John 21:20-25

20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.

25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
(John 21:20-25 NIV)

In yesterday’s passage, Jesus encourages Peter to care for His flock of followers, even if it costs Peter his life.  Jesus goes on to tell Peter that he would die via crucifixion, just as Jesus had died, and his death would glorify God.  Jesus leaves Peter with two simple words:  “Follow Me!”.

In today’s passage, Jesus and Peter are still having their conversation.  Jesus and Peter are likely taking a walk up and down the beach as they talk.  Peter possibly hears something and turns to see John trailing along behind them.  Peter asks Jesus what will become of John.  Jesus tells Peter not to worry about John and turns the conversation back to Peter:  “You must follow Me.”

John clears up the rumor about what Jesus said about him.  Jesus did not promise that John would not die; Jesus said that John’s fate was none of Peter’s concern.  Historians say that Jesus did live to be about 100 years old, so he outlived all the other disciples.

John reminds us that this is his written testimony, and it is true.  John’s Gospel is not a biography of Jesus’ life, but rather, John’s first-hand experiences with Jesus.  John has recorded these events to show us that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, the Son of God come to give His life for us so that we might spend eternity with Him.

John concludes his Gospel on a somewhat wistful note, wishing that he could write more about Jesus.  John writes that there is so much more that could be said about Jesus – so much, in fact, that the world could not hold the books that would tell His story.

As we conclude the Gospel of John, I pray that this has been a journey worthy of your time, to enter into deeper relationship with the Word made flesh, Who dwelt among humanity.

May John’s intent and desire be true in each of our lives:

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
(John 20:31 NIV)

Blessings,
~kevin

John 21:15-19

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
(John 21:15-19 NIV)

Yesterday we looked at the third time Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples after His resurrection.  Peter decided to go fishing, and some of the other disciples went with him.  After fishing all night and catching nothing, someone on shore tells them to try the other side of the boat.  They catch so many fish that there can only be one explanation – it’s the Lord on the shore who was calling out to them!

Jesus has prepared a simple breakfast of bread and roasted fish for the disciples.  They eat and likely talk about what is happening and what will come next.

As we pick up today’s passage, breakfast is over, and Jesus has a chat with Peter.  Traditionally, this passage is considered the time when Jesus forgives Peter and restores him to ministry after Peter denied Jesus three times.

While this restoration view may fit nicely into a matching story (three denials, three renewals), I think there is more going on here that what naturally meets the eye.

Two other passages need to be considered:  Luke 24:34 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, particularly verse 4.  In both of these passages, the authors document that Jesus met with Peter separately and privately, before He met with the other disciples.

If Peter had not been restored at this point, why would he have jumped out of the boat and swam one hundred yards to shore to see Jesus?  Peter’s reaction would likely have been much more like his first response to meeting Jesus in Luke 5:1-11, where Peter fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (v. 8).

I believe Jesus restored Peter to ministry when they met privately as noted in the Luke 24 and 1 Corinthians 15 passages.  That makes today’s section all about Jesus’ encouragement to persevere in caring for those that would be in Peter’s care.

We see Peter passing along this same admonition to the church elders in 1 Peter 5:1-4:

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
(1 Peter 5:1-4 NIV)

A second reason that this vignette is an encouragement and not a restoration is verses 18 – 19 where Jesus tells Peter how he will die.  If this scene were a restoration, Jesus’ comments to Peter would need to be understood as punishment and reparation for Peter’s three denials of Christ.  If we see this passage as encouragement, then Jesus is telling Peter not to be afraid to serve Him wholeheartedly, even when faced with death by crucifixion.

May we be inspired and strengthened by these passages, both Jesus’ encouragement to Peter, and Peter’s encouragement to the early church fathers.

Truly there is joy in serving Jesus, even when the consequences are life and death.

Blessings,
~kevin

John 21:1-14

21 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
(John 21:1-14 NIV)

In the previous passages, Jesus reveals Himself to His disciples on two different occasions roughly a week apart.  The disciples are overjoyed that Jesus has risen from the dead.

