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Ver. 1. After these things , etc.] The resurrection of Christ from the dead, his appearance to Mary Magdalene, and twice to his disciples; once when Thomas was absent, and at another time when he was present: Jesus showed himself again to the disciples , a third time, as in ( John 21:14) though not to them all; seven are only mentioned, as together, when he appeared to them: at the sea of Tiberias ; the same with the sea of Galilee; (see John 6:1) for after the second appearance of Christ to his disciples, they went from Jerusalem to Galilee, by the order of Christ, who appointed to meet them there, ( Matthew 28:10,16) and on this way showed he himself ; the manner in which he made his appearance, and the persons to whom, are as follow.
Ver. 2. There were together , etc.] In one place, in one house, in some town, or city of Galilee, not far from the sea of Tiberias; nor, as very likely, far from the mountain where Christ had promised to meet them. Simon Peter, who though he had denied his Lord, dearly loved him, and truly believed in him, kept with the rest of his disciples, and was waiting for another interview with him: and Thomas, called Didymus ; who, though for a while an unbeliever with respect to the resurrection of Christ, was now fully assured of it, and, for the future, was unwilling to lose any opportunity of meeting with his risen Lord. And Nathanael of Cana in Galilee ; an Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile. Dr. Lightfoot thinks he is the same with Bartholomew, and so one of the eleven. The Syriac version reads it, “Cotne”, and the Persic, Catneh of Galilee; no doubt the same place is meant, where Jesus turned water into wine, of which Nathanael was an inhabitant: and the sons of Zebedee ; who were James, whom Herod killed with the sword, and John, the writer of this Gospel: and two other of his disciples ; who are thought to be Andrew and Philip; which is very likely, since they were both of Bethsaida, ( John 1:44) a city in Galilee, and not far from the sea of Tiberias. Andrew is particularly mentioned by Nonnus: so that here were seven of them in all; four of them, according to this account, being wanting; who must be James the less, the brother of our Lord, Judas called Lebbaeus, and surnamed Thaddaeus, Simon the Canaanite, or Zealot, and Matthew the publican.
Ver. 3. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing , etc.] Which was his business before his conversion; and now having nothing to do, and his Lord and master having, as yet, no service for him in the ministry of the word, until the Spirit was poured down in an extraordinary manner, which was given to be expected, in the mean while he was inclined to, and resolved upon taking up his former employment; partly that he might not live an idle life, and partly to obtain a livelihood, which was now to be sought after in another manner, since the death of Christ; and these inclinations and resolutions of his he signifies to the rest of the disciples, who agreed with him: they say unto him, we also go with thee ; that is, a fishing; for it seems to have been the business and employment of them all formerly: the place they went to was the sea of Tiberias, as appears from ( John 21:1) a place free for any to fish at. This is said to be one of the ten traditions which Joshua delivered to the children of Israel, when he divided the land among them f799 : “that any man should be free to catch fish in the waters (or sea) of Tiberias; and he might fish with an hook only; but he might not spread a net, or place a ship there, except the children of the tribe to whom that sea belonged in their division.”
But now these disciples, or the greater part of them at least, belonging to the tribe and division in which the sea was, had a right to carry a ship or boat thither, and make use of a net, as they did. Besides, there was another reason for fishing here, because there were no unclean fish; for the Jews say f800 , that “in a place of running water no clean fish goes along with unclean fish, and lo, the sea of Tiberias is ˆh ˆyklhm µymh ˆwgk , “as running waters”.” They went forth : from the house, town, or city where they were, whether Capernaum, or Bethsaida, or Tiberias itself: and entered into a ship immediately ; which was either one of their own, that belonged to some one of them before their call; which though they had left, had reserved their right and claim unto; (see Luke 5:3) or which they hired for their present purpose: the word immediately is not in the Vulgate Latin, nor in the Syriac, Arabic, Persic, and Ethiopic versions, nor in Beza’s ancient copy: and that night they caught nothing . They went out in the evening of the day, and fished all night, that being a proper time for such business, and the most likely to succeed in, but caught no fish, or very little: and so it is sometimes with Gospel ministers, who are fishers of men, though they take every opportunity, and the most proper methods to gain souls to Christ, yet sometimes do not succeed; which makes things look dark and gloomy in their apprehensions.
