The pericope at the very end of the Gospel of John consisting of 21:15-25 may conclude the fourth Gospel, yet it is hardly to be thought of as the end of the story. Even before getting to the finish, it brings closure to the stories of two prominent disciples: Peter and the Beloved Disciple. It echoes back, with an instance of heartrending emotion and merciful forgiveness, to one of the most stirring and dramatic moments in the Passion of Jesus: the three-fold denial by Peter. The message it contains resounds even today the Church, her mandate, and the call of all Christians with clear instructions and admonitions. We also find hints regarding the author’s awareness of other written records of the life and deeds of Jesus. A careful look at these final eleven verses of John reveals these and even a few additional surprises for readers to consider.
Outline of John
That the Gospel of John has four primary components is commonly accepted. According to Raymond Brown, they are 1) the Prologue, 2) the Book of Signs, 3) The Book of Glory, and 4) the Epilogue. (Brown 334-335) The first chapter through the 28th verse comprises the Prologue, and it introduces us to Jesus Christ as “The Word”, using language reminiscent of the Book of Genesis, down to the opening words “In the beginning”. (Jn 1. 1.) From there through the end of the 12th chapter of John is the Book of Signs, wherein one finds accounts of Jesus’ ministry, encounters with key people including his Peter and the Apostles, John the Baptist, Nicodemus, the Woman at the Well, and other disciples to name a few. Jesus’ first one-on-one dialogue is with Peter. Along the way, many of Jesus’ teachings and discourses are retold, including those revealing his identity as the Son of God, the Bread of Life, and other signs of prophecy fulfilled. A crescendo of miraculous acts, each growing progressively more wondrous and amazing, gives the label of Book of Signs meaning. These are:
- Turning water into wine at the wedding feast
- Curing of the royal official’s son
- Curing of the paralyzed man on the Sabbath
- Multiplying the loaves and fish
- Walking on water
- Curing of the man blind from birth
- Raising of Lazarus from the dead
In the Book of Glory, we find the account of Jesus’ last days beginning with the Last Supper in chapter 13 through to the fugue of his passion, death, and Resurrection including chapter 20. The Last Supper account spans across five chapters, including the unique account of Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet, and predictions of the betrayal by Judas, the abandonment by the Apostles, and the denial by Peter. Last Supper account, and chapter 17, concludes with the Priestly Prayer of Jesus. Chapters 18 and 19 cover the passion, trial, death, and burial of Jesus – including the fulfilment of the Last Supper predictions. Chapter 20 encompasses accounts of appearances of the Risen Jesus with Mary Magdalene, the rest of the Apostles (minus Thomas), and then Thomas. Verses 30 and 31 deliver a declaration of purpose for the entire Gospel, which has been confused as a purported first ending, and mistakenly thought of as evidence that chapter 21 is a latter addition. In the Epilogue, contained entirely within chapter 21 we find one final appearance of Jesus with the disciples over breakfast after a miraculous catch of a myriad of fish, the commissioning of Peter, and a final conclusion.
Relationsip of John 21:15-25 with the Rest of the Gospel
The pericope selected for this exegetical work is found in John 21:15-25, at the very end of the Gospel of John, and comprises the second half of the Epilogue. The Epilogue itself is located after the account of the Resurrection of Jesus and his initial appearances before his disciples. The passage immediately preceding chapter 21: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.” (Jn 20. 30-31.) The 21st chapter opens with Thomas, Nathanael, James and John the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples (perhaps including the Beloved Disciple – he appears later in this chapter) accompanying Peter while fishing on a boat on the sea of Tiberias. They succeed in catching no fish. (Jn 21. 2-3.) On the second day of the expedition, Jesus appears to them, and from the shore he tells them to “cast the net on the right side of the boat” which results in an amazing bounty of fish impossible to bring in the boat. (Jn 21. 6.) It is then that Peter first recognizes Jesus, dresses himself, and makes his way to shore from the boat. Jesus is preparing a meal on a charcoal fire, and he feeds them all breakfast. The text immediately before John 21:15-25 mentions that this manifestation is Jesus’ third appearance since the Resurrection.
