The Epilogue 21:1-25

ii] Feed my sheep


The beach breakfast concludes with Jesus in conversation with Peter. Three times Jesus asks Peter whether he loves him and three times Peter replies in the affirmative. On each occasion Jesus instructs Peter to care for his sheep and then goes on to speak to the issue of Peter's death. Following Peter's question concerning the beloved disciple, our author addresses the urban myth that the beloved disciple would not die before the return of Jesus. Finally, the author-editor indicates that the tradition recorded in this gospel derives from the written works of the beloved disciple.


Always follow Jesus.


i] Context: See 21:1-14.


ii] Structure: Feed my Sheep:

Jesus recommissions Peter, v15-19:

A threefold affirmation of love;

"Feed my sheep."

Peter's martyrdom'

"Follow me."

The urban myth concerning John's death, v20-23;

Ascription by the author-editor, v24-25.

"We know that his testimony is true."


iii] Interpretation:

It's interesting how this chapter seems to pick up from the conclusion of Mark's gospel. In Mark's gospel the women have found the tomb empty and there, at the tomb, a young man tells them to pass on a message to the disciples and to Peter. They are to tell them that Jesus is going before them into Galilee.

So, the disciples are now in Galilee and Jesus singles Peter out. As we all know too well, it is easy to destroy our standing within the fellowship of believers, and Peter has certainly done that by denying Jesus three times. Here is a man whose confession grounds the Christian church, now blighted by his failure to stand up for Jesus. Jesus sets out to restore Peter's standing by three times asking him whether he loves him, and then three times instructing him to feed the flock. This has "the effect of giving an almost official sanction to his restoration to his rightful place of leadership (although not "absolute primacy")", Morris. Barrett, on the other hand, does not see "rehabilitation" as central, but rather that Jesus words serve to cement Peter's role as the "great pastor" who would follow Jesus even unto death.

John's use of two different verbs for "love" in the exchange between Peter and Jesus is interesting. Just as it is unclear whether John is making a point about mission and fellowship in the opening narrative, v1-14, so it is unclear whether he is drawing a distinction between the two verb he uses for "love". In the three exchanges between Peter and Jesus, Jesus uses agapaV, agapaV, and fileiV, and Peter uses filw, filw, and filw. Barrett, Brown, Carson, Keener, ........ argue that there is no difference in meaning between the two verbs; both agapaw, and filew, mean "to love." This is particularly evident throughout the gospel. Still, some commentators, eg., Hunter, have argued for a distinction, agapaw meaning brotherly love, and filew meaning friendship love; note the NEB footnote. So, Jesus may be saying to Peter "Do you love me?", and Peter says "You know I'm fond of you." So again a second time, but on the third time Jesus asks "Are you fond of me / are you my friend?", and Peter replies "You know everything, you know that I'm fond of you / that I'm your friend." Porter Gk argues that the words are not exact synonyms since filew deals with interpersonal relationships, whereas agapaw deals with levels of esteem. So, is Jesus dissatisfied with Peter's answer and so asks again, but finally accepts his incapacity for agapaw and so resorts to filew? This may explain why Peter is yet "to follow"", v19, whereas the beloved disciple is already "following". Schnackenburg argues that John's choice of these key words (including "lambs" and "sheep", and "care for" and "shepherd") serves only "to bring variety and color", but the weighted difference between the two verbs should not be so easily dismissed.


The move from Peter to the beloved disciple in v20 is not a move to a new topic. Peter is restored to his pastoral role and is called "to follow", akolouqei; the beloved disciple is already akolouqounta, "following". As Barrett notes, although the beloved disciple will not be a martuV, "martyr", like Peter, he is responsible for the marturia, namely, the tradition which makes up this gospel. "While Peter's destiny lay in the God-glorifying significance of his death (a self-offering for Jesus flock), Jesus purpose for the other disciple lay rather in his continuing (a continuing witness until the coming of his Lord in glory)", Ridderbos.

