Lesson 80: John 21

“Lesson 80: John 21,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)

“Lesson 80,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 80

John 21


The resurrected Lord appeared to His disciples while they were fishing. On the shore, Jesus ate with His disciples and invited Peter to demonstrate his love for the Lord by feeding His sheep. Jesus foretold both Peter’s martyrdom and John’s translation.

Suggestions for Teaching

John 21:1–17

The resurrected Lord appears to some of His disciples at the Sea of Tiberias (Sea of Galilee)

Draw a large heart on the board.


Invite students to come to the board and write inside the heart two or three of their favorite things. Explain that these could include people, possessions, or activities.

When students have finished, you might also list a few of your favorite things.

Summarize John 21:1–2 by explaining that after seeing the resurrected Lord on two occasions, Peter and some of the other disciples were on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (which is also called the Sea of Tiberias). Invite a student to read John 21:3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Peter decided to do.

  • What activity do you think Peter might add to our list of favorite things on the board? (After students respond, write fishing inside the heart on the board.)

  • How long did Peter and the other disciples fish? How much did they catch?

Ask students to consider how they think Peter and the other disciples may have felt after a long night of fishing without any results.

Invite a student to read John 21:4–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happened the following morning.

  • Who was on the shore?

  • Did the disciples recognize Jesus at first?

  • What did Jesus instruct them to do?

  • What happened after they followed Jesus’s instruction?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Holland, Jeffrey R.

“Just three years earlier these very men had been fishing on this very sea. On that occasion too they had ‘toiled all the night, and [had] taken nothing’ [Luke 5:5], the scripture says. But a fellow Galilean on the shore had called out to them to let down their nets, and they drew ‘a great multitude of fishes’ [Luke 5:6], enough that their nets broke, the catch filling two boats so heavily they had begun to sink.

“Now it was happening again” (“The First Great Commandment,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 84).

  • How might this second miraculous catch of fish have helped the disciples recognize who was on the shore?

  • What might you have thought or felt if you had been in the boat with the disciples?

Summarize John 21:7–14 by explaining that as the disciples struggled to lift the net full of fish into the boat, John declared that the man on the shore was the Lord. Peter eagerly dove into the sea and swam toward Jesus while the others went in their boat. When the disciples arrived on the shore, Jesus was preparing a meal for them.

Explain that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland elaborated on this account by teaching that after Peter and the other disciples had dined with the Savior, Jesus may have “[looked] at their battered little boats, their frayed nets, and a stunning pile of 153 fish” (“The First Great Commandment,” 84) and then spoke to Peter.

Invite a student to read John 21:15–17 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a question Jesus repeatedly asked Peter. You may want to suggest that students mark what they find.

  • What question did Jesus ask Peter three times?

  • When Jesus asked, “Lovest thou me more than these?” (verse 15), what do you think the word these referred to? (Jesus could have been referring to the pile of fish or other things associated with the life of a fisherman. Write the following question on the board near the heart: Lovest thou me more than these?)

  • How did Peter respond?

  • How might you have felt if you had been in Peter’s position and Jesus had asked you three times if you loved Him?

To help students understand why Jesus may have asked this question three times, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Holland:

Holland, Jeffrey R.

“Jesus responded (and here again I acknowledge my nonscriptural elaboration), perhaps saying something like: ‘Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish? What I need, Peter, are disciples—and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do. … So, Peter, for the second and presumably the last time, I am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally until the day in which they will do to you exactly what they did to me’” (“The First Great Commandment,” 84).

  • What principle can we learn from Peter’s experience? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: If we love the Savior and Heavenly Father more than anything else, we will feed Their sheep.)

  • Who are Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ’s sheep? How do we feed them?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Hales, Robert D.

“This is the call of Christ to every Christian today: ‘Feed my lambs. … Feed my sheep’—share my gospel with young and old, lifting, blessing, comforting, encouraging, and building them, especially those who think and believe differently than we do” (“Being a More Christian Christian,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 91).

To help the class understand how the principle they just identified can relate to us, invite three students to take turns reading the following scenarios aloud. (You can adapt these scenarios according to the needs and interests of your students.) After each scenario has been read, ask the questions that follow.

  1. A group of boys invites a young man to sit with them during lunch, and he hopes to become friends with them. During their conversation, one of the boys in the group starts publicly making fun of another boy.

