Bible Study with Jairus – John 21

When God Establishes Us and Deepens our Spiritual Life, We Can Witness His Resurrection

As John wraps up his gospel in chapter 21, he acknowledges that his account of Jesus’ life is not comprehensive. He says that if he had written down every event in Jesus’ life, “I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (21:25).

However, as he finishes the book, he does tell two key stories: the story of Jesus’ appearance to his disciples by the seashore, and the story of Peter’s restoration. Obviously, the two stories that were included were carefully selected to serve the author’s purpose. So what is the purpose of John 21? While there are many ways to approach John 21, I am going to view it through the lens of Peter’s growth and restoration.

Peter later wrote the book of 1 Peter. In chapter 5, Peter teaches his readers to be humble (1 Peter 5:5-6), cast their worries on the Lord (5:7), be watchful, resist the devil (5:8), and overcome suffering (5:9). He assures his listeners, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (5:10). I believe that when Peter wrote these things, he was speaking from experience. In John 21, we see how Peter was humbled, learned to cast his cares on Jesus, resisted Satan, overcame suffering, and was eventually comforted, restored, confirmed, strengthened, and established by Christ himself. Christ established Peter as the foundation of the church.

As we mentioned in the last study, John 20 shows how Jesus appeared to different disciples. Before they could see the resurrected Christ, they had to remove their unbelief, doubt, and other blockages that were keeping them from knowing the risen Jesus. Even today, the Lord is willing to appear to anyone, but we must open our hearts and overcome the obstacles that are preventing us from knowing Him. It takes time for us to get to know the resurrected Christ, but only then can we help others learn to know Him. Peter went through this process, and it took time. Only when he knew the resurrected Christ could he become a true follower of the Lord (21:19) and a fisher of men (Matthew 4:19).

John 21 is a wonderful segue to the next book, Acts. In the first half of Acts, Peter is one of the most important leaders of the church. But he could only fill this role because the Lord had strengthened, restored, and established him in John 21. Only then could Peter be filled with the Holy Spirit so he could bring salvation to 3,000 people (Acts 2:41).

A Deepened Spiritual Life Is Necessary for Witnessing the Resurrected Christ

To experience the resurrected Christ, we must open our hearts. This implies spiritual growth, as seen in John 20-21. Even if we have learned to know the risen Christ, we must deepen our spiritual lives so we can be the nurturing shepherds that Jesus expects us to be. This was the experience of many Bible characters, such as Moses. Moses was called and prepared by God to lead his people out of Egypt. After he tried to rescue one of his people with his own strength and wisdom, he was forced into exile in the wilderness. While shepherding sheep in the wilderness, he saw the burning bush and came to know the true living God. The Lord told him, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). Centuries later, Jesus told the Sadducees, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not God of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22:32). Jesus said this to prove the validity of the resurrection. So it’s not too much of a stretch to say that Moses had experienced the living God, the God who can make people live again.

Despite experiencing the living God, Moses rejected God’s calling. He refused to lead the Israelites out of Egypt because he thought he lacked capability and eloquence. Even after God showed him three miracles, Moses still yelled, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else” (Exodus 4:13). Finally the Lord became angry (4:14) and tried to kill him (4:24). Only after his wife Zipporah circumcised their son did the Lord let him go. Many are confused about this incident. They wonder why the Lord tried to kill Moses. To be honest, it is not difficult to understand, especially if we compare this incident with Peter’s experience. Why? Because it is one thing to see the resurrection, but another thing to experience it. Abraham had the same experience. He had known the Lord since the time God promised him his son Isaac. But it was quite another thing altogether to experience God’s resurrection power when God rescued Isaac from death.

Jesus’ Repeated Appearances Deepen Our Understanding of the Resurrection

After Jesus’ resurrection, He appears to His disciples many times. But why does He appear to Peter and the other disciples while they are fishing? Each appearance of the Lord Jesus deepens our understanding of the resurrection so that we can truly experience the death and resurrection of Jesus in our own lives.

This principle applies to both the Old Testament and the New. Each of God’s seven appearances to Abraham deepened his knowledge of God. The first time God appeared to Abram was to call him out of Ur of the Chaldeans (Genesis 15:7). He then appeared to him again in Haran (Genesis 12:1). Both times, God promised to give Abram the land of Canaan. As a result, Abram left the land of idols. Genesis 12:7 records the third appearance where the Lord said to Abram, “To your offspring I will give this land.” The fourth time God appeared to him, he promised to bless Abraham with countless descendants, as numerous as the sand of the seashore (Genesis 13:14-17). God appeared to him for the fifth time after he rescued Lot from the five kings. God told Abram that one of his very own sons would be his heir (15:4). Thirteen years after his biological son Ishmael’s birth, God appeared to Abraham again. This time, he changed his name from Abram to Abraham and told him he would become the father of many nations (17:5). The seventh appearance happened after Abraham sacrificed Isaac to the Lord. God once again promised, “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of hisenemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:17-18). Every time God appeared to Abraham, his understanding of the resurrection was deepened. Finally, God inspired Abraham with supernatural knowledge about his descendant, Jesus Christ so that Abraham could look “forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).

