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.
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 his boat to fish. They fish all night, but have no luck, and catch nothing. They are fairly 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". They give it a try. When they do, they catch so many fish that they can't haul the net into the boat; it's too heavy. So they row toward shore, dragging the net full of fish behind them.
As they're drawing closer to shore, they still haven't recognized that the man on the shore is Jesus. He has kindled a small, and is cooking fish. He invites them to have breakfast with Him, and at that point, John realizes that it is Jesus, and tells Peter. Peter grabs his cloak, belts it around himself to cover his nakedness, and jumps into the water to swim to shore.
This story has some interesting details to explore. The earlier stories of events 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 were from Galilee, so they are at home. They were fishermen before Jesus called them to be disciples, so to go fishing is in their blood.
The five disciples named in the story are Simon (or Peter), the brothers James and John, Thomas, and Nathaniel. Two more who are not named, to make up the seven, and it would be reasonable to guess that they were Andrew, Peter's brother, and Philip, a friend of Nathaniel's - both of whom were also from Galilee.
The angels that Peter and John had seen at the sepulcher had told them that Jesus would meet them in Galilee on "the mountain". Perhaps these seven, being from Galilee, had 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. In this case, the name means the firmest and most critical rock, or truth, of Christianity, i.e. that Jesus was from God.
- John means love or charity.
- James, John's brother, 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. 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. With this giving, perhaps they all fully realized who He was, as with the two disciples at Emmaus. 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. As it was shown in a preceding article (n. 817), that Cain, Reuben, and the Philistines, represent in the Word those who are in truths separated from good, I will now show that the apostle Peter in the Word of the Evangelists means truth from good which is from the Lord, and also in the contrary sense, truth separated from good. And as truth is of faith and good is of charity, "Peter" also means faith from charity, and again faith separated from charity. For the twelve apostles, like the twelve tribes of Israel, represented the church in respect to all things of it, thus in respect to truths and goods, since all things of the church have reference to these, the same as to faith and love; for truths are of faith, and goods are of love. In general, Peter, James, and John, represented faith, charity, and the works of charity; and this is why these three followed the Lord more than the others, and it is said of them in Mark:
He suffered no one to follow Him save Peter, James, and John (Mark 5:37).
 And as truth from good, which is from the Lord, is the first thing of the church, Peter was the first to be called by his brother Andrew, and afterwards James and John were called, as is evident 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, Come ye after Me, and I will make you fishers of men. And straightway leaving their nets they followed Him (Matthew 4:18-20).
Andrew findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And therefore he brought him to Jesus. And Jesus looking upon him, said unto him, Thou art Simon the son of Jonah; thou shalt be called Cephas, which is, by interpretation, Peter (John 1:41-43)
Jesus going up into a mountain calls unto Him whom He would, first Simon upon whom He conferred the name Peter, and afterwards James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (Mark 3:13, 16, 17).
Peter was the first of the apostles because truth from good is the first thing of the church; for, from the world a man does not know anything about heaven and hell, nor of a life after death, nor even about God. His natural light teaches nothing except what has entered through the eyes, thus nothing except what relates to the world and to self; and from these is his life; and so long as he is in these only he is in hell; and therefore, that he may be withdrawn from these and be led to heaven he must needs learn truths, which teach not only that there is a God, that there is a heaven and a hell, and that there is a life after death, but also teach the way to heaven. From this it is clear that truth is the first thing through which man has the church. But it must be truth from good, for truth without good is mere knowledge that a thing is so; and mere knowledge does nothing except to make a man capable of becoming a church; but this is not effected until he lives according to knowledges. Then truth is conjoined to good, and man is introduced into the church. Moreover, truths teach how a man ought to live; and when man is affected by truths for the sake of truths, which is done when he loves to live according to them, he is led by the Lord, and conjunction with heaven is granted him, and he becomes spiritual, and after death an angel of heaven. Nevertheless it is to be known that it is not truths that produce these effects, but good by means of truths; and good is from the Lord. Because truth from good, which is from the Lord, is the first thing of the church, Peter was the first to be called, and was the first of the apostles, and he was also named by the Lord "Cephas," which means petra [a rock]; but, that it might be the name of a person, he is called Petrus [Peter]. In the highest sense "rock" [Petra] signifies the Lord in relation to Divine truth, or Divine truth proceeding from the Lord; consequently in a relative sense "rock" signifies truth from good, which is from the Lord, the like is meant by Peter. (That "rock" has this signification see above, n. 411. But what "Simon son of Jonah" signifies see also above, n. 443.
