Some have questioned the authenticity of this chapter because John 20:30,31 sounds like an ending statement to the work. However, there is no manuscript evidence that John's account of the gospel was ever circulated without the contents of chapter 21. Why did John, who likely wrote this book near the close of the first century, include the information that he did in this chapter? Why did he not stop at the end of chapter 20? Perhaps John, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote this chapter in order to answer some questions that the first-century Christians were asking. On a number of occasions, Matthew took such an approach in his account of the gospel. Much of Matthew's account of the birth and infancy of Jesus was undoubtedly an answer to the Jewish criticism that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, whereas Jesus was known to be from Nazareth (cf. Matt. 2:23). Also, Matthew's account of the empty tomb is clearly a reply to the Jew's claim that the disciples stole Jesus' body (28:11-15). The information contained in John 21 may have been written to specifically address a couple of first-century issues: (1) An apparent rumor that John would live until the second coming of Christ (cf. 21:23), and (2) The rise of Gnosticism (cf. 21:12). Also, John records Peter's "restoration" in John 21. Peter's denials of Christ were well known and it is beneficial to clearly see in this chapter the Lord's acceptance of him after his repentance.
"Simon Peter said to them, 'I am going fishing'" (John 21:3). As usual, Peter takes the lead. It seems reasonable to suggest that Peter and the others had no intentions of returning to their former occupation permanently. They are merely passing the time on this occasion and perhaps trying to earn some money while they awaited further developments.
"But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus" (John 21:4). The disciples did not first recognize the Stranger on the shore, perhaps because of the twilight of the early morning hour or because they weren't expecting Him. Their next "appointed meeting" with Him was to be on a mountain in Galilee (cf. Matt. 28:16).
"Children, have you any food?" (John 21:5). Jesus knew that they did not recognize Him yet, and He speaks to them as a stranger would (i.e., He used the common word for children, not the more affectionate term which would have indicated a close association). The form of the question, in Greek, was intended to call forth a negative reply. Thus, essentially He said: "You have nothing to eat, have you?" The disciples may have regarded Him as some passerby who desired to buy some fish (which they, unfortunately, could not provide at this time). Their brief response conveys their disappointment.
"Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some" (John 21:6). Since they had failed miserably that night, any suggestion was worthy of consideration. Thus, they quickly complied. Their net was immediately filled with so many fish they were unable to draw it in!
We will continue studying this narrative in our next lesson.