The Risen Lord Appears
April 8 • Bible Study Guide 6
Bible Background • JOHN 21:1–14
Printed Text • JOHN 21:1–14 | Devotional Reading • PSALM 19:7–10, 119:105–112
Aim for Change
By the end of this lesson, we will: SUMMARIZE the account of the risen Christ’s appearance to seven disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee; AFFIRM the symbolic and real presence of Christ in our communal meal; and PRACTICE the presence of Christ by eating together often.
“I’ve been studying all night and I still don’t understand how to work these problems,” Jamal told his sister. “I can’t face Mom if I fail this class and lose my scholarship. I can’t afford to come back to State for another semester; I need to graduate now!” Sarah knew how much her big brother wanted to succeed and help Mom by graduating. She also knew how much he wanted that accounting job their neighbor, Mr. Harrison, had promised him if he finished college this spring. With Jamal’s help, his mother would finally be able to purchase a home, a dream she was starting to believe would never come true. Sarah suggested that they go and get some food at Jamal’s favorite restaurant. At first he refused, but then he decided it would be good to get a break and let his mind rest.
As Jamal and Sarah ate, he remembered all of the moments she had brought him there before. When he faced trouble, he would come to that restaurant and Sarah would often pray for him there. When he looked at the familiar setting, he remembered God had met him there and brought him through hard times before.
“Sarah, could you pray for me?” Jamal asked.
“Of course, God is here and ready to listen to us as we pray,” Sarah responded.
Sometimes when we are in familiar places, we have memories of God’s work in our past and realize He is meeting us right where we are as He has in the past. Do you have a moment when a memory reminded you of God’s present nearness in your life?
Keep in Mind
“Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord” (John 21:12).
Words You Should Know
A. Girt (John 21:7) diazonnumi (Gk.)—To secure, fasten, or hold together by encompassing or tying with a belt, strap, or material.
B. Cubit (v. 8) pechus (Gk.)—An ancient unit of measurement based on the length of an arm, approximately 18 inches.
C. Durst (v. 12) tolmao (Gk.)—To have courage or boldness, to dare someone to perform a task.
Unifying Principle—What is This Love? Sometimes life seems humdrum and unproductive. Where can people recognize purpose and direction for their lives? When the disciples followed guidance given by a man on the shore, they recognized it was Jesus who had given the directions and they joined Him in fellowship.
A. Pray for your students and lesson clarity.
B. Read John 21:1–14 in several translations.
C. Complete the companion lesson in the Precepts For Living® Personal Study Guide.
O—Open the Lesson
A. Open with prayer, including the Aim for Change.
B. Introduce today’s lesson title.
C. Have students read the Aim for Change and Keep in Mind verse together. Discuss.
D. Tell the class to read the In Focus story silently, then discuss it.
P—Present the Scriptures
A. Have volunteers read or summarize the Focal Verses.
B. Use The People, Places, and Times; Background; In Depth; and More Light on the Text sections to clarify the verses.
E—Explore the Meaning
A. Divide the class into groups to analyze the Discuss the Meaning, Lesson in Our Society, and Make It Happen sections. Tell the students to select a representative to share their thoughts with the class.
B. Connect these sections to the Aim for Change and the Keep in Mind verse.
N—Next Steps for Application
A. Write some take-away principles under the Follow the Spirit or Remember Your Thoughts section.
B. Close with prayer.
C. Provide refreshments and invite students to a time of fellowship after the class.
For the Superintendent or Teacher
Theme: The Risen Lord Appears
Song: “I Want to Be a Follower of Christ”
Devotional Reading: Psalm 19:7–10, 119:105–112
Daily Bible Readings
The Reasons for the Resurrection
Paul—Witness to the Resurrected Christ
(1 Corinthians 15:1–8)
Scriptures Equip Disciples for Good Work
(2 Timothy 3:14–17)
Ethiopian Eunuch Hears the Good News
Lead My People and Follow Me
John’s Testimony to Jesus is True
(John 20:30–31, 21:24–25)
Jesus Serves Breakfast to the Disciples
John 21:1 After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.
2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.
3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.
4 But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.
5 Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.
6 And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.
7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.
8 And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.
9 As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.
10 Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.
11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.
12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.
13 Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.
14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.
John 21:1 Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. This is how it happened.
2 Several of the disciples were there—Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples.
3 Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” “We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.