In today’s passage, we see the third time Jesus reveals Himself to His disciples after He had risen from the dead (v. 14).

Seven of the disciples were together near the Sea of Galilee.  Peter announces that he is going fishing; the others volunteer to go with him.  We don’t know why Peter decided to go fishing – the text does not say.  He could have been bored, needed to get out of the house, wanted to provide food for the crew, or possibly needed the income.

In any case, Peter and the crew fish all night and catch nothing.  Early in the morning, someone on shore calls out and asks them if they have caught anything.  When the reply is “no”, the person says to try on the other side of the boat.  Instantly, they catch so many fish that they can’t even haul the nets into the vessel.

John recalls the morning that Jesus called them as disciples (Luke 5:1-11).  They had been out all night fishing and had caught nothing.  When Jesus was in the boat, He told them to lower their nets again.  When they did, they caught more fish than they could bring in.  This time was nearly identical.  When John has the “aha!” moment, he blurts out, “It is the Lord!”

As soon as Peter hears John say it is Jesus, he grabs his coat, jumps in the water, and swims to shore.  Peter can’t wait to see the Lord again.  John and the others follow in the boat, pulling in the net full of fish.

Jesus made a fire and fed the disciples breakfast.  The menu?  Fish and bread, reminiscent of the feeding of the masses.  On a cold morning, after having been up all night, and seeing Jesus again, this is a shore breakfast they would never forget.

Verse 12 appears at first to be a “given” – of course; it was Jesus!  Like Thomas’ doubt before, the disciples were still in wonder and awe that Jesus had risen from the dead.  This meeting was not a dream – this was real.

May we have the same excitement each morning to dive in and meet with the Lord.  While He does not prepare us an actual breakfast, He does offer us spiritual food.

Will we take the time to eat, to nourish ourselves with His Word?

Blessings,
~kevin

John 20:19-31

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
(John 20:19-31 NIV)

In the last two passages, John tracks Mary Magdalene as she discovers the horrific sight of the empty tomb, and later, her inexpressible joy of meeting Jesus face-to-face.

In today’s passage, John is still focused on the first day of the week, when Mary discovered Jesus’ empty tomb, then met Jesus in person.  John notes that it was evening time, likely after the evening meal and sunset.  If we compare notes with the other three Gospels, this would have taken place after Jesus’ encounter with the two men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).

John notes that the disciples were locked in a house somewhere, for fear of the Jewish leaders.  In the Luke 24 passage, Luke records that the two men did not stay in Emmaus, but hurried back to Jerusalem to report that they had seen the Lord.  Luke records that while the two men were recounting their experience to the disciples, Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst.  John’s Gospel picks up at this point.

John records that Jesus appears and greets everyone.  Jesus does not identify Himself by His face, but by the scars in His hands and side.  Remember what Jesus said in Chapter 16, verses 20-22?  The disciples would weep and mourn when Jesus went away, but He would appear to them, and they would then have everlasting joy.  This first encounter with Jesus is that joyous moment that Jesus promised.

In verses 21 – 22, Jesus then commissions His disciples and symbolically gives them the Holy Spirit.  They are to go and share the good news of Jesus, just as the Father had sent Jesus.  The disciples are to go forth with God’s power and authority.

Verse 23 is a warning, not a promise.  The disciples were to forgive, just as Jesus had forgiven their sins.  The Jewish Law of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth had been fulfilled.  The new command was love and forgiveness.  If the disciples did not proclaim and offer Christ’s forgiveness and live it out in their daily lives, then Jesus says that no one would hear the message.

John records that Thomas was not with the disciples the night that Jesus appeared to them.   He did not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, and wanted to see it for himself.  A week later, Jesus appears again, and Thomas is with the disciples.  Jesus does not chastise Thomas, but in a light-hearted moment, offers Thomas the chance to examine His wounds and scars first-hand.  Thomas simply replies in worship: “My Lord and My God!”

In verse 29, Jesus offers a invocation to all who have not seen Jesus’ resurrected body and have believed in Him.  That blessing includes you and me.

