There is a lot of mystery that surrounds the resurrection. No one knows how it happened—there were no witnesses to the actual resurrection. It took place in the dark of a tomb. And in this last chapter of John, the mystery of resurrection, love and forgiveness continues. There is mystery too, that surrounds this last chapter of John. It is fairly universally seen as written by a different author than the rest of John, and it is seen as a later addition, most likely written after both Peter and the Beloved Disciple have died. Some see it as an epilogue and some an appendix. Regardless of the mystery of when it was written and by whom, this chapter brings together many themes from the rest of the book of John. In these stories, these encounters with the risen Christ, previous stories and themes are reinforced and given new life.
The book of John ends where it began—in Galilee, by the water, around fishing boats. Just as in the beginning when Jesus first called the disciples, so now at the end Jesus once again invites them to follow him. Jesus had called them from their former lives and professions, they had followed him and been with him for 3 years, and now after his death, when they’ve returned to what they know best, Jesus appears to them and calls them once again to follow him. We don’t know why they have returned to Galilee, why they’ve gone back to fishing after such a profound and life-changing encounter with Jesus. Perhaps it is the only thing they know to do; perhaps returning to the familiar is their way of dealing with their grief that Jesus is gone. What has happened to them in Jerusalem—seeing their beloved Jesus crucified and buried, and then meeting him in his risen state, but only having short appearances or glimpses of him—would take a while to figure out and make sense of. Returning to the familiar would offer some way to begin to put their lives back together, even if it isn’t what they will do for the long term.
- John 21:1 - 19