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Song of Solomon
John 21 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)
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After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he
After these things Jesus manifested himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias
. The opening formula is one often adopted by John (see particularly
John 5:1, 14
); considerable periods of time and cycles of ministry are frequently covered by it. Another chapter is opened, another series of events to be recorded which had left undying impression on the apostle's mind, and, in full view of numerous other traditions, was chosen by himself as especially worthy of record. "Jesus manifested himself." In
we hear that "he manifested his glory;" now he manifested his Person, as an act of his own will. He was "manifested in the flesh" (
1 Timothy 3:16
), but now that flesh was itself more directly under the control of his personality, and the mere sensuous eye and carnal understanding could not without his special permission realize that wondrous presence. The passive form of the verb is used in
Mark 16:12, 14
. The touch of feeling involved in the active voice must not be overlooked. The "again" clearly points back to the previous manifestations described in
John 20:14, 19, 26
. On each occasion his coming, though in a recognizable human body, was a body (a
, not a
) which had the qualities of spirit. "The disciples" are afterwards mentioned by name. It was to disciples only that he "appeared." Believers in him were those alone who could see this spiritual body. The effect produced upon them was that of objective reality, but this was made to prepared spirits. Such a proceeding is akin to all the grander operations of nature, and the most august manifestations of God. "At the sea of Tiberias." This is the only place where the "sea of Galilee," or of "Gennesareth," is called the "sea of Tiberias." That it was identical with the familiar lake is evident from the known site of Tiberias (now represented by the modern town Tubarieh), a city which is mentioned by Josephus ('Ant.,' 18:02.3; 'Bell. Jud.,' 2:09. 1; 'Vit.,' §§ 12, 13, 64), and which, from its schools of learned men, had a great place in later Jewish history. Moreover, in
John 6:1, 23
, if the Greek be accurately rendered, the writer spoke of "the sea of Galilee, of Tiberias," interpreting the name well known by the Jews, through another name by which it would be better recognized by Gentiles (see note on John 6:1). Dr. Farrar, 'Message of the Books,' sees in the nomenclature a hint of the later origin of the Fourth Gospel than the date assigned to the synoptic narrative. 'Er; is used because the shore where they saw him was a raised beach or cliff" above" the sea. It must be observed that the same phrase is used in
for Christ's walking "upon the sea;" but the
is itself explained here by the
of ver. 4, just as the preposition receives elsewhere more literally another meaning from the context.
And he manifested himself thus
; "on this wise,"
after the manner to be described. This is the commencement of our Lord's discourses on the kingdom of God (
). This was the beginning of the great fulfillment of his own predictions (
), and of the angel's words to the women. The narrative gives the deep heart-tones and genuine teaching of the risen Lord.
There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the
of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.
There were together
. Not the whole company of the eleven apostles; five are especially mentioned, and two are left unnamed. The five, of whom the Gospel knows much, are
, whose twofold name denotes that, notwithstanding his grievous failure, he had not lost his faith, and still stood at the head of the company, the man of rock and the man of impetuous energy.
Thomas called Didymus
, whose incredulity had vanished, and whose devoted love had emerged from the depths of despondency to the loftiest faith, who had come to feel and say that the risen Christ was both Lord and God. Thomas, who had shrunk from the society of his fellow-apostles, was now closely united with them, more than he had ever previously seemed to have been. Thomas is the apostle last mentioned by the evangelist. Elsewhere he is associated with Philip of Bethsaida, and this town may have been his home.
Nathanael of Cana in Galilee
is mentioned by way of recalling the two miracles recorded by John as having taken place in this "Cana of Galilee" (
). The former of the miracles followed immediately on the mention of the calling of Nathanael (
). The reference to the little place in Galilee where the glory of Christ had been first of all seen and had led to the faith of the disciples, calls attention to the place and province of this manifestation, and to what was contained in the memory of one of the witnesses. And
- a phrase used for James and John in
. This is the only time that Zebedee is mentioned in this Gospel; but the reason for his sons being thus designated points unmistakably to the first call of these two men to discipleship by the side of this very lake, after they had witnessed the draught of fishes, becoming from that time forward "fishers of men" (
Mark 1:19, 20
). That they should here be mentioned after Thomas and after Nathanael corresponds with the reticence and modesty of the evangelist. This is still more probable if the
two other disciples
in the broader sense. The simple fact that they are mentioned after the five apostles has been thought by some to imply that, whosoever these were, they were not of the number of the eleven. No one writing the story in the second century would, in an enumeration like this, have placed the proto-martyr James and the intimate friend of Peter, the great "light of Asia," the admitted author of the Apocalypse, and the spiritual father of Polycarp and Papias, after Thomas and Nathanael. After his manner, he (the author) here prepared for the implicit subsequent identification of the "disciple whom Jesus loved," and also the author of the Gospel, with one of the sons of Zebedee. The supposition that Andrew and Philip are meant by the "two other disciples" is not without verisimilitude, from their mention in
. If this were the case, both of them are practically discriminated from the "disciple whom Jesus loved" by the obvious references to them elsewhere by name, while "John" never thus signalizes himself. The mention of seven disciples reveals the love of the writer for the number "seven," with its division into two groups of three and four (see Introduction, pp. 78, 79.). And it is remarkable that, if Andrew and Philip are the unnamed ones, the seven would correspond with the first seven apostles mentioned in Matthew's enumeration (Matthew 10:2-4). Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Judas the brother of James, or Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot were not present. This, of course, rests on the hypothesis that Nathanael and Bartholomew are identical (
Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.
Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a-fishing
. The abruptness of the language addressed to six (
) disciples, who seemed to be living as in one family, suggests a lengthened waiting, and some disappointment as to the effect upon their daily life of the great revelation. They are summoned by the most commanding spirit among them to resume what was, for some of them at least, their customary calling. He would seek in humble fashion, along the lines of ordinary duty to his family and himself, the supply of daily wants. According to some writers, Peter felt a presentiment of the coming of his Lord under scenes identical with those of his first call (
). According to others, Peter exhibited some of the heart-sickness of deferred hope. On either supposition we see a new illustration of, and testimony to, the character of the man who was so conspicuous an initiator.
They say to him, We also come
They do not "follow" him, as they had been summoned once to follow their Lord; but they are willing, even eager, to accompany the strong-hearted man, and ready to take his lead. They share at once either in his presentiment or in the expression of his delayed hope.
They went forth
from the home which they had made for themselves on this well-remembered spot - from Capernaum, which was most probably the early home of Peter, and a spot to which he would naturally revert.
And entered into the ship
; the veritable vessel that had often served them on that lake of storms. Though Peter and Andrew, James and John, had left their boats and nets and hired servants, it is not unlikely that members of their two families had retained them.
