1-9, they had gone fishing and they had fished all night without catching anything; but as dawn was breaking, they saw Jesus on the shore. They didn't recognize Him, but they saw a figure there. He told them to cast the net on the other side of the boat, and they did. They caught a huge catch of fish. When that happened, they realized Who Jesus was.

They get to shore, and they discover in verse 9 that He had been preparing breakfast for them as He waited for them to come back to land. This is not John's immediate point, but it is a good reminder of the fact that God often prepares for us before He shows that preparation to us. It is obvious that Jesus had been putting this fire together, putting the fish and the bread on the fire, doing all these things that would have gone into the fact that that was all there in verse 9, before they ever saw Him.

It is very comforting to me that while we are praying about things, before we may see God doing anything about it, He is at work and He is preparing those things for the time that we will see them. This that Jesus did physically for the disciples is typical of the way that God works for us. Not only did He have the breakfast laid out there and had made those preparations, but in verse 10, He asked them to bring some of the fish they had just caught. Again, this is a reminder of the fact that not only does He prepare for us and provide for us, He also allows us to share in what He is doing for us and through us.

An example of that is the spiritual gifts that He gives us. All of us have a spiritual gift of some kind—something that God has enabled us to do to serve Him. The most obvious gifts are probably teaching and evangelism, but we know that there are other kinds of gifts that are not as obvious as that: gifts of giving, gifts of comfort, gifts of administration and things like that that aren't as much on the surface as teaching and evangelism that we see visibly. Whatever our gift is, we are really just sharing in what God has already been doing. Just as those disciples brought fish to the fire, it was really Jesus Who had prepared the fire and had the fish and bread already there. But God, in His mercy and His grace, allows us to be part of it.

Every time that you have an opportunity to say something for Jesus Christ, every time that you have an opportunity to witness—sometimes that witness is just by the loving response that you give to a person; sometimes it is not really a spoken witness so much as a lived witness—we are only participating in bringing someone to Christ. We don't save people, and we don't even bring them to Christ. God allows us the privilege of being the one who speaks the Word and who lives the life. He is the One Who saves them and He is really the One Who draws them to Himself; but in His grace and mercy, He allows us to be a part of that.

The same thing is true of teaching. The teaching ministry is really something that God does. I can stand up here and talk for a long time, as you well know, but unless the Holy Spirit opens your eyes to the truth of the Word, unless He has opened my eyes to the truth of it as I have studied it, nothing is going to be accomplished.

Jesus allowed these disciples to participate in what He was doing and that may be where they first began to understand what some of them were later going to write about—this matter of our participation in what God is doing.

I said that He allows us to participate in what He is doing in us and through us because God is at work in us as well as working through us. In fact, He is much more interested in what He can do in you than in what He can do through you. Do you understand that? God is much more interested as you teach or as you evangelize or as you give or as you do whatever your spiritual gift is, in using that to work within you to make you more like Jesus Christ as you respond to Him. God is much more interested in what He can do in us than what He can do through us, because He really can't accomplish anything through us unless we let Him work in us. So the disciples were learning about Jesus in a physical, visible way; but because of what they allowed Him to do in them as He taught them these object lessons, He then was able to work through them in the years to come.

Another interesting thing to notice is John's interest in the number of fish in verse 11. He took time, apparently, to count the fish. He knew that there were 153 fish there, and he was also interested in the fact that, although there were that many fish there, the net wasn't broken, so here is a little example of one of the nuances of inspiration of Scripture. God told John what to write, but He allowed John to write it from his own perspective. The Apostle Paul probably wouldn't have even noticed how many fish there were. He would have just said, “a lot of fish.” He would not even have known that there was a danger of the net breaking. God inspired the Apostle Paul to write in his own way and in his own vocabulary; He inspired John to write in his own way, in the area of his interest and in his own vocabulary, but it was still the Holy Spirit Who gave the message. So here is a little example of that when John makes this little notation of how many fish there were and how unusual it was that they didn't break the net.

Presentation of the Breakfast

That is the preparation of the breakfast, but in verses 12-14, we find the presentation of it to the disciples. Look at verse 12:

John 21

12Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.
13Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.
14This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.

