Mystical John 21

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John 21 is one of my favorite chapters because it has so much mysticism behind its powerful symbolic references:

Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.”
They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing.
— John 21:3

Without Christ, there is no kingdom, no evangelization, no success.

That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea.
— John 21:7

John always recognizes Jesus first because it is always the contemplative rather than the active souls who will find God first.

So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.
— John 21:11

Peter single-handedly carried the fish onto shore, prefiguring his papacy and leadership as the first Pope, which Jesus bestows him with.

The presence of charcoal fires happens only twice in John’s Gospel (18:18 and 21:9). In the first, Peter denies Christ three times. In the second, Peter proclaims his love for Christ three times, showcasing the mercy of God. The threefold proclamation of love was also Jesus commissioning Peter as Head of his earthly flock, for he is the rock upon which the church will be built, fulfilling Christ’s words in Mt 16:18.


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Image: Raphael, Christ’s Charge to Peter (1515-1516) / PD-US

Noel Ethan Tan

Noel Ethan Tan

Noel is a Singaporean working as a rehabilitation counsellor at ACC(S) Psychiatric Rehabilitation Centre. He is currently doing a part-time Masters Program in Counselling and Guidance at NTU, Singapore. In his church ministry, Noel is currently serving in a young adults' Catholic community called Anawim that does Bible Exegesis. Noel is also pursuing a Certificate in Theology at the Catholic Theological Institute of Singapore. His favorite Bible verse is 1 Peter 3:15 — “In your hearts, reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it with gentleness and reverence.”

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5 thoughts on “Mystical John 21”

  1. Avatar

    Since we are speaking of “mystical John,” it is worth noting that it is he who recognizes who Jesus is and then Peter takes action. Often, in the history of the Church, it was necessary for some mystic like Catherine of Siena or Bridget of Sweden to basically push the Pope to do the right thing. A simple example from our own times: Sister Lucy (of Fatima) said in 1929 that it was time to consecrate Russia. When Pope JP II got shot on the feast day of Fatima, he paid attention to her, made a consecration before the statue of Fatima, and in 5 years, to the amazement of all, on the feast of the cathedral of Rome, the Berlin wall was opened to the utter amazement of the so-called experts that we are always quoting and consulting when we make decisions — leaving heaven out of the picture as totally irrelevant to our clever thinking and thus making things even worse than they are already.

    1. Avatar

      Thank you for the beautiful sharing Jacob. What you wrote was very illuminating, especially the section on the contemplative mystics ‘pushing’ the popes to do the right things. Amazing that the Word of God written so many years ago can still be so relevant and relatable to our times!

  2. Avatar

    Thank you for this. It’s not as easy for me to actually select one of John’s chapters as a favorite among them all as the Gospel Book itself is my favorite of the four. I do like the Raphael image, Christ’s Charge to St. Peter, as it too has its own symbolic references. It has keys to the kingdom, apostles, sheep—perhaps too that Jesus appears to be standing taller over the apostles. The image, I think really professes the relevance of the papacy, apostolic succession, and the blessed sacrament we perpetually receive at the hands of priests. However, I can’t be so sure Peter proclaims his love for Christ as a “threefold proclamation” as perfectly as we can see Christ render to Peter the mercy of God. We substitute the single English word love dually for the Greek words agapas and philo and we have no real certainty of how to exactly translate 1st century Greek with a decidedly recognizable Galilean accent applied to it. That debate aside, I consider that Jesus was seeking Peter’s highest form of love, but all Peter could outwardly express was that he regarded Jesus as a great guy among guys while inwardly knowing that Jesus already knew he had Peter’s love without having to proclaim it.

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