Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.
By Joe David
Near the end of the gospel of John, (in John 21:1-14), we find a story where, some days after Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, seven of Jesus's disciples have travelled north from Jerusalem, to the sea of Galilee. At Peter's suggestion they have all gone out in Peter's boat to fish. But they try all night, and have no luck and catch nothing. They are close to the shore, and as the early morning light begins to grow they see a man standing by the water. He calls out to them asking if they have caught anything. When they answer "no" He tells them, "try the other side of the boat". When they do this they catch so many fish they can't haul the net into the boat, it's too heavy. So they row toward shore letting the net full of fish drag on the bottom.
At first they don't recognize that the man they are seeing is Jesus. He has a small fire burning, and is cooking fish, and He invites them to have breakfast with Him. Then John says quietly to Peter that it's Jesus. Peter grabs his cloak, belts it around himself to cover his nakedness, and jumps in to swim to shore, since they are very close already.
This story has some interesting details to explore. The first of the stories of things that happened after the Lord's rising took place in or near Jerusalem, but this one is in Galilee. Five of these disciples are named, and at least four of the five we know are from Galilee, so in coming there they are at home, and these are fishermen, so to go fishing is in their blood. The five named are Simon (or Peter), the brothers James and John, Thomas, and Nathanael, and then two more who are not named, to make up the seven. It would be reasonable to guess that the unnamed two are Andrew, Peter's brother, and Philip, a friend of Nathaniel's, both of whom we know are from that area near the lake.
The angels that Peter and John saw at the sepulcher had told them that Jesus would meet them in Galilee on "the mountain", and perhaps these seven, because they came from Galilee, hurried on ahead of the others.
Let's look at their names and see what the literal meaning is, and what they represent in a spiritual way.
- Simon was renamed by Jesus as ‘Peter' which in the Greek means a rock, and in his case, the firmest and most critical rock, or truth, of Christianity, that Jesus was from God.
- John means love or charity.
- John's brother James means the doing of charity.
- Nathaniel means a gift from God, and being a friend of Philip, I think it might be that the gift from God that he represents is the love of learning things that fill the understanding, our curiosity.
- Thomas, in Greek, means a twin, and since he is named right after Peter perhaps he has a similar representation. Peter believes in the Lord easily because of what he has seen and what the Lord has told him whereas Thomas believes, and believes just as strongly, but only after his doubts have been erased, after he has been shown.
The towns most mentioned in the stories that take place around the "Sea of Galilee" in the gospels are Bethsaida, Capernaum, Cana, and Nazareth. Bethsaida itself means "a place of fishing." The maps I have of the area are small scale and not all exactly the same, but the indication is that it is at the northern end of the lake or even on the upper Jordan river just before it runs into the lake. Capernaum and Magdala are on the northwestern shore and Cana and Nazareth are inland, but only four or five miles west of this corner of the lake. This area was where most of these disciples had been brought up, and fishing was a common occupation.
The name Galilee means "a circuit". The Word teaches us that Jesus taught in the towns all around the lake, so that a reading of all that Jesus taught and did in that country could be thought of as a "circuit" of His teachings.
The next detail of interest is that when the Lord suggests the other side of the boat and the result is a large catch of fish after a long night of nothing. This is reminiscent of the fishing incident given in Luke 5:4-7. Since the disciples are to become "fishers of men" (as in Matthew 4:19) and they are to persuade people into the knowledge and worship of the Lord, the Christ, it is perhaps a lesson that in their ministry they must always be guided by the Lord.
Then John realizes, and whispers to Peter, "it's the Lord" (John 21:7) and Peter quickly puts his cloak on and jumps in to get to shore faster. Why is it John that first realizes? John represents love and affection while Peter represents faith or truth. While truth is the means of acting, as Peter does, love is the means of connecting, which is what John did. And why did Peter need to grab his cloak and put it on? Clothing in the Word represents the truths about spiritual things that all people may have if they look for them and it is the particular truths that form Peter as a disciple, "Thou art the Christ" (Matthew 16:16-18) that he answers to the Lord, and this truth is the rock of the Christian church. Having this truth as part of himself is necessary to meet the Lord.