If you think about what we have seen in the latter part of our study in our last lesson, and now in this part of it, you can sense there is a tenseness or kind of an uneasiness or awkwardness between Jesus and the disciples. Things are just not quite the same as they were before His Resurrection. Maybe that was because of what we read in verse 12, where it said, “They knew it was the Lord, but they didn't want to ask Him about it.” Notice it uses the phrase, “the Lord.” Before the death, burial and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, He was the Lord, of course, but His relationship was on a much more intimate level. They thought of Him as Master , but it didn't really register with them that He was the Lord. They knew that He was, but to them He was their mentor and He was their teacher. It was a much more personal relationship; but now, since He has gone through death and been resurrected, He is in His glorified body and He is becoming more and more glorified and set apart as He moves toward His ascension in a few weeks. There is a sense of that on the part of the disciples. If that is the case, it is interesting to notice that in spite of that, He still lovingly relates to them, and He provides for them even though now He is the Lord rather than their esteemed Teacher.

They had this awkwardness, and they really didn't know what to say to Him is what it boils down to. In verse 13, He took the fish and the bread and gave it to them. You know, it must have reminded them of other times He had provided for them. It must have reminded them of the pleasure they had had in eating meals with Him whether it was miraculously or not. No doubt they remembered the five loaves and two fish with which He had fed thousands of people and had enough left over for them to take home with them. All of these thoughts must have been going through their minds as He gave them that same kind of food there that morning.

That pictures the fact that Jesus is still doing that kind of thing for His disciples today. As we fellowship with Him and as we serve Him, He sees to it that our needs are met. He allows us to participate in the blessings of it, but at the same time, He provides for our needs, though sometimes just day by day. It is interesting that Jesus told His disciples, as He taught them to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread…” One of the problems we have as Christians in trusting the Lord and being able to thank the Lord for what He is doing is that we try to face tomorrow's problems with today's grace, as someone put it. God has promised to meet our needs day by day.

Our own experience and the history of the New Testament, and the Old Testament too, for that matter, is that very often He gives us much more than we need for this day, but what He has promised is this day. Sometimes, as we move through the day, we think, “I'm all right for now. I know that I can make it through this day, but what about tomorrow?” Jesus also said to the disciples, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Don't worry about tomorrow, just trust Me for today.” So sometimes God just meets our needs one day at a time. Sometimes He gives us just what we need for today, and we don't know what tomorrow holds, but don't let that be an object of fear or an object of dissatisfaction for you because He always provides day by day, at the very least.

Peter Restored to Fellowship

He prepares the breakfast. He presents it to the disciples and after breakfast, we find in verses 15-19, the briefing that He gives them. Peter is the centerpiece, but really as so often is the case when Jesus was talking to Peter or Peter to Jesus, the other disciples were involved too. Here the other disciples were witnesses to what Jesus is going to teach Peter, and of course, John recorded it for us so that we can be witnesses to it also.

After breakfast they have this briefing that Jesus gives to the disciples. The first part of the discussion is about love, in verses 15-17, and it is a beautiful picture of the restoration of Peter to his place of fellowship with the Lord and more particularly to his place of leadership among the other disciples. Remember, in chapter 18, Peter had denied the Lord three times. If you take the time to go back to that chapter, you would see that the setting of that denial was beside a fire burning outside the courtroom when Jesus was in there being tried for His life in the presence of Christ's enemies. Peter denied the Lord to a group of people gathered around a little fire.

Look at the detail with which Jesus expresses His love and His grace to Peter. Jesus gives Peter the chance to profess his love for Him three times as he is standing with his friends around another charcoal fire. Christ had already met privately with Peter and forgiven him, but Peter has not yet been publicly restored, and the other disciples may have been wondering what was going to become of Peter now. It was obvious that the Lord had accepted him again, but after all, it was such a terrible thing that he did denying the Lord three times, and they wondered if he would ever amount to anything now. So there is a sense in which this is a public restoration and recommissioning of Peter in the presence of the other disciples. This conversation takes the form of three questions that Jesus asks Peter and Peter's answers to those questions. The first question is in verse 15:

John 21

15So 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.