Ver. 4. But when the morning was now come , etc.] The day began to dawn, and light to appear, very early in the morning; for Christ visits his right early, and is a present help to them in their time of trouble. Jesus stood on the shore : on firm ground, whilst his disciples were beating about in the waves, and toiling to no purpose. So Christ, risen from the dead, is glorified, is in heaven; but not unmindful of his people amidst all their afflictions in this world: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus ; though he was so near them that they could hear what he said; but it not being broad daylight they could not distinctly discern him, or their eyes might be held that they could not know him. So Christ is sometimes near his people, and they know it not.
Ver. 5. Then Jesus saith unto them, children , etc.] And still they knew him not, though he used this endearing and familiar appellation, and which they had been wont to hear from him; and he had called them by a little before his departure from them, ( John 13:33) and which he uses here as expressive of his tender affection for them, their relation to him, and that he might be known by them: have ye any meat? that is, as the Syriac renders it, s[lml µdm , “anything to eat”; meaning fish that they had caught; and whether they had got a sufficient quantity to make a meal of for him and them. They answered him no ; they had got nothing at all; or at least what they had was far from being enough to make a breakfast of; for so a meal early in a morning may be most properly called, though it is afterwards called dining. Christ’s children, true believers, are sometimes without spiritual food; there is always indeed enough in Christ, and he has an heart to give it; but either through prevailing iniquity they feed on something else, or do not go to him for food, or go elsewhere; but he will not suffer them to starve; for as he has made provisions for them in the ministry of the word and ordinances; and he himself is the bread of life; if they do not ask him for food, he will ask them whether they have any; will kindly invite them to the provisions he himself makes; will bid them welcome, and bless them to them.
Ver. 6. And he said unto them , etc.] Willing to make himself known by a miracle, since they knew him not by his person, nor voice: cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find ; that is, a large multitude of fish, as they did. The ship was an emblem of the church in its present afflicted state; the right side of it points to the elect, and where they are to be found in this world; the casting of the net signifies the preaching of the Gospel; the promise of finding fish, the assurance Christ gives of the success of his word, which he owns and blesses for the conversion of elect sinners: they cast therefore ; the net, willing to try what success they might have at the instance of this person, whom they knew not. The Ethiopic version reads the passage thus, “and they said unto him, we have laboured all night, and have found nothing, but at thy word we will let down”; which seems to be taken out of ( Luke 5:5). However, they obeyed his orders and directions, as the faithful ministers of the Gospel do, and should, and, succeeded. And now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes . The Syriac adds, “which it held”; being in number, as in ( John 21:11) an hundred and fifty, and three great fishes; which was an emblem and presage of that large number of souls both among the Jews and Gentiles, which they should be instrumental in bringing to Christ, through the preaching of the Gospel.
Ver. 7. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved , etc.] Which was John the Evangelist and Apostle, the writer of this Gospel: saith unto Peter, it is the Lord ; which two disciples were very intimate with each other, and communicated their thoughts freely to one another.
John knew that it was the Lord, either by some special revelation, or from the multitude of fishes which were taken, and which showed a divine hand and power to be concerned. So faithful ministers of the Gospel know when Christ is with them, by his power attending their ministrations to the conversion of souls. The Cambridge copy of Beza’s reads, “our Lord”; as do the Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic versions; and it is reasonable to think, John speaking to a fellow disciple, who had equal interest in him with himself, might so say. Now when Simon heard that it was the Lord ; faith came by hearing, he was immediately convinced, and thoroughly satisfied, having received the hint upon a reflection on the surprising capture of the fishes, that it must be the Lord: he girt his fisher’s coat unto him . The Greek word ependuthv , here used, is manifestly the tdnwpa of the Hebrews; and which, the Jewish writers say f801 , was a strait garment, which a man put on next his flesh to dry up the sweat; and a very proper one for Peter, who had been toiling all night, and very fit for him to swim in; and, by what follows, appears to be put on him next his flesh: for he was naked; for to suppose him entirely naked, whilst fishing, being only in company with men, and those parts of nature having a covering, which always require one, was not at all indecent and unbecoming: and did cast himself into the sea ; the Syriac adds, “that he might come to Christ”; and the Persic, “and he came to Christ”; showing his great love and eagerness to be with him; and, as fearless of danger, risks all to be with Christ; his love being such, that many waters could not quench, nor floods drown.