When they are all on shore, Jesus says to them to bring some of the fish they have caught, so Peter goes to the water and drags the full net up onto the sand and counts out the fish, one hundred and fifty three. Then Jesus invites them all to come and eat.
Now a strange comment is put into the story: "…none of the disciples durst ask him, 'who art thou?', knowing that it was the Lord." (John 21:12). It seems that they should have known, they had been following Him for several years. I wonder if this is a reminder that the Christian church has yet to understand the true reality of the Lord - was He God, or was He man? The Catholic church argued this for more than three hundred years, and the council that was supposed to decide came up with three separate persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all in one Godhead. Some of the Christian churches of today seem to focus on two, the Father, and a Son born from eternity, who apparently both rule together.
The New Christian Church understands that Jesus was born both God and man but that there was a slow but inevitable change going on during His lifetime. He was born with God, Jehovah, as His inmost, and a human heredity and body from Mary as a covering or cloak over this inmost. Mary was, you may recall, of the royal house of David, so her heredity was both strong and inclusive, and thus represented all that was connected to the Jewish form of worship. During Jesus' life (and starting early, though we don't know just how early), He put off things from Mary, and put on what was a corresponding Divine, from His inmost, in its place, until on Easter morning He was wholly divine, with all that came from His mother being dispersed and gone. There is only One God.
Why is it that in this little story the number of fishes that were caught in the net is mentioned, and why does it seem now so important that Peter took the time to count them as everyone waited? Something that has been revealed to the New Christian Church is that all the numbers used in the stories of the Word have a meaning that belongs to that number even outside the literal use in the story. The number 153 can be seen as the combination of 150 and 3, and both of these are strongly meaningful. Starting with the "three", there should be little doubt that it means something since it is used so often. Jesus rose on the third day. Also three is the number of things that, put together, make anything complete, the wish or desire to do it, the knowledge of how to do it, and the actual doing. This is true of any task - from baking a cake right up to the Lord's love, His wisdom, and His act put forth in creating the universe. One hundred and fifty is not so plain. I am aware of only two places it is used in the Word, and we are told that it means a total change, an ending of something and the beginning of something different. It is used here and in the story of the flood, at the end of Genesis 7 and in Genesis 8:3; "And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days." "… And the waters returned from off the earth continually; and after the end of the one hundred and fifty days the waters were abated." The use here is that it means the end of the Church called "Adam" and the start of the church called "Noah" (See on this website "The Churches", and for the meaning, see Arcana Coelestia 812, 846). In the story we are considering it means the end of the Church called Israel and the start of the Christian church, though that is probably complete a day or two later when the Lord meets with all of His disciples on the mountain and sends them out to preach and heal.
This first part of this story ends with all of the seven disciples on the shore with Jesus, and His giving to them a breakfast of bread and roasted fish, and with this giving perhaps they all fully realized who He was, as with the two at Emmaus, and the Gospel comments, "This is now the third time that Jesus showed Himself to his disciples after that He was risen from the dead.
820. Whereas in a preceding article (n. 817), it was shown that, in the Word, by Cain, Reuben, and the Philistines, are represented those who are in truths separated from good, it shall now be shown, that by Peter the apostle, in the Word of the Evangelists, is meant truth from good, which is from the Lord, and also, in the opposite sense, truth separated from good. And because truth pertains to faith, and good to charity, therefore by Peter is also meant faith from charity, and also faith separated from charity. For the twelve apostles, like the twelve tribes of Israel, represented the church as to all things belonging to it, thus as to truths and goods; for all things of the church have relation to these two, as to faith and love; for truths pertain to faith, and goods to love. In general, Peter, James, and John, represented faith, charity, and the works of charity. Wherefore these three, in preference to the rest, followed the Lord; and hence it is said of them in Mark,
"He did not permit any to follow him save Peter, James, and John" (v. 37).