The first thing to notice about this verse is Jesus calls him Simon , not Peter . “Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me?” Remember that when Jesus had first met Peter, He told him that his name would be changed to Peter, and that is the way that we always refer to him, but his name before that had been Simon. Jesus said to him, “Your name shall now be called Peter ,” and that is a word that is a formal noun from the common noun petros , which means “rock.” It was an indication of the stability and the faithfulness that Peter would someday have.

Jesus and the other disciples apparently called him Peter consistently except on occasions when Peter reverted to his old personality traits and when he demonstrated his old character of impulsiveness and instability. When Jesus found Peter doing that He would refer to him as Simon , and here we have Him doing that again. He says, “Simon, do you love me?” The question actually is, not, “Do you love Me?”, but, “Do you love Me more than these?”

One of the things that seminary students debate about in the coffee shop is what does these mean. What does He mean when He says, “Do you love Me more than these?” One theory is that He was referring to the nets and the fish and the boats, those things that had been Peter's life before he met Jesus. That suggests that Jesus was saying, “Peter, do you love Me enough to leave all of that again and serve Me?” You know, that is a very good question. I don't think that is the primary thing that Jesus had in mind, but I am sure that is one of the things that He had in mind, and it is a question that every one of us should ask ourselves.

If we are going to give ourselves wholeheartedly to following the Lord, we may have to give up some things that we love, some things that in and of themselves are not wrong. There was nothing wrong with the boat and the fish and the nets and the professional fishing. You fishermen will be happy to hear that I am sure. There is nothing sinful about that. It is a wonderful pastime for a lot of people. It has made a good living for Peter and the others who were there, but the time came when Peter had to put those things aside. I imagine, even as the great Apostle Peter, he may have taken a day off and gone fishing once in a while, but that was no longer what his life was built around. That became totally incidental to him even though it had been, at one time, the most important thing in his life. It had been his livelihood.

As I said, I don't think it was the primary thing that Jesus was asking, but a part of what He was asking probably was, “Do you love Me more than these boats and these nets and these fish?” We need to ask ourselves that question also. With you, it may not be fishing. With you, it may be something else, but that is a question that we ought to ask.

Another suggestion is that He was saying, “Do you love Me more than these other disciples? Do you love Me more than they do?” That is a valid question, too. Sometimes the nets and the boats don't get in the way of our being able to give our all to Jesus. Sometimes it is people. Sometimes we cannot be all that the Lord would want us to be because we are still devoted to another person or still too concerned about what another person is going to think or a group of people are going to think, what the denominational leaders are going to think or what our former friends are going to think. People can be a hindrance to our serving the Lord, and so that may have been wrapped up in Jesus' question to Peter also. I really think that in the context of all that has gone on in the past few days of Peter's life what Jesus was primarily asking was, “Do you love Me more than these other disciples do?”

Not long before that, in so many words, Peter had said, “Lord, these other yokels may deny You and desert You, but I never will.” That was the sense of it when Jesus had said that all of you will desert Me before the cock crows. Peter said, “Oh no, Lord. These guys may; they probably will, but not me.”

The implication there was, “Nobody loves you, Lord, like I do. I will die for you.” I think that Peter was sincere about that, but before long he found out, and the others did, too, that he didn't love Jesus any more than the other disciples did. Jesus wants to get this issue on the table for Peter and for the other disciples, and He asks him, “Do you love Me more than these?” Jesus wanted Peter to understand that he is no better than the others.

Who knows how much the others loved Jesus? Peter couldn't know that. One of the extremely important issues of the Christian life is as Paul writes to the Corinthians, “No man knows the things of a man except the spirit of man who is in him.” You can not know the motives of another's heart. You cannot know the depth of love that person has or does not have for Jesus Christ. It is futile; it is sinful to compare ourselves to other people in terms of whether we love the Lord more or less than another person does. There are many ramifications of that kind of thing. We cannot know the heart of another person, and we fall into that trap. We often think that he did this and that must be why he did it, and then we move to he did this and that is why he did it. Peter demonstrates to us that we cannot know whether someone else is more committed to Christ than we are or not. We may suspect. It may be our opinion, but Jesus demonstrated to Peter in a very painful way that you cannot say, “I will do this even if the others don't.” You cannot say what you would do in relation to what others will do in terms of serving the Lord and loving the Lord.

