Insights into the Gospel of John: Chapter 21

By Lloyd Ellefson

"After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way. Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them,`I am going fishing.' They said to him, `We will also come with you.' They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing. But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus." (vv.1-4) The disciples were close to the shore, so they could see Jesus and hear Him speak to them.

"So Jesus said to them, `Children, you do not have any fish, do you?' They answered Him, `No.' And He said to them, `Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.' So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, `It is the Lord.' So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea." (vv.5-7)

This time Peter did not try to walk on the water; he swam to shore. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish. When they came to land, they were surprised to see their breakfast already cooking! Jesus had some good fish for them, but He also wanted some of the fish the disciples had caught. (v.10) The kingdom of God is like a net cast into the sea of humanity, and it comes up with all kinds of fish. Some are cast out, and some are retained. Those which are not fit for food are cast out. This illustrates that those who do not give of themselves for others, are not fit for the kingdom of heaven. There are many in the kingdom of God who only want to receive. These do not bear edible fruit for others, and are cast out.

"Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, `Come and have breakfast.' None of the disciples ventured to question Him, `Who are You?' knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise." (vv.11-13) The disciples had an inner conviction that this was indeed the Lord, yet they still stood in awe of Him! They were also amazed at all the fish they had caught, yet the net was unbroken! The Master cared for them! They were at loose ends and tired - and the Lord said, "Come and dine!"

"This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead." (v.14) We again note that the resurrection of Jesus and His physical, visible appearance to people, was not the spiritual reality in which He dwelt. Jesus Christ was alive from among the dead long before He was crucified. In John 11 He said, "I AM THE RESURRECTION." At that time He already was the resurrection with the ability to bring people out of death and into life! However, at that time the dispensation for the pouring out of the Spirit had not yet come, so Christ was planting seeds and bearing testimony of the Father.

At this time Jesus had already fulfilled all the requirements for the disciples to believe. They could now receive the Holy Spirit who would give them a new conception of being, a new understanding of life and of Jesus Christ. This would enable them to see Him spiritually instead of physically.

People today still find it difficult to see Him spiritually. Christians are still waiting for Him to return visibly, because He remains unseen to them; the Jews still wait at the Wailing Wall for their Messiah who also remains unseen to them. They do not realize that He can only be seen spiritually now, and that He is manifested in the life and nature of individuals! Actually, Christ is the omnipresent Spirit of anointing, the Christ who unveils the Son of God, who in turn unveils the Father.

In the Greek it says that Jesus Christ was raised from among the dead. Many translations omit the word among. Jesus was the only one who was alive spiritually when He was on earth; all the others were dead in their trespasses and sins. So He was walking among the dead. That is why He said, "I have come to give you life." We can experience life and resurrection now because we have been raised out from among the dead, i.e. we are called out from among the people who are dead in their trespasses and sins, dead in their carnal mind, and dead because of their disposition to natural things; they are not alive to God. We can walk in a resurrected spirit here on earth!

The body of resurrection is not a physical body. A natural seed produces a natural body and a spiritual seed produces a spiritual body. Each seed, whether of a human being, an animal, a fish, a tree, etc., always produces a body according to its own kind, and each body lives in its own special environment. Fish need water; people and animals need land, and birds need the heavens to fly in.

The body of Jesus Christ is a spiritual body produced from a spiritual seed. That seed is the fulfillment of the promise given to Abraham long ago. That seed is Christ, and He is the anointing! The church is the spiritual body of Christ; we are baptized into this body by the Spirit. His body is a spiritual body of truth and life. This is the body that we can live in! The seed of the Word of God produces the body of Christ, the body of truth and life, in us. Therefore when this tabernacle of clay is dissolved, we still have this building or tabernacle of truth and life from God!

"So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, `Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?' He said to Him, `Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.' He said to him, `Tend My lambs.' He said to him again a second time, `Simon, son of John, do you love Me?' He said to Him, `Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.' He said to him, `Shepherd My sheep.' He said to him the third time, `Simon, son of John, do you love Me?' Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, `Do you love Me?' And he said to Him, `Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.' Jesus said to him, `Tend My sheep.'" (vv.15-17)

Who are His sheep? Jesus said that His sheep know His voice and they follow Him; they will not follow a stranger. While He was on earth, He was only commissioned to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Yet He met the needs of others who were truly seeking. He came to seek and to save those who are lost, and that includes the Gentiles!

