Thoughts on Gospel Doctrine Lesson 27
July 16, 2003
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In Lesson 27 we study the event's surrounding the Savior's resurrection. Be sure to read the following commentary by James E. Talmage, Bruce R. McConkie, Daniel H. Ludlow, Frederic Farrar, Kent P. Jackson, and Robert L. Millet.
James E. Talmage on Christ's Resurrection:
At the earliest indication of dawn, the devoted Mary Magdalene and other faithful women set out for the tomb, bearing spices and ointments which they had prepared for the further anointing of the body of Jesus. Some of them had been witnesses of the burial, and were conscious of the necessary haste with which the corpse had been wrapped with spicery and laid away by Joseph and Nicodemus, just before the beginning of the Sabbath; and now these adoring women came early to render loving service in a more thorough anointing and external embalmment of the body. On the way as they sorrowfully conversed, they seemingly for the first time thought of the difficulty of entering the tomb. "Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?" they asked one of another. Evidently they knew nothing of the seal and the guard of soldiery. At the tomb they saw the angel, and were afraid; but he said unto them: "Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you."
The women, though favored by angelic visitation and assurance, left the place amazed and frightened. Mary Magdalene appears to have been the first to carry word to the disciples concerning the empty tomb. She had failed to comprehend the gladsome meaning of the angel's proclamation "He is risen, as he said"; in her agony of love and grief she remembered only the words "He is not here," the truth of which had been so forcefully impressed by her own hasty glance at the open and tenantless tomb. "Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him."
Peter, and "that other disciple" who, doubtless, was John, set forth in haste, running together toward the sepulchre. John outran his companion, and on reaching the tomb stooped to look in, and so caught a glimpse of the linen cerements lying on the floor; but the bold and impetuous Peter rushed into the sepulchre, and was followed by the younger apostle. The two observed the linen graveclothes, and lying by itself, the napkin that had been placed about the head of the corpse. John frankly affirms that having seen these things, he believed, and explains in behalf of himself and his fellow apostles, "For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead."
The sorrowful Magdalene had followed the two apostles back to the garden of the burial. No thought of the Lord's restoration to life appears to have found place in her grief-stricken heart; she knew only that the body of her beloved Master had disappeared. While Peter and John were within the sepulchre, she had stood without, weeping. After the men had left she stooped and looked into the rock-hewn cavern. There she saw two personages, angels in white; one sat "at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain." In accents of tenderness they asked of her: "Woman, why weepest thou?" In reply she could but voice anew her overwhelming sorrow: "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him." The absence of the body, which she thought to be all that was left on earth of Him whom she loved so deeply, was a personal bereavement. There is a volume of pathos and affection in her words, "They have taken away my Lord."
Turning from the vault, which, though at that moment illumined by angelic presence, was to her void and desolate, she became aware of another Personage, standing near. She heard His sympathizing inquiry: "Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?" Scarcely lifting her tearful countenance to look at the Questioner, but vaguely supposing that He was the caretaker of the garden, and that He might have knowledge of what had been done with the body of her Lord, she exclaimed: "Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away." She knew that Jesus had been interred in a borrowed tomb; and if the body had been dispossessed of that resting place, she was prepared to provide another. "Tell me where thou hast laid him," she pleaded.
It was Jesus to whom she spake, her beloved Lord, though she knew it not. One word from His living lips changed her agonized grief into ecstatic joy. "Jesus saith unto her, Mary." The voice, the tone, the tender accent she had heard and loved in the earlier days lifted her from the despairing depths into which she had sunk. She turned, and saw the Lord. In a transport of joy she reached out her arms to embrace Him, uttering only the endearing and worshipful word, "Rabboni," meaning My beloved Master. Jesus restrained her impulsive manifestation of reverent love, saying, "Touch me not; fn for I am not yet ascended to my Father," and adding, "but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God."
To a woman, to Mary of Magdala, was given the honor of being the first among mortals to behold a resurrected Soul, and that Soul, the Lord Jesus. To other favored women did the risen Lord next manifest Himself, including Mary the mother of Joses, Joanna, and Salome the mother of the apostles James and John. These and the other women with them had been affrighted by the presence of the angel at the tomb, and had departed with mingled fear and joy. They were not present when Peter and John entered the vault, nor afterward when the Lord made Himself known to Mary Magdalene. They may have returned later, for some of them appear to have entered the sepulchre, and to have seen that the Lord's body was not there. As they stood wondering in perplexity and astonishment, they became aware of the presence of two men in shining garments, and as the women "bowed down their faces to the earth" the angels said unto them: "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words." As they were returning to the city to deliver the message to the disciples, "Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me."