Peter's answer is in the last part of the verse. He says, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love you.” He simply answers, “Yes Lord…” That is unusual for Peter. He didn't take time to explain; he didn't ask any questions; he didn't elaborate. He just said, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love you.”

It is interesting, too, that he doesn't give his word any more. He just relies on the Lord's knowledge. He trusts Jesus' knowledge of his true feelings. He doesn't feel any need to prove it any more like he did before—no need to compare himself to other people and no making of promises, just, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.”

Isn't it a wonderful thing to know that God knows our hearts? If we are not walking with the Lord, that can be a scary thing, but if we are trying to serve the Lord, if we are doing all that we know to do and all that we believe that He is leading us to do, even though it may not outwardly appear that we are doing much for Him or that we are accomplishing much, and it may not seem to someone else that we love the Lord as much as we genuinely feel that we do, but listen, the Lord knows. Every one of us can say to the Lord, and probably should say it, “Lord, you know that I love you. You know my heart.”

If we are harboring some sin or if we are not walking with the Lord, that is a challenging thing to say. It is a frightening thing to say, but if we are seeking to walk with the Lord and serve Him, we need to constantly remember that the only being whose opinion matters is the Lord's.

Can you say that? “Lord, You know that I love you.” If you can say that, it is the most comforting thing. If you can't say that, you may need to spend some time alone with the Lord and get those things that are in your heart that keep you from being able to say that taken care of. Confess them as sin. Turn from them and come to that place where you can say with no fear, with complete honestly, “Lord, You know that I love You.”

Peter says an extremely wise thing when he answers the question in that way. Something that is not apparent in the English, but most of you, if not all of you, know from having studied this passage before, that Peter used a different word for love than Jesus used. When Jesus asked the question, if we were reading this in the Greek, we would be able to see that Jesus had said, “Do you agape Me?” That, of course, is God's kind of love—the kind of love that is given with no expectation of return, the kind of love that is given whether any return is given or not. Peter uses the word phileo , which is a genuine word for love, but it is the word for brotherly love where we get the name for the city of Philadelphia. It speaks of genuine love, of personal love, of devoted love, but not on the level of God's love.

I believe that after his denial and after what he learned about himself in that denial, Peter did not have the nerve to use the word agape . He knew that he loved the Lord on a human level, and he knew that he loved Him deeply in that brotherly love kind of way. It was genuine love, and it was devoted love, but he did not have what it took to say, “Lord, I love You the way that You love me.”

I have heard several sermons criticizing Peter for using this word. I have heard sermons in which Peter was said to not have loved the Lord as much as the Lord wanted to hear him say. I think Jesus was perfectly satisfied with this answer. I think that Jesus knew that Peter would someday love Him with agape love, but all Peter knew of himself was that he loved the Lord as well as he knew how.

Again, that is comforting to me, because I am not sure that I could ever say to the Lord, “Lord, I love You with the kind of love that You have for me.” But I know that I love the Lord, and I know that the Lord knows that. Peter said all that he could say, even though more than that became true. Peter did love the Lord with agape type love before it was over with and may have at this point, but all that he knew was that he loved Him with phileo love. That was enough for Jesus, because if you notice in the last words of the verse, He said, “…feed My lambs.”

Obviously, Jesus was speaking spiritually there. Feed them with the Word of God which was what Peter was going to spend the rest of his life doing—teaching the Word of God and giving new parts of the Word of God, feeding Christ's lambs.

Jesus Questions Peter Again

Probably in this case, He is referring to the new believers, to the little sheep, but in verse 16, Jesus asks Peter a second question. Notice:

John 21

16He 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.