 These three apostles were fishermen, and the Lord said unto them, "Come ye after Me, and I will make you fishers of men," because "to fish" signifies to instruct natural men; for there were at that time, both within the church and outside of it, natural men who became spiritual as they received the Lord and received truths from Him.
 From this the signification of the Lord's words to Peter concerning the keys may be deduced; as in Matthew:
When some had said that Jesus was John the Baptist, others Elijah, others Jeremiah 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 son of Jonah; for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but My Father who is in the heavens. And I say also unto thee, 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 the heavens, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in the heavens; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in the heavens (Matthew 16:14-19).
This was said by the Lord to Peter because truth from good, which is from the Lord, is the first thing of the church, and this was what Peter signified; and this was said when he acknowledged the Lord to be the Messiah or the Christ, and to be the Son of the living God; for without such an acknowledgment truth is not truth, because 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 first thing of the church, therefore the Lord says, "upon this rock will I build My church." It has been said just above that "Peter" or "Rock" signifies in the highest sense Divine truth proceeding from the Lord, and in a relative sense truth from good, which is from the Lord. That "the gates of hell shall not prevail" 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, "the gates of hell" signifying all things of hell, for there are gates to all the hells through which falsities from evil exhale and rise up. "The keys of the heavens" signify the introduction into heaven of all those who are in truths from good from the Lord; "whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in the heavens, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on the earth shall be loosed in the heavens," 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 were said to Peter; but because "Peter" means truth from good, which is from the Lord, they were said of the Lord, who is the source of good and its truth; and this is why they were said when Peter acknowledged the Lord to be the Messiah or the Christ, and the Son of the living God. Moreover, as soon as good is implanted in truths with man he is conjoined with the angels; but so long as good is not implanted in truths with man heaven is closed to him; for he then has evil in place of good, and falsities in place of truths. From this it is clear how sensuously those think who attribute such authority to Peter, when yet such authority belongs to the Lord alone.
 That "Peter" signifies truth from good, which is from the Lord, has been made manifest to me from heaven, as may be seen in the work on The Last Judgement (n. 57). Because "Peter" signified truth from good which is from the Lord, and consequently also doctrine, and thus he represented those who are in truths from good and in the doctrine of genuine truth from the Lord, and since such as these instruct others, and are instructed by the Lord, therefore Peter so often spoke with the Lord and was also instructed by the Lord. He spoke with the Lord at His transfiguration:
About making three tabernacles (Matthew 17:1-5; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:26-36).
The Lord then represented the Word, which is Divine truth; and "tabernacles" signify the worship of the Lord from the good of love and truths therefrom. (See above concerning the Lord's transfiguration, n. 594; and concerning the signification of tabernacles, n. 799).
He spake about the Lord:
That He was the Christ, the Son of the living God (John 6:67-69).
He was taught by the Lord:
Respecting charity, that a brother must be forgiven as often as he sinned (Matthew 18:21, 22).
Respecting regeneration, which is signified by the one who having once bathed has no need except to wash his feet (John 13:10);
Respecting the power of truth from good from the Lord, which is meant by the power of those who have the faith of God (Mark 11:21, 23, 24);
Respecting sins, that they are forgiven to those who are in faith from love (Luke 7:40-48);
Respecting men who are spiritual, as being free; and those who are natural, as being servants, about which Peter was taught when he took the stater out of the mouth of a fish and gave it for tribute (a fish signifying the natural man, as likewise one that pays tribute. Matthew 17:24-27); as well as many other things (respecting which see Matthew 14:26-31; Luke 9:27, 28; Mark 10:28, seq.; Mark 13:3, seq.; Mark 16:7; Luke 22:8, seq.; Luke 24:12, 33, 34; John 1, 8:10, 11; 20:3-8; 21:1-11).