Jesus often emphasized the fact that he had chosen all of His disciples! "Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?" Just before that Jesus said, "But there are some of you who do not believe." (John 6:64) Jesus knew from the beginning who would believe, and who would not believe; He also knew who would betray Him. In obedience to the Father, Jesus chose one who did not believe - and this was Judas. Jesus chose those who were to be the foundation for the church; there were no volunteers! Nobody went around calling for people to follow Jesus. It was Jesus who said, "Follow Me."

God works for the sake of the chosen ones. "Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days." (Mark 13:20)

God does not choose people because of their works, talents, accomplishments, or their own merits. Being chosen does not give us the right to look down on anyone. It is not an ego trip; it is all His grace! Jesus said, "You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you...Many are called but few are chosen." He chose us out of this world. Our hearts should be filled with wonder and thankfulness that we have been chosen! If we know we have been chosen, we also know the voice of the Spirit who has called us His sons! We are sons now, and we continue to be His sons in the future! This is the great calling! All ministry comes through the sons; works or ministries do not produce sons.

The shepherd's voice is the trumpet that announces the gathering and feeding of the sheep! This has become very important to me. I have not been called to evangelize the world. I have been impressed with the fact that lambs and sheep have to be fed so they may grow and reproduce. Believers need to know that they have been sent even as Christ was sent so that they will operate in this commission, and bring the message of peace and remission of sins to the lost. This is foundational to receiving the Holy Spirit.

Jesus left the ninety-nine sheep in order to find the one which had left the fold. He promised to keep all that the Father had given Him! They are kept through those who can truly be the voice of the Shepherd. These are the ones who can walk where He walked, understand (at least to some degree) what He understood, and function in the mind of Christ.

We are not of this world! A new union has taken place, for those who are joined to the Lord are one spirit with Him! We are members of His body; we are the full representation of who He is in spirit, soul and body. This has nothing to do with the Adamic life and the carnal mind with which we have been acquainted all these years. We have broken away from that and died to it; we have been crucified with Christ, we have been buried with Him, and have risen with Him out of the tomb of that darkness; now we are seated with Him in the heavenlies! For those who have the understanding of the Spirit these things are for the present; for those who do not have the understanding of the Spirit they are for the future.

It is very important that those who have the responsibility to feed the sheep, also have the resources to feed them. They need the teaching of the Holy Spirit, for only He can give spiritual understanding. Unless they are submitted to the Holy Spirit, they will teach according to their own natural understanding! It is important that we realize that everything comes through the grace of God and the sense of being God has given us.

Israel did not remain true to God so they became an object of ridicule to the world. They had not represented God correctly and had not repented of it. This is also true of most of Christianity. It has joined the world system and is giving people the wrong idea of who God is. This is because they are deluded in their own sense of being.

"`Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.' Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, `Follow Me!.'" (vv.18-19) Peter also refers to the fact that this earthly ministry has to cease, for he said, "Knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me." (2 Peter 1:14)

"Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, `Lord, who is the one who betrays you?' So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, `Lord, and what about this man?' Jesus said to him, `If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!' Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, `If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?'" (vv.20-23)

John is with us today in the spirit of what he wrote, just as Abraham is with us as the father of those who believe. On the Mt. of Transfiguration Moses and Elijah were with the transfigured Christ. Moses symbolizes the law, and Elijah symbolizes repentance. Moses represented the spirit of the law; he did not represent the ten commandments. The spirit of the law teaches us what sin is and does, and how we participate in it. Elijah represented repentance, for on Mt. Carmel he turned Israel from following the priests of Baal, and the hearts of the Israelites were turned back to the Lord. The testimony of the law brings us to repentance. Elijah's message of repentance was in John the Baptist, so Jesus said that Elijah had already come. We also need the message of repentance!

This brings us to the end of the gospel of John with its 21 wonderful chapters! They unveil the Christ! They carry some of the deepest and most precious revelation of God and of ourselves.

The scriptures are a testimony of many brethren who have heard from the Spirit, and have related what they have heard. Spiritual meaning has many, many levels of understanding, because Jesus has such a depth of realization of who He is in the Father. Various levels of realization exist in different people. Some say there are seven levels, but I believe it is a growth which has no end. In the days to come Jesus Christ will unfold the riches of His glory and grace in Christ Jesus. So there is no end to the things we can look forward to! We do not attain to anything on our own; we only live in who we are in Christ Jesus, and testify to this.

God bless you! Amen.

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