In verses 30 – 31, John reminds us that these events are just a sample of what Jesus did while on earth, and why he wrote this Gospel.  Remember that the Gospels are not biographies of Jesus’ life – they are testimonies.  And as testimonies, they are evidence to point to Christ as Messiah and trust in Him as Lord, so that we may have eternal life with Him.

May we rejoice with the disciples that Jesus is alive, resurrected from the dead and alive forevermore.  And may we heed Jesus’ warning to live out the forgiveness we have in Him, visibly demonstrating what He has done for us as we point others to Him.

Blessings,
~kevin

John 20:11-18

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
(John 20:11-18 NIV)

In yesterday’s passage, a group of women went early in the morning to finish preparing Jesus’ body for a proper Jewish burial.  When they arrived at the tomb, the large stone in front of the entrance was rolled away, and the tomb was empty.  John records Mary Magdalene’s point of view, as she ran back to Jesus’ disciples and reported what she had seen.  Peter and John, not believing Mary and the other women, went to check out the tomb for themselves.

Mary likely followed Peter and John back to the tomb.  John had an idea that Jesus was raised from the dead, but Peter had not yet figured it out.  Both men left the tomb and garden area and walked back to where the other disciples were staying.

In today’s passage, we see Mary Magdalene at the tomb alone, broken-hearted and openly weeping as she missed Jesus.  The thought of someone stealing or moving Jesus’ body was too much to bear.  The idea of Jesus alive again (raised from the dead) was not even in her realm of possibilities.

When Mary looked into the tomb through her tear-stained eyes, she saw two angels, one at the foot of where Jesus had been laid, and one at the head.  They asked her why she was crying.  As if the shock of Jesus’ missing body was not enough, now she was seeing and being questioned by angelic beings!

Mary, most likely startled by the sight and question of the two angels, abruptly turns around and finds herself face-to-face with a different man, whom she assumes is the gardener (remember that the tomb was in a garden setting, John 19:41).  The man asks her the same questions – why she is crying, and for whom she is looking.  Mary mournfully begs the man to tell her where he has taken Jesus’ body so she can retrieve it and give Him a proper burial.

Jesus reveals His identity to Mary by simply saying her name.  John makes the point that Mary did not know this was Jesus.  Did Mary not recognize Jesus because He had concealed His identity, or because of her anguish, or just because she thought Jesus was dead and did not expect to see Him?  No matter what the circumstances, when Jesus called Mary’s name, she instantly recognized Him.

Mary responds by vocalizing Jesus’ relationship to her – “My Teacher!”.

As Mary likely falls at Jesus’ feet, wrapped around His ankles like a little chid, Jesus responds with words of comfort, not words of criticism:  “You don’t have to hold on to me, I have not left yet.”  Jesus then tells Mary to tell the disciples that Jesus told her He will be ascending to His Father and their Father, to His God and their God.

Mary runs off to share the astonishing news:  “I have seen the Lord!”  Her tears of mourning are replaced with tears of inexpressible joy.

While we will never know the pain Mary experienced when she thought her Savior was dead and gone, we can experience the joy that Mary felt when she realized Jesus was alive.

May we celebrate His resurrection, not just on Easter, but every day as we cling to the promise of  Jesus’ offer of eternal life as He conquered death and rose again.

Blessings,
~kevin

John 20:1-10

20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
(John 20:1-10 NIV)

In yesterday’s passage, Joseph and Nicodemus ask Pilate for permission to take Jesus’ body down from the cross.  The two men give Jesus’ body a proper Jewish burial in the tomb that Joseph had purchased for himself.

In today’s passage, it is now the third day since Jesus died and was buried.  A group of women came to the tomb early in the morning to finish the proper burial of Jesus’ body.  John focuses his account on one woman – Mary Magdalene.

When the women arrive at the tomb, they see that the stone was rolled away.  Mary’s immediate reaction is that someone had moved Jesus’ body.  She immediately ran to Peter and John to report her findings.

Peter and John know nothing about this situation, so they jump up and quickly run to the tomb to investigate.  At this point, no one is thinking about the plausibility of Jesus resurrecting from the dead.  A thousand scenarios were likely running through the disciples’ heads, but Jesus being physically raised from the dead is not even in the realm of possibilities.

