John 21

v. 1-2—There seemed to be seven disciples together at this time. Some of their names are mentioned.

v. 3—Simon Peter said, “I am going fishing.” The others said, “We will go with you.” They immediately entered into a boat. The sequel—they toiled all night and caught nothing.

From the natural standpoint, this was a natural thing to do. From the spiritual point of view, it was a fruitless mission. It was the work of self-will. It was a classic example of human leadership. There is no record of them praying, and consequently they were out of the will of God, their efforts were fruitless.

The lesson here is that human efforts are useless apart from the help of God. The episode would illustrate the folly of prayerless service, especially in the matter of fishing for souls. See Joshua 7.

Fishing speaks of evangelism. Shepherding speaks of teaching and pastoral care.

v. 16—For the second time the Lord asked Peter if he loved Him. Using agapao. Peter could not trust himself to answer in the affirmative and answered, “You know that I am fond of you.” The Lord replied, “Tend My sheep.” There are lambs and sheep in Christ’s flock and they need the love and care of one who loves the Shepherd.

v. 17—Just as Peter had denied the Lord three times, he was given three opportunities to confess Him.

He was asked the third time if He loved the Lord. At this time the Lord used the word phileo, in essence He asked, “Simon, son of Jonah, are you fond of Me?” Peter replied, “Lord, you know all things, you know that I am very fond of you.” For the last time he was told that he could demonstrate his love by feeding Christ’s sheep.

One of the main lessons here is that love for Christ is the only acceptable motive for serving Him.