As it is located at the very end of the fourth Gospel, our pericope has a prominent place. It offers a conclusion to the tome, leaving the reader with some final thoughts and accounts. First, we learn something about the fate of two very important people: Peter, who is the first disciple directly addressed by Jesus (Jn 1. 42.), and the author of the Gospel himself, the Beloved Disciple. In this, Jesus speaks last to the disciple with whom he spoke to first. Peter’s role and future is revealed as one who “feed(s)” and “tend(s)” to Jesus’ lambs and sheep. (Jn 21. 15-17.) Additionally, an aspect of Peter’s martyrdom is also revealed. (Jn 21. 18-19.) Regarding the Beloved Disciple, we learn that he is to live on for a time – perhaps until Jesus’ return, perhaps not – and we learn that there might be some confusion regarding this pronouncement among the early Christian community.
Repeated Themes and Keywords in John 21:15-25
One of the most important themes in our pericope is found in the dialogue between Jesus and Peter. Three times does Jesus ask Peter – referring to him as “Simon, son of John” – if Peter loves him. The first two times, Peter answers that “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” The third time, Peter exclaims with an emotional response: “Peter was grieved… and he said to him, Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” (Jn 21. 17.) After each of Peter’s responses, Jesus gives Peter a command, slightly varying his wording each time. The dialogue is diagrammed as such:
|Verse||Jesus’ question||Peter’s response||Jesus’ command|
|15||Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?||Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.||Feed my lambs.|
|16||Simon, son of John, do you love me?||Tend my sheep.|
|17||Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.||Feed my sheep|
This three-fold question-response mirrors the three-fold denial of Jesus by Peter in John chapter 18.
|17||Are not you also one of this man’s disciples?||I am not.|
|25||Are not you also one of his disciples?||I am not|
|26-27||Did I not see you in the garden with him?||“Peter again denied it” (Jn 18. 27)|
Another commonality between the two sets of questions is a charcoal fire. The first mention of a charcoal fire is immediately after Peter’s first denial of Jesus: “Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves; Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.” (Jn 18. 18.) The second mention of a charcoal fire happens just before Peter’s final dialogue with Jesus: “When they (the disciples on the boat) got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. Jesus says to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’” (Jn 21. 9-10.) The implication is that Jesus himself makes the second charcoal fire and prepares the breakfast of fish and bread before the disciples arrive with their record-breaking catch.
When examining keywords and phrases, the following have incidental or no repetitions in the Gospel of John, and they do not seem to carry additional significance connected to our pericope. These include: lamb, feed, tend, flock, breakfast, and stretch out. There are three keywords/phrases that repeat more than once, and have a connection or shared meaning with their counterparts in John 21. They are “love me”, “sheep”, “follow me”, as seen below:
|Keyword or phrase||Repetitions: # of verses||Relevant examples: text or summary|
· John 8: “Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.” (Jn 8. 42)
· John 10: Jesus foretells his sacrifice as the Good Shepherd “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.” (Jn 10. 17.)
· John 13: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13. 34-35)
· John 14: “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” (Jn 14. 23-24.)
· John 15: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.” (Jn 15. 9.) “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn 15. 15.)
Most of the relevant repetitions of the word “sheep” or “shepherd” are found in the discourse: Jesus the Good Shepherd. See below.
· John 1: Jesus tells Philip and Nathanael “Follow me”
· John 8: Jesus the Light of the World “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jn 8. 12.)
· John 10: Jesus the Good Shepherd “When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (Jn 10. 4-5) “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (Jn 10. 27.)
· John 12: “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him.” (Jn 12. 26.)