Ver. 8. And the other disciples came in a little ship , etc.] The same that they were fishing in, in which they came to Christ as soon as they could, not choosing to expose themselves, as Peter did; nor was it proper that they should leave the ship, and, as it was, might have hands few enough to bring ship and net, so full of fish, safe to shore; and the rather, they did not think fit to do as he did, for they were not far from land, but, as it were, two hundred cubits ; which was about an hundred yards: dragging the net with fishes : towing the net full of fishes all along in the water, till they came to land; an emblem of laborious Gospel ministers, who being once embarked in the work of the ministry, continue in it to the end, notwithstanding all toil, labour, and difficulties that attend them; and will at last bring the souls with them they have been made useful to, with great satisfaction and joy, to their dear Lord and master.
Ver. 9. As soon then as they were come to land , etc.] As soon as they were come out of the ship, and safe on shore, not only Peter, but all the rest of the disciples: they saw a fire of coals there : on the shore, to their great surprise: and fish laid there ; which could not be any that they had taken, for, as yet, the net was not drawn up, and the fish took out: and bread ; not upon the coals baking, but hard by, being ready prepared to eat with the fish, when sufficiently broiled. This was all of Christ’s preparing, and a considerable proof of his deity; and a confirmation of that provision he will make for his ministering servants, whilst they are about his work, and in this world; and a representation of that spiritual and eternal refreshment they shall have with him in heaven to all eternity, when they have done their work.
Ver. 10. Jesus saith unto them , etc.] The disciples: bring of the fish which ye have now caught : for they might have caught some before, though so few and small, as scarcely to be reckoned any; nor were they bid to bring all they had taken, only some of them, to add to these Christ had prepared for them on land; they being both indeed of a miraculous production, and the effects of his divine power. Christ’s view in ordering to bring some of them, and put to those that lay upon the coals, was partly that they might have enough to make a meal of for them all; and also, that they might have a more perfect knowledge of the miracle wrought, by seeing the number and largeness of the fishes, and by bringing the net full of them to shore unbroken; and may be an emblem of the bringing of souls to Christ by the ministry of the word, thereby adding to those that are already gathered.
Ver. 11. Simon Peter went up , etc.] Either to the sea, that being higher than the land, or to the ship which lay by the shore: he went aboard it, and drew the net to land full of great fishes ; not alone, but others of the disciples with him; though he only is mentioned, being the leading person in this affair; an emblem of the whole number of God’s elect being brought safe to shore, to Christ, and to heaven, through various tribulations and afflictions in the world, fitly signified by the waves of the sea. What mystery there may be in the number, I know not. The conjecture of Grotius, that it is a figure of the proselytes in the days of David and Solomon, seems to be without foundation; since they were not only so many thousands, but six hundred over. And as little to be regarded is the thought of others, that the larger number, one hundred, regards the converted among the Gentiles, and the lesser those among the Jews; much better is the observation of others, that it may design a collection, out of all sorts of people, to Christ, and his church. And for all there were so many ; in number, and these so large and big, and the weight of them so great. The Syriac reads arqwy hlk anhb , “with all this weight”, or “burden”, and so the Persic; but the Arabic, “with such a number”; both ideas of number and weight are to be preserved, to make what follows the more observable: yet was not the net broken ; which must be ascribed to the divine power of Christ; and is an emblem of the power of God attending the Gospel to the regeneration, conversion, and salvation of his people, and of the great usefulness of it, however mean and despicable it may be in the eyes of men, and of its permanence and duration, until all the elect of God are gathered in by it.