The continuing of the beloved disciple comes with an inherent problem. It seems likely that the beloved disciple has finally succumbed to old age, and so his continuing needs to be properly defined. The urban-myth that the beloved disciple would not die before Christ's return has developed because people have failed to give due weight to Jesus' statement, "if it is my will."


The postscript, v24-25, can be viewed as two separate elements. Codex Sinaiticus has a subscription after v24 which is rubbed out and replaced with v25 followed by the subscription. Did the copyist have a text before him without v25? It is unclear, but it is likely that both verses are from the same hand:

The first part, v24. It is possible to argue that the words state that the beloved disciple is the author of the gospel, but they can also mean that he is the authoritative source for the tradition used by the author-editor to shape the gospel as we now have it. Either way, the claim is made here that "the witness to the truth of this Gospel is one who was in close touch with all that is described in it", Bruce; "And we know that his testimony is true", ie., the author-editor and his associates (unless he is using the royal plural!) know that the source is reliable.

The second postscript, v25. There is no clear indication as to the identity of the plural "we know", v24, and the singular "I suppose", v25, but it is likely to be the author-editor who speaks for himself in v25 and his Johannine circle of associates in v24. His point is simple enough, well expressed in the old hymn, The love of God is greater far, (with a nod to Browning!):

Could we with ink the ocean fill,

And were the skies of parchment made;

Were every stalk on earth a quill,

And every man a scribe by trade;

To write the love of God alone

Would drain the ocean dry;

Nor could the scroll contain the whole,

Though stretched from sky to sky.

Text - 12:15

Feed my Sheep, v15-25: i] Jesus recommissions Peter, v15-19; a) A threefold affirmation of love, v15-18. The restoration of Peter's apostolic position within the fellowship of believers.

oun "-" - therefore. Probably transitional here rather than inferential, and so left untranslated.

oJte "when" - when [they ate]. Temporal conjunction serving to introduce a temporal clause; "After they had eaten", TEV.

tw/ Simwni (wn wnoV) dat. "[said] to Peter" - [jesus says] to peter. Dative of indirect object.

Iwannou (hV ou) gen. "[Simon] son of John" - [simon] of john. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / relational, as NIV. The address "Simon son of John" is rather formal. The only other use is found in 1:42. It would be similar to us addressing someone we know well by their surname rather than their given / Christian name; "So Mr Johnson (ie., Son of John), do you love me ......?", rather than "So Peter, do you love me ....?" Jesus is relating to Peter "less familiarly", so Brown.

toutwn gen. pro. "[more] than these" - [more] of these ones / things. The genitive demonstrative pronoun is ablative, of comparison after the adverb of manner, "more, in greater measure", "more than these." The sense is not overly clear. Is Peter being asked whether he loves Jesus more than the other disciples do, or more than he loves his fellow disciples, or more than he loves fishing (toutwn can be either masc. or neut.)? Peter has claimed a special love for Jesus, and yet failed him, so the first option is probably best; "Do you really love me?"

oJti "[you know] that [I love you]" - [he says to him, yes lord, you know] that [i am fond of, friend of you]. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what Jesus should know, according to Peter.

autw/ dat, pro. "-" - [he says] to him. Dative of indirect object. "Then feed my lambs", Brown, ie., Brown highlights the implied consequence of the claim "to love."

boske (boskw) pres. imp. "feed [my lambs]" - feed [the lambs of me]. This verb is used of tending, feeding a flock, so "take care of", TEV. The verb is repeated for the third command. For the second command Jesus uses the verb poimaive, "to shepherd, feed"; "be a shepherd to my sheep", Barclay. As with "sheep" and "lambs ("little sheep", LB)", "love" and "friendship love", no distinction is probably intended between these two verb, but all the differences together have made for many an interesting sermon!


This time Jesus does not add pleon toutwn, "more than these ones" to his question, but he does use the word poimaine, "shepherd" ("exercise the office of shepherd", Morris), instead of boske, "feed" (Pastoral primacy cannot be assumed by Jesus' use of this word, but nor should Peter's role in the founding Christian community be depreciated). Again Peter uses filw, "I am fond of, friend of", in response to Jesus' question agapaV, "do you love me", the significance of which is unclear.


