BIBLE: John Chapter 21

Words in italic type have been added for clarity. They are not found in the original Hebrew or Aramaic.

John 21

What should I learn from this chapter?

Breakfast by the Sea

John 21:1 After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself:


At the tomb Outside the city: In JerusalemJohn 20: 11-18SundayMary Magdalene (thought He was the gardener)
The women running to the JerusalemMatt 28:1 Mark 16:1 Luke 24:10SundayJoanna, Salome, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them
In the city, JerusalemLuke 24:34 I Cor 15:5Sunday Luke 24:21Simon Peter
The road to Emmaus, 7 miles from JerusalemLuke 24:13-35Sunday Luke 24:21Cleopas and his companion
Upper Room in JerusalemJohn 20:19-25 Luke 24:36-43SundayThe 10 disciples (all but Thomas).
Upper Room in JerusalemJohn 20:26Monday, 8 days from the ResurrectionThe 11 disciples including Thomas.
Sea of Tiberius ShorelineJohn 21:1-23 The 11 disciples. Peter and six others went fishing including:  Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two others (probably Philip and Andrew). The third time Jesus showed Himself.
Galilee: Mountain SideMatt 28:16-17 (1 Cor 15:6?) The 11 disciples (plus over 500 here?) (but some doubted)
Somewhere in Galilee?1 Cor 15:7 Jesus’ half brother James
The Ascension Bethany, Mount OlivesLuke 24:49-53 Acts 1:3-1140th day from the ResurrectionThe 11 disciples. The proclamation He will return to the same spot: When He returns His foot will break the mountain apart in an intense earthquake.
The road to Damascus  Saul (Paul) of Tarsus
Jesus’ Appearances after His Resurrection


Mary Magdalene separated from the other women after the initial visit to the tomb. It seems she hastened off to find Peter and the “other disciple” (John). The other nine disciples were apparently not with Peter and John that morning and were informed of the empty tomb by the other women.3 John 20:1–2 tells us that Mary Magdalene told them the Lord’s body was missing. After Peter and John viewed the empty tomb and departed, Mary Magdalene remained behind weeping, saw the angels in the tomb, asked about the missing body, and then had her own conversation with Jesus Himself. In John 20:17 Jesus sent her off to tell His brethren that He is alive, and verse 18 states that she obeyed. Mark 16:9–11 adds that Mary Magdalene was the first to whom the Lord appeared and that the disciples did not believe her story.

Meanwhile, the other women, finding the stone rolled away, entered the tomb and saw an angel sitting on the right. Suddenly they realized there were two angels, as Luke recorded. Matthew and Mark just mention one of them, perhaps focusing on the one who was speaking (Matthew 28:5–7; Mark 16:5–7; Luke 24:4–8). The angel tells the women to go tell the disciples and Peter—alluding to the estrangement of Peter after his denial and suggesting he wasn’t with the larger group—that Jesus was risen and would see them in Galilee.

Matthew 28:8–10 states that the women took off running to find the disciples. They may have just missed Peter and John, who were on their way to the tomb. Evidently while these women were en route to find the disciples in the city, Peter and John viewed the empty tomb, and Mary Magdalene had her encounter with Jesus. After appearing to Mary Magdalene, Jesus visited the women who were running to the city, and He reinforced the message that they should go tell His brethren that they would see Him in Galilee. Perhaps Jesus made this personal appearance because they were so terribly afraid and too fearful to speak to anyone (Mark 16:8). After He met them, they joyfully delivered the message. Luke 24:9–11 summarizes the fact that “the eleven and all the rest” ultimately heard about Christ’s Resurrection from all the women, including Mary Magdalene. Yet no one believed them.

Matthew 28:11–15 tells us of another important event on that Sunday morning. The guards told the chief priests what had happened. With the help of bribes in the right places, the chief priests hatched and spread the tale that the disciples had stolen the body while the guards slept. In so doing they confirmed for all of history that the tomb was really empty.

The events described in the remaining verses in Matthew 28 did not occur on that Sunday. Matthew 28:16 reveals that the disciples went away into Galilee—over a day’s journey at the time—prior to the appearance recorded in verse 17. So this event followed some of those described in the other Gospels.

