1. Note that this Sunday is called “Third Sunday of Easter,” not “Third Sunday after Easter.” The message of Easter is appropriate for any Sunday, however, it is especially a blessing to have seven Sundays to consider the meaning of Christ’s resurrection. While on trial before the Sanhedrin, Paul called the good news of Christ’s resurrection his “hope.” (Acts 23:6) It is our hope also.
2. For years Bible scholars have debated whether or not this chapter was added after the initial manuscript was finished. The last two verses of John 20 seem to be an appropriate yet abrupt ending.
Whether or not John 21 was added as an epilogue later by John or someone else, we can be assured that the Holy Spirit gave this inspired chapter. This chapter gives us added proof of the resurrection of Jesus. It also gives us the will of God concerning his desire that the “sheep and lambs” of his kingdom be fed.
This epilogue provides an ending to the saga of Peter who denied Jesus. These verses give us a glimpse into the heart of Jesus for those who follow him. Followers of Jesus are never perfect in their love and faithfulness to Christ. However, Jesus always treats his own with compassion and mercy.
Further, this chapter informs us that “Jesus did many other things” that are not written down or included in this manuscript. The Gospel writers, including John, do not, nor do they try to, give a full chronological story of the life of Christ.
From the text it seems that this chapter was written by John, the beloved disciple, and he emphatically exclaims that “his testimony is true.”
3. “…Afterward…” (21:1) There is more that needs to be added to show the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. The Gospel of John ends as it began—Jesus calling his disciples. Peter had not yet grasped what Jesus wanted them to do. So he boldly announces, “I’m going out to fish.” And the others said, “We’ll go with you.” But they caught nothing! That is, until Jesus found them. They were learning once again the truth of John 15:5. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
4. Jesus called them friends. This was a designation they did not deserve, yet this is what Jesus called them.
You will have people in your congregation who will know that they do not deserve to be God’s friend; yet this is what Jesus calls them.
5. No way could this have been a vision. He made a fire and was cooking fish. Then he served it to each one in person. John emphasizes that this is the third time Jesus appeared physically to his disciples after rising from the dead. There should be no question—Jesus arose as a victor over death. He is now present with his own.
6. From early times scholars have tried to determine the meaning of the 153 fish caught that night. Perhaps it has no particular meaning. William Barclay in his commentary on John gives three explanations by three church fathers: Cyril of Alexandria; Augustine; and Jerome. Jerome’s is most interesting. There are 153 kinds of fish in the sea. The catch represents people of every nation. The church is the net. There is room in the church for all nations; and the net is not broken. This interpretation comes from an era when the allegorical method was popular and preachers sought to find hidden meanings to help them interpret the text.
7. Jesus didn’t leave his disciples alone. He told them to go to Galilee (Matthew 28:16; Mark 16:7). They followed his orders and he didn’t fail to show up. They were learning that his presence was with them. So was his power and love.