4 At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was.
5 He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?” “No,” they replied.
6 Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.
7 Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore.
8 The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore.
9 When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.
10 “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said.
11 So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn.
12 “Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.
13 Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish.
14 This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead.
The People, Places, and Times
Fishing in the first century. Several fishing methods were in use during the time of Christ. They included casting a net, dragging a net, and using a hook and line. A person would cast a net, making it fall flat on the surface of the water, and enclose a school of fish, which were then pulled to shore. Dragging nets were long and supported by floating devices. They were spread on the lake at night and hauled in by boat during the morning. A baited hook was used along the shore. Since biblical times, fishing has been important to the economic life of Israel.
Galilee. The region of Galilee is a cool, lush area of fertile plains and hills. Jesus was raised in Nazareth of Galilee, and most of His ministry occurred around the Sea of Galilee, including the Sermon on the Mount and His Transfiguration. Jesus walked on the waters of the Sea of Galilee and shared many parables near its shores. More than twenty of His miracles happened in Galilee. Nazareth, a small town in Galilee, was the hometown of Jesus’ mother, Mary. During the time of Christ, Nazareth was held in disregard. The prevailing thought was no one of any worth could come from such an insignificant town.
Sons of Zebedee. Two of Jesus’ disciples, James and John, were the sons of a Galilean fisherman named Zebedee. Their mother was Salome, who served Jesus when He ministered in Galilee and was present at His crucifixion. The father and sons were mending nets when Jesus called the two brothers to follow him. John wrote the Gospel of John, three epistles and the book of Revelation. James was also one of three disciples to see Jesus’ Transfiguration.
What have you left behind for the sake of following Christ?
After His resurrection, Jesus appeared numerous times to His disciples and followers, providing them with convincing proof that He was risen indeed. Several of these appearances happened in Jerusalem (John 20:10–17, 19–23, 26–29; Matthew 28:9–10; Luke 24:13–27, 33–34, 50–51) and two occurred in Galilee—meeting the disciples at the Sea of Galilee (John 21) and gathering with followers on a mountain (Matthew 28:16). Scripture also records that Jesus appeared to James (1 Corinthians 15:7) and to Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1–9). Often Jesus was not recognized immediately by His disciples when He appeared to them. His words and actions caused them to know Him. The historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection is core to Christian belief. Jesus was condemned to death because He claimed to be the Son of God (Matthew 26:63–65). By rising from the dead, He gave irrefutable proof that He was who He said He was. By the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, the disciples went on to perform miracles (Acts 2:43) and preached that salvation and remission of sin were available because of Jesus’ resurrection (Luke 24:47).
How can a personal encounter with God create a transformation in our lives?
1. Doing What You Know (John 21:1–3)
2. Doing What Jesus Says (vv. 4–6)
3. Experiencing Unimaginable Results (vv. 7–14)
1. Doing What You Know (John 21:1–3)
The women who went to Jesus’ tomb met an angel who told them to go and report to Jesus’ disciples that He has risen and they should meet Him in Galilee (Matthew 28:5). Galilee was in the northern part of Israel, and several of Jesus’ disciples lived and worked there. Though they had followed the instructions to go to Galilee, they didn’t know what to do next. Peter decided to go fishing and the others joined him. A long night on the waters went unrewarded—often the result of an occupation like fishing.
Waiting for God’s next direction is a challenging spiritual discipline for many people; it goes against the natural inclination to make things happen.
What do you do when you are waiting to hear from God? How do you remain patient?
2. Doing What Jesus Says (vv. 4–6)
Jesus showed up on the shore and inquired whether the disciples had caught any food. They responded no, and Jesus told them to cast their nets to the right side of the boat. After their night at sea, it would have been reasonable for the disciples to be too tired to try again, or question the direction of a stranger on shore, but they followed Jesus’ words and were rewarded with a large quantity of fish. When we stay open to instruction and the wisdom of God, we often experience the blessing that follows obedience.
How can we convince others to develop a greater trust in the promises of God?
3. Experiencing Unimaginable Results (vv. 7–14)
This miraculous catch caused John to remember another time a man had told them to cast down their nets. John exclaimed to the other disciples that the man on shore was Jesus (Luke 5:1–11). Upon hearing this news, Peter couldn’t wait for the boat to return to shore; he grabbed his clothes, jumped in the water, and swam to meet Jesus. As the others came to shore, they saw that Jesus had prepared bread and fish for them to eat. Often considered an impetuous person, Peter gets to Jesus as quickly as he can. He realizes that Jesus is now waiting on them, and Peter doesn’t want to miss this opportunity to be in His transforming presence.