I think the question and the answer are substantially the same in that case. We don't need to give it a lot of discussion. I think Jesus asked that second question just to make Peter stop and think, “Do I really mean what I have said.” That, too, is a good practice for us to follow, particularly when we are singing or when we are being led in prayer by someone else. The first important thing that we need to keep in mind is that what I am about to say is assuming that we are thinking about what we are singing or that we are listening to what the person leading us in prayer is saying. There are those times when we need to say, “Do I really mean what I just said?” I think that is what Jesus wanted out of Peter. Peter said, “You know, Lord, that I love You,” and Jesus wanted Peter to stop and think about what he had just said, so He asked him the same question again.

The Lord would want us from time to time to stop and say, “Do I really mean what I am singing or is it just a song? Am I just enjoying the music or do I really mean, ‘You are my all in all,' or whatever we are singing.”

He says to him then, in verse 16, “…tend My sheep,” and that is a reminder that not only do God's people need feeding, but they need tending. Shepherding is not just feeding His sheep; it is also a matter of helping dig the burs out of their fleece and the thorns out of their feet and binding up those wounds. God has given pastor/teachers and other people with other spiritual gifts the task of tending the sheep as well as feeding them.

Jesus Questions Peter a Third Time

The third question is in verse 17. There are two important differences to notice in this third question. Look at verse 17:

John 21

17He 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.

I said that there are two differences to notice. First of all, and again we would not be able to see this in the English, but in the Greek, Jesus changes the word that He had been using for love . The first two times He said, “Do you agape Me?” Peter had said, “Lord, You know that I phileo You.” Now, Jesus changes His word and says, “Peter, do you phileo Me?” I think that is why we read that Peter was grieved when Jesus asked him the third time—not grieved so much that He was asking for the third time, but grieved that now He is using the word Peter had used. I think the question Jesus is asking is, “Peter, if you won't say that you agape Me, are you sure that you can even phileo Me? Are you sure that you really love Me as much as you think you do?” That is the first difference.

The second difference is that Peter is grieved in this case because the Lord seems to question his love for Him, even that lesser kind of love that Peter referred to. But in his answer, Peter shows that he has grown spiritually. A few weeks ago, he would have reacted in some stern or even angry way, but look how simply he answers in the last part of verse 17:

John 21

17…Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee…

Isn't it wonderful to know that Jesus knows even those things that other human beings may not know? Another human being and maybe the other disciples standing by heard this exchange of differently worded questions and answers, and in my opinion it is very conceivable that Jesus worded this third question for the sake of the other disciples as much as for Peter and allowed them to hear Peter's answer because Peter's answer is a beautiful point of spiritual truth; that is, even though others may question and even though sometimes we ourselves may question our love for the Lord—it could apply to other areas of our relationship to Him—the Lord knows all things. He knows what we are truly capable of and what our true condition is before Him even when we ourselves may question it. It was because of that that God was able to use Peter for the leadership that he was going to soon give him.

He tells him in the last part of verse 17: “…then feed My sheep,” and this is a reference to the older, more mature Christians. On the basis of Peter's love and commitment, Jesus is having him to use that love and commitment to feed and to tend and to take care of the flock of God at all of the various age levels, spiritually speaking.

Jesus Plea to Peter and Us

The first part of the briefing that Jesus gives Peter after breakfast is about love, but the second part in verses 18-19, is about life. Jesus goes on speaking to Peter and He says:

John 21

18Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest 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.
19This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

Jesus makes a prediction in verse 18. Peter had sworn earlier that he would die for Christ if he had to, and now Jesus says that as a matter of fact, he will have the honor of dying for Him. With Peter understanding that and with John and the other disciples understanding it, John is the one who says that Jesus spoke this concerning Peter's death, that others would carry him where he did not want to go. John understood that, as a bystander to this conversation, so we know that Peter did.

With Peter fully understanding the consequences, Jesus makes the plea found in the last part of verse 19:

John 21

19…And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

You know, it is one thing to know what God's will is for us, but when Jesus, as God, saw that Peter knew what His will for him was, He didn't force Peter and He doesn't force us. He asks us to follow, but He doesn't make us. Peter could have turned back at that point, knowing what Jesus had said; but he committed to follow Christ this time, even if this time it meant his death.