· John 13: As Jesus foretells Peter’s denial “Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward.’” (Jn 13. 36) Peter replied to Jesus “Lord, why cannot I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” (Jn 13. 37)
· John 18: Immediately before Peter’s first denial “Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. As this disciple was known to the high priest, he entered the court of the high priest along with Jesus, while Peter stood outside at the door.” (Jn 18. 15-16)
In the instances of repetition of the words “love me” one can begin to discern a series of examples which shine a light on what types of acts demonstrate love: being of/or coming from the Father, acts of self-sacrifice for the benefit of another, loving one another as a sign of discipleship, and keeping the words and commandments of Jesus. One can infer, therefore, when Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, Jesus is thinking of these examples. In a similar way, we can think of the words “follow/follow me” with the examples of: discipleship, walking in the light, the sheep who know Jesus and his voice, and service to Jesus ministry. Ironically, in Jesus’ foretelling of Peter’s denial and in the moment immediately before his denial, we see the keyword “follow” appear again. In John 13, Jesus refers to his own death by crucifixion, and prophesies Peter’s eventual death by crucifixion, just before Peter makes the empty promise to lay down his life for Jesus in the timeframe of his Passion. A few chapters later, in John 18, Peter literally follows behind Jesus into the court of the high priest right before Peter is questioned leading to his first denial of Jesus.
As to the keyword “sheep”, the entire Good Shepherd discourse fleshes out the analogy and significance by indicating who the sheep are, Jesus’ role vis-à-vis the sheep, and again illuminating a series of meanings for Peter later, who is to tend and feed Jesus’ sheep. Jesus explains that he is the door into the sheepfold, which means that anyone who enters by the door – that is, through Jesus, in his footsteps, following his example – is a legitimate shepherd. Anyone else must climb in another way, since he does not go through Jesus, and therefore must be a “thief” or illegitimate, intending to harm the sheep. (Jn 10. 1-2, 7-10.) The sheep will instinctively recognize the good shepherd by his voice, the voice of God. (Jn 10. 4.) The good shepherd, says Jesus, is the one who brings abundant life and access to pasture, whereas the thief comes “only to steal and kill and destroy”; furthermore, the good shepherd will lay down his life for his sheep even in the face of the wolf, whereas the hireling (and not a shepherd) “sees the wolf coming and leaves” because he “cares nothing for the sheep.” (Jn 10. 9-13.) A final characteristic of the sheep-shepherd relationship is that Jesus has “other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.” (Jn 10. 16.) Here Jesus describes a flock that goes beyond the people of Israel – other sheep not of this fold, for he is speaking to the Jews in this chapter (Jn 10. 19.) – and not only will he bring them, Jesus intends for there to be one flock with one shepherd.
Beyond keywords and phrases, there is one more important concept in our pericope which is repeated elsewhere. Found at the end of both chapters 20 and 21, the author’s proposition – that his Gospel does not comprehensively include all of Jesus’ deeds – is first presented at the end of the previous chapter. Compare:
|John 20. 30.||John 21. 25.|
|Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book||But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.|
The Overall Structure of 21:15-25
In terms of the overall structure of John 21:15-25, there are two main elements. The first element of our pericope is a dialogue between Jesus and Peter discussing two topics, with some interjections from the author (the Beloved Disciple). The first topic they discuss is the three-fold “do you love me” exchange between Jesus and Peter in verses 15 through 19. The second topic is about the Beloved Disciple in verses 20-23. The second element, in verses 24 and 25, are the final statements by the Beloved Disciple himself to the reader.
The first element finds Jesus and Peter talking after breakfast. Jesus initiates the conversation. Whether or not this is intentional or merely coincidental, it turns out that Peter is the first person whom Jesus addresses directly, one-on-one, in the beginning of the Gospel of John. We find symmetry here in this arc of opening/closing remarks. To summarize the steps leading to the first exchange: the first words Jesus utters in the fourth Gospel are to two, initially-unnamed disciples of John the Baptist. (Jn 1. 38.) We quickly learn that one of them is the apostle Andrew, who in turn introduces his brother Peter to Jesus. (Jn 1. 40.) It is only then that Jesus addresses Peter directly – the first such example of direct, one-on-one dialogue in the fourth Gospel. (Jn 1. 42.) Going back to John 21, Jesus begins the first of the three questions, giving Peter three chances to proclaim his love of Jesus, and giving Peter three repeated directives to take care of his flock. After the third repeated directive, Jesus then offers a prophecy regarding Peter’s ultimate fate, concluding with the words “Follow me.” (Jn 21. 19.) Peter then asks about the fate of the Beloved Disciple. The Gospel does not simply name him, it offers clarification that “the disciple whom Jesus loved” was the same one who at the Last Supper “had lain close to his breast… and had said, ‘Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?’”; thereby offering total clarity on the identity of the Beloved Disciple and emphasizing his import. (Jn 21. 20.) Jesus’ reply seems to refocus Peter’s attention: “If it is my will that he (the Beloved Disciple) remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” (Jn 21. 22.) Once again, the author/narrator interjects a point of clarification: that Jesus’ reply here was not a promise of immortality, as such a rumor regarding a promise had “spread among the brethren”. (Jn 21. 23.) The interjection repeats Jesus’ words, which make clear that Peter is not to concern himself – nor are the other brethren to concern themselves – whether or when or if the Beloved Disciple is to die.