Being asked a third time to confirm his love for Jesus is quite distressing for Peter, probably because it reminds him of his denial of Jesus. Yet, with each reminder Jesus confirms Peter's continuing role as an apostle, a shepherd of the sheep.

to triton "the third time" - The accusative articular adjective serve as an adverb of time.

autw/ dat. "[he said] to him" - [he says] to him [the third time, simon of john are you fond of, friend of me]? Dative of indirect object.

oJti "because [Jesus asked him the third time]" - [peter was saddened, grieved] because [he said the third are you fond of, friend of me]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Peter was saddened; "Peter was deeply hurt because Jesus' third question to him was 'Are you my friend?", Phillips. Note how Phillips draws out the distinction between the two main verbs filew, "to be friend of", and agapaw, "to love." Junkins also draws out the distinction translating filew as "to like", although Cassirer's "to be dear to" is far better; "You know well enough that you are dear to me." Interestingly, Knox in his translation takes agapaw to mean "care for" and filew "to love", so Jesus starts out asking Peter "do you care for me?" and finishes up asking "do you love me?"

oJti "[you know] that [I love you]" - [and he says to him, lord, you know all things, you know] that [i am fond of, friend of you]. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what Jesus should know with respect to Peter's affection for him.

mou gen. pro. "[feed] my [sheep]" - [jesus says to him, feed the sheep] of me. The genitive is adjectival, relational, limiting "sheep"; "Take care of my sheep", TEV.


b) Peter's martyrdom, v18-19. Jesus now predicts Peter's martyrdom by crucifixion, which death will reveal God's glory. Of course, Jesus' words are somewhat enigmatic and could just refer to being feeble in old age. Yet, by the time of authoring this gospel Peter had already been martyred and so John in v19 indicates how the kind of death Peter suffered fulfilled Jesus' words. None-the-less, the words are not specific to crucifixion; Schnackenburg argues that they only refer to martyrdom. Clement, AD 96, tells us that Peter was martyred, but doesn't tell us how. Tertullian, AD 212, referring to this text, states that it was "when Peter was bound to the cross that he was girt by someone else", but his words carry only limited historical weight.

amhn amhn legw soi "verly truly I tell you" - truly, truly i say to you. See 5:24.

oJte "when" - when [you were young you were dressing yourself and walking about wherever you willed]. This temporal conjunction serves to introduce a temporal clause. The verbs "to dress" and "to walk about" are imperfect, expressing customary action.

oJtan + subj. "when [you are old]" - [but/and] whenever [you grow old you will extend the hands of you]. Introducing an indefinite temporal clause, translated as definite, "when ...."

zwsei (zwnimmi) fut. "[someone else] will dress [you]" - [and another] will dress [you and carry where you do not wish]. The second use of this verb in the verse is likely to carry the sense "to bind", so Peter will stretch out his hands, as in crucifixion, and someone "will bind, fasten" him, as of being bound with rope to a crossbeam for crucifixion, so Barrett, Brown, ...


shmainwn (shmainw) pres. part, "to indicate" - [but/and he said this] indicating, signifying. The participle is adverbial, best treated as final, expressing purpose; "in order to show."

qnatw/ (oV) dat. "the [kind of] death" - to [what kind of] death. The dative is adverbial, modal, expressing manner; "by what sort of death." "Jesus was indicating the way in which Peter would die", TEV.

doxasei (doxazw) fut. "will glorify [God]" - The statement sits within indirect speech, so "by what means he would glorify God." The sense is a little unclear. The phrase can simply mean "to die"; "indicate the kind of death Peter was to die." John may be saying that in his death Peter would show how glorious God is, ie., Peter's death will reproduce, on a human level, the death of Jesus by which Jesus revealed God's glory, so Lindars, .... Even just, "it will bring praise and honor to God", Pfitzner. The sense may be that Peter's death serves to "honor God", Goodspeed. Cf., 12:23, 15:8. The idea of following Jesus through death into glory is latent in the text, so Schnackenburg.