Ver. 12. Jesus saith unto them, come and dine , etc.] One would think it should rather have been said, come and take a breakfast than a dinner, since it was so early in the morning: but Grotius has observed, out of Homer, that ariston , is used for food taken in a morning; so that it may signify here, not what we properly call dining, but eating a morning’s meal; and may be an emblem of that spiritual refreshment believers enjoy with Christ in his house and ordinances now, and of those everlasting pleasures they will partake with him in the resurrection morn: and it is to be observed, that he does not say go and dine, but come and dine; that is, along with himself: he does not send his disciples elsewhere for food, but invites them to come to him, to hear his word, which is food for faith, to wait in his house, where plenty of provision is made, and to attend on his ordinances, and in all to feed upon himself, and to feed with him; to all which they are heartily welcome. And none of the disciples durst ask him, who art thou ? knowing that it was the Lord: to ask such a question was altogether unnecessary, and would have been impertinent, and they might justly have been upbraided and rebuked for it: it would have looked like insolence, or unbelief, or both, and that greatly aggravated, when it was so clear a case that it was the Lord; who might be known by his voice and person, especially when they came near to him, and also by the miracles which he wrought: so at the last day, when every eye shall see him coming in the clouds of heaven, none will ask who he is; all will know him.
Ver. 13. Jesus then cometh and taketh bread , etc.] After they had taken the fish out of the net, and all was prepared for the meal, and the disciples were set down to eat, Christ came and took his place as the master of the feast, and head of the family; and taking up the bread, as was his usual method, he asked a blessing over it, and gave thanks for it. Beza’s ancient copy, and one of Stephens’s read, “and having given thanks he gave”, etc. which is agreeably to his usual practice at meals. And giveth them, and fish likewise ; he distributed both bread and fish to his disciples. So, in a spiritual sense, he provides plentifully for his people; gives them to eat of the hidden manna, and tree of life, and leads to fountains of living waters; encourages them to eat and drink freely, what is of his own preparing, and at his own expense provided for them.
Ver. 14. This is now the third time , etc.] Or day of Christ’s appearance to his disciples: he appeared to them first on the same day he rose, and then a second time eight days after, or that day a week later, and now at the sea of Tiberias; for within this compass of time he had made more appearances than three, though to particular persons, and not to such a number of the disciples as at these three times: that Jesus showed himself to his disciples after that he was risen from the dead : and thus, as by the mouth of two or three witnesses, everything is established; so by these three principal appearances of Christ to his disciples, his resurrection from the dead was confirmed.
Ver. 15. So when they had dined , etc.] The Persic version adds, Jesus turned his face to Simon Peter ; he did not interrupt them whilst they were eating; but when they had comfortably refreshed themselves, he looked at Peter, and singled him out from the rest, and directed his discourse to him; and saith unto Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas ; not John, as the Vulgate Latin, and Nonnus, and some copies read; for this answers not to the Hebrew word Jochanan, but Jonah, the same name with the prophet. Some have observed, that Christ spoke to him particularly by his original name, and not by that which he himself had given him, with a view to his strong faith, as Cephas, or Peter; but it should be known that Christ calls him by this name of Simon bar Jonah, when he made the most ample profession of his faith in him, and was pronounced blessed by him, ( Matthew 16:16,17) lovest thou me more than these ? meaning, not than the fishes he had caught, nor the net and boat, or any worldly enjoyment, nor than he loved the disciples; but the question is, whether he loved Christ more than the rest of the disciples loved him: the reason of which was, because he had some time ago declared, though all the disciples were offended at Christ, and should deny him, he would not; and had just now thrown himself into the sea to come to him first, as if he loved him more than they did: which question is put, not out of ignorance, or as if Christ knew not whether he loved him or not, and what was the degree of his affection to him; but because the exercise of this grace, and the expressions of it, are very grateful to him; and that Peter also might have an opportunity of expressing it before others, who had so publicly denied him: he saith unto him, yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee : not in word and tongue, but in deed and in truth; in sincerity, and without dissimulation, fervently and superlatively; for the truth of which he appeals to Christ himself; for he was so conscious to himself of the reality of his love, and the sincerity of his affection, that he chooses to make Christ himself judge of it, rather than say any more of it himself; though he modestly declines saying that he loved him more than the rest of the disciples did, having had an experience of his vanity and self-confidence.
