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and the fervency of the other. John is the first to recognize Jesus, Peter the first to go to Him. The narrative is characteristic of each. If we commend this latter for his forwardness, we may not censure the former, as though there were on his part any backwardness. Thoughtful John may not be reproached for remaining calmly at his post till the time is come; while impetuous Peter shall be allowed to anticipate that time, and be the first to reach the shore1 where stands the Master whom he would henceforward show himself foremost to follow. He had been clad hitherto in no more than the usual garb of a fisherman at work; the scanty gear which in those climates men engaged in any laborious pursuit are commonly content with. He had laid aside the loose upper garment which would have encumbered him in his work, and contented himself with only so much as would leave him the freer to labour.3 But when he heard from his companion John, whose eagle-eye had already discerned his Lord, who was this seeming stranger on the shore, he drew to him the rest of his clothing, without which he would not appear in the presence of the Master. For though thus partially stripped for work, he comes altogether clothed for worship, as desirous to do all honour and reverence to his Lord. So girding up this loose garment about him, that he might not be entangled by it, or impeded in his progress, he plunges into the water; wading to the shore, impatient to be with Him whom he felt he could never love enough, unable to abide the tedious progress of the vessel. The other Disciples, it appears, presently betook themselves to the boat which attended their fishing-vessel; this latter probably drawing too much water to come within nearer distance of the shore. So they come, dragging after them the net with its ample haul, which they will not wait to empty into the vessel, so eager are they to reach their Lord.
Peter's precipitancy may be illustrated by the story of Protesilaus, as described in Wordsworth's exquisite poem, Laodamia.
2 Heb. xii. 1; 1 St. Pet. ii. 1.
3 De Dieu refers to 1 Sa. xix. 24. See also the article nudus in Smith's Dict. of Antt.
4 St. Luke xii. 35; 2 Cor. v. 1-10; 1 St. Pet. i. 13.
THE SAME SUBJECT - continued.
St. John xxi. 9-14.
As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. 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. Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise. This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.
The fire which they find ready kindled on the shore, the fish and bread already prepared for their morning meal, might serve to impress upon the Disciples how more than ever, after His resurrection, would their Lord henceforward be independent of human agency. The incident might tend to produce or preserve in their minds that feeling which to Mary Magdalene He had already suggested,' that it could not henceforth be with them and Him altogether as before. It might make them feel as Moses felt, when he turned aside to see that strange sight why the bush was not burnt, that the place whereon they stood was holy ground; or as Jacob, when he awoke to a sense of things Divine, and reflected,
Surely the Lord was in this place, and I knew it not." At all events we may see in it another instance of the perfect human sympathies of our Saviour. So-setting us an example of thoughtfulness and consideration for othersfor these weary and hungry fishermen, who had been toiling all the night, He thus provides their morning meal, preparing them to listen afterwards to His counsel. Yet-for that Divine intervention is not to supersede, but only to stimulate our own efforts and labour, and because God helps.
St. John xx. 17, 18.
those who so help themselves, and would have us to be fellow-workers with Him-the Lord bids them add to the repast which He had already provided, some of the fish which they had lately caught. Here again we perceive the penitent Apostle forward to do His Master's will. In this mention of the numbers, we need not perhaps see any mystical meaning. It is not the number of the fishes on which the stress seems to be laid, but the fact of numbering them; not the precise number so much as that there was a precise number; 2 according to the design of Him who ordereth "all things in measure, and number, and weight."3 Then He bids them break their fast; for the original word may signify, as here it must, a morning meal. The statement which follows is by no means to be understood as implying any doubt, but on the contrary a full persuasion, that it was the Lord. Yet may we infer from it the change which had passed upon Him, and the awe which possessed them, after His resurrection. Nor does the Evangelist mean that only three times was the Lord seen during "the great forty days" which preceded His ascension; but that this was
This, as we may suppose, has abundantly exercised the ingenuity of the fathers and mystical interpreters. The specific mention is certainly remarkable, seeing, as Bp. Wordsworth observes, it is so near a round number, 150, to which an "about might have been prefixed, as in v. 8 above. Lampe quotes, but only to confute, Jerome's misquotation of Oppian, that this was the exact number of the genera of fishes, which Grotius must have had in mind when he said that this signified the spiritual capture of every kind of men. It seems difficult to understand his reference to 2 Chron. ii. 17. It is a curious circumstance that when Dean Colet founded St. Paul's School free "to all natives or foreigners of what country soever... .. none being excluded by their nativity, which exclude not themselves by their unworthiness,"―he appointed this same num
ber of scholars, "6 so many fishes as were caught in the net by the Apostles."-Fuller's Ch. Hist. lib. v. Cent,
2 Compare Rev. vii. 4-9, where the number, as Abp. Trench notices, is 12 x 12. Man cannot number them, but God can. Augustine (Ser. ccxlvii. 3) notes that the exactness of the number signifies that there is an exact number. And so again, Ser. ccl. 3. Upon the two several draughts of fishes (a very frequent subject of comparison or contrast with him) he observes (Ser. ccli. 2) that though more than the number enter the Church, yet not Heaven.