John, an old man now, with a twinkle in his eye, loves to tell how he outran Peter on the way to Jesus’ burial site (v. 4).  John tells how he stopped short of going inside the tomb (likely to not become ceremonially unclean), but Peter charges right in.

John gives a quick summary of what Peter first saw (vv. 6 – 7), and what he would soon see for himself (v. 8).  The linen cloths wrapped around Jesus’ body were still there as if the body had miraculously vanished.  This mystery was clearly not the work of grave robbers, nor was the body moved, because all the linen cloths were still there.

John is also careful to make the point that the cloth wrapped around Jesus’ head was separate from the other linens used to wrap Jesus’ body.  Only a person who had seen the grave site firsthand would be able to recall that level of detail.

Verses 8 – 10 finish John’s account.  Again, with a gleam in his eye, John figures out that Jesus could have risen from the dead.  Peter and the others have not yet connected the dots.  John concludes this statement by noting that he and Peter walk back to where they were staying.

While the disciples still did not understand what had happened, Jesus’ physical and bodily resurrection from the dead was the ultimate hope and proof of Jesus as Messiah.  Jesus died, was buried, and now is alive again.

And He did all this for you and me, so we can be reconciled to God and have eternal life with Him.  John said it best way back in chapter 3:

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned,but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
(John 3:16-18 NIV)

Blessings,
~kevin

John 19:38-42

38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
(John 19:38-42 NIV)

In yesterday’s passage, Jesus gave up His spirit and died on the cross.The Jewish leaders asked Pilate to hasten the death of the three crucified men (not knowing that Jesus was already dead) so the bodies could be removed from the crosses before Passover started at sundown.  Pilate granted their request.

In today’s passage, two Pharisees (Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus) asked Pilate for the body of Jesus.  Pilate granted their wish.  John makes a special point to let us know that Joseph was a secret follower of Jesus, for fear of excommunication from the Temple and Jewish life.  If any of the Jewish leaders had suspicions about Joseph being a follower of Jesus, Joseph’s request to Pilate and his actions confirmed those wonderings.  Joseph’s secret was now out in the open.

John calls out Nicodemus as helping Joseph.  John reminds us that Nicodemus had come to Jesus at night (John 3:1-21) to ask about eternal life.  John had also recorded that Nicodemus tried to stand up for Jesus by questioning whether the Jewish leaders were following due process of Jewish law when they tried to arrest Jesus (John 7:45-52).  Like Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus’ secret of following Jesus was now out in the open.

Isn’t it interesting that none of Jesus’ disciples helped with the removal of Jesus’ body from the cross and the burial of His corpse?  Instead, God prompts two secret followers of Jesus to come out of hiding and publicly identify with Jesus by taking action.

God used Joseph to take care of burying Jesus’ body.  Joseph was likely on the Sanhedrin, and as a Jewish leader would have known Pilate and had access to make the request.  If Joseph would not have taken action, the soldiers would likely have taken down Jesus’ body (along with the other two men) and dumped them in a commoner’s mass grave.  Instead, Jesus is given a proper Jewish burial, where the body is prepared with spices and wrapped in linen cloth.

John notes that Joseph and Nicodemus buried Jesus in a new tomb nearby.  Matthew tells us that this was Joseph’s personal tomb that he had purchased (Matthew 27:59-60).  Again, if there was any doubt about Joseph following Jesus, this was another public proclamation.

Both Joseph and Nicodemus thought this was the end of their Savior.  They performed all the ritual Jewish tasks required in the burial of a body, fully expecting to come back a year later, collect Jesus’ bones, and place them in a bone box, as was the Jewish custom.  Little did they expect that three days later, the tomb would be empty, and their hope rekindled.

So what moves us to the point of publicly proclaiming our faith in Christ and following Him regardless of the consequences?  Are we willing to put to death and bury our pride, our fears of rejection and ridicule, our people-pleasing ways to unashamedly follow Jesus?

May our faith and boldness increase!

Blessings,
~kevin