He was sure he loved Christ heartily; but whether he loved him more than the rest did, he chose not to say: he saith unto him, feed my lambs ; the younger and more tender part of the flock, weak believers, Christ’s little children, newborn babes, the day of small things, which are not to be despised, the bruised reed that is not to be broken, and the smoking flax that is not to be quenched; but who are to be nourished, comforted, and strengthened, by feeding them with the milk of the Gospel, and by administering to them the ordinances and breasts of consolation. These Christ has an interest in, and therefore calls them “my lambs”, being given him by the Father, and purchased by his blood, and for whom he has a tender concern and affection; and nothing he looks upon as a firmer and clearer proof and evidence of love to him, than to feed these lambs of his, and take care of them.
Ver. 16. He saith unto him again the second time , etc.] Willing to have the expressions of his love repeated and confirmed; Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me ? he leaves out the words, “more than these”, though Nonnus expresses them; he saw Peter’s heart, and observed the modesty of his answer, and would not urge him any more in that comparative way, only required a repetition of his sincere and hearty love to him: he saith unto him, yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee ; expressing himself in the same language as before; and it is, as if he should say, Lord, what can I say more? I can say no more than I have done, and by that I abide: he saith unto him, feed my sheep ; both the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and his other sheep among the Gentiles, whom the Father had given him, and he had paid a price for, and must be brought in; these being called, he would have fed with the word and ordinances, with the bread of life, and water of life, not lorded over, and fleeced, and much less worried and destroyed; every instance of care and love shown to these, he takes as a mark of affection and respect to himself.
Ver. 17. He saith unto him the third time , etc.] That by these three testimonies, out of his mouth, the thing might be established, and be out of all doubt: Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me ? is it so indeed that thou lovest me? is thy love really so hearty and sincere as thou savest? may it be depended upon? Peter was grieved, because he said unto him the third time, lovest thou me ? because it put him in mind of his having denied his Lord three times; the remembrance of which cut him to the heart and it added to his grief, that his love, which he knew was unfeigned, notwithstanding his conduct, should seem to be suspected: and he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee ; he appeals with great warmth and earnestness to him, as the omniscient God, and the searcher of all hearts, who knows all persons and things, and the secret thoughts, dispositions, and affections of men’s minds, for the truth of his love to him; for though he knew the treachery of his own heart, and durst not trust to it; and therefore chose not to be determined by his own assertions, and was well aware that the sincerity of his love might be called in question by fellow Christians, because of his late conduct; but as everything was naked and open to his Lord, with whom he had to do, he lodges and leaves the appeal with him: so every soul that truly loves Christ, whatever Satan, the world, professors, or their own hearts under unbelieving frames, may suggest to the contrary, can appeal to Christ, as the trier of the reins of the children of men, that he it is whom their souls love; and though their love may be greatly tried, and they themselves be sorely tempted by Satan, and suffered to fall greatly; yet their love to Christ can never be lost; the fervency of it may be abated, the exercise of it may be very languid, but the principle itself always remains, as it did in Peter: Jesus saith unto him, feed my sheep . It may be observed from the repetition of this phrase following upon Peter’s declaration of his love to Christ, that such only are proper persons to feed the lambs and sheep of Christ, who truly and sincerely love him: and in doing which they show their love to him: and who indeed would be concerned in this service, but such? since the work is so laborious, the conduct of those to whom they minister oftentimes is so disagreeable, the reproach they meet with from the world, and the opposition made unto them by Satan, and all the powers of darkness: it is true indeed, there are some that take upon them this work, and pretend to do it, who do not love Christ; but then they are such who feed themselves, and not the flock; and who feed the world’s goats, and not Christ’s lambs and sheep, and in time of danger leave the flock; only the true lovers of Christ faithfully perform this service, and abide in it by preaching the pure Gospel of Christ, by administering his ordinances, in their right manner, and by directing souls in all to Christ, the heavenly manna, and bread of life. Dr. Lightfoot thinks that by the threefold repetition of the order to feed Christ’s lambs and sheep, is meant the threefold object of Peter’s ministry; the Jews in their own land, the Gentiles, and the Israelites of the ten tribes, that were in Babylon.