The second element of our pericope are the final statements of the author/narrator in verses 24 and 25. His first point is to declare himself a witness of that which he writes, and that “his testimony is true.” (Jn 21. 24.) His second point echoes the end of the previous chapter. Again, to compare, this time including the final verse of chapter 20:
|John 20. 30-31.||John 21. 25.|
|Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book, and these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.||But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.|
The former mention includes with it an explicit statement of purpose in verse 31 which the latter lacks. The suggestion of “other things” in the latter example leaves a bit of an open-endedness to the Gospel. Yet despite this open-endedness, it is a firm conclusion, to be sure, and its purpose is implicit: we are not to take the Gospel of John to be an exhaustively comprehensive record of every one of Jesus’ acts. Together with the previous verse, one can paraphrase the author’s conclusion as such: I am a witness, I am the author of this Gospel, everything I write is true, and I do not here document every deed of Jesus.
The Meaning of John 21:15-25
The pericope of John 21:15-25 does three things. First, it closes the arc of Jesus’ first encounter with Peter (the first disciple with whom he spoke one-on-one) by giving him an opportunity to redeem himself through the grace of Christ. The question of Peter’s three-fold denial remains open, Jesus gives him a chance to repent by asking him three times “Do you love me?” Even the charcoal fire in the denial account is mirrored by the charcoal fire Jesus prepared for cooking breakfast. With Peter’s three-fold declaration of love, he reverses his denial and he affirms his love of Jesus; and based on the earlier review, we know what Jesus means when it comes to loving him. We know that Jesus is asking Peter to be as of one from the Father, to perform acts of self-sacrifice for the benefit of another, to love others as a sign of discipleship, and to keep the words and commandments of Jesus. Ultimately, the greatest act of love is to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. This is the test Jesus puts to Peter by the question. The directives to feed and tend to Jesus’ sheep and lambs give Peter an opportunity to live out his love for Jesus and for him to be a good shepherd in the model of The Good Shepherd. Again, as discussed before, we know that The Good Shepherd brings abundant life and access to pasture to the sheep, he lays down his life for his sheep even in the face of the wolf, and he brings in all the sheep, even those that are not of this fold.
The second thing our pericope does is inform us about the fate of Peter and the Beloved Disciple. The dialogue between Jesus and Peter concludes with Jesus informing Peter that he will ultimately follow Jesus in his final footsteps, leading to crucifixion. When Peter then asks about the Beloved Disciple, Jesus dismisses Peter’s concern by saying “…what is it to you? Follow me!” Jesus asks Peter to focus on following him, not to worry about the fate of the Beloved Disciple. This admonition applies to Peter, the other “brethren”, and even to us today. Our first imperative is to follow Jesus, and all other concerns are either secondary or irrelevant.
Finally, our pericope serves as a forward-looking conclusion for the evangelist’s opus. It is a denouement following the fugue that is the death and Resurrection of Jesus in chapters 18-20. Further, it is the grand finale after the caesura – or grand pause – of John 20:30-31. The purpose statement at the end of the 20th chapter closes the Book of Glory, and refers to the text preceding it. To put it another way, the prologue, the signs and miracles and the accounts of glory that are written in the Gospel of John, chapters 1-20, are “written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.” (Jn 20. 31.) The works are done and Jesus is in his fullness of glory before his ascension into heaven. The end of our pericope closes the story with some final thoughts from the Evangelist.
