John 21

These small group studies of John contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

John 21 Inductive Bible Study

John 21

Outline:

I. The disciples go fishing in Galilee (1-3)
II. Jesus gives them a huge catch (4-8)
III. They sit down and eat breakfast together (9-14)
IV. Jesus gives Peter a 2nd chance, challenging him to be devoted to serving Him (15-17)
V. Jesus predicts Peter will be martyred (18-19)
VI. Peter asks about John’s future (20-23)
VII. The conclusion of John’s Gospel (24-25)

Discussion Questions

Why were the disciples back in Galilee?
Why did they start going fishing again?
Why did the disciples not recognize Jesus at first?
What does Jesus want to teach them by giving them the huge, miraculous catch?
What can we learn from this? How can we be reliant on God instead of ourselves?
Should we be reliant on God only in “spiritual” things? How about in physical things?
What were the other two times Jesus showed Himself to the disciples?
Why does Jesus ask Peter three times if he loves Him? What is the significance of the Greek in this passage?
What does He mean more than “these”?
What does it mean to “shepherd My sheep”?
So what kind of death did Jesus say Peter was going to have?
Why would Peter ask what would happen to John?
In your own words, summarize Jesus’ response.
What does verse 22 mean, “until I come”?
Since Jesus did so much more, why did John not record it?

Cross-references

Matthew 28:16 – Jesus told the disciples to go Galilee to wait for Him.
Luke 5:4-10 – A similar instance where Jesus helped them have a large catch. In that even Peter was reluctant to listen to the Lord, thinking that he knew a lot about fishing and had caught nothing. Also, in that event their nets began to break. In that event Peter knew he was sinful and was ashamed before the Lord. This time Peter listens without talking, the nets do not break, and Peter rushes to see the Lord.
Acts 14:3 – Reliance on the Lord.
Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust the Lord. Acknowledge Him and He will direct our steps.
John 15:5 – Apart from Him we can do nothing.
Colossians 3:17 – Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of Jesus.
Proverbs 16:3 – Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established.
Philippians 4:19 – God will supply all of our needs.
Matthew 26:33 – Peter had claimed to be more devoted than all of the other disciples.
Luke 21:31-33 – Jesus knew that Peter would deny Christ, but wanted him to repent and then help his brothers after that.
1 Peter 5:1-4 – Talks about shepherding the sheep.
Matthew 16:24-26 – A true disciple must be willing to give their life for the Lord.
2 Peter 1:12-15 – Peter did expect to die as a martyr.

Greek-

Jesus’ interchange with Peter-

Do you agape me? Yes, I fileo You.

Do you agape me? Yes, I fileo You.

Do you fileo me? Yes, I fileo You.

I. The disciples go fishing in Galilee (1-3)

Matthew 28:16 – Jesus told the disciples to go Galilee to wait for Him.

Why were the disciples back in Galilee?

Why did they start going fishing again?

Jesus had told the disciples to go back to Galilee. Perhaps while they were waiting they decided to pass the time fishing, since they didn’t know how long it would be until Jesus came. Another possibility is that were simply returning to their old lives. This is the view that I had before, but after looking at this passage closer, I just think that they were passing the time. But from verse 3 it doesn’t appear that they were going back to that as a job or lifestyle, but simply that it was kind of a spur of the moment thing. They caught nothing.

Apparently only 7 of the disciples were here. They were spending time together in common life, not only at religious meetings, which is good.

II. Jesus gives them a huge catch (4-8)

Discussion Questions

Why did the disciples not recognize Jesus at first?
What does Jesus want to teach them by giving them the huge, miraculous catch?
What can we learn from this? How can we be reliant on God instead of ourselves?
Should we be reliant on God only in “spiritual” things? How about in physical things?

Cross-References

Luke 5:4-10 – A similar instance where Jesus helped them have a large catch. In that even Peter was reluctant to listen to the Lord, thinking that he knew a lot about fishing and had caught nothing. Also, in that event their nets began to break. In that event Peter knew he was sinful and was ashamed before the Lord. This time Peter listens without talking, the nets do not break, and Peter rushes to see the Lord.
Acts 14:3 – Reliance on the Lord.
Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust the Lord. Acknowledge Him and He will direct our steps.
John 15:5 – Apart from Him we can do nothing.
Colossians 3:17 – Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of Jesus.
Proverbs 16:3 – Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established.
Philippians 4:19 – God will supply all of our needs.

Teaching Points

The disciples did not recognize Jesus at the beginning. Perhaps it was because of the distance, his changed figure, and because they didn’t expect Him. Or it could have been because He purposely didn’t want them to recognize Him at that moment so supernaturally prevented them from recognizing Him.