 And because truth from good, which is from the Lord, is the primary thing of the church, therefore Peter was first called by Andrew his brother, and afterwards James and John, as is clear in Matthew:
"Jesus walking by the sea of Galilee saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishers. And he said unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him" (iv. 18-20).
Andrew "findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. Therefore he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona; thou shalt be called Cephas, which is, by interpretation, a stone" (i. 41-43).
And in Mark:
"Jesus goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would, first Simon, and surnamed him Peter; afterwards James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James" (iii. 13, 16, 17).
The reason why Peter was the first of the apostles, was, because truth from good is the primary thing of the church. For a man does not know from the world anything about heaven and hell, nor a life after death, nor even about God. His natural light (lumen) teaches nothing but what has entered by the eyes, thus, nothing but what relates to self and the world. His life also is therefrom; and so long as he remains only in these things, he is in hell. In order, therefore, that he may be withdrawn from them, and be led to heaven, it is necessary for him to learn truths, which not only teach that there is a God, that there are a heaven and a hell, and a life after death, but also teach the way to heaven. It is therefore evident that truth is the primary thing by which the church is formed in a man; but truth from good. For truth without good is only a knowledge that a thing is so. And mere knowledge has no other effect than to render a man capable of becoming a church. But this is not brought about until he lives according to knowledges, in which case truth is conjoined to good, and man is introduced into the church. Truths also teach how a man ought to live, and when he is affected with them for their own sake, that is, when he loves to live according to them, then he is led of the Lord, and conjunction is afforded him with heaven and he becomes spiritual, and, after death, an angel of heaven. Nevertheless, it is to be observed that truths do not produce those effects, but good by means of truths; and good is from the Lord.
 Because truth from good, which is from the Lord, is the primary thing of the church, therefore Peter was first called, and was the first of the apostles, and was also named by the Lord Cephas, meaning a rock (petra); but, that it might be the name of a person, he is called Peter (Petrus); for by rock, in the highest sense, is signified the Lord as to Divine truth, or Divine truth proceeding from the Lord; and therefore, in the relative sense, by rock is signified truth from good, which is from the Lord, the same as by Peter. That rock signifies such things (see above, n. 411). What Simon son of Jona signifies, may also be seen above (n. 443).
 The reason why these three apostles were fishermen, and why the Lord said unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men, was that to fish signifies to instruct natural men; for there were at that time, as well within as without the church, natural men, who, according as they received the Lord, and received truths from Him, became spiritual. From these things it may be concluded what is signified by the Lord's words to Peter concerning the keys; as in Matthew:
When some said that Jesus was John the Baptist, others Elias, others Jeremias, or another of the prophets, Jesus said to the disciples, "But whom say ye that I am? Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in the heavens; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven" (xvi. 14-19).
Because truth from good, which is from the Lord, is the primary thing of the church, and is signified by Peter, therefore these things were said by the Lord to Peter. And they were said when he acknowledged the Lord as the Messiah or Christ, and as the Son of the living God; for without this acknowledgment truth is not truth. For truth derives its origin, essence, and life from good; and good, from the Lord. Because truth from good, which is from the Lord, is the primary thing of the church, therefore the Lord says, "Upon this rock will I build my church." That by Peter or rock, in the highest sense, is signified Divine truth proceeding from the Lord, and, in the relative sense, truth from good, which is from the Lord, was shown just above. That the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, signifies that falsities from evil, which are from the hells, will not dare to rise up against those of the church who are in truths from good from the Lord. By the gates of hell are signified all things of hell, in all of which there are gates through which falsities from evil exhale and rise up. By the keys of the heavens, is signified introduction into heaven to all those who are in truths from good from the Lord. Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven, signifies that heaven is opened by the Lord to those who are in truths from good from Him; and that it is closed to those who are not.