And that night they took nothing
. Let the unusual word be noticed.
occurs three times in this brief narrative and six times in the Gospel, in the sense of "laying hold," "taking possession of," but nowhere in the synoptists. It occurs, however, in
2 Corinthians 11:32
; Ecclus. 23. 21; and, what is more remarkable, in the sense of "taking animals" in
ἐπιάσθη τὸ θηρίον
); so the LXX. for
Song of Solomon 2:15
). The night was then, as now, the most convenient time for fishing, and the fruitless effort must have reminded them of the night described in
. Some critics have supposed this failure to be parabolic or symbolic of the comparatively barren results of the apostolic ministry to the Jews, while what followed was prophetic of the great success which should accompany their appeal to the Gentiles. But Peter's wonderful success on the Day of Pentecost and on subsequent occasions in dealing with Jews, contradicts this interpretation. The only analogy which offers itself to our minds is the limited success of all their endeavors until the apostles were veritably endowed with power from on high.
But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.
When the day was now breaking
, Jesus stood on the beach. If the
be thetrue reading, it would imply that he stood forth, as having come from some unperceived region. If the
remain, the idea is that the morning light, as it was breaking over them through the curtain of dense mist which hung before sunrise on the eastern hills, discovered Jesus standing upon the beach. There is obvious reference, in the manner of his approach, to that "standing" in the midst of them, with which they had become familiar (see
John 20:14, 19, 26
suggests something unusual,
the disciples knew
not that it was Jesus
. He is not walking on the waters as of old, but standing on the solid ground. Just as Mary of Magdala, and as the disciples on the way to Emmaus, and as even the disciples themselves on the Easter night, were in doubt, at first, who and what this manifestation might mean, so now the chosen seven fail to understand that which was before their very eyes. The morning mist and shadows adding to the obscurity produced by some hundred yards of distance, together with wearied and toilsome effort and a sleepless night, may suggest some explanation of the marvel; but the mystery is baffling. Two or three remarks may be made.
These various appearances seem at first to confuse their perceptions by reason of the ordinary human characteristics that accompanied them. Mary for a moment mistook him for the owner or worker in the garden; the "two disciples" imagined that he was "a stranger in Jerusalem;" and these disciples think him, for the moment, to have been a stray wanderer by the lake-side. Their presupposition concerning the reappearance of their risen Lord would probably have involved some strange and awe-striking fulguration of his power; but the true "spiritual body" does, when it pleases, take on forms far more familiar.
The slowness of the process by which the apostles became finally convinced, against their prejudices and sense-bound views, that he had risen into a new form of living, and into new conditions of existence.
Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.
Verses 5, 6.
Jesus therefore saith unto them
. They failed to recognize his first appearance, so he permits them to hear the voice which had often poured such music into their ears.
, the phrase used in
, "young people," "lads" - a term of less intimate familiarity, though the apostle himself used it in
1 John 2:13, 18
(in vers. 1 and 12
is used, apparently in interchange with it). The
suggests a negative answer.
is that which is eaten with bread, and is commonly
, something roasted for the purpose of eating with bread. Since fish was very frequently used for the purpose, the word was often used for "fish" itself (LXX.,
.9, 11. Other equivalent words are found in Attic Greek,
(lads, young men yonder),
you have nothing, I suppose, to eat? They answered him, No
. In all this scene the risen Lord showed himself interested and co-operating with them in their daily toil, as engaged in the same work with them. Their listless manner showed that they had toiled in vain, and, perhaps with tone or gesture of unwillingness to confess their failure, they replied in the negative.
Then he said
to them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship
; the side opposite to that on which they were dragging it along. Moreover, the "right hand," the "right eye," the "right ear," the "right side," are proverbially the more useful, fruitful, or honorable. The imagery is preserved throughout Scripture.
And ye shall find.
Therefore they cast
And in order to do this they would probably have had to haul a considerable portion of it into the boat for the necessary transference from left to right. They at once obeyed the summons, remembering what they had previously found to have been their experience (
and no longer were they able
, or had they strength, to draw it into the boat.
, is here quite a different process from the
of ver. 8, which describes the hauling, tugging, of the net to shore. The difficulty arose
the multitude of the fishes
. The miracle here is a simple indication of the higher knowledge which the Lord possessed. This huge shoal may, humanly speaking, have been perceived in its approach; so that the event is more impressive in its analogical force than in its supernatural machinery. It suggests the surprising results that would accompany their labor when they should under the Lord's own injunction and inspiration, become veritable fishers of men. The parabolic teaching of this miracle is unusually obvious.
And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.
Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt
, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.
, as a distinct consequence of the vivid reminiscence of the past; with sudden intuition given to him by the event, and a fresh realization of the identity of the risen Lord with the Master Jesus,
that disciple therefore whom Jesus loved
- who must have been either one of the sons of Zebedee or one of the two unnamed disciples. The latter supposition is inapposite from the intimacy between Peter and John, which the synoptic narrative, and references in the Acts and Galatians it., have recorded; that disciple and no other, the one so often referred to, one of the seven,
saith unto Peter, It is the Lord
. Had he not again and again done wondrous things of power, wisdom, and love on this very spot, in these very waters? So John comes intuitively and with true insight to the sacred truth and reality, and his conduct is again contrasted wonderfully with the energetic and impulsive Peter (
John 20:5, 6
). The same relative characteristics of the two apostles have been preserved throughout the fivefold narrative. Such a contrast so delicately and persistently sustained lends certainty to the objective reality.
Accordingly Simon Peter, when he heard, It is the Lord
- for the words flashed conviction into him - hurried at once to put his new idea to practical proof. The word of John satisfied him, and, not seeing for himself what John saw with mental eye, he accepted the joyful news, and was the first to spring into the sea, and, with his usual energy, to cast himself at his Master's feet.
He girt his coat about him
for he was naked
). The word
does not mean perfectly nude. A man who had simply the
or tunic upon him was practically thus regarded. The word
1 Samuel 19:24
in the same sense. The proper name for the tunic, or garment next the skin, was
, and that which was put over the tunic was
(Meyer and Wettstein, in loc.). The Talmud has Aramaized the word, calling it
(ependetha), and used it for the workman's frock or blouse, often without sleeves, and fastened with a girdle. Dr. Salmond truly says that this reference to an act which to ordinary men would have suggested a different arrangement of dress, reveals the eye-witness. Hengstenberg suggests that Peter simply girded his upper garment for the purpose of swimming more easily; but, as Luthardt observes, with this
already upon him, he would not have been "naked"
And he cast himself into the sea
, intending, whatever might be the fate of the laden net, to be the first to greet and worship the Lord. Of the reception he met with John says nothing: he knew nothing. The Lord had some special instruction for him a little later. It is not in harmony with the words, as Gerhard supposed, that Peter walked triumphantly upon the waters. Not a hint of it occurs. The hundred yards were rapidly covered, either by swimming or wading to the shore meanwhile.
And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.