3 Wisd. xi. 20.
The Bishop of Salisbury, in his well-known work on this subject, points out how the sayings of this period may be regarded as so many outlines of the Kingdom of God.
the third occasion on which He appeared to collected Apostles under peculiar circumstances, the third such appearance He was inspired to record; all three in solemn. assembly, and this third under significant circumstances, their diaconate, if one may so say, ended, and the period of their priesthood begun.2 The surroundings indeed are similar to those under which they were first called to the work of the ministry, and the scene is this same Gennesaret.
CHRIST'S CHARGE TO PETER.
St. John xxi. 15-17.
So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?
He saith unto him,
He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
The miracle of the second draught of fishes is recorded, according to the manner of St. John, in order to lead to the conversation that followed; the work of the Lord preparing us thus for the word of the Lord. And yet here "a new scene is disclosed. It is no longer fishermen and their nets
.. but shepherds with their flocks, in a green pasture, which comes to view. Above all, our Lord Jesus Christ
2 St. John xx. 21-23; Acts i. 4, 5,
1 This number here is not perhaps without its significance, 2 Cor. xii. 2, 8; ii. 1-4. 8, 14; xiii. 1.
that great Shepherd of the sheep . . . . the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls." So this same Apostle, with whom He thus converses, loves to describe Him. The brief morningmeal over, the Lord addresses Himself to him who, having fallen through fear, is here formally restored to apostleship, and receives again the pastoral call. He does not, it will be observed, address him by that name of strength, which in the day of his great confession Himself had given him,— but by the name of nature and infirmity; not by that which signified what he had been raised to, but that which must have reminded him of what he had been raised from. It is not Simon the Rock, but Simon son of Jonas He would not have the wound heal too quickly. The good Physician will not slightly heal it, but work a perfect cure. Therefore it is that He thus seems, though yet in the tenderest way, to open it afresh. He will not have him lose the lesson of his fall. Simon had boasted, "Although all shall be offended, yet will not I." Yet was he the very one to fall. Therefore the Lord asks him--and hence the point of the question-"Lovest thou me more than these?" more than these thy comrades do who made no such boast? 5 No more now will Peter humbled, penitent, pardoned, pronounce any judgment concerning others, or compare himself with his brethren; yet humbly he professes concerning himself, appealing to him as to the all-knowing God," that he loves Him more even than this question of His implies. For the word which Peter employs as indicating his love is, in the original, a different word to that which the Lord employs,
1 A Plain Commentary.
21 St. Pet. ii. 25.
* St. Matt. xvi. 17, 18.
Abp. Trench cites, in illustration, what has been related of one of the Caliphs, who " used to give his principal officers an honourable surname suited to their qualities. When he wished to shew his dissatisfaction, he used to drop it, calling them by their own names. This caused them great alarm. When he resumed the employment of the surname, it was a sign of their return to favour."
So Augustine (Ser. cxlvii. 2), who notes that in his answer he simply professes his love; he dares not compare himself with others; he would not again be found false. It was enough to witness what was in his own heart; he will not judge another's.
The Bp. of Salisbury (Sayings of the Great Forty Days, ed. ii. p. 134) extends it thus, "more than these thine ancient occupations, thy nets, thy boat, thy sea? more than these thy brethren love me?"
• Acts i. 24.