 It was because Peter represented those who are in truths from the good of love to the Lord, or in doctrine from truths, and these are they who instruct others, that the Lord said to Peter when he replied that he loved Him, that "he should feed His lambs and sheep," respecting which in John:
When they had breakfasted, 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 saith unto Him, Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed My sheep (John 21:15-17).
From this it is clearly evident that Peter represented truth from the good of love to the Lord, and this is why he was now called Simon son of Jonas, for "Simon son of Jonas" signifies faith from charity; "Simon" signifies hearkening and obedience, and "Jonas" means a dove, which signifies charity. That those who are in the doctrine of truth from love to the Lord are to instruct those who will be of the Lord's church is meant by the Lord's asking, "Lovest thou Me?" and afterwards by "Feed My lambs" and "My sheep." Not that Peter only would instruct, but all those who were represented by Peter, who, as has been said, are those who are in love to the Lord, and thence in truths from the Lord. Peter was asked three times to signify the full time of the church from its beginning to its end, for this is the signification of "three;" so when he was asked the third time it is said that "Peter was grieved."
 And as the third asking signified the end of the church, therefore these words of the Lord to Peter immediately follow in John:
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast younger thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldst; but when thou shalt be old thou shalt stretch forth thy hands and another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldst not. And when He had thus spoken He saith 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 then, 1 saith to Jesus, Lord, but what about this one? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou Me. This saying therefore went forth among the brethren, that that disciple should not die. Yet Jesus said not unto him that he should not die, but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? (John 21:18-23).
What all this signifies no one can know unless he knows that "Peter" signifies faith from charity, and also faith without charity, faith from charity in the church at its beginning, and faith without charity when the church comes to its end; thus "Peter when he was younger" signifies the faith of the church in its beginning, and "when he became old" the faith of the church coming to an end; and "to gird himself and walk" signifies to learn truths and live according to them. From this it is evident that "I say unto thee, when thou wast younger thou girdedst thyself and walkedst whither thou wouldst," signifies that the church in its beginning will be instructed in truths that are from good, and by means of them will be led by the Lord; and that "When thou shalt be old thou shalt stretch forth thine hands and another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldst not," signifies that the church at its end will not know truths, but falsities that belong to faith without charity, and will be led by them, "to gird oneself" like as "to be clothed" signifying to be instructed in truths, because "garments" signify truths clothing good (see above, n. 195, 395, 637), and "to walk" signifying to live according to truths (see above, n. 97[1-2]); consequently "to gird himself and walk whither he would" signifies to consider freely and to see truths, and do them; while "to stretch forth the hands" signifies not to be in such freedom; for "the hands" signify the power of truth from the understanding and perception of it, and "to stretch forth the hands" signifies not to have that power, thus neither the freedom to think and to see truth. "Another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldst not," signifies to acknowledge as truths what another dictates, and what one does not see for oneself, as is done at this day with the religion of faith alone. This faith is what is now meant by "Peter," and therefore it is said that Peter turning about saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, and said of him, "But what about this one?" likewise that Jesus said to Peter, "What is that to thee?" "The disciple following Jesus" signifies the goods of life, which are good works; and that these will not perish to the end of life is signified by the words that here follow.
 From this it can now be seen that "Peter" signifies also faith separated from charity, as also when:
Peter thrice denied the Lord (Matthew 26:69-75; Mark 14:29-31, 54, 66-72; Luke 22:33, 34, 50, 51, 55-62; John 13:36-38; 18:16-18, 25-27).
Also when the Lord, turning away from Peter, said to him, Get thee behind Me, Satan, thou art a stumbling-block unto Me; for thou savorest not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men (Matthew 16:21-23).
Also when the Lord said to him, Simon, Simon, Behold Satan demanded you that he might sift you as wheat (Luke 22:31).
All these things have been cited to make known that "Peter" in the representative sense signifies in the Gospels truth from good, which is from the Lord; also faith from charity; and also in the contrary sense truth separated from good, which in itself is falsity; also faith separated from charity, which in itself is not faith.
1. The photolithograph has "tunc" for "hunc," "then" for "him."