One may wonder why Jesus had forbidden Mary Magdalene to touch Him, and then, so soon after, had permitted other women to hold Him by the feet as they bowed in reverence. We may assume that Mary's emotional approach had been prompted more by a feeling of personal yet holy affection than by an impulse of devotional worship such as the other women evinced. Though the resurrected Christ manifested the same friendly and intimate regard as He had shown in the mortal state toward those with whom He had been closely associated, He was no longer one of them in the literal sense. There was about Him a divine dignity that forbade close personal familiarity. To Mary Magdalene Christ had said: "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father." If the second clause was spoken in explanation of the first, we have to infer that no human hand was to be permitted to touch the Lord's resurrected and immortalized body until after He had presented Himself to the Father. It appears reasonable and probable that between Mary's impulsive attempt to touch the Lord, and the action of the other women who held Him by the feet as they bowed in worshipful reverence, Christ did ascend to the Father, and that later He returned to earth to continue His ministry in the resurrected state.
Mary Magdalene and the other women told the wonderful story of their several experiences to the disciples, but the brethren could not credit their words, which "seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not." After all that Christ had taught concerning His rising from the dead on that third day, fn the apostles were unable to accept the actuality of the occurrence; to their minds the resurrection was some mysterious and remote event, not a present possibility. There was neither precedent nor analogy for the stories these women told-of a dead person returning to life, with a body of flesh and bones, such as could be seen and felt-except the instances of the young man of Nain, the daughter of Jairus, and the beloved Lazarus of Bethany, between whose cases of restoration to a renewal of mortal life and the reported resurrection of Jesus they recognized essential differences. The grief and the sense of irreparable loss which had characterized the yesterday Sabbath, were replaced by profound perplexity and contending doubts on this first day of the week. But while the apostles hesitated to believe that Christ had actually risen, the women, less skeptical, more trustful, knew, for they had both seen Him and heard His voice, and some of them had touched His feet.
(James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ: A Study of the Messiah and His Mission According to Holy Scriptures Both Ancient and Modern [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 630.)
Bruce R. McConkie on the Sabbath Day:
John 20:1. First day of the week] Sunday, the Lord's day. God's plan for mortal man calls for six days of labor, and one of rest. In the wisdom of the great Creator, such a schedule provides needed physical refreshment. This day of rest from servile work, also in the wisdom of Deity, is appointed as a day for spiritual feasting, a holy day, a Sabbath.
From Adam to Moses the decree was: Work six days and rest on Saturday, the seventh day; do it in commemoration of the fact that "in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day." (Ex. 20:8-11.)
From Moses to this resurrection morning the decree was: Work six days and rest one day, in commemoration of the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage. (Deut. 5:11-15.) Since Israel was freed from bondage on a specific day of the year, it follows that the commanded Sabbath fell on a different day each year, just as Christmas day does. In order to make the schedule come out provision was made in the Mosaic Law for a forty-eight hour Sabbath once each year. (Samuel Walter Gamble, Sunday the True Sabbath of God.)
Because Jesus came forth from the grave on the first day of the week, to commemorate that day and to keep in remembrance the glorious reality of the resurrection, the ancient apostles, as guided by the Spirit, changed the Sabbath to Sunday. That this change had divine approval we know from latter-day revelation, in which Deity speaks of "the Lord's day" as such and sets forth what should and should not be done on that day. (D. & C. 59:9-17.)
(Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1: 841.)
Frederic Farrar on the Appearance of Christ on the Road to the Emmaus:
On the same day the Lord's fourth appearance was accompanied with circumstances of the deepest interest. Two of the disciples were on their way to a village named Emmaus, of uncertain site, but about eight miles from Jerusalem, and were discoursing with sad and anxious hearts on the awful incidents of the last two days, when a Stranger joined them, and asked them the cause of their clouded looks and anxious words. They stopped, and looked at this unknown traveller with a dubious and unfriendly glance; and when one of the two, whose name was Cleopas, spoke in reply, there is a touch of surprise and suspicion in the answer which he ventured to give. "Dost thou live alone as a stranger in Jerusalem, and dost thou not know what things happened there in these last days?" "What things?" He asked them. Then they told Him how all their yearning hopes that Jesus had been the great Prophet who should redeem His people had been dashed to the earth, and how all His mighty deeds before God and the people had ended two days back on the shameful cross. They described the feeling of amazement with which, on this the third day, they had heard the women's rumors of angel visions, and the certain testimony of some of their brethren that the tomb was empty now. "But," added the speaker with a sigh of incredulity and sorrow—"but Him they saw not."