But the other disciples came in the little boat
. Either what was first described as
is now more minutely described as
, "the (same) little boat," or else they had transferred themselves from the more cumbrous fishing-smack to the smaller craft which was tethered to the larger one. The reason why the other disciples came in the boat is given in the parenthesis: (
for they were not far from the land, but as it were two hundred cubits off
about three hundred feet, half a stadium, a hundred yards.
to denote distance from, is used in this Gospel (see note,
) and the Revelation (Revelation 14:20). The disciples came in the boat over this distance,
dragging the net (full) of fishes.
The net was not broken, though filled. They did not further attempt to lift it; they hauled it to the shore as it was. Strauss, who tries to show that we have a glorifying myth framed out of an amalgam of the narratives of the first miraculous draught and that of Peter walking on the water, is singularly unfortunate; for there is less of the supernatural in the story than in either of the two narratives to which he refers.
As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.
So when they were come to land
(literally, with Revised Version, got out of the boat upon the land;
they see a fire of coals there
. The word
occurs only in
and in this place. It is derived from
, a "coal of fire," or burning charcoal. Observe the form
), which implies that the burning brazier was placed there for a purpose.
And fish laid thereon, and a loaf
, used both in the singular and the plural for the roast relish eaten with bread, and, by reason of the customary food of the people, is often used for "fish" or "fishes.") Our Lord was regarding the whole of this proceeding from the standing of one who would meet their hunger, and was conscious of power to feed the world in its utmost need. So the provision which was thus made in advance for the need of the disciples becomes symbolic of Christ's power to meet all the wants of the dying world. Numerous speculations have been hazarded about the method employed by our Lord to prepare this meal. The early Fathers, Chrysostom, Theophylact, with Grotius, have appealed to Christ's creative power. Luthardt thinks of the ministry of angels. Some have suggested that Peter prepared the hasty repast during the interval that elapsed between his landing on the shore and the approach of the boat. Our Lord, who knew how to arrange for the last supper with his disciples, and who had all the resources of Providence, and hosts of disciples along the shore, would, with superlative ease, and without revealing himself to strangers, have made this simple meal; and, with his knowledge of the ease, would have still delighted to act towards his beloved ones as at once their Host and their Minister. He simply prepared for his own what he has been doing ever since.
Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.
Jesus saith to them, Bring of the fish
which ye have now taken
(see note on ver. 3). It is not exactly said what was done with this fish. The implication is that to the scanty meal already provided, the new supply was added, and that the Lord permitted his disciples to join his repast, and to rejoice with him at the success of their labor. They and he shared in the travail, and were satisfied therewith. The circumstance is highly parabolic of the common joy which would fill his heart and theirs when the fullness of the Gentiles should be brought in, and all Israel be saved.
Simon 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.
Then Simon Peter went up
. Here again Simon is first in action, as John is the more rapid and real in his mental processes. The other disciples may have aided him, following his lead; but the singular verbs are used on both occasions (
). In like manner, though the twelve apostles took part in the transactions of Pentecost, Peter opened his mouth to speak. On other occasions, while John spake by the eloquent glances of his eye, and the rest of the disciples joined their leader in testimony and prayer, Peter's voice was that which conveyed the mighty exultation of their common heart (
, etc.; Acts 4:8, etc.; Acts 8:20, etc.; Acts 10:34-11:30; 15:7-11). The word
, "went up," must be explained by the fact that
is used of embarking in a vessel (
), though in each case there is some difference in the manuscripts, with reference to the text, as there is also here. If the vessel was drawn up on the shore, with the net attached to it, the form of expression is explicable. Peter went up into the boat for the lines of the net, and, having secured it,
he drew the net to the land
full of great fishes, a hundred and fifty and three.
Various efforts have been made from early times to give some symbolic meaning to this enumeration. Canon Westcott has detailed several of these strange guesses. Cyril of Alexandria set the example, and was followed by Ammonius the presbyter, who both in different ways regarded the 3 as representative of the Trinity, the 100 + 50 representing, in different proportions, the success of the apostolic ministry among Gentiles and Jews. Augustine observes that 10 is the number of the Law, and 7 the number of the Spirit, 10 + 7 = 17; and the numbers from 1 + 2 + 3 + 17 = 153; so that the number represents all who are brought to God under every dispensation of grace. Gregory the Great reaches the value 17 in the same fashion as Augustine, but, says he, it is only by faith in the Trinity that either Jew or Gentile ever reaches the fullness of salvation; 17 is therefore multiplied by 3 = 3 x 17, which produces 51, which is the number of true rest; multiplied again by 3, which completes the glory of the perfected, it is 153. Hengstenberg, following Grotius, supposes a reference to the 153,600 Canaanitish proselytes who were received into the kingdom in Solomon's day (
2 Chronicles 2:17
)! though the odd 600 certainly confuse the reckoning. Jerome refers to the opinion of a learned naturalist of the second century, Oppian, who is said to have ascertained that there were 153 different kinds of fish in the seas, and that the apostles took of every kind, revealing the ultimate success of the fishers of souls with every kind of man - an allegory based on false science and insecure data, and involving a stupendous miracle, if it be meant for an historical fact. Several of the modern Tübingen school, in various but unsatisfactory ways, see in the number one made up by the letters composing the name of Simeon (71) bar (22) Jonah (31) Kephas (29); and here even Keim follows suit. Thoma finds the number in the mystic
, "Jesus Christ the Son of God, Savior." Reuss discourages mystical or occult meaning. The remark of Baumgarten-Crusius, that the number is simply an index of the authenticity of the narrative, and of the fact that the fishes were counted on the occasion, is eminently sensible (so Godet and Meyer). The fact that it is not a round number adds to the probability of this statement, and enters a caveat against allegorical interpretation. And for all they were so many, the net was not rent. This is obviously a point of contrast with the first miraculous draught of fishes, when the nets brake and the boats began to sink. This does form a probable allegory of the success with which the final ingathering of souls shall be effected.
Jesus saith unto them, Come
dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.
Jesus saith to them, Come and break your fast
. A Word is used which does not denote the principal meal of the day (not
), but a slight refreshment that was taken in early morning, or at least before noon, and answers to our breakfast at the dawning of the day. He calls them to the repast. He becomes once more their Host and their Minister. Even still, metaphorically, he washes their feet. He attends to their requirements. He feeds them from this strangely bestowed supply. He joins them in their hunger for souls. He inspires their methods. He shares in their victory, after painful fruitless toil.
not even Thomas -
of the disciples durst inquire of him
- put to him the interrogatory -
Who art thou
, each one of them
that it was the Lord
. The use of
, John's own word, is not to be wondered at, as he does not think of a simple inquiry, but of such an examination as would furnish them with facts. These they possessed. A feeling of awe and reverence possessed them. They were of one mind about the marvelous revelation of himself to them. Some strange emotion sealed their lips. He had not manifested himself to the world, but to his disciples, and to them by "the interpretations they were putting upon their own experience" (Westcott). They knew it was the Lord. They looked into that other world. They were lost in silent amaze, and received the revelation once more of their risen Master and Lord.
Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.
and taketh the bread, and giveth them, and the fish likewise.