  2. A young woman loves playing soccer. She devotes many hours a week to playing soccer and has little time for other things such as family home evening and personal scripture study.

  3. A young man has been very busy with both academic and extracurricular activities. All week, he has been looking forward to spending some rare free time with friends on Friday night. Just before he calls one of them that night, his home teaching companion calls to see if he can go with him to help one of their assigned families with an urgent need.

  • What choices are available to this person?

  • What could this person do to demonstrate his or her love for the Lord? How would that action show love for the Lord?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Holland:

Holland, Jeffrey R.

“My beloved brothers and sisters, I am not certain just what our experience will be on Judgment Day, but I will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation, God does not ask us exactly what Christ asked Peter: ‘Did you love me?’” (“The First Great Commandment,” 84).

Share your testimony of the importance of choosing to love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ above all else and showing that love by feeding Their sheep.

Refer to the items listed in the heart on the board and the question written next to those items: “Lovest thou me more than these?” Underline the word these, and invite students to answer the following questions in their class notebooks or scripture study journals:

  • If Jesus were asking the same question of you, what do you think He would refer to as “these” in your life?

  • How would you answer His question?

  • How will you demonstrate your love for the Lord?

John 21:18–25

Jesus foretells Peter’s martyrdom and John’s translation

Summarize John 21:18–21 by explaining that Jesus prophesied that when Peter became old he would “stretch forth [his] hands” (verse 18) and be carried where he did not want to go. It is traditionally believed that Peter died by crucifixion. However, it is said that Peter requested to be crucified upside down because he considered himself unworthy to die in the same manner as the Savior (see Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:151–52).

After hearing about this prophecy, Peter asked what would happen to the Apostle John, also known as John the Beloved. Invite a student to read John 21:22–23 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Savior answered Peter.

  • What did Peter learn about John?

Explain that the word tarry in verse 22 means to remain alive on the earth. Thus, John would remain on the earth as a translated being until Jesus Christ’s Second Coming. Translated beings are “persons who are changed so that they do not experience pain or death until their resurrection to immortality” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Translated Beings,”

  • According to verse 22, what did Jesus want Peter to focus on rather than concerning himself with what would happen to John?

Invite a student to read John 21:24–25 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what John wanted everyone to know as he concluded his record.

  • What did John want everyone to know as he concluded his record?

Write the following questions on the board:

Of all that was written in the records of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, what story, event, or teaching from the Savior’s mortal ministry has had the greatest impact on you? Why?

Invite students to ponder their responses to these questions. You might quietly play a recording of a hymn, such as “Come, Follow Me” (Hymns, no. 116), and allow students to review their scriptures and class notebooks or scripture study journals to recall some of the truths they have learned. After sufficient time, invite a few students to come to the front of the class and share their responses to the questions.

You may want to conclude by testifying of the truthfulness of the accounts of Jesus Christ’s mortal ministry and Atonement written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Commentary and Background Information

John 21:1–19. The first great commandment

For additional commentary regarding the conversation between Jesus and Peter as recorded in John 21, read Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk “The First Great Commandment” (Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 83–85).

John 21:22–23. “Tarry till I come”

“Earlier in His earthly ministry, the Savior had said, ‘There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom’ (Matthew 16:28). The resurrected Christ foretold that John would be one who would fulfill that prophecy and ‘tarry’ on earth until He came again (see John 21:22–23). A more complete account of this conversation between the Savior, Peter, and John is found in Doctrine and Covenants, section 7, which is ‘a translated version of the record made on parchment by John and hidden up by himself’ (D&C 7, section introduction). This revelation clarifies that John asked the Savior for ‘power over death, that I may live and bring souls unto thee,’ and in response, the Savior granted John power to live until His Second Coming (see D&C 7:1–3). John thus became a ‘translated’ being. Such beings are ‘changed so that they do not experience pain or death until their resurrection to immortality’ (Guide to the Scriptures, ‘Translated Beings’; For more information on translated beings, see 3 Nephi 28:4–40, which affirms that three Nephite disciples experienced the same change undergone by John (see 3 Nephi 28:6)” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 271).

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught in June 1831 that John was at that time ministering among the lost ten tribes (see History of the Church, 1:176). Besides this statement, we do not know the specifics of John’s ministry as a translated being. It is unwise to speculate about John’s whereabouts or achievements.