St. John’s Gospel (41) - The Great Commission of John
Sermon: St John’s Gospel (41) - The Great Commission of John
There are two pericopes which capture John’s “Great Commission.” 1) The Commission of Reconciliation on the Day of Resurrection. In John 20:21-23, Jesus grants them peace, communicates the Spirit, and then commissions them: “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” Jesus’s very first action was to confer peace to them (twice to make the point): “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you’” (v21, also Lk. 24:36). Through Christ’s victory, the ground of peace was accomplished on the Day of Resurrection. From this we have mission: “as the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (v21). By this peace we are duly and actually empowered in His presence to be “sent” to the world. From this account we have peace and purpose: a) we have peace with God through Christ (Rom. 5:1) connected to the forgiveness of sins (v23). This is the reason and the rationale for relational peace with others. b) We have purpose to declare this forgiveness leading to peace in the world, being commissioned by Christ (v21ff).
2) The Commission to be Fishers of Men. John 21 is a coda to the music of John’s Gospel. John provides a glimpse of the unrestored Peter’s leadership, going back to fishing (v3). Then Jesus miraculously helps them catch 153 large fish and restores Peter to the original commission. He is accepted by Jesus at a “charcoal fire,” just like the fire of Peter’s three denials (Jn. 18:18). Jesus accepted Peter and restored him to “feed His sheep.” This seaside meal is framed by another symbol of new age: fish. In contrast to the OT (farming prophets), the new covenant shows dominion over the Gentile fish of the sea. The miracle catch of exactly 153 large fish signifies the re-vocation of Peter (and the disciples). St. Augustine saw the symbolism of 153 as the triangular of 17. St. Jerome (4th century) claimed that Greek zoologists listed 153 different kinds of fish. The number 17 is associated with Joseph ruling over the Egyptian Gentiles: he was 17 when he was sold into Egyptian slavery (Gen. 37:2) and Jacob/house lived in Egypt for 17 years (Gen. 47:28). Acts lists 17 nations present for Pentecost (Acts 2:7-11). Hence, 17 is the number associated with the sea of Gentile nations. John is alluding to Ez. 47:9ff - "“And it will come about that ?shermen will stand beside it; from En-Gedi to En-Eglaim there will be a place for spreading of nets. Their ?sh will be according to their kinds, like the ?sh of the Great [Mediterranean] Sea, very many.” "En" means “spring” and the numerical/gematria values of these terms are:
Gedi = 17 (? = 3; ? = 4; ? = 10) Eglaim = 153 (? = 70; ? = 3; ? = 30; ? = 10; ? = 40) (JBJ)
Jesus restores Peter to fish for men and thus lead in the Great Commission (Acts 10:1ff). So Peter is the first to take the Gospel to the Gentiles (Cornelius household, Acts 10-11).
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more