Then reproaching them with the dulness of their intelligence and their affections, the Stranger showed them how through all the Old Testament from Moses onwards there was one long prophecy of the sufferings no less than of the glory of Christ. In such high converse they drew near to Emmaus, and the Stranger seemed to be going onwards, but they pressed Him to stay, and as they sat down to their simple meal, and He blessed and brake the bread, suddenly their eyes were opened and in spite of the altered form, they recognized that He who was with them was the Lord. But even as they recognized Him, He was with them no longer. "Did not our heart burn within us," they exclaimed to each other, "while He was speaking with us in the way, while He was opening to us the Scriptures?" Rising instantly, they returned to Jerusalem with the strange and joyous tidings. They found no dubious listeners now. They, too, were received with the rapturous affirmation, "The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared unto Simon!"
(Farrar, Frederic, Life of Christ) .)
Bruce R. McConkie on Jesus Appearing on Emmaus Road:
Why did the risen Lord take this means of appearing to Cleopas and his companion (perhaps Luke, since it is he who records the account)? Was it to quote and interpret the Messianic prophecies "beginning at Moses and all the prophets"? Such could have been done under more effective circumstances, and for that matter, Luke does not even record the explanations given. Why did Jesus keep his identity hidden? Why walk and talk, perhaps for hours, along the dusty lanes of Palestine?
Obviously it was to show what a resurrected being is like. He was teaching the gospel as only he could, teaching a living sermon, a sermon that was to be climaxed shortly in an upper room in the presence of his apostles. See Luke 24:36-44.
Jesus walked down a Judean lane, walked for hours and taught the truths of the gospel, exactly as he had during three and a half years of his mortal ministry. So much did he seem like any other wayfaring teacher, in demeanor, in dress, in speech, in physical appearance, in conversation, that they did not recognize him as the Jesus whom they assumed was dead. 'Abide with us,' they said, as they would have done to Peter or John. 'Come in and eat and sleep; you must be tired and hungry.' They thought he was a mortal man. Could anyone devise a more perfect way to teach what a resurrected being is like when his glory is retained within him? Men are men whether mortal or immortal, and there need be no spiritualizing away of the reality of the resurrection, not after this Emmaus road episode. See Mark 16:9-11.
(Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1: 850.)
Bruce R. McConkie on Christ's Resurrected Body:
On the Emmaus road Jesus walked, talked, and appeared as a mortal man. Now he comes through the walls or roof of an enclosed room, thus showing another power and capacity of a resurrected body. Standing before his terrified and frightened disciples—and the group included the apostles, plus others (Luke 24:33)—he continued his 'living sermon' on the resurrection by demonstrating further what a resurrected body was and how it operated.
The apostles and other disciples thought he was "a spirit," a misconception which, however, reveals what a spirit is. As Jesus stood before them he seemed in every respect to be a man. In other words a spirit is a man, an entity, a personage, not an ineffable nothingness pervading immensity. A spirit is what the Brother of Jared saw on the mountain when the yet unembodied Lord appeared and said: "This body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; . . . and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh." (Ether 3:16.)
Jesus then confirmed the disciples' belief that a spirit is a personage by showing how a resurrected body differs from a spirit body. He announced that his body was made of "flesh and bones" and invited all present to handle, feel, and learn of its corporeal nature. Then lest any feel later that their senses had been deceived, he asked for food and ate it before them, not to satisfy hunger, but to demonstrate that resurrected beings are tangible and can eat and digest food. See Luke 24:13-35.
When Paul adds to what is here revealed that the risen Lord is in "the express image of his" Father's "person" (Heb. 1:3), we have perfect Biblical confirmation of the revealed truth that "The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's; the Son also." (D. & C. 130:22.)
(Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1: 852.)
James E. Talmage on the Risen Lord Appearing to the Disciples in Jerusalem:
When Cleopas and his companion reached Jerusalem that night, they found the apostles and other devoted believers assembled in solemn and worshipful discourse within closed doors. Precautions of secrecy had been taken "for fear of the Jews." Even the apostles had been scattered by the arrest, arraignment, and judicial murder of their Master; but they and the disciples in general rallied anew at the word of His resurrection, as the nucleus of an army soon to sweep the world. The two returning disciples were received with the joyous announcement, "The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon." This is the sole mention made by the Gospel-writers of Christ's personal appearance to Simon Peter on that day. The interview between the Lord and His once recreant but now repentant apostle must have been affecting in the extreme. Peter's remorseful penitence over his denial of Christ in the palace of the high priest was deep and pitiful; he may have doubted that ever again would the Master call him His servant; but hope must have been engendered through the message from the tomb brought by the women, in which the Lord sent greetings to the apostles, whom for the first time He designated as His brethren, and from this honorable and affectionate characterization Peter had not been excluded; moreover, the angel's commission to the women had given prominence to Peter by particular mention. To the repentant Peter came the Lord, doubtless with forgiveness and loving assurance. The apostle himself maintains a reverent silence respecting the visitation, but the fact thereof is attested by Paul as one of the definite proofs of the Lord's resurrection.