Matt 28:16-17 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.

Jesus made two other recorded appearances to individuals before He ever appeared to the eleven as a group. The first is recorded in Luke 24:13–35 and briefly in Mark 16:12–13. After hearing the women’s report and Peter and John’s account of the empty tomb, Cleopas and his companion set out on the road to Emmaus. During their trip they met with Jesus and were treated to an eye-opening Bible lesson as Jesus explained the Old Testament Scriptures that had been fulfilled by His suffering, death, and Resurrection. When the pair discovered that they had been breaking bread with Jesus, they hurried back to the city to report to the group. Upon arrival, they learned that the Lord had also had a personal meeting with Simon Peter. That meeting with Peter is reported in Luke 24:34, but we have no other details about it.

Finally we come to the verses in question. By this time it is Sunday evening. Luke 24:33 tells us that the Emmaus road pair reported to “the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them.” But we know Thomas was not present when Jesus made His appearance to this group. Perhaps Thomas stepped out for some reason, or just wasn’t with them at the time and “the eleven” was a term used as a general description of the group of disciples once Judas had died. John 20:26 tells us that Thomas had to wait another eight days for Jesus to appear to the group again.

The Galilean appearances are not recorded in Mark and Luke but are described in Matthew 28:16–17 and John 21. Matthew 28:16 records that the eleven went to Galilee, evidently waiting for Jesus to appear as He’d promised in the message delivered by the women. According to John 21, Peter and six others decided to go fishing. Jesus instructed them to cast their net on the other side of the boat. When the disciples came ashore they found Jesus cooking breakfast for them. Jesus had His well-known “feed my sheep” conversation with Peter and told him about his future martyrdom.

John mentions that this was “the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead,” meaning that it was the third time He appeared to them as a group (John 21:14). The first meeting was with the eleven minus Thomas, and the second meeting was when Thomas was present.

The appearance on the appointed mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16–17) took place sometime after the shoreline appearance. These verses actually pick up the narrative of the chapter quite logically, since a few verses earlier Jesus had told the women to tell His brethren they’d see Him in Galilee. After the parenthetical comments about the story the Jewish leaders concocted to explain away the missing body, the account takes us to Galilee, to the appearance just promised.

Many suspect that this meeting on the mountain in Galilee was the occasion in which Jesus appeared to over five hundred people at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6). By this time word of Christ’s promised appearance would have spread among His many followers and given them time to arrive. Matthew 28:16–17 does not specifically state that others were present with the disciples, nothing in the verse precludes the possibility that more followers had gathered there. Seeing Jesus there, the disciples worshiped Him, although others still were doubtful. The eleven had by now seen Jesus more than once, and some had even eaten with Him, so “some doubted” likely refers to others who had not seen Him before.

We learn from 1 Corinthians 15:7 that Jesus met with His half-brother James after appearing on the mountain. While we cannot be sure of the place of this meeting, it makes sense that it would have happened in Galilee, since that is where Jesus and James grew up, and where James shows up in the Gospel narratives (Matthew 12:46–50; cf. Matthew 13:55). Wherever this occurred, it seems to have been a catalyst for James, who was a skeptic (John 7:5), to believe that his half-brother truly was and is the Son of God.

1 Corinthians 15:7 also explains that Christ was seen by all the apostles one more time after His visit with James. This event is recorded in Acts 1 (cf. Matthew 28:18–20; Mark 16:14–19; Luke 24:44–53), Jesus led the apostles as far as Bethany on the eastern side of Mount Olivet near Jerusalem. There He gave them their final instructions before He ascended into heaven.

The Apostle Paul stated, “Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” This appearance occurred while Paul (then called Saul) was traveling to Damascus on a mission to persecute Christians (Acts 9:1–9; 1 Corinthians 15:8).

(The above sections need to be cited)

John 21:2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples (probably Philip and Andrew) were together.

Chart: below shows disciples with names given referred to in bold.

