The Curate Commission (John 21:1-19)

Speaker: Rev. Jon Herr
Date: 5/5/2019
Type: Sunday Sermon
Price: FREE

St. Matthew's Gospel ends with a "Great Commission." St. Mark ends with the empty tomb, and with an epilogue including another version of the "Great Commission" that includes snake handling! St. Luke ends with the Ascension of Christ!

But St. John ends with Jesus hanging out with the disciples by the Sea of Galilee, asking St. Peter an odd question (three times), and then telling him that it shouldn't matter whether the disciple whom Jesus loved liveds until His return. A strange, and seemingly anticlimactic ending.

However, on a closer reading, we see that these 19 verses are actually a symbolic precursor to Peter's later ministry. Verses 1-14 emphasize his call to "Catch" and verse 15-19 emphasize his call to "Curate." As such, we find that St. John actually does end with a monumental account, what we might call the "Curate Commission".


Peter is named first (v 2), initiates the fishing trip (v 3), swims to shore upon realizing it is Christ (v 7), and single-handedly hauls the net full of fish onto shore (v 11). There are specifically 153 large fish in the net: a number which is the triangle number of 17. There are 17 nations listed in Acts 2:9-11 as representatives of men "from every nation under heaven" (Acts 2:5). The 153 fish represent a catch of all the nations, and as such point towards St. Peter's leadership in the first stage of Gospel proclamation: initiating the choosing of a new 12th Apostle (Acts 1:15ff), preaching the first sermon on the day of Pentecost, and leading the charge in the spread of the Gospel to all nations.


But in verses 15-19, Jesus calls Peter to feed and tend His lambs and sheep. He is commissioned not just to catch fish but to tend sheep. He is to provide wisdom and counsel and oversight to the other shepherds of the Church. And we see him moving into this role leading up to Acts 15, after which he fades out of the story while St. Paul takes the spotlight. First Peter chapter 5 especially shows the maturation of his thought along these lines.

Jon Herr Jon Herr (MATS, Reformed Theological Seminary; BS Bible, Philadelphia Biblical University) is Pastor of Christ Covenant Church of Chicago (CREC). Previously he served as a deacon and ministerial student at All Saints Church (CREC, Lancaster PA). He and his wife Jackie live in the Chicago suburbs with their two daughters and two sons.