Ver. 18. Verily, verily, I say unto thee , etc.] A way of speaking often used by Christ, when about to deliver anything of considerable moment, partly to raise the attention, and partly for the more strong asseveration of what is spoken; and may have reference both to what went before, confirming Peter’s declaration of his love, which would be demonstrated by dying for him, and the testimony of his omniscience, by foretelling his death, and the kind of it; and to what follows after, which contains an account of Peter in his younger years, and a prophecy of what should befall him in old age: when thou wast young ; not that he was old now, and capable he was of doing, and he did do but just now, what our Lord ascribes to his younger years: thou girdest thyself, and walkest whither thou wouldst ; that is, he could put on his clothes himself, and gird them about him with a girdle, as was the custom of the eastern nations, who usually wore long garments; and as he, a little before, had girt his fisher’s coat about him, and walked where he pleased; denoting the liberty of his will in things natural and civil, which every man is possessed of, though not in things spiritual, without the grace of God; and also his power of doing what was most grateful to him, without being hindered by, or obliged to ask the leave of others: but when thou shalt be old ; implying, that he should live to a good old age, and be continued to be useful and serviceable in the cause of Christ, in preaching his Gospel, and feeding his lambs and sheep, as he did; for he lived to the times of Nero f802 , under whom he suffered, about forty years after this: thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee . This refers not so much to an inability through old age to gird himself, and therefore should stretch forth his hands, that another might with more ease do it for him, and which would be the reverse of his former and present case; for the word gird is used in another sense than before, and signifies the binding of him as, a prisoner with cords, or chains; so “girding”, with the Jews, is the same as hrysahw hryçqh , “tying and binding” f803 : but either to the stretching out of his hands upon the cross, when he should be girt and bound to that; for persons were sometimes fastened to the cross with cords, and not always with nails f804 : or, as others think, to his carrying of his cross on his shoulders, with his hands stretched out and bound to the piece of wood which went across; though his being girded or bound may as well be thought to follow the former, as this: indeed, what is added best suits with the latter, and carry thee whither thou wouldst not ; to a painful, cruel, shameful, and accursed death, the death of the cross; not that Peter in spirit would be unwilling to die for Christ, nor was he; but it signifies, that he should die a death disagreeable to the flesh.
Ver. 19. This spake he , etc.] These are the words of the evangelist, explaining the meaning of Christ in like manner, as in ( John 12:33) signifying by what death he should glorify God ; for by the above words Christ not only intimated that Peter should die, not a natural, but a violent death, or that he should die a martyr in his cause, but the very kind of death he should die, namely, by crucifixion; and that Peter was crucified at Rome, ecclesiastical history confirms f805 , when Christ was magnified, and God was glorified by his zeal and courage, faith and patience, constancy and perseverance to the end: and when he had spoken this : concerning the usage and treatment he should meet with, the sufferings he should undergo, and death he should die for his sake, for the present trial of him: he saith unto him, follow me : which may be understood literally, Jesus now rising up, and ordering him to come after him; and yet as a sign of his following him, in a spiritual sense, exercising every grace upon him, discharging every duty towards him, faithfully and constantly performing his work and office, as an apostle and preacher of the Gospel, in which he had now reinstated and confirmed him, and patiently bearing and suffering all kind of reproach, persecution, and death, for his name’s sake.