The next section of the chapter shows that Peter didn't take that choice lightly. The third section of the chapter is what I am calling the fellowship scene in verse 20-25, and it gives us an example of the kinds of things that we can learn when we have intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ.

Misunderstanding the Principle

First, we read about the difference in plans in verses 20-23, and the first thing that we notice about that is the misunderstanding of the principle in verses 20-21. Look at verse 20:

John 21

20Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?
21Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?
22Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

Here is a mistake that is still being made two thousand years later: getting our eyes on what God is or is not doing for other people. Peter had been told this stirring news that he was going to serve God, but that he was also going to die for the sake of Jesus Christ. Apparently that didn't bother Peter too much, but what he was concerned about was, what about John? Is he going to die too? What about John?

I read a sermon with that title: “What About John?” With you, it might be what about Bill, or what about Mary, or what about Jane, but it is so easy to get our eyes on what God is doing or not doing for somebody else. If He seems to be doing more for them than He is for us or if they seem to be more successful, it is easy for us to get jealous. If we look around and we see that someone has a harder or less successful place in serving the Lord than we do, it is easy to get egotistical or proud. Look at Jesus' answer in verse 22:

John 21

22…If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

Look at how up to date the Bible is. Jesus said, in so many words, “What's it to you, Peter?” Have you heard that before? “What is that to you? You follow Me.” Really, what is it to us if God, the Creator of the universe, the One Who works all things together for good, the One Who sovereignly gives all gifts and calls people to serve Him in the various ways for the overall good of the Body of Christ, just decides to do something different with us than He does with somebody else? What is that to you? Jesus says to you and me what He said to Peter: “You follow Me. Don't worry about John. Don't worry about anybody else. You follow Me.” I think a lot of us would be much, much more effective servants for Jesus Christ if we got our eyes off what God is or is not doing for John and got our eyes on where He wants us to go and follow Him.

Misapplication of the Principle

That is a misunderstanding of the principle, and in verse 23, we have a misapplication of the principle:

John 21

23Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?

Here is another mistake we are still making some two thousand years later—jumping to conclusions about something that God has said without thinking it through carefully enough. We always need to be careful that we know exactly what the Scripture says, not what somebody said it says, not what we thought at a quick reading it says, but what does it really say? We don't want to read into it something that really isn't there as a lot of people did as they heard this conversation repeated. Either they didn't listen carefully enough or the person who repeated it didn't repeat it carefully enough, so even in the beginning of the New Testament church, there was that need to pay careful attention to what God is actually saying and not let something just slip by. Fortunately for us, we live in a era when we have it written down and when we can carefully study it and do not have to rely on oral tradition, but the principle is still the same.

A Declaration of Proof

Finally, in verses 24-25, we have the declaration of proof about this incident and about the entire book. Notice verse 24:

John 21

24This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.
25And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

Tradition says that these verses were added by the elders at the church at Ephesus where John spent his last days. If that is the case, they are still inspired by God. But whether that is correct or not, they do tell us two things: First, John was a reliable witness to the truth of Jesus Christ. Secondly, he didn't write down everything that Jesus did and said.

That second statement is important for two reasons. One is because sometimes people criticize the New Testament as being too narrow. They say that there are so many things in history that it doesn't even deal with. Well, the answer to that was that it wasn't God's purpose to deal with the history of the human race for the sake of history. Even though he didn't write down everything, John had written in the end of chapter 20 that he did write everything that we needed to know—that Jesus was the Christ and by believing in Him, we could be saved. He didn't have to write down everything that Jesus did. He was just able to write down enough that we could know Who Jesus was. II Peter, chapter 1, verse 3, says that he also wrote about all things that pertain to life and godliness.


In the overall New Testament, we have all things that pertain to life and godliness. While the Bible doesn't talk about everything that has ever happened, it does tell us everything that we need to know. We come to the end of the Gospel of John thanking God for His wisdom in writing down what we really need to know.

Home Bible Studies Books King James
Abilene Bible Church
Dr. Daiqing Yuan Tim Temple Dr. Joe Temple
Some icons on this site used courtesy FatCow Web Hosting