eipwn (legw) aor. part. "then he said" - having said [this he said]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal; "after saying this he said to him", ESV.

autw/ dat. pro. "to him" - Dative of indirect object.

moi dat. pro. "[follow] me" - Dative of direct object after the verb "to follow on." The present tense of the imperative verb "to follow" is durative it is probably "expressing habitual action", Harris. Does Jesus mean "follow me as a disciple", or "follow me in your death"? Brown opts for both.


ii] The urban myth concerning John's death, v20-23. Peter has obviously understood that he must suffer and die for the Lord, and so asks "what about John?" Peter's question is probably less than gracious, given Jesus' reply. Jesus seems to address an unspoken element in Peter's question, something like, its unfair that the beloved disciple gets to live, while Peter gets to be martyred. Jesus' reply is sharp and to the point; "If I want him to live until I come, what business is that of yours?" - Jesus' plans for the beloved disciple are none of Peter's business. Yet, it seems that these words of Jesus have been misunderstood over the years and so the author-editor corrects them. The beloved disciple has obviously died by this time, a fact that has disturbed many of the believers who thought Jesus would return before his death. It seems unlikely that the only reason for recording this exchange between Peter and Jesus is to clear up an urban myth about John, but some commentators so argue.

epistrafeiV (epistrefw) aor. part. "[Peter] turned [and saw]" - [peter] having turned [sees the disciple whom jesus was loving]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "to see", as NIV.

akolouqounta (akolouqew) pres. part. "was following [them]" - following. The participle serves as the accusative complement of the direct object "the disciple" standing in a double accusative construction. The verb "to follow" here takes the sense of "coming up behind", but it is likely that the author-editor is making a point about the beloved disciple in the choice of a word which in this gospel means "to follow as a disciple." The beloved disciple is still "following", when Jesus says to Peter "follow me." In 1:38 both disciples are akolouqountaV, "following". If our author-editor is making this point, then it is quite possible that there is a weighted difference between the two verb agapaw and filew. Unlike the beloved disciple, Peter has some catching up to do! Brown doubts this implication, but Barrett sees something in it.

en + dat. "at [the supper]" - [who and = also reclined] in [the supper upon the breast of him]. The preposition here is adverbial, temporal, "during the supper", as NIV. The second half of the verse serves as an explanatory comment and so is usually bracketed, as NIV.

oJ paradidouV (paradidwmi) pres. part. "to betray [you]" - [and said lord, who is] the one giving over = betraying [you]? The participle serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb to-be. "and said, 'Lord, who is your betrayer?'" Rieu.


oun "-" - therefore. Inferential, establishing a logical connection, "so, consequently."

idwn (oJraw) aor. part. "when [Peter] saw [him]" - [peter] having seen [this one says to jesus]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

ti "what [about him?]" - but/and this man, what about him]? Predicate nominative. Here the interrogative pronoun serves to introduce an elliptical question; "Peter asks, 'Lord, what will happen to him?'" NEB.


ean + subj. "if [I want him]" - if, as may be the case, [i will him to remain until i come then what to you]? Introducing a 3rd. class conditional clause where the proposed condition has the possibility of coming true. "Suppose I would like him to remain until I come", Brown.

menein (menw) pres. inf. "to remain" - to remain, abide, continue. Complementary infinitive completing the sense of the verb "to will." "If I choose that he should survive till I come back ....", Moffatt.

eJwV "until [I come]" - Future referencing temporal conjunction.

proV + acc. "to [you]" - [what is that] toward, to [you]. Here expressing reference / respect; "How is that of any concern to you?" "Is that your business?" Phillips.

akolouqei (akolouqew) pres. imp. "[you] must follow" - [you] follow. Barrett makes a point of the emphatic position of this verb, brought out by the NIV "must follow." The pronoun su, "you", is also emphatic by position and use; "what is required of you is that you should follow me", Cassirer.