The Historical Setting of John 21:15-25
The historical setting of John 21:15-25 is general and clear. We have a post-Resurrection event, that also likely happens before the Ascension and the Pentecost (based upon tradition). Although the Beloved Disciple offers no account of the Ascension, and only Mark and Luke do, no account of Jesus appearing to the disciples is recorded after the Ascension. This means that we have an event that took place close to the year 30, over three decades before the destruction of the Herodian Temple. Matthew and Mark do not report a post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus to his disciples in any fashion resembling John 21. Luke records an appearance of Jesus with his disciples, and it includes a meal of fish, but unlike the Johannine record of Jesus preparing breakfast, Jesus arrives hungry and asks for food in the Lukan story. These are not the same event. That the exchange between Jesus and Peter happens is indeterminate from a perspective of historical reliability.
However, we find reference to a historical event in our pericope. Jesus speaks of Peter’s fate in a manner which evokes crucifixion as the manner of Peter’s martyrdom. Two phrases suggest this, first “you will stretch out your hands” (Jn 21. 18.) and “Follow me.” (Jn. 21. 19.) Peter is martyred around the year 67. (Kirsch 1.) The fourth Gospel has its origin sometime between the year 80-110 according to Raymond Brown (334). In any case, the Beloved Disciple has the benefit of hindsight when he records the words of Jesus regarding Peter’s final moments. The commonly accepted historical record shows that Peter is indeed martyred by crucifixion, and in this we can judge this specific Johannine account to be historically reliable.
In support of the idea that the end of John chapter 20 and John chapter 21 are two integral components of the fourth Gospel – as opposed to the claim that the 21st chapter was added after the fact, Chris Keith published an article in The Catholic Biblical Quarterly last year which argues that these two passages provide supporting evidence that the Beloved Disciple was aware of the other Gospels, although it does not offer conclusive proof of the same. In both passages, the author of the Johannine Gospel indicates that his work has specific content, has a specific purpose and place, and that there are other accounts of Jesus’ deeds which do not appear in his evangelistic work. Besides supporting the caesura-finale model described above, Keith claims that there is no “evidence that the Gospel circulated without chap. 21” and argues that the absence of evidence outweighs “hypothetical tradition histories that reciprocally reinforce the idea that the Gospel of John originally ended at 20:30-31.” (Keith 323.) Even though 21:25 “technically refers to Jesus books that could exist in the future” – reinforcing yet again interpretations above – it comes after and echoes the earlier 20:30-31 mention of other deeds.
Pheme Perkins, in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary article on “The Gospel According to John” dissects our pericope in the same two primary parts as is done here, namely “Jesus’ Words about Peter and the Beloved Disciple” and “Conclusion: Testimony to Jesus.” She also splits the first part into two topics, the first on “Peter, Shepherd and Martyr” and the second on “The Beloved Disciple.” Our common ground extends to additional points including: understanding this encounter between Jesus and Peter as a reversal of Peter’s “triple denial”, the link between “loving Jesus with keeping his commands”, and the ultimate fulfillment by Peter of his promise “to follow Jesus” even unto martyrdom. A parting of ways exists where Perkins clarifies that Jesus does not necessarily refer to Peter’s crucifixion, as his “stretching out your hands” could simply be a reference to imprisonment. She further expands upon the “rather lengthy introduction (of the Beloved Disciple) in v 21 to remind the reader of the special relationship between Jesus and the Beloved Disciple” and she explains that the clarification regarding the death of the Beloved Disciple is likely a posthumous addition, since some thought Jesus’ might have predicted that he would live until Jesus’ return. (New Jerome 985.)