It would seem that the specific bread and fish already referred to (ver. 9) was the material of at least the first part of this sacramental meal No benediction or prayer is mentioned. If this may not be presupposed, his presence made the feast, and was the blessing. Meyer says, however, that
, as in earlier verses, are simply generic. On either supposition, it is clear from ver. 15 that more fish were prepared and used by the seven disciples than the solitary loaf and
which were first seen upon the fire. The Lord gave them symbolically the entire gift of his love by that which he came forward at this moment to supply.
This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.
This is now
- or, as Meyer puts it, this time already is -
the third time that Jesus was manifested
(passive, not active, as in ver. 1)
disciples, after that he was risen from the dead
; or, when he had been raised from the dead. The implication is that there had up to this time been no other manifestation to groups of his disciples than those which John had related. Therefore those other occurrences mentioned by Luke, Matthew, and Paul must be supposed to lie still in the future. That there were other manifestations is not obscurely hinted by the word
. The appearances to the women, to Cephas and James, are not of the class so carefully described by John. The
εϊτα τοῖς δώδεκα
1 Corinthians 15:5
, etc., might be regarded as this third manifestation to the disciples (Luthardt). Godet agrees that the two appearances in Luke (Emmaus and Peter) are not reckoned by John, any more than that made to Mary Magdalene. The statement, "to the disciples," is clearly the explanation. Paul mentions the appearance
to Simon Peter;
then to the twelve (
John 20:19, 26
to the five hundred, at the head of whom may have been the eleven of
the twelve (the ascension not described by John).
Since Luke and Paul (Godet) omitted the narrative before us, John is here repairing the omissions of tradition. It seems quite as reasonable to place this third revelation to a group of apostles as the third of Paul's enumerations. John is explicit in recording appearances to the special, combined, and chosen witnesses, while he not only implies, but mentions, other manifestations. Paul recites the special manifestations of various kinds, and gives most important details dropped by other traditions. The apocryphal ' Gospel according to the Hebrews,' as related by Jerome ('Cat. Script. Eccl. "Jacobus"'), quotes the passage which refers to the interview between James and the risen Lord. Gregory of Tours ('Hist. Francorum,' 1:21) refers to the tradition as though he had taken it from some analogous but not identical source (see a full discussion of the passage in Nicholson's 'Gospel according to the Hebrews,' pp. 62-68). If the previous manifestations of the risen Lord were made to love, to thought, to earnest though trembling inquiry, to spiritual vision only, so here we find that, amid the ordinary duties of life and the activities and disappointments of daily service, the Lord manifests himself. The eye of love and the heart of rock are made ready for special assurances of the Master's presence and power to help and guide disciples throughout that mysterious future in which they are to feel and realize his words, "Lo! I am with you always, even to the end of the world."
So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon,
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 revelations to be made in the services dictated by love and issuing in martyrdom. The confession made by Simon Peter, and the charge given to him.
When therefore they had breakfasted, Jesus saith to Simon Peter.
His full name and Christ-given appellation is in the mind of the evangelist; but he, with marked emphasis, shows that our Lord went back to his relations with Simon before the latter's first introduction to him (see
, etc.), and recalls the attitude Christ had taken to Simon on more than one memorable occasion (
). On two of these occasions the simple humanity of the apostle was the basis on which the Lord proceeded to confer upon him the high official designation. The grace of God, in the first instance, selected Simon of Jonah to be a rock. In the second, "not flesh and blood," but the Father's grace, revealed the mystery of the Divine Sonship to him, and won the name of Peter. In the third, the utter weakness of Simon's own flesh reveals the power of the prayer of Jesus for him, so that he might ultimately convert his brethren; and now "Simon" is reinstated after his fall into his apostolic office.
Simon, son of Jona
- or, John (see
, note) -
lovest thou me more than these?
more than these other disciples love me? Thou hast seen more of my compassion, farther into my heart, deeper into my Person, my position, and my work, than they have done; thou hast dared again and again to ask for higher service and more conspicuous distinction. Thou hast made louder protestations than any of these of thine unworthiness to serve me, and in the deep consciousness of humiliation thou hast been more emphatic than any of them in refusing grace which thou thoughtest it might dishonor me to give. Thou didst indeed say, "Though all men should be offended at me or should deny me," thou wouldst never be offended and never deny me. "Dost thou love me more than they do?" There is no positive reference to the denial and fall of Peter; but the implication and suggestion cannot be hidden, though Hengstenberg and others fail to appreciate it. The circumstance that Peter was "grieved" because the Lord put this question to him a third time makes the reference very little less than explicit. The real significance of the narrative is the reinstitution of Peter in the position of importance he had filled throughout, and an indication of the nature and quality of that service. In Simon's reply,
Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee
, three things are very noticeable.
Peter says nothing of the superiority of his affection for his Lord over that of his colleagues. Had they not in outward act been more faithful than he? He could not arrogate any sweeter, dearer, more abounding affection than he was willing to believe that they felt for their Master. It is scarcely worth while to notice the miserable translation that some few commentators have suggested: "Lovest thou me more than (thou lovest) these fishing-smacks and this thriving business on the lake?" Observe
Peter's admission that the Lord knew his inmost heart, concedes, therefore, that the question was merely intended to test his faithfulness, and force him to a more salutary and binding acknowledgment. Notice
Peter's change of phraseology. The word used for "love" by the Lord is
, but that which is used in response by the apostle is
, the love of natural emotion, and even tender, intimate, personal affection. The Latin language, by rendering
by amo rather than diligo, expresses the subtle shades of meaning between
. There is, however, no English word but "love" for them both. The admirable remarks of Archbishop Trench ('Synonyms of New Testament,' § 12.) find special illustration in these verses. Many passages occur in which amo and
seem to mean more and have deeper intensity than diligo and
. Amari is the affection which a friend may desire from a friend, even more than diligi; but the latter denotes choice, mental conviction, and self-recognition of the fact. Antony, in his funeral oration over Caesar (Dion Cassius, 41:48, quoted by Trench), says,
αὐτὸν ὡς πατέρα καὶ ἠγαπήσατε ὡς εὐεργέτην
. Thus in the New Testament we are continually told of the
ἀγαπᾶν τὸν Θεόν
, but never of the
φιλεῖν τὸν Θεόν
. God is himself said to
φιλεῖν τὸν υἱόν
. When, therefore, the Lord here asks Simon,
," Dost thou esteem me worthy of thy love?" Simon, with a burst of personal affection, says, yet with a certain humility, "I love thee" - meaning, "Such love as I can lavish upon thee, such as I may dare in my humility to offer thee, O my Master, Brother, Friend!" This being the case,
Jesus saith, Feed my lambs
. Love to Christ is the first, high, main condition of faithful service. The chief of the apostles will have this as his prime, chief, and most laudable service. Each of the terms of the commission, in its threefold repetition, resembles the other; and Meyer says the whole duty of the pastor of souls and earthly shepherd of the flock is involved in each of the three expressions. Our Lord commences, however, with providing true food, seasonable nourishment, for the "lambs" of the flock. The tender emotion involved in the term cannot be excluded, but it is a comprehensive and suggestive one, and embraces the young converts, the first believers, those who with impetuosity and gladness receive the Word; the little children who will literally crowd into the Church become the highest and sacredest care of the chiefest apostles and most honored of pastors. The first, the main thing they need, is the milk of the Word, and the sweetest pastures. This consideration of the next generation, and gracious care for the children and the childlike of every successive age, is one of the sacred signs of Divine revelation. Our Lord is represented in the synopties as "suffering the little children" to "come to" him, as "blessing them," and rejoicing in their hosannas. St. John preserves and glorifies the whole conception by recording this commission of the risen Lord to the greatest of the apostles. If the babes and sucklings had "held their peace, the stones would have cried out," is the pathetic approval of the rejected Lord. "Feed my lambs" is the gracious, unexpected summons of the triumphant Christ and Lord of all.
