The Gospel of John
(James J. Barker)

Lesson 55


(John 21:1-17)


1.     Bro. Knickerbocker preached this text the other night, but I am not going to preach his message.  

2.     Revival and evangelism are two different things.  Evangelism is concerned with winning people to Christ, while revival happens when Christians are awakened from their spiritual lethargy.

3.     Those outside the church need to be evangelized; those inside the church need to be revived.

4.     Sinners need to be saved; the saints need to be stirred up.  By the way, I agree with Bro. Knickerbocker.  Oftentimes people are stirred, but they are not changed.

5.     Every summer our church (like many other churches) has its annual revival meetings but unfortunately we have never seen a real revival.

6.     If you study the history of the USA, you will note that in the past just about every generation had a genuine, heaven-sent revival.  Sometimes great preachers such as George Whitefield or Jonathan Edwards or D.L. Moody were involved; sometimes the preachers were not well known at all. 

7.     The great revival that broke out in downtown Manhattan in 1857/8 was started by a layman named Jeremiah Lanphier.  Of course it started with the Holy Spirit but Jeremiah Lanphier was His human instrument.

8.     In our text tonight, the disciples first go fishing.  Jesus had already said to them in Luke 5:10, “From henceforth thou shalt catch men” (Luke 5:10).

9.     So the first work for all of Christ’s servants is to go out and win souls – “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

10. But that’s not all.  Later on in John 21, our Lord tells Peter three times to feed His sheep. This too is vitally important.  Jesus said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 28:19).

11. I see here in John 21 several wonderful lessons on both revival and evangelism.  We see here in our text in John 21 that Simon Peter decided to go back to his old occupation of fishing.  That’s bad enough but the other disciples apparently followed his example – “We also go with thee” (21:3).

12. It looks like these men needed revival.  Of course “they caught nothing” (21:3).  When you are out of God’s will you will not accomplish anything worthwhile.  Jesus said, “Without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

13. That night, as they were out on the Sea of Galilee, I wonder if Peter remembered that night a couple of years back when they were fishing on that same lake (also called “the lake of Gennesaret” and “the Sea of Tiberias” – 21:1) and the same thing happened (Luke 5:1-11).

14. The Bible says, “They forsook all and followed Him” (Luke 5:11).  Beloved, we will never see revival unless Christians are willing to forsake all and follow Christ.

15. Far too many Christians, far too many church members, far too many people who profess to love Jesus are not willing to forsake all and follow Christ because they ARE CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD.  They are enamored with big paychecks and nice cars and beautiful houses and worldly pleasures.

16. I remember a meeting we had with a missionary in Chile.  It was Sunday night, September 9, 2001 (the Sunday before 9/11).  This missionary has a large family and they all packed up and went to Chile to win people to Christ.  As we stood out by the front door and talked, he said to me: “Most Christians here in America are trying to get their heaven here on earth.”   I knew exactly what he meant.

17. Many Christians talk a good talk but oftentimes their walk does not line up with what they say.  They don’t tithe; they don’t support their church; they seldom read the Bible; they seldom pray; they don’t win souls – they don’t even try.

18. They are careless in their spiritual duties but very diligent in their worldly obligations.   And by the way, as Bro. Knickerbocker pointed out – these are duties (cf. Luke 17:10).

19. In John 21:4 the Bible says Jesus Himself stood on the seashore, “but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus” (21:4).  When the Lord is right in front of you and you do not recognize Him, you need revival. So, let us look at this passage as a lesson in revival and soulwinning.


I.                  LESSON IN OBEDIENCE (21:5, 6)

1.     Our Lord asked them a simple question (21:5).  Of course He already knew the answer (cf. 21:17) but He was trying to teach them an invaluable lesson.

2.     The disciples were restless.  They were still not quite clear as to the meaning of the unusual events of the past few days, such as the appearances of our Lord to Mary Magdalene, and to the women returning from the empty tomb, and then in Jerusalem, and on the Emmaus Road, and so on.

3.     The disciples did not sense the place that was to be theirs in preaching the Gospel and carrying out the Great Commission all over the world.

4.     Peter, in his restlessness, considered going back to his old occupation (21:3).  I can imagine how he felt.

5.     You will recall that the night before His crucifixion, our Lord told His disciples to meet Him in Galilee (Matt. 26:32).  Then after He rose from the dead, an angel sent word to the disciples that they were to meet the Lord in Galilee (Matt. 28:7; cf. 28:10).  Now here they were back in Galilee but rather than waiting on the Lord they decided to go fishing (John 21:3).