Ver. 20. Then Peter turning about , etc.] After he was risen, and was following Christ: seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following also; by whom is designed John the Evangelist, and writer of this Gospel; who hearing Christ bid Peter follow him, rose up likewise, and went after him, in token of his willingness to serve him, and suffer for him too: which also leaned on his breast at supper ; at the “paschal supper”, as the Persic version here reads it: “and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?” This disciple had a peculiar share in the love of Christ, as man, and was admitted to great nearness and freedom with him, signified by his leaning on his breast; and who being so near his person, and allowed to use a liberty with him, everyone did not take, at the motion of Peter, asked our Lord at supper, who the person was he meant that should betray him; all this is said as descriptive of the disciple here spoken of, which leaves it without any doubt, that it was the Apostle John; and who, from ( John 21:2) appears to be one of this company, and is further confirmed at ( John 21:24).
Ver. 21. Peter seeing him, saith to Jesus , etc.] Peter took a great deal of notice of John, and very likely understood, that he meant by his rising up and following Christ, to signify his readiness for service and suffering in the cause of Christ: and therefore says, Lord, and what shall this man do ? The phrase in the original is very short and concise, “Lord, and this what?” The Arabic version renders it, “and this, of what mind is he?” it looks as if he was of the same mind with me to follow thee; but it is better rendered by us, “what shall this man do?” in what work and service shall he be employed, who seems as willing as I am to serve thee? or it may be rendered thus, “and what shall this man suffer?” shall he suffer at all? and if he shall, what kind of death shall he undergo? what will become of him? what will be his end? how will it fare with him? this he said, partly out of curiosity, and partly out of concern for him, they two being associates and intimates, who had a strong affection for each other.
Ver. 22. Jesus saith unto him , etc.] Christ vouchsafes an answer to Peter, but not a very clear one, nor such an one as he wished for, and not without a rebuke to him: if I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee ? meaning, that if it was his pleasure that he should live, not till his second coming to judge the quick and dead at the last day, but till he should come in his power and take vengeance on the Jewish nation, in the destruction of their city and temple by the Romans, and in dispersing them through the nations of the world; till which time John did live, and many years after; and was the only one of the disciples that lived till that time, and who did not die a violent death; what was that to Peter? it was no concern of his. The question was too curious, improper, and impertinent; it became him to attend only to what concerned himself, and he was bid to do: follow thou me ; whence it may be observed, that it becomes the saints to mind their duty in following Christ, and not concern themselves in things that do not belong to them. Christ is to be followed by his people as their leader and commander; as the shepherd of the flock; as a guide in the way, and the forerunner that is gone before; as the light of the world; as the pattern and example of the saints, and as their Lord and master; and that in the exercise of every grace, as humility and meekness, love, zeal, patience, and resignation to the will of God; and also in the discharge of duty, both with respect to moral life and conversation, and instituted worship, as attendance on public service, and submission to ordinances; and likewise in enduring sufferings patiently and cheerfully for his sake. Saints are under obligation to follow Christ; it is their interest so to do; it is honourable, safe, comfortable, and pleasant, and ends in happiness here and hereafter.
Ver. 23. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren , etc.] It not being rightly understood by some one or more of the disciples present: it was divulged with a wrong sense annexed to it among other persons; who, though not of the eleven, yet were followers of Christ, children of God, that belonged to the same family, and were, in a spiritual relation, brethren to each other, and to the apostles: that that disciple should not die ; but should remain till the second coming of Christ, and be found among them that shall be then alive, and be changed. And such a notion not only was among the ancients; but Beza, in his notes on this text, tells us of a strolling wicked fellow, that gave out that he was the Apostle John; and was encouraged by some, particularly Postellus, a Sorbonic doctor, but was afterwards burnt at Tholouse. 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 ? These are the words of John himself, the disciple spoken of, who gives a true and just account of Christ’s words, freeing them from the false sense that was put upon them; which shows his ingenuous disposition, his integrity and love of truth; being unwilling that such an error should obtain among the disciples, and pass in the world for truth.