moi dat. pro. "me" - to me. Dative of direct object after the verb "to follow on."


oun "because of this" - therefore [this word went out toward the brothers]. Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion, "So therefore ....."

oJti "that" - that [that disciple is not to die]. Here epexegetic specifying the content of "this word" (the rumor), namely "this disciple is not to die." The present tense of the verb "to die" would be futuristic, so the rumor is that "this disciple will not die" = the tense at the time when stated.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step to a contrasting point.

oJti "[Jesus did not say] that" - [jesus did not tell him] that [he is not to die]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what Jesus did not say. "Jesus never told him that he was not going to die", Brown.

alla "but" - but [if i will him to remain until i come what is that toward you]? Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "not ...... but ......." For the syntax of the conditional clause, see v22 above. The point being made by our author-editor is that Jesus' statement is not to be taken as a prophetic announcement; it is a "What if. " "All he said was: 'Suppose I would like him to remain until I come. How does that concern you?'" Brown.


iii] Ascription by the author-editor, v24-25. Peter honored God in his death, the beloved disciple in his remaining and testifying, an eyewitness testimony which the author-editor and his Johannine circle can vouch for.

oJ marturwn (marturew) pres. part. "[the disciple] who testifies" - [this is the disciples] the one testifying. As with oJ grayaV, "the one having written", this participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "the disciple." Morris suggests that the present tense indicates that the beloved disciple is still alive, but we do better to follow Schnackenburg who states that the present tense is used to show that the beloved disciple "lives on in his testimony." "This is the disciple who was eyewitness to all these things and wrote them down", Peterson.

peri + gen. "to [these things]" - about [these things and the one having written these things]. Expressing reference / respect; "about, concerning"; "It is this very disciple who bears witness concerning these things", Cassirer.

oJti "[we know] that" - [and we know] that [the testimony of him is true]. Serving to introduce an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what "we know." Against the view that the plural is used of the author-editor and his Johannine circle, is the view that the plural is a statement of autography by the beloved disciple, John, common in postscripts, cf., Gal.6:11, Col.4:18, 2Thes.3:17, Philem.18. The introductory use of the third person verb to-be, estin, "This is the disciple", mitigates against this argument, although it is noted that ancient writers sometimes introduce themselves in the third person, eg., Thucydides introduces himself with the words "Thucydides, the son of Oloros, who composed this history."


Could we with ink the ocean fill. Our author-editor concludes the gospel by reinforcing "the selection principle already mentioned in 20:30-32 and further draws attention to the multitude of remarkable works performed by Jesus the Messiah", Kostenberger.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the postscript.

polla adj. "many [other] things" - [there is and = also] many [other] things [which jesus did which]. The adjective serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb to-be.

ean + subj. "if " - if, as my be the case, [they are written according to one then i suppose the world it = itself not able to hold the books being written]. Introducing a conditional clause 3rd. class where the proposed condition has the possibility of coming true.

kaq (kata) + acc. "every [one of them]" - according to [one]. Distributive use of the preposition with e{n, "one", giving the sense "one by one, separately."

oi\mai (oiomai) pres. "I suppose" - i think, suppose. The change from the plural "we know" in v24 to the singular here indicates a single hand in the composition of the gospel, the plural in v24 is simply inclusive of the author's Johannine community which has preserved John's gospel tradition. Note that this verb was often used by historians of the time to express authorial modesty. Note also that the integrity of the verse is evident in the use of the singular, for if it is was added after the composition of v24 we would expect the continuation of a plural voice. "I doubt .....", NAB.

cwrhsai (corew) aor. inf. "[could not] hold" - [is not able] to hold. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what is supposed, "that hold." The accusative subject of the infinitive is "the world" with its intensified pronoun "it" = "itself". The infinitive is also complementary, completing the sense of an assumed verb "to be able"; "I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books", ESV.

grafomena (grafw) pres. mid./pas. part. "[the books] that would be written" - [the books] being written. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting books; "The whole world could not hold the books that would be written", NEB.


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