6.     People have speculated as to why Peter and the others would want to return to fishing.  It appears that they were starting to backslide.  It looks like they were reverting back to their old way of life.

7.     It seems that they had lost sight of God’s plan for their lives.  They had been traveling intimately with our Lord for three years preaching the Word of God.

8.     Peter even walked on the water – why go back to fishing?  Maybe it was because of his failure.  Remember, he denied the Lord three times and perhaps he felt the Lord could no longer use him. But he was mistaken!  Soon this discouraged fisherman would be preaching with power on the Day of Pentecost and 3,000 souls would be saved.

9.     Jesus said He would make them “fishers of men” (Luke 5:1-11).  And He did; and Peter won many souls! 

10. It is interesting that the disciples did not recognize who Jesus was till after they had caught all the fish (John 21:4-7).

11. This is a nice little story about catching fish (they caught 153 fish – 21:11), but let me make an important point – revival can never come if we do not obey the commandments of Christ.

12. The disciples were supposed to wait for the Lord, not to go fishing.  There is nothing wrong with fishing, but even good things like fishing are no substitute for obedience (cf. Luke 14:16-24).

13. You will notice that when the disciples did obey and cast their nets on the right side of the boat, they were successful (John 21:6).

14. So our first lesson here is a lesson in obedience.



II.               A LESSON IN DEVOTION (21:12-15)

1.     After eating breakfast, our Lord asked Peter, “Lovest thou me more than these (the fishing boats, the fishing nets, etc.)” (21:15).

2.     It was a very important question.  Of course, our Lord knew the answer, but He was teaching Peter another lesson.

3.     Again, let me stress that there can never be revival until God’s people love Jesus more than anything this world has to offer.  If the members of BBC loved Jesus more than the things of this world, we’d have this building program finished; we’d give more money to missionaries; we’d see more souls saved, etc.

4.     Yes, this is a very important question so our Lord asked it three times.  Many have wondered why our Lord asked the same question three times but to me it is rather simple.  Peter denied the Lord three times; now three times he was asked to affirm his love for the Lord.

5.     I know there are many Christians who would quickly profess to loving Jesus but we must be honest before God.  I have seen people with “I LOVE JESUS” bumper stickers driving around smoking cigarettes, cutting people off, making obscene gestures, etc.

6.     Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

7.     Some people love their church building; they love their position in the church; they love some of their friends (clique) down at the church; some love their church denomination, etc. but they do not love Jesus!

8.     Let us search our hearts and see if we really love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  This is the lesson in devotion.



1.     Our Lord gave Peter specific instructions for service that morning by the Sea of Galilee – “Feed my lambs…Feed my sheep…Feed my sheep” (21:15-17).

2.     Feeding the Lord’s sheep will bring revival.  The shepherd feeds on the Word of God so that he might be able to teach others.  Then the shepherd and the sheep are all feasting on God’s Word.  This brings genuine revival.

3.     Any so-called revival that is not based upon the Word of God is not a genuine revival.  It is a counterfeit.

4.     Approximately twenty-seven years later, Peter wrote to his fellow elders – “Feed the flock of God…” (I Peter 5:2).  For over 27 years Peter had been preaching and teaching the Word of God, and souls were saved all over the Roman Empire.

5.     It is the Word of God that changes peoples’ lives.

·       The Word of God saves sinners (Rom. 10:17; I Peter 1:23-25).

·       The Word of God sanctifies (John 17:17).

·       The Word of God builds up the flock (Acts 20:32).

·       The Word of God convicts (Heb. 4:12).  Some people complain the preaching is too hard.  What they mean is the Bible is too hard!  But if they repent they will find that the Bible is not hard but sweet (I Peter 2:2, 3).


1.     This is the last recorded miracle in the Bible.

2.     The Lord uses what people have as the basis for His miracles.  Remember what the Lord asked Moses?  He said, “What is that in thine hand?”

3.     Moses replied, “A rod” (Exodus 4:2).

4.     “And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it.  And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: That they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee” (Ex. 4:3-5; cf. John 20:31).

5.     The Lord said to Moses, “What is that in thine hand?” (Ex. 4:2).

6.     Whatever is in our hand, God can use it.  Here on the sea of Tiberias (Sea of Galilee), our Lord used a fishing boat and a fishing net, but more importantly He used the men in the boat.

7.     They caught nothing in the flesh.  But once they obeyed Jesus the net was full of fish (John 21:6).

8.     If every one here at BBC obeyed the Lord I think we would have revival, and I think we’d see great multitudes of people saved.

9.     The net would indeed be full!

<< Back                                       Next >>