He saith to him again the second time, Simon,
of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas
lovest thou me
? Here our Lord omits, as Peter had done, the "more than these," but he again, with perhaps deeper meaning, uses the word
. Dost thou render me even more in one sense, though less in another, of thy heart's reverence? Dost thou treat me with the confidence and esteem, submission and admiration, which are my due? Again Peter, with his heart bursting with personal affection, feels that he can and must say,
Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee
love thee dearly). The commission that follows is the second stage of pastoral office.
He saith to him, Tend
("act the part of shepherd")
. Christ is the "good Shepherd," and, as Peter puts it in
1 Peter 5:4
, the "chief Shepherd." He has laid down his life with a view of taking it again, and ever after discharging the functions of the Shepherd. He means to bring all the "sheep" into one flock. They shall all hear his voice, and receive from him everlasting life. Meanwhile the leader of the apostles is made to appreciate that love is the condition of all healthy guidance. Faculty for rule is part of the very nature of the pastoral care. The sheep will need this even more than the "lambs;" the old disciples will require, even more than the young converts, both direction and command In this respect the subsequent career of Peter was more conspicuous than that of the rest of the apostles (see
1 Peter 5:2
for the use of the word). But the shepherding of the sheep is an essentially necessary and integral portion of every pastor's care. When assailed by the wolf of heresy, by the hostile marauder, by new conditions of any kind, by special danger, unless he can in self-forgetting love pilot and protect his flock, he is no true shepherd.
He saith unto him the third time, Simon,
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.
- And now Peter seems to have conquered, by his persistence, the heart of his Lord, and Jesus adopts the very phrase which Peter twice over had substituted for that which he had himself used; for he saith unto him the third time,
Simon, son of Jonas
lovest thou me
;); as if he had said, "Dost thou indeed love me dearly, love me as a friend, love me with the earnestness and fervor that twice over has corrected my word into one more congenial to thee, and more ample and true than that used by myself?" This trait of Peter's character, which John has hinted on several occasions, is abundantly illustrated in the synoptic narrative and in the Acts of the Apostles.
Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me
? The grief was natural. The repeated question suggests some doubt about his sincerity, and the adoption of the apostle's own word cut him with a more poignant heart-thrust? He may have thought thus: Jesus seems to distrust the reality of my personal affection. and will not accept my implication that this is more to me than the most thoughtful
, the most deeply meditated and measured reverence. He was grieved because a third time seems like an infinite repetition, and, if repeated thus a third time, it may be asked me again and again every day of my life. He was grieved from the irresistible analogy between the threefold denial of which he had been guilty, and this threefold interrogatory. He does not say as before, "Yea, Lord;" but commences,
Lord, thou knowest
. Omniscience is freely conceded to the Lord. All things that Peter did, thought, or felt, all his bewilderment, all his mistakes, all his impulsiveness and mixture of motive, all his self-assertion, all his weakness and disloyalty, are known; but so also all the inner springs and lines of his nobler nature, and that though he played the fool, he was a hypocrite in his denials. The Lord knew that his faith did not really fail, though his courage did; and in virtue of this breadth of the Lord's knowing, he must have come to full cognizance of the entire meaning of Peter's life.
hast come fully to know that I love thee!
Just because thou intuitively knowest all things. The play on
is obvious (see
Jesus saith to him, Feed my little sheep
. It is said by some that, even if this be the true reading, we have simply a renewal of the tenderness and strong emotion which led the Lord to speak of the
on the first occasion. Doubtless deep and glowing affection pervades the use of these epithets; but if this be the sole explanation, then the reason of the adoption of
in the second commission is not evident,
would have answered the purpose. There is distinct progress in the ideas:
"Feed my lambs;"
"Rule (shepherd) my sheep;"
"Feed my little sheep."
First, let Peter, let the apostolic company, let any one of the successors of the apostles, learn the delicate duty of supplying the just and appropriate nourishment to those that are young in years or in graces; then let him also learn to guide, direct, protect from outward foes, the mature disciples, and preserve the discipline of the flock, seeking the lost sheep until it be found; and he will find that then a third duty emerges. The sheep that are young in heart, the old men that are childlike in spirit, the trembling sheep that need even more care than the lambs themselves, are specially thrown upon the shepherd's care. Was not Peter himself a
? Had he not shown that he was a most imperfect master of himself? He was mature in years, but childish as well as childlike in character. He could (for a while) only see one thing at a time, and he was impatient of the future. Mark welt his characteristic words, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man. O Lord!" "That be far from thee, O Lord!" "Why cannot I follow thee now?" "Thou shall never wash my feet!" "Not my feet only, but my hands and my head!" "Let us build for thee three tabernacles!" "Not so; I have never eaten anything common or unclean!" These are familiar illustrations of the childishness and infantile simplicity, babyish audacity, of the old disciple. Even after the Lord has risen from the dead, Peter ventures to correct his language. Christ, moreover, accepts his persistent alteration of the word for "love" item the lips of this
. Thus the Lord summons him to undertake a duty which he would on reflection be specially able to appreciate.
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst 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
whither thou wouldest not.
Verily, verily, I say unto thee
. This form of address links the pre-resurrection life to that which follows, proclaims the identity of the being and the unity of the Person of the Christ under new conditions. More than that, much solemnity is conferred on this final word of the Master.
When thou wast younger than thou art now
before thou camest under my sway; when thou wert supreme ruler of the fishing-fleet of Capernaum, with wife and family dependent on thee; when Andrew, James, and John (thy partners) were in a measure all doing thy will, following in thy train, submitting to thy behests, -
thou girdodst thyself
for whatever task was set before thee; thou hadst the choice of duties and pleasures; thou hadst time at thy disposal, thy method of service in thine own hands, even as now it was thy will to gird thee for the task of swimming to my feet (see
1 Kings 18:46
John 13:4, 5
1 Peter 1:13
. The simple verb is used here in reference to all kinds of "girding"). So that the Lord reminds him of his natural self-will, so conspicuous and prominent, the secret of all his weakness and much of his individuality.