They hadn’t caught anything all night. These were expert fishermen. They knew the spots. They knew the techniques. There just weren’t any fish around. They were about a hundred yards out from shore so it generally doesn’t matter the exact direction you cast. Yet Jesus told them to cast on the right side of the boat. Three years before, in a similar situation, Peter did so reluctantly. Perhaps he remembered that time and so this time did it with no question, which would show that he had grown in humility during this time period with Jesus.

When they cast on the right side they had an enormous catch, just like in Luke 5. It was at this point that John told Peter it was the Lord. Very likely he remembered the previous time that Jesus had done this same miracle so knew it must be the Lord. It also shows just how unlikely it was that they would have this big catch. It was so rare, He knew it must be a miracle from Jesus.

This time, instead of hiding himself, Peter launches himself into the water to swim to shore. You can see he is still very committed to Christ and cares nothing for all of the fish he just caught. This is another reason to believe that he wasn’t going back to fishing as a job. What did Jesus want to teach them?

I don’t believe it is a coincidence Jesus did the same miracle at the beginning of their time with Him and at the end. I believe Jesus wanted to show them that He would still take care of all their needs if they would rely on Him. Although He had died and risen and would soon ascend, He was not neglecting them. He was still looking out for them. He is teaching them to trust and rely on Him and not themselves. This would be all the more important since He would not be physically with them much longer. They might have the tendency to trust in their own wisdom of what they had learned, but they must remember to rely on Christ for apart from Him they could do nothing.

There is an important lesson for us to learn here too. What? Questions. The things that are impossible with men are possible with God. Just like the disciples, we must learn to rely on God for everything and not our own wisdom, expertise, or strength. Cross-references.

When we do ministry we must rely on God. When we share the gospel we must rely on God. We must rely on God for our salvation and for everything spiritual. But our reliance on Him doesn’t only include spiritual things. The fish were physical thing. That was their previous livelihood and expertise, but Jesus showed they still needed Him to be successful. We cannot be successful in anything without God’s help, even the things we consider we are the best at. That means we should rely on God for our finances, our career, our exams, etc. BUT, notice that Jesus gave the disciples a job to do. He told them where to throw the net, but they still had to throw it. They were still responsible to work at it and obey Him. In a similar way we cannot just wait “in the boat” and ask God to fill it with fish. We must cast the net faithfully, and ask Him to provide the success.

III. They sit down and eat breakfast together (9-14)

Jesus was still serving them at the end, right up until He went back to heaven. The specific number of fish shows that John was an eyewitness. The first two times Jesus appeared to them were in Jerusalem as a group, the first time with Thomas absent, the second time with Thomas there.

IV. Jesus gives Peter a 2nd chance, challenging him to be devoted to serving Him (15-17)

Cross-References

Matthew 26:33 – Peter had claimed to be more devoted than all of the other disciples.
Luke 21:31-33 – Jesus knew that Peter would deny Christ, but wanted him to repent and then help his brothers after that.
1 Peter 5:1-4 – Talks about shepherding the sheep.

Discussion Questions

Why does Jesus ask Peter three times if he loves Him? What is the significance of the Greek in this passage?
What does He mean more than “these”?
What does it mean to “shepherd My sheep”?

Teaching Points

This really is a great passage for a number of reasons and very encouraging.

It shows that although Peter sinned and denied Christ that he could still repent and serve the Lord in the future. God is merciful and always ready to forgive. He is not only ready to forgive, but also to restore. This is great news for us because there will definitely be times when we blow it. When you do, don’t give up. Repent and God will forgive. This passage can be viewed as a concrete example to God’s promise of forgiveness. You can also use it for this when you share that truth with others.

It shows that Christ demands complete and unconditional love and commitment to Him. Although Jesus was willing to forgive Peter, He wasn’t lowering His standards or expectations in anyway. He wouldn’t be satisfied with a half-hearted effort. The words for love that Jesus used (agape) make it clear He expected Peter’s wholehearted effort. The later conversation where Peter asks about John reinforces this truth.

It shows that true love will be shown by action. In essence Jesus is telling Peter to show Him his commitment and love by serving Him as a shepherd over the flock. His goal is not just to hear some words of affection or commitment. Peter had already made bold statements several times. He wanted that love to be shown by action.

It also shows the contrast that often exists between our expectations of how we should love Christ and His expectations. In the first two exchanges Jesus uses the word agape, which is the highest, purest love. It is unconditional, completely selfless, and completely committed. Peter responds saying that he has fileo love, which is a 2nd degree love showing affection, like one would have for a family member. He already thought he was quite good to love Jesus like that, but Jesus demands a higher love, the highest love. He requires us to love Him MORE than we would a family member, so much more that it is comparatively like “hating” that family member. After Peter’s 2nd answer, Jesus asks Him if he fileos Him. Here he even questions the level of love that Peter thought he had. The purpose isn’t to crush Peter, but to help Peter examine his heart and commitment.