PhilipBethsaidaGalileeIntroduces Nathanael to Jesus saying “We have found Him!!” (the Messiah)Died by hanging
AndrewBethsaidaGalileeFisherman: home was Capernaum. Brother of Simon Peter.JonasCrucified on an X-shaped cross
Simon Peter – CephasBethsaidaGalileeFisherman: home was Capernaum. Brother of AndrewJonasCrucified upside-down on a cross
Nathanael – Bartholomew
(means son of Talmai)
CanaGalileeScholars believe he is a nobleman from the line of Maacah, daughter of Talmai. She was King David’s wife and the mother of Absalom. Jesus called him an Israelite without guile.                   TalmaiFlayed alive with knives
James the Lesser (younger) GalileeBrother of Jude – Thaddeus. Wrote the book of James.

Alpheus – Cleophas (The one whose name was Cleopas? Luke 24:18) and MarySawn in pieces
Jude – Thaddeus – Lebbeus
(Judas the Zealot)
GalileeBrother of James the Lesser.Killed with arrows
Matthew – LeviCapernaumGalileeTax Collector. Wrote the book of Matthew Martyred in Ethiopia
Simon (the Zealot) GalileeThe Zealots were crazed with hatred for the Romans Died martyrs death
Judas IscariotKeriothJudah (near Jericho)Traitor-Betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. (Sold his soul to the sons of the devil for 30 pieces of silver)SimonHung himself
Matthias (replaced Judas)  He was with Jesus (at least since His baptism until His resurrection) becoming the replacement for Judas.  
Thomas Didymus at times called Judas  GalileeThe name Thomas means twin. Didymus also means twin. Killed with a spear
James the Elder – Boanerges (ie: Son of Thunder)BethsaidaGalileeBrother of John the beloved. Their mother Salome was the sister of Mary, Jesus’ mother.  They were cousins of Jesus.Zebedee and Salome: Asked for her sons to rule one on Jesus’ left hand and one on his right hand.First apostle martyred by Herod Agrippa in Jerusalem
John (the beloved) – Boanerges (ie: Son of Thunder) Bethsaida GalileeWrote the books of John and Revelation. Brother of James the Elder.Natural causes
THE TWELVE DISCIPLES: Some of the deaths of the data is speculative
John 21:3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.
John 21:4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
John 21:5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”
They answered Him, “No.”
John 21:6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.
  • Moral of the Story: Cast your net on the right side, (not the wrong side).
John 21:7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved (John the beloved) said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea.
John 21:8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits which is ~300 ft.), dragging the net with fish.
John 21:9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread.
John 21:10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”
John 21:11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken.

►Note: The net was NOT broken. Fish are symbolic of men (Jesus told Peter He would make him a “fisher of men”. At the end of the tribulation every last Jew will be converted believers in Jesus’ identity as their Messiah, Redeemer, and King. The net will not be broken.

When Jesus first met them, the net did break:

Luke 5:4-6, 10-11 He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

5 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” 6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.

And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” 11 So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.

  • This event must have brought back memories of meeting Jesus for the first time.

►Note: Fish became a symbol for early Christianity

John 21:12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord.
John 21:13 Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.
John 21:14 This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.

Jesus Restores Peter

John 21:15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of [John] Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I (have affection for) love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
John 21:16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of (John) Jonah, do you love Me?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I (have affection for) love You.”
He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
John 21:17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of (John) Jonah, do you (have affection for) 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, “Feed My sheep”.

Jesus asked Peter three times because he had denied Him three times. Jesus healed his guilt.

John 21:18 Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”
  • Peter was crucified upside-down on a cross
John 21:19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”

The Beloved Disciple and His Book

John 21:20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved (John the beloved) following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?”
  • It was John the beloved who leaned on Jesus breast at the last supper and asked “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” (the betrayer turned out to be Judas Iscariot)
John 21:21 Peter, seeing him (John the beloved), said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”
John 21:22 Jesus said to him, “If I (desire) will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”
John 21:23 Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?”
John 21:24 This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things (this book, the gospel of John); and we know that his testimony is true.
John 21:25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.

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