Ver. 24. This is the disciple which testifieth of these things , etc.] Recorded in this chapter concerning the appearance of Christ to his disciples at the sea of Tiberias, and what were done by him in their presence, what passed between them; particularly the conversation he had with Peter, both concerning himself, and the disciple John: and also, of all things that are written in this whole Gospel. These are testified to be true by this very disciple John, concerning whom the above report went upon a mistaken sense of Christ’s words, and who himself wrote these things ; all that is contained in this book, as well as the particulars relating to this conversation of Christ with Peter: and we know that his testimony is true . The testimony of one that was an eye and ear-witness, as John was, of all that he testified and wrote, must be known, owned, and allowed by all to be true, firm, and unquestionable; and therefore the apostle speaks in the plural number, as being not only his own sense, but the sense of all men. Though some take this to be the attestation of the Ephesian church, or of the bishops of the Asiatic churches, who put John upon writing this Gospel; of which they give their judgment and testimony, as believing it to be a true and faithful narrative.
Ver. 25. And there are also many other things which Jesus did , etc.] Which refer not to his doctrines and discourses, his sermons and prayers, and the conversation he had with his disciples, and others, on different accounts; but to the signs, and wonders, and miraculous operations, which were done by him, that are neither recorded in this, nor in any of the evangelists: the which, if they should be written everyone ; with all the particular circumstances relating to them: I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written . The Arabic version renders it, “the things written in the books”; and the Syriac, “that the world would not be sufficient for the books that should be written”; and so the Persic, which adds, “and the Scribes of the world would fail, or be deficient”; there would not be Scribes enough in the world to write them; nor could they be read by men, if they were written; the world would be overloaded with them; and therefore the Holy Ghost has not thought fit to lay such a burden on men they could not bear, as to read such numbers of volumes; but has reduced them into a brief compendium, which may be read with ease, delight, and pleasure; and which is abundantly sufficient to attest the truth of Christ’s incarnation, miracles, doctrines, obedience, sufferings, death, resurrection, ascension, session at God’s right hand, etc. and of the whole of Christianity, and all that appertains to it, or whatever is necessary to be known, for the salvation of men: for this cannot be understood of the carnal and unbelieving part of the world, not receiving and bearing what would be contained in such volumes, were they written; for they are not able to receive and bear what is now written, but reject and despise it as foolishness. Some understand this as an hyperbolical expression; but the sense above given, may be admitted without an hyperbole; though an hyperbole may very well be allowed of; nor, taken literally, will it appear greater than some others used in Scripture; as when the posterity of Abraham are said to be as numerous as the stars of the sky; and especially when said to be as the sand by the sea shore, innumerable, ( Hebrews 11:12, Hosea 1:10) and when Capernaum is said to be exalted unto heaven, or to reach unto it, ( Matthew 11:23, Genesis 11:4) and particularly the Jews have no reason to object, as one of them does f806 , to such a way of speaking, whose writings abound in hyperbolical expressions, and in some like to this; as when one of their Rabbins says f807 , “if all the seas were ink, and the bulrushes pens, and the heavens and the earth volumes, and all the children of men Scribes, hrwt bwtkl ˆyqypsm ˆya , “they would not be sufficient to write the law”, which have learned, etc.” and it is commonly said by them, if this, or that, or the other thing was done, lbsml aml[ lyky al , “the world would not be able to bear them”. And a later writer of theirs, speaking of the different interpretations given by some of their Rabbins of a certain passage, says, they are so many, that an ass is not able to carry their books. And the intention of this expression, supposing it hyperbolical, is to show, that but a few of the wonderful things done by Christ were recorded by the evangelist, in comparison of the many which he every day did, in all places where he came; for he was continually going about doing good, and healing all manner of diseases; but these that were written are sufficient to prove him to be the true Messiah, and to require faith in him as such. To all which the evangelist sets his “Amen”, as attesting and confirming the truth of all he had written; and which may be depended upon, and assented to, as truth, by all that read this Gospel. The Alexandrian copy, and Beza’s Cambridge copy, have not the word “Amen”; nor have the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions. In some copies the following words are added, “the Gospel according to John was given out thirty two years after the ascension of Christ;” which would fall on the year of Christ 66, and so before the destruction of Jerusalem; which is contrary to the common opinion of learned men, some placing it in the year 97, others in the year 99. (John starts his Gospel by stating: “All things were made by him”. If one were to attempt to even summarise the works of creation, there is no way the world could contain the resulting volumes! Editor.)