Galatians 3:16 says, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. Notice here that the Scripture uses ‘his offspring’ instead of ‘all offspring,’  which indicates one person – Jesus Christ.” And verse 14 says, “So that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” Abraham’s transformation—from living in a place of idolatry to knowing and waiting for God—was the result of his multiple encounters with God.

Similarly, after Jesus’ resurrection, he chooses to appear to his disciples multiple times. Each time they see him, their understanding of Him is deepened, they become more aware of God’s will, and they better understand their glorious inheritance in God’s calling. When they realize their identity in Christ, they can become what God desires them to be.

We Must Have a Clear Understanding of Our Identity


Why does the Lord Jesus choose twelve disciples? First, it is the will of God the Father. Everything Jesus does on earth is in accordance with the will of the Father. Luke 6:12-13 records, “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles.” Jesus’ choice of the twelve disciples is not a random action, but an obedient action based on the will of the Father, which he discerned by praying all night. What is the Father’s will? To duplicate Jesus Christ in the lives of his twelve disciples, and then for them to duplicate his life in others.

God’s work is not a rapid growth like mushrooms that spring up overnight. Instead, it is a slow process of reproducing himself in others’ lives. Jesus Christ is the manifestation of God, and the twelve disciples are called to manifest Christ to the world. To spread the life of God to others, the disciples must recognize their identity in Christ so that they can mature and grow in Christ. If these disciples fail to recognize their identity in Christ, they cannot be an accurate representation of Christ’s life. Jesus appeared to his disciples multiple times after his resurrection so he could help them recognize their deficiencies and fully understand their identity and calling in Christ. Only then can they experience resurrection in their own lives.

John 21:14 says, “This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.” The first time was when Jesus appeared to them on the first day of the week, when they were hidden behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’” (20:19). The second time was eight days later, when the disciples were gathered again, this time with Thomas. “Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you’”(20:26). The first time Jesus appeared to his disciples, he helped them overcome their fear and lack of joy (20:20). A regenerate person is a person of joy. When Jesus appeared to his disciples the second time, he addressed Thomas’ unbelief. What is the purpose of the third appearance? Jesus Christ will fill His promise to make Peter a fisher of men.

God Himself Establishes Us and Makes Us Perfect and Strong

At one time, Peter had confidently proclaimed that even if everyone else betrayed Jesus Christ, he never would. However, Jesus Christ told him that he would deny the Lord three times before the rooster crowed three times. And this was exactly what happened. Now, Peter is deeply ashamed of it. When he sees Jesus again, he was very embarrassed. But instead of scolding Peter, Jesus nurtures and restores him, and lifts him up again.

Peter learns several deep spiritual lessons which we find in the books of 1 and 2 Peter. As a fisherman, Peter may not have been very knowledgeable, yet his two epistles contain rich spiritual lessons. These are Peter’s only two epistles in the Bible, so they encapsulate the totality of the spiritual depth that Peter has acquired throughout his life. Although Peter did not have spectacular linguistic abilities, and many commentators do not spend much time interpreting his writings, the spiritual richness of Peter’s letters is well worth excavating.

The first lesson Peter learned was the importance of humility. First Peter 5: 5-6 says, “… Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.”

Second, Peter learned to trust God. Peter instructs believers to “cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). After seeing the resurrected Lord Jesus three times (once by himself and twice with other disciples) Peter still lacked faith in the risen Christ. He went back to fishing with other disciples, but caught nothing. When Jesus Christ appeared, they caught 153 fish. Through this experience, Peter learned a powerful lesson about trusting God.

Third, Peter learned about resisting temptation. Jesus Christ had repeatedly warned Peter and other disciples about Satan’s temptation. In Luke 22:31, Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.” Sure enough, Simon failed when facing Satan’s temptation. So Peter shares what he learned through blood, sweat, and tears: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

Finally, Peter writes his famous line, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10). I love this verse. Whenever I go through trials and failures, I sing a song based on this verse. I believe that God will one day restore, strengthen, perfect, and establish me.

Every Failure is the Foundation of the Next Victory

John 21 is crucial because it documents Peter’s restoration. Without it, the Gospel of John would end on a sad note. Even though Jesus Christ had risen from the dead, the book would end with Peter’s failure. This is not the will of God. Jesus Christ has won the victory, and each of us has also won the victory through Him. Jesus wants us to live a victorious life. That is the purpose of his victory. Therefore, the Gospel of John cannot end with Peter’s failure. It must end with his restoration.

The book of Acts, which follows John, tells about Peter’s leadership in the early church. He worked many signs and wonders in Jesus’ name. The book of Acts is about the work of the Holy Spirit through his vessels, the apostles. The filling of the Holy Spirit takes a moment, but the preparation of these vessels for his service takes decades or a lifetime. John 21 shows us how Jesus prepared his vessel, Peter, for the birth and growth of the Church and for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit promised by the Father in the book of Acts. This is the great will of the Triune God.

Every failure of ours reveals where we need Christ. When we repent and ask God to transform us, God will be able to remake us in his image. We will become victorious vessels through which the Holy Spirit can work. May we all cherish our failures so we can learn and grow from them.