And thou walkedst whither thou wouldest
; or literally, thou wert in the habit of walking whithersoever thou weft willing or desiring to do;
thine outward conduct, and the whole line of thy daily enterprise and duty, was not only an utterance of thine own self-mastery, but even thy wishes, the momentary waywardness of thy purposes, found immediate gratification. But a great change has come over thee; thou hast passed through a new experience. Already thou feelest that thou art not thine own; thy heart and strength, thy hands, thy feet, thy very girdle and sandal, are beginning to seem to thee no longer at thine own disposal. Thy self-will is checked, thy natural audacity and power of initiation are repressed into much narrower limits. Thou-hast found thyself weaker than a little child; thou art in need of this Divine principle of "love," deep and fervent, reverential as well as personal, not only to utter bold expressions of regard, but to form the very focus and new central force of thy whole being; and so it will come to pass that this new force will more than master thee; and
when thou shalt be
old and gray with years, thy service to that other and higher wilt shall be complete: thou
wilt stretch forth thy hands
in token of entire submission to the will of another, however it may be revealed to thee - whether at the instance of "the angel" or "Herod," of "Cornelius" or Nero's executioner! This remarkable phrase has often been supposed to mean the "stretching forth of the hands of the crucified" on his being appended to the cross. But such a process would follow rather than precede the "girding," which is, on such an interpretation, taken literally of the girding that preceded the nailing. There can be no doubt, from the language of St. John, that this was the final and forcible illustration of the new principle that would take full possession of Simon Peter. But meanwhile it was a long life of willing surrender to the Supreme Will which gives its highest meaning to these words.
And another shall gird thee, and carry thee
(or, bring thee)
whither thou art not wishing to go
. The old self-will, though it be indeed mastered, will not have utterly vanished. If it be not so, where would be the sacrifice? Even the blessed Lord himself said, "Not my will, but thine be done." Verily, even the sanctified nature of the sinless Man, prepared in the spotless womb of the blessed Virgin by the Holy Ghost, anointed by the Spirit, and in living absolute union with the only begotten Son, - even he was, in human consciousness, disposed to cry, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me," etc. We need not wonder, then, that to the very last, when the supreme will was manifested to Peter in the approaches of violent death, he should feel the will of the flesh thwarted. The exquisite legend embodied in the "Domiue, quo vadis?" (see
) confirms the entire representation of the character of Peter. So also does the story, preserved by Tertullian ('De Pries.,' 35; ' Ad Scorp.,' 15) and Eusebius ('Hist. Eccl.,' 3:1), that the apostle preferred crucifixion with his head downwards, on the plea that to be crucified as his Master was too great an honor for one that had denied his Lord.
This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
This he said
, adds the evangelist,
signifying by what manner of death, not necessarily crucifixion
(Godet), but that violent and martyr-death to which the prince of the apostles was called. How many anticipations, partial beginnings, of the final scene must Peter have passed through before, in utter human helplessness, but in Divine, supernatural strength, he stretched out his hands, allowed another to gird him, prepare him for the day's work, and carry him whither all his nature would shrink to go! There is no other hint whatever of literal crucifixion than this phrase of "stretching out the hand," which is nowhere else applied to the peculiar method in which the crucified ones suffered. Doubtless the transposition of the two phrases must not be pressed too much, since the stretching of the arms might possibly bear the literal interpretation of the action which was forced upon the victim, and the subsequent "girding" refer to the subligaculum, by which he was fastened to the instrument of torture; while the "being carried whither he would not" might, though by some forcing of the phrase, be supposed, though enigmatically and obscurely, to refer to the uplifting of the cross with its living burden. The phrase, "signifying by what manner of death he should glorify God," is peculiarly Johannine (
). This sublime term for the suffering of the great saints, taken from the light which the Lord's agony had cast upon holy death, became a permanent Christian idea (Suicer, 'Thes.,' 1:949). When John wrote, the fact of Peter's death must have been well known throughout the Church. There is every probability that he had long since been crucified, and the solemnity of the utterance was augmented and pointed by the well-known manner of the death of the illustrious apostle. This was, however, by no means the only meaning that naturally flows out of the warning; nor is Peter's experience the only illustration that it bears.
And when he had spoken this, Jesus saith to him, Follow me.
There may have been a primary interpretation derived from Christ's removal to a distance from the rest of the disciples, and the intention of conferring upon Peter there and then, special and further instructions. But from the context, in which the contrasts of life, character, and service are conspicuous, it would seem impossible (Meyer) so to restrict the meaning, as Tholuck and others do. The command is the concentration into one burning utterance of all that is meant by Christian life - that coming into relation with the living Lord, that imitation of his principle of action, which, as St. Paul in Philippians it. has shown, was capable of imitation in the narrower and smaller circle of our human experience. If it be rational for the Lord to have said, "Be ye perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect," and for Paul to have pressed upon his converts, "Be ye followers of God, as dear children;" "Be ye followers of me, as I am of Christ," - then the Lord gathered all the rules of conduct which were involved in his previous discourses into one word, when he laid upon the man who should be a fisher of souls, a feeder of lambs, a shepherd of sheep, a feeder of the little sheep of the flock, the comprehensive duty, "Follow me." Those interpretations which make the words mean "Follow me as universal bishop and pastor," as that of Chrysostom does, are incompatible with the narrative; or if we suppose them to signify, "Follow me into the invisible world," or "Imitate me in my martyrdom," this would be unpractical, and by no means in obvious harmony with the kind of injunctions just given. We give the passage from James Innes' translation of Aug., 'Tr.,' 123:4, which Westcott justly implies is beyond translation: "Such was the end reached by that denier and lover; elated by his presumption, prostrated by his denial, cleansed by his weeping, approved by his confession, crowned by his suffering, - this was the end he reached: to die with a perfected love for the Name of him with whom, by a perverted forwardness, he had promised to die. He would do, when strengthened by Christ's resurrection, what in his weaknesss he had promised prematurely. The needful order was that Christ should first die for Peter's salvation, and then that Peter should die for the preaching of Christ." Our Lord, when appealed to with reference to John, does not merely repeat the injunction, "Follow me," but forces upon Peter the original summons. This undoubtedly gives a solemnity and specialty to the work of Peter, to which the subsequent career of John was not an exact parallel. It cannot be said that our Lord in any sense forbids John to follow him, but says that, though John may abide, may rest, may meditate, may see visions and dream dreams, until he the Lord should come, that would in no respect alter the direct advice given to Peter. On referring to the earliest scene described in this Gospel between Jesus and his disciples, we find that "Follow me" was addressed to Philip, Moreover, Andrew and John were, on their first introduction to Jesus as "the Lamb of God," already (
) "following him," and they were even then asking for power or permission to "abide" (
) with him. But Peter was not then told to "follow him," but was simply invested with the great name of Cephas (
). These details are obviously supplemented by those before us. The entire phraseology is borrowed from the earlier narrative. The true solution of the problem of the paragraph is that John had followed the Master from the first, and clung to him (
), abode with him, from those early days till the moment at which these memorable words were uttered. In the journeys to Jerusalem, at the interview with Nicodemus, in Samaria, at the pool of Bethesda, in the hall of the high priest, and in Pilate's Praetorium, at the upper chamber, and in the garden, to the cross, and to the grave of Joseph, the beloved disciple had "followed" his Master. Peter's devotion was intense and at times passionate, but it was marked with a striking disposition, from first to last, to lead as well as "follow," to advise as well as to be guided, to stretch forth his hands, and to gird himself for his own enterprises. But with all his extraordinary peculiarities, he had never really broken the bond or relinquished his faith; and now the Lord in one word corrects every one of his failings anew, and institutes him into his sublime mission by the call, "Follow me." But even yet, Peter's extraordinary characteristic, to guide rather than to follow, leads him once more to lake the initiative. For whatever gesture it was that our Lord made, which induced Peter to think of immediate action, we cannot say; but it would seem that, even before he began to follow, he gave another intensely vivid characterization of himself.