Jesus, always caring and compassionate toward His people, invited His disciples to a meal with Him when they arrived on shore. The long night of unrewarded struggle was over; the invitation was to dine on what Jesus offered. This was time to sit and renew their relationship with Christ. In sharing this meal and fellowship around the campfire, the disciples didn’t have to ask who was present with them; they knew without a doubt He was their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The risen Christ looks for opportunities to express His love; He is a very present help to those experiencing failure, loss, or disillusionment.
How can fellowship with others help us develop fresh revelations about God?
Search the Scriptures
1. Compare and contrast the events of Luke 5:1–11 with today’s lesson (John 21:1–14).
2. Why didn’t the disciples recognize Jesus when they first saw Him on the shore (v. 4)?
Discuss the Meaning
Following the lead of Peter, the disciples decide to go fishing, but their efforts were in vain. Why would Jesus come to His disciples at their moment of failure to prepare a meal and fellowship with them?
Lesson in Our Society
In the 1992 Olympics, Derek Redmond was favored to win the 400-meter semifinals until a pulled hamstring caused him to collapse on the Barcelona track. Determined to continue, Redmond started to limp his way to the finish line. His father, seeing his son’s struggle, came out of the stands, broke through security, and helped him complete the race. Few people remember who won this race, but no one has forgotten the love of this father when his son experienced failure.
Many of us have a friend or relative who has experienced a setback or stumbled along the way. As African Americans, we need to follow the example of Derek Redmond’s father and come alongside those who experience injustice, navigate a new life stage, or are stuck in poverty. Coming alongside those who have had a setback is one way to help keep relationships, families, and communities intact.
What are some ways you can come alongside and support people in your life?
Make It Happen
• Name some ways to support someone who has stumbled on the road of life.
• Make a point to acknowledge Jesus’ presence during your mealtimes.
• Write in your journal about the ways you have experienced Jesus’ presence during times of discouragement and disappointment.
Follow the Spirit
What God wants me to do:
Remember Your Thoughts
Special insights I have learned:
More Light on the Text
1 After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself. 2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.
Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus had told His disciples that after He was risen, He would proceed to Galilee, where they were to meet him (Matthew 26:38; Mark 14:28). Although the other Gospel accounts also refer to Christ’s post-resurrection appearance there, only John provides the details of the scene at the Sea of Tiberias, also known as the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus showed (Gk. phaneroo, fah-neh-ROH-oh, “made manifest, revealed”) Himself to the disciples. A fishing scene provides the occasion for Jesus to reveal Himself. Here we have the longest account of a post-resurrection appearance in Galilee. “After these things” refers not only to 20:30–31 but to the preceding accounts of Jesus’ appearances. John introduces the scene by the expression, “and on this wise shewed he himself,” which literally translated is “he revealed or manifested himself in this manner.” The expression implies that Jesus certainly was alive, even if His disciples or followers had not seen Him. For John, Christ’s revelation is a concrete reality of heaven upon earth.
3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.
In spite of the fact that these disciples had seen and talked with their risen Lord on two different occasions, they were still sheep without a shepherd. The disciples were still in an uncertain mood between the resurrection and ascension. Although the gloom of Good Friday had given way to the joy of Easter morning, it was still not clear to them what they were to do. Were they to remain idle? It was only natural for the disciples to go back to what they knew how to do—their previous occupation. So Peter’s announcement of a fishing expedition, “I go a fishing,” was received with much enthusiasm. The disciples labored all night, the best time for fishing, but caught nothing. Their best efforts with the nets throughout the peak fishing hours of the night brought them no success, no doubt baffling these experienced fishermen. If night was a time of failure when nothing could be done, the antidote must be light. Hence it is probably not just a matter of style for John to note that in the morning, when there was light, Jesus stood on the shore. He was unrecognizable. The word John uses is eido (Gk. AY-doe), which is more literally “to see” and also means “to know.” Therefore, the disciples’ lack of recognition might have been due either to the dimness of the morning or the extraordinary nature of His appearance. What is important to note is that Jesus always revealed Himself only as He willed in keeping with the needs of His followers.