In The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple, Richard Bauckham makes reference to our pericope over a dozen times. On the question of the caesura-finale model, Bauckham agrees that “John’s Gospel does not have two endings, but a two-stage ending, the two parts of which (20:30-31 and 21:24-45) frame an epilogue (21:1-23).” Bauckham cites word counts and syllable counts to make this case. For example, the Prologue consists of 496 syllables and the Epilogue consists of 496 words. (Bauckham 277.) This is truly a fascinating concept, which if true beyond coincidence, adds another layer of complexity and depth to understanding the fourth Gospel. In a far simpler way, Bauckham makes the case of a two-stage ending by explaining that after the Book of Glory, that is:
After chapter 20, no more needs to be said about Jesus himself: the central, Christological purpose of the Gospel has been fulfilled. But more does need to be said about the disciples: the loose ends that the story of Peter and the beloved disciple up till this point has left must be taken up before the Gospel is complete. (Bauckham 79.)
Additionally, Bauckham offers deeper insight into Jesus’ answer to Peter’s question about the fate of the Beloved Disciple. That the Beloved Disciple “had been allowed to ‘remain’ (21:22-23) when other eyewitnesses such as Peter, had already died (21:18-19), he surely understood as integral to his vocation to bear the most adequate witness to Jesus” (Bauckham 28.)
The Implications and Application of 21:15-25
As to the meaning of the call to “follow” Jesus, C. H. Dodd has valuable sense of appreciation to offer. He explains that it is “fundamental to the whole gospel picture” and that it is “an element in a larger whole”, that is that there is often a deeper meaning along with a simple denotation of the word “follow”. John clearly means, by context, to refer to the death of Jesus on the cross, and therefore “means ‘do as I do and take the risks I take’.” (Dodd 352.)
For me, our pericope carries an abundance of insights into the mind and heart of Jesus. The final dialogue between Jesus and Peter is an invitation to us all to love Jesus, and a beacon of mercy and forgiveness. I can only imagine the profound depth of regret Peter felt after his third denial, and I can hear in the echo of his third declaration the same pain now become sadness as he laments “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” (Jn 21. 17.) When I reflect upon my own path in life, the number of times I denied Jesus through my sinful deeds of commission and omission, and how in the sacrament of Reconciliation he still takes us back, then can I feel the weight of Peter’s sorrow, and then can I begin to grasp the beginning of God’s boundless grace and love.
Our pericope is a reaffirmation of the Catholic Church, because the primacy of Peter comes directly from Our Lord through the three-fold directive to tend and feed Jesus’ sheep. It is highly unlikely that I or anyone I know will ever be chosen by the Holy Spirit through a Conclave of Cardinals to serve as the Supreme Pontiff, yet Jesus’ instructions to Peter apply to we faithful Catholics as well. Especially to those who are able, we are to tend and feed Jesus’ sheep. We are to heed the sound of his voice when it is authentically echoed by our good shepherds: ordained ministers, theologians, teachers, and religious. As I take my first steps as a novice theologian, I must faithfully echo the Good Shepherd with my fellow sheep.
In our pericope, I also find a stern and well-intentioned admonition. Jesus wants us to keep our eyes on him. “Follow me!” he urges, as he also tells us not to worry about his plans for others. We do not all get the same, identical treatment from God; yet he offers to us all his abundant and inexhaustible mercy. We must trust in his providence and know that he will treat others according to his will and plan. Jealousy leads to envy, and envy is just another form of pride. We have enough work to do as disciples of Jesus that we have not the luxury of worrying how God is treating one of our sisters or brothers differently.
The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible. Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2001.
Bauckham, Richard. The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple. Narrative, History, and Theology in the Gospel of John. Baker Academic Press. 2007.
Brown, Raymond. An Introduction to the New Testament. ABRL. New York: Doubleday, 1997.
Dodd, C.H. Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel. New York: Cambridge UP, 1976.
Keith, Chris. “The Competitive Textualization of the Jesus Tradition in John 20:30-31 and 21:24-25.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, vol. 78, no. 2, Apr. 2016, pp. 321-337.
Kirsch, Johann Peter. “St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 7 May 2017 http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11744a.htm
Perkins, Pheme. “The Gospel According to John.” The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1990