Then 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?
The revelations made to patient waiting for the coming of the Lord, with correction of a misunderstanding touching the disciple whom Jesus loved.
Having turned himself round,
instead of keeping every glance for his Lord,
Peter seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following
), obeying the command without offering one suggestion. The writer adds, by way of further identification,
he who also leaned back at the supper, upon his breast, and said, Who is he that betrayeth thee?
(see notes on John 13:23). The note is here introduced to show the close connection of Peter and the beloved disciple. It was Simon Peter who had beckoned at the supper to the beloved disciple to ask this very question.
Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what
Verses 21, 22.
seeing this man, saith to Jesus, Lord, and this man, what?
What is the duty, place, fate, or honor of this man? Paulus and Tholuck suggest in the words the inquiry, "May not this man come now and hear our intercourse, share in my travail and the like?" Meyer supposes it to be dictated by a certain jealousy or curiosity, a consciousness of contrast between his own impetuosity and the beloved disciple's quietude and self-possession. Clearly the inquiry was not altogether pleasing to the Lord, and led him once more to reiterate the original injunction,
If I will that he abide until I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me.
, and cease to inquire after another's duty. Meyer considers that the
is the opposite to
- that the latter word means "following unto death and martyrdom," while the former means "to be preserved alive," and turns to
1 Corinthians 15:6
in vindication. Doubtless that was the crude explanation which led to the subsequent legend of his immortality on earth, and the apostle's own disclaimer; but the word
seems to be used in
John 1:37, 39, 40
, and in many other places, of the complement and entire fulfillment of the idea and practice of
- of that abiding in Christ which is the full result of heartfelt following and unquestioning submission to the Savior's will (
John 15:4, 5, 10
; see also
1 John 2:6, 17, 24, 26
1 John 3:24
1 John 4:15
). Taking with these passages the corresponding and alternative use of the word to express the manner in which God, truth, or love "abides" in the child of God, it would seem as though it were the keynote of much of John's most mature experience - a fact which is very remarkably elucidated by the passage before us. Baur, Hilgenfeld, Schwegler, Strauss, have urged from this passage that the writer was contending against the Petrine tendency in the Church, by representing John as the higher and more distinguished apostle; and, according to Kostlin, a precisely opposite expression was conveyed by the unknown writer, who meant to flatter the Roman primacy, in the second century, by the dignities thus conferred upon the chief of the apostles. Both hypotheses are baseless. The beloved disciple quietly accepts here the role of "abiding," "waiting," "resting in the Lord," and admits the superior energy and constant initiation which Peter was, as a man, constrained to pursue. There is no jealousy between them, nor the hint of it. John receives more than he asks. "If I will that he abide till I come," etc., has been variously interpreted (the condition is not a simple supposition, there is a probability or uncertainty in the period of the "abiding" - the apodosis declares the as yet unuttered condition to be without bearing on Peter's immediate duty). Some have said that it means, "If I will that he enjoy the long life and the natural death of one who rests with Christ until he comes to take him home by a quiet departure, until he comes to receive him to himself" (
. So Ewald and Olshausen). This view is improbable, because most certainly in that sense, Peter too followed and tarried and abode with Christ till the day when he was taken home. Luthardt suggests that the saying, as here given and interpreted by John himself, not of physical immortality, but of the coming itself, is John's way of asserting that the Lord has come; that in the fall of Jerusalem, A.D. 70, the destruction of the theocracy, and the obvious establishment of the true kingdom in all the world was the "coming," the
, of which the Savior had always spoken. John "sees the coming of the Lord in that event." In this general interpretation, Stier and Hengstenberg concur. Westcott throws more light upon it by wisely emphasizing (
) the coming, not as one great event, but that continuous realization of his return which is the lofty privilege of faith; and shows that in numerous places
points, not so much to the ultimate consummation, as to the interval which will elapse between the commencement and the consummation of the coming (cf.
1 Timothy 4:13
). How frequently has Christ spoken, in the latest discourses, of coming again, to fill the sorrowing with joy, to teach in the power of the Comforter, to judge the prince of this world, to raise and quicken the dead! Such abiding is the full issue of faithful following. Surely two types of character pervade the whole dispensation the Martha and the Mary types; the faithful servant who works and trades with his talents, and the virgin who waits for the Bridegroom; and these two types both meet with appropriate advice. Simon is bidden to follow, and, occupied with busy cares of the Church, leave results to Christ; but John, who has passed into the sanctuary of holy love, is encouraged to rest patiently, and in obscurity and silence, to glory and serve by "standing and waiting."
Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what
to thee? follow thou me.
Then 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
- We need not be surprised that the sublime meaning of these words, "Wait while I am ever coming to him," should have been misunderstood.
Therefore this word went forth to the brethren.
The designation, "brethren," only occurs in
. The more familiar names of "disciples" and "children," "servants" and "apostles," are used in the Gospels. The Acts and Epistles introduce a new group of titles, e.g. "believers" as well as "brethren," "saints" as well as "disciples," "Christians," "slaves and soldiers of Christ," "sons of God," "priests and kings," and "little children;" but now, acting on the Divine hint of the Lord's own words, John speaks of his fellow-disciples who are called into the sacred fellowship as "brethren." The word went forth that that disciple dieth not (
, equivalent to "the disciple whom Jesus loved"). This was not an unnatural supposition, as his age advanced, and he was regarded as the "great light of Asia," the depositary of the latest traditions, as the link between the days of our Lord's ministry and two succeeding generations of believers, the seer of mighty visions, the enemy of all unrighteousness, and the apostle of love to the lost. In virtue of this very tradition, three hundred years later it was said that the holy apostle was still sleeping in his tomb at Ephesus, and that the dust moved lightly on his heaving breast (Augustine, 'Tr. on John,' 124:2). Here was the beginning of a genuine myth, which, having no real root in fact, failed to establish itself. "John the Baptist is risen from the dead," exclaimed Herod Antipas, "and therefore mighty powers energize in him." But there was no life and no truth in the story, and even among the disciples of St. John Baptist it did not take any place as a supposed fact. It is interesting to see that here a myth was started without positively bad faith, and based itself upon a recorded saying of the Lord; but it perished! The aged apostle strikes the folly dead with one stroke of his pen. The language is remarkable, as helping to prove that John wrote this chapter as well as the rest of the Gospel.