For us, we can learn from all four of these points. We can repent and God will forgive and restore. He demands unconditional love. This love will show itself by action, serving God. We should realize that God expects a lot of us, much more than we think we are generous in giving.

V. Jesus predicts Peter will be martyred (18-19)

Cross-References

Matthew 16:24-26 – A true disciple must be willing to give their life for the Lord.
2 Peter 1:12-15 – Peter did expect to die as a martyr.

So what kind of death did Jesus say Peter was going to have?

Before Peter had confidently claimed he would die for the Lord. Here Jesus tells him that that is what would happen. Read cross-references and discuss. Tradition says that Peter died as a martyr, being hung upside down on a cross. Jesus demands complete commitment from Peter, even in the face of certain death. From this point Peter did boldly and faithfully serve God until his death, although not perfectly (Paul confronted him later for a sin).

VI. Peter asks about John’s future (20-23)

Discussion Questions

Why would Peter ask what would happen to John?
In your own words, summarize Jesus’ response.
What does verse 22 mean, “until I come”?

Teaching Points

In this section Peter asks what would happen to John. Jesus essentially tells him to mind his own business and devote himself to the Lord. Peter’s service for Christ was to be free of any distractions. Growing up, sometimes Mom or Dad would tell one of us to clean the kitchen or something else, and being so helpful we would ask “what about Jeremy?” Most of the time they would tell us to do what’s right ourselves and not concern ourselves with others.

This is true for us as well. Our primary concern should be to do what’s right and follow God ourselves. Others right or wrong decisions should not distract us from that.

“Until I come” – until His second coming. John didn’t live until Jesus’ 2nd coming, but he was the only one of the disciples to die a natural death. He lived a long life and wrote 1,2,3 John and Revelation later.

VII. The conclusion of John’s Gospel (24-25)

Since Jesus did so much more, why did John not record it?

The Bible is never meant to be exhaustive or as John said it would fill the earth. Rather, it’s written with a specific purpose. John’s purpose is seen in John 20:30-31. He told enough so that anyone can believe in Jesus, that He is the Son of God and that in this way they can have life through Him.

So the purpose of the book is two-fold.

So that we may believe. From our intro to the book we remember that he uses the word believe over 100 times and it is never the noun form. This belief should be an active belief. John included many signs not just so that people would increase in knowledge, but so that they would believe.

So that our life may be changed through Christ.

John concludes with two main points.

He was an eyewitness and can confirm everything he wrote as being true.

He was very selective in what he wrote. It wasn’t intended to be exhaustive.

The book of John had three major themes.

One cannot read the gospel of John without being struck by the theme of love. It is one that John mentions over and over again (also in 1 John). John recognized that Jesus called his disciples to be different. He didn’t want them to teach as the Pharisees taught; he wanted them to exercise love from the heart. Jesus gave himself as the example of love (John 15:13). He also expected his disciples to show their love for him by obeying what he commanded. The gospel of John is a great place for me to turn to if I am struggling in my love and it is also a good resource to use to share with others who have similar struggles.

Eternal life is another topic John discusses somewhat extensively (John 5:24, John 6:40,47, John 10:28, John 17:2-3). He often contrasts this with eternal judgment or condemnation. This is an offshoot of the topic of faith. Unless one has faith in Jesus as the Son of God he cannot receive this eternal life. John wanted people to look at life with an eternal perspective. Many verses from the book can be shared with those who are materialistic or think death is the end.

And of course the most important topic is “who is Jesus.” John includes seven statements of Jesus called the “I am” statements. In these Jesus claims to be God and shows how that relates to us (John 6:48, John 8:12, John 10:7, John 10:11, John 11:25, John 14:6, John 15:5). These “I am” statements use the emphatic work in Greek for “I” and definitely point to the fact that Jesus was identifying Himself as God, who said “I AM who I AM” to Moses years before. In John 8:58 Jesus also said, “Before Abraham was born, I am.

As we are coming to conclusion, I hope that this study in John would be helpful for all of you. I learned a lot myself. I hope you can understand the book better. Most importantly I hope that it will make some changes in your life. Love each other. Practice the lessons that Peter learned and that Jesus taught to he crowds. Know who is Jesus, but act on that knowledge. Draw close to Him and rely on Him. Let your belief be action. Be completely committed to Him above everything else.

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