These things are said unto Peter. But because by Peter is meant truth from good, which is from the Lord, therefore they are said of the Lord, from whom good and truth therefrom proceed. Wherefore they were said when Peter acknowledged the Lord as the Messiah or Christ, and as the Son of the living God. Moreover, as soon as good is implanted in truths with a man, he is conjoined with the angels; but so long as good is not implanted in truths with him, so long heaven is closed to him; for then instead of good he has evil, and instead of truths, falsities. From these things it is evident, how sensuously those think who attribute such power to Peter, when nevertheless that power belongs to the Lord alone.
That by Peter is signified truth from good, which is from the Lord, has been made clear to me from heaven, as may be seen in the small work concerning the Last Judgment (n. 57).
(References: Matthew 16:14-19)
 Because Peter signified truth from good, which is from the Lord, and thence also doctrine, and so represented those who are in truths from good, and in the doctrine of genuine truth from the Lord; and because these are they who instruct others, and who are instructed by the Lord; therefore Peter so often spoke with the Lord, and was also instructed by Him. He spoke with the Lord at His transfiguration,
Concerning the making of three tabernacles (Matt. xvii. 1-5; Mark ix. 2-8; Luke ix. 26-36),
on which occasion the Lord represented the Word, which is Divine truth; and by tabernacles is signified the worship of the Lord from the good of love, and the truths therefrom (see above concerning the transfiguration of the Lord, n. 594); and concerning the signification of tabernacles (n. 799). He spoke of the Lord,
As being the Christ, the Son of the living God (John vi. 67-69).
He was instructed by the Lord,
About charity, that a brother was to be forgiven as often as he sinned (Matt. xviii. 21, 22);
About regeneration, which is signified by him who is once washed not having need to be washed except as to his feet (John xiii. 3-6);
About the power of truth from good from the Lord, which is meant by the power of those who have the faith of God (Mark xi. 21, 23, 24);
About sins, that they are remitted to those who are in faith from love (Luke vii. 40-48);
About men who are spiritual, as being free; and those who are natural, as being servants; by which Peter was instructed when he took the piece of money out of the mouth of a fish, and gave it for tribute; for by a fish is signified the natural man, and the same by one that pays tribute (Matt. xvii. 24-27).
Besides several other things (concerning which see Matt. xiv. 26-31; xix. 27, 28; Mark x. 28 and following; xiii. 3 and following; xvi. 7; Luke xxii. 8 and following; xxiv. 12, 33, 34; John xviii. 10, 11; xx. 3-8; xxi. 1-11).
(References: John 6:67-69, 13:3-10, John 13:10, John 18:10-11, John 20:2-8, 20:3-8, 21:1-11; Luke 7:40-48, 9:26-36, 9:28-36, 22:8, Luke 24:12, 24:33-34; Mark 9:2-8, 10:28, Mark 11:21-24, 11:21, 11:23-24, 13:3, Mark 16:7; Matthew 14:26-31, Matthew 17:1-5, 17:24-27, 18:21-22, 19:27-28; The Apocalypse Explained 594, The Apocalypse Explained 799; The Last Judgment 57)
 Since those who are in truths from the good of love to the Lord, or in doctrine from them, were represented by Peter, and they are those who instruct others, therefore the Lord said to Peter, when he answered that he loved Him, that he should feed His lambs and sheep, concerning which is it thus written in John:
"After they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon [son of] Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon [son of] Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he said to him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, Thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus said unto him, Feed my sheep" (xxi. 15-17).
From these words it is quite clear, that Peter represented truth from the good of love to the Lord. Wherefore also he was now called Simon, son of Jonas; for by Simon, son of Jonas, is signified faith from charity - Simon signifying hearkening and obedience, and Jonas a dove, by which is signified charity.