Jesus said not unto him, that he dieth not; but, If I will that he abide while I am ever coming, what is that to thee
? Meyer, who always insists on the apostolic idea of the nearness of the
, thinks that John does not decide here whether the rumor was true or false, and simply says it must, when he wrote, have been left still uncertain and unsettled (so Luther). The tradition is not authoritatively condemned; but it is shown to be a mere inference, one inference out of many, from words partially understood. The Epistles of John show how deeply John pondered the idea, and how much he crowded into the words, "abide in him," until the coming, and before and during and after the various comings of the Lord to him. Mr. Browning, in 'A Death in the Desert,' makes St. John say in his last hours -
"If I live yet, it is for good, more love
Through me to men: be naught but ashes here
That keep awhile my semblance, who was John -
Still when they scatter, there is left on earth."
No one alive who knew (consider this!) -
Saw with his eyes and handled with his hands
That which was from the first, the Word of life.
How will it be when none more saith, 'I saw '?
Such ever was love's way: to rise, it stoops.
Since I, whom Christ's mouth taught, was bidden teach,
I went, for many years, about the world,
Saying, 'It was so; so I heard and saw,'?
Speaking as the ease asked: and men believed.
* * *
"To me that story - ay, that Life and Death
Of which I wrote 'it was' - to me it is; -
Is, here and now: I apprehend naught else.
Yea, and the Resurrection and Uprise
To the right hand of the throne -...
I saw the Power; I see the Love, once weak,
Resume the Power; and in this word 'I see'
Lo, there is recognized the Spirit of both
That moving o'er the spirit of man, unblinds
His eye and bids him look....
Then stand before that fact, that Life and Death,
Stay there at gaze, till it dispart, dispread,
As though a star should open out, all sides,
Grow the world on you, as it is my world."
In ver. 23 we find the significant close of the Fourth Gospel, and there is much to make it highly probable that the two remaining verses were added by the Ephesian elders, as their certificate of its authorship, and their identification of the beloved disciple with the author of the Gospel. It differs from the similar passage,
, where the writer himself gives his own autoptic testimony to the great miracle of the spear-thrust; and where that testimony is declared by himself to be
answering to the very idea of testimony. Here the person and verb are plural.
This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.
Verses 24, 25.
Note of subsequent editors with reference to the authorship and the fullness of unrecorded traditions touching the words and deeds of Jesus.
This is the disciple who testifieth concerning these things
- whether those narrated in the twenty-first chapter or in the entire Gospel. He is still testifying. He has not yet departed. He still proclaims his gospel of the love of God, his memories of "the Word made flesh," of "the Light of the world," his doctrine of the "eternal life which was with the Father, and has been manifested unto us."
And wrote these things
- compare "these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full" (
1 John 1:4
and we know
(as a matter of fact,
that his testimony is true
), "veracious." We know him; we believe in his representation; we know without any shadow of doubt upon our mind that what he has said answers to the fact. It does not need that any of the elders should have seen the Lord to justify the use of
. Meyer supposes that these words, notwithstanding their plural form, simply show that John identifies himself with his readers, and, from the peculiar delicacy of his mind, hides himself and his individuality among them or behind them. Alford compares it with
, "We have seen his glory," and
1 John 4:14, 16
1 John 5:18
. Chrysostom and Theophylact read, in place of
οϊδαμεν οϊδα μέν
," I indeed know that his testimony is true." This ingenious method is rejected by modern scholars, on the principle that the writer would not thus have passed from third person to first. This does not seem to be insuperable: Paulus adopted this solution. The chief difficulty of admitting that these words are a note by the Ephesian presbyters, and of ignoring Chrysostom's suggestion, is that ver. 25 contains an unquestionable reintroduction of the first person in the
. This difficulty is, however, surmounted by Meyer, on the supposition that the last verse is not Johannine. Meyer and Tischendorf (who excludes it from his text) suppose it to have been a gloss by later hands, one which departs from the gravity and dignity of an apostle by its strong hyperbole. Still no codex but the Sinaitieus omits it, and the omission may be due to the loss of the last folio, on which it may have been written; while every other codex contains it. Godet thinks the writer was one of the elders who had joined in the previous authentication, and refers to "the strange notice which Tischendorf records from a manuscript in the Vatican, that Papias was the secretary to whom John dictated the entire Gospel," and imagines that the hyperbolic style of sores of the extant fragments of Papias might account for the extravagance of the statement it contains. Lange and Alford regard the whole verse, together with ver. 24, as Johannine, and suppose that John here speaks in propria persona when the fullness of his memory baffled all expression. Some treat the
, etc., as a possible saying of John's which was added by the authors of both verses. We think that the presence of the
(a very unusual word in the New Testament) is possibly accounted for by the recollection which some of those who had often heard the beloved apostle speak may have had of his way of describing the superlative richness of the life of our Lord, and that the brief appendix by those who bore this testimony to the veracity and authenticity and apostolic origin of the whole narrative is of priceless value. Undoubtedly it asserts with perfect clearness that John the son of Zebedee was the author of the Gospel. If, nevertheless, the work be that of a forger, who secured an accomplice in his deed of imposition, he is a moral anomaly; for, while acting so unworthily, he was nevertheless glorifying the doctrine that God is true, and that every lie is of the devil (
), and has produced a work which turns from end to end on a realization of the truth. The words on which so many speculations have been raised are -
And 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.
There are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written one by one
(or, each by itself),
I suppose even the world itself would not contain the books which would
. Some have suggested the idea that
, means "morally contain," "bear with.... endure." This is unsatisfactory. The writer, by the use of the name "Jesus," is not going back to the pre-existing, premundane activity of the Logos, but is simply conveying his enthusiastic sense of the inexhaustible fullness of the human life of the blessed Lord. The whole redeeming life, word, and work of the Word made flesh had a quality of infinity about it. The entire evangelic narrative has only touched the fringe of this vast manifestation, a few hours or days of the incomparable life. Every moment of it was infinitely rich in its Contents, in its suggestions, in its influence. Every act was a revelation of the Father, of the Son, of the Holy Spirit, giving vistas into the eternities, and openings into the heart and bosom of Deity. Let all that thus was done take thought-shape in human minds, and word-shape in human speech, and book-shape or embodiment in human literature, and there are no conceivable limits to its extent. We use such expressions continually, without feeling that we are adopting any unnatural or unhealthy hyperbole. The infinite abundance of the teaching and significance of the blessed life of the Son of God is ample justification of the apostolic enthusiasm.
Courtesy of Open Bible
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