5 Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. 6 And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.
In verses 5 and 6, Jesus initiates a conversation with the disciples with a question: “Children, have ye any meat?” They answered with a monosyllable “No” (Gk. ou, OO), something that shows their disappointment. The disciples appear to not be inclined to delve into the details of their unproductive night. Jesus then gave the unsuspecting disciples a specific instruction on where to cast the net. His sovereignty and supernatural knowledge, which have been seen frequently in the earlier chapters of John’s Gospel, reappear in His command to them to cast the net to the right side of the ship. Their compliance brings about the miraculous haul of a huge number of fish. This might well be meant to recall scriptural prophecy. In other words, strange as the advice from this “stranger” might have been, these experienced fishermen obeyed. In obedience to Jesus’ command, they caught a big haul of fish. Obedience to God often yields positive results even when His command seems not to make sense.
In verse 7, John continues to use his regular manner of designating himself: “that disciple whom Jesus loved.” John recognizes Jesus more quickly than the rest, and his first thought is to tell Peter. Using the mass of fish, Jesus had made His presence known, and Peter abandons everything, boat as well as fish, and runs straight to Jesus in his familiar impetuousness. John remains in the boat with the rest.
Only an eyewitness could mention the detail about Peter not wearing the coat. The disciples had worked “naked,” which, however, does not mean stripped of all clothing, as some suppose. Peter was only without a coat, not without clothes altogether.
8 And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes. 9 As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.
The rest of the crew came ashore with the boat. Evidently the disciples still found the net full of fish to be too heavy to haul on board, so they simply dragged it along. Even with Peter in the boat, these seven men did not have the strength to haul up the net; with Peter removed, they were less able to do so. They thus simply dragged the net to shore. The weight indicated hints at the size of the fish. The disciples come to the shore with their enormous bounty. The astounding manifestations of this early morning hour are by no means ended with the catch of fish. As soon as they came to land, they saw a fire of coals there, with a fish laid on top of them and bread nearby. The surprise of the disciples is marked by the present tense, “they see”—namely, that here on the shore a charcoal fire has been laid, and the coals are still glowing. And a fish has been laid on these coals, lying there roasting. Bread is there, too, to go with the fish, the same word as that used in 6:9 and 11. Everything is ready for a meal!
10 Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. 11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.
Peter at once—again first to act—enters the boat, and then draws the net up after him onto the land. Whether the number of fish caught has some significance is unclear; it might be just a detail of how carefully the disciples counted their haul. We should take care not to create or force some hidden meaning in the biblical text.
This miraculous catch has some significant differences from the circumstances of the draw of fishes at the beginning of the Lord’s ministry (Luke 5:1–10). Augustine, an early church father, draws them out very well; he says the one was the symbol of the church at present, the other of the church perfected. In the one we have good and bad, in the other good only; there Christ also is on the water, here He is on the land; there the draw is left in the boats, here it is landed on the beach; there the nets are let down as it might be, here in a special part; there the nets are rending, here they are not broken; there the boats are on the point of sinking with their load, here they are not laden; there the fish are not numbered, here the number is exactly given. It seems impossible not to acknowledge that there is a spiritual meaning in these variations of the two narratives which consistently converge to distinct ends.
12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise. 14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.
One curious feature of verse 12 is its statement that the disciples did not dare to ask the name of their host, because they knew it was the Lord. This is a characteristic feature of the Resurrection appearances in the Gospels. It is related to, yet different from, the experience of the Emmaus disciples, who did not know the identity of the Lord until He broke the bread; here the disciples know the Lord as He invites them, before participating in the meal, yet they have a peculiar uneasiness toward Him, which we presume must have disappeared during the meal. A feeling of respectful fear prevents the disciples from approaching their mysterious Lord. But Jesus broke the ice as He now distributes bread and fish among the disciples to eat. For even though He, as the risen Lord, does not Himself participate in the meal, the sense is that table fellowship between the risen Jesus and the disciples is now established.
It is important to note that in 6:11, “Jesus took the loaves, and … distributed them …; so also the fish”; here “Jesus … took the bread and gave it to them, and in the same way the fish.” Both scenes carry overtones of the church’s eucharistic meal. Jesus has empowered the disciples for their mission of fishing, enabling them to make their catch, and He now provides nourishment for them in their task.
Say It Correctly