That those who are in the doctrine of truth from love to the Lord are to instruct those who will belong to the Lord's Church is meant by the Lord's question, "Lovest thou me?" and by His saying afterwards, "Feed my lambs, and my sheep." Not that Peter only was to instruct, but all those represented by Peter; who, as was said above, are those who are in love to the Lord, and thence in truths from the Lord. By Peter's being questioned three times is signified the full time of the church from its beginning to its end. For the number three has this signification. Wherefore, when he was questioned the third time, it is said that Peter was grieved. And because the third questioning signified the end of the church, therefore these words of the Lord to Peter immediately follow:
(References: John 21:15-17)
 "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest; but when thou art old, thou shalt stretch forth thine hands, and another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldest not. And when he had spoken this, he said unto him, Follow me. Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved, following; which also leaned on his breast at supper. Peter, seeing him, saith to Jesus, Lord, what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that this disciple should not die. Yet Jesus said not unto him, he shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" (xxi. 18-23).
No one can know what these words signify unless he knows that by Peter is signified faith from charity, and also faith without charity. Faith from charity in the church, when it commences, and faith without charity when the church declines; thus that Peter, when he was young, signifies the faith of the church in its commencement, and when he was old, the faith of the church at its end; and that by girding himself and walking is signified to learn truths and live according to them. It is evident therefore that by these words, "When thou wast young thou girdedst thyself and walkedst whither thou wouldest," is signified that the church in its beginning would be instructed in truths which are from good, and thereby be led of the Lord; and that by these words, "When thou art old, thou shalt stretch forth thine hands, and another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldest not," is signified that the church at its end would not know truths, but falsities which pertain to faith without charity, and be led thereby. To gird himself signifies to be instructed in truths, the same as being clothed; for garments signify truths, clothing good, as may be seen above (n. 195, 395, 637). And to walk signifies to live according to them, as may also be seen above (n. 97). Hence to gird himself and walk whither he would, signifies to exercise free circumspection, and to see truths, and do them. But to stretch forth the hands, signifies not to be in that freedom; for the hands signify the power of truth from the understanding and perception thereof; and to stretch forth the hands, signifies not to have that power, nor thence the liberty of thinking and seeing truth. Another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldest not, signifies to acknowledge for truth what another dictates, and not to see for himself, as is the case at this day with the religion of faith alone. Hence, then, this faith also is meant by Peter. Therefore it is said, that Peter turning about saw the disciple whom Jesus loved, following, and said of him, "But what shall this man do?" Also that Jesus said to Peter, "What is that to thee?" By the disciple following Jesus, is signified goods of life, which are good works; that these should not perish to the end of life, is signified by the words following.
 From these things it is evident, that by Peter is also signified faith separate from charity, as also when,
"He denied the Lord thrice" (Matt. xxvi. 69-75; Mark xiv. 29-31, 54, 66-72; Luke xxii. 33, 34, 50, 51, 55-62; John xiii. 36-38; xviii. 16-18, 25-27).
"When the Lord turning away from Peter, said to him, Get thee behind me, Satan. Thou art an offence unto me; for thou savourest not the things which are of God, but those that be of men" (Matt. xvi. 21-23).
And when the Lord said to him,
"Simon, Simon, lo, Satan hath desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat" (Luke xxii. 31).
All these things have been adduced that it may be known, that by Peter, in the representative sense, in the Evangelists, is signified truth from good, which is from the Lord; also faith from charity; and, in the opposite sense, truth separate from good, which in itself is falsity; also faith separate from charity, which in itself is not faith.
(References: John 1:40-42, John 13:3-10, John 13:36-38, John 18:16-18, 18:25-27, John 21:15-23; Luke 22:31, 22:33-34, 22:50-51, 22:55-62; Mark 11:21-24, Mark 14:29-31, 14:54, 14:66-72; Matthew 16:21-23, Matthew 26:69-75; Revelation 13:12)