Following the jubilant testimony of the assembled believers, Cleopas and his fellow traveler told of the Lord's companionship with them on the Emmaus road, of the things He had taught them, and of the manner in which He had become known unto them in the breaking of bread. As the little company communed together, "Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you." They were affrighted, supposing with superstitious dread that a ghost had intruded amongst them. But the Lord comforted them, saying "Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts rise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." Then He showed them the wounds in His hands and feet and side. "They yet believed not for joy," which is to say, they thought the reality, to which they all were witnesses, too good, too glorious, to be true. To further assure them that He was no shadowy form, no immaterial being of tenuous substance, but a living Personage with bodily organs internal as well as outward, He asked, "Have ye here any meat?" They gave Him a piece of broiled fish and other food, which He took "and did eat before them."
These unquestionable evidences of their Visitant's corporeity calmed and made rational the minds of the disciples; and now that they were composed and receptive the Lord reminded them that all things that had happened to Him were in accordance with what He had told them while He had lived amongst them. In His divine presence their understanding was quickened and enlarged so that they comprehended as never before the scriptures-the Law of Moses, the books of the prophets and the psalms-concerning Him. That His now accomplished death was a necessity, He attested as fully as He had predicted and affirmed the same aforetime. Then He said unto them: "Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things."
(James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ: A Study of the Messiah and His Mission According to Holy Scriptures Both Ancient and Modern [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 638.)
Bruce R. McConkie on Jesus Appearing to Thomas and the Disciples:
Once again it is Sunday, the first weekly anniversary of the first resurrection. The disciples, beginning the practice of worshipping on Sunday rather than on the Jewish Sabbath, and coming together to commemorate the rising of Jesus from death, are again in the upper room. The doors are shut, probably guarded. No mention is made of food, but the worshipful group may have been eating, and certainly they were conversing about the resurrection and reciting the accounts of His appearances. So far there have been five of which we know—to Mary Magdalene, to the other women, to Peter, to Cleopas and Luke on the Emmaus road, and to a small congregation of saints in the upper room.
During the week the disciples had said to Thomas, "We have seen the Lord," and, 'We felt the nail marks in his hands and in his feet: we gave him a piece of a broiled fish and of a honeycomb, both of which he ate before us. And he told us such and such things about himself and about our commission to testify of him in all nations.' Thomas had believed in the resurrection, but not in the literal corporeity of His body, not in the fact that Jesus now ate food, not in the fact that the nail marks remained in his flesh and bones. He had said: "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe."
Thomas is now present with the others, and of a sudden, as on the week afore, Jesus "stood in the midst." Again he utters the familiar greeting: "Peace be unto you." Then to Thomas came the command:
Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
Thomas complied; he would not have dared to do otherwise. He now felt and handled as the others had done; he was a living, personal witness of the corporeity of the body of the Lord Jesus. Whether Jesus called for food and ate again is not recorded. Such would not have been necessary, because Thomas, feeling the nail prints and the spear wound, could not do other than believe the account about the broiled fish and the honeycomb. From the lips of the now believing apostle, we suppose as he knelt to touch the marks in Jesus' feet, came the worshipful cry: "My Lord and my God." Thereupon Jesus said:
Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
Thomas, who once offered to go with Jesus to Bethany, there to die with him, saw and believed—believed in the literal nature of the resurrection and that Jesus after death lived again as a man. Ever since he has been called, somewhat unkindly, Doubting Thomas. Whatever they may have been, his doubts were of a passing and transitory nature. He became and remained a believer in the full sense. Rather than point the finger of scorn at his supposed disbelief, would it not be better to be fearful of the fate of the ten thousand times ten thousand, plus unnumbered more, of the Doubting Thomases in a doubting Christendom where none believe that the Lord Jesus now reigns with his Father in eternal glory—both of them glorying in their exalted bodies of flesh and bones?
Thus we know that resurrected beings, containing their glory within themselves, can walk as mortals do on earth; that they can converse and reason and teach as they once did in mortality; that they can both withhold and manifest their true identities; that they can pass with corporeal bodies through solid walls; that they have bodies of flesh and bones that can be felt and handled; that, if need be, and at special times, they can retain the scars and wounds of the flesh; that they can eat and digest food; that they can vanish from mortal eyes and transport themselves by means unknown to us.
How glorious it has been to hear the living sermon preached by the greatest Preacher of all time as he ministered on the Emmaus road and in the upper room!
(Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981], 4: 285.)
Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet on the Setting of Christ's Appearance at the Sea of Galilee:
Of the postresurrection appearances of the Savior recorded in the New Testament, John 21 is striking in a quiet but penetrating way. After having recounted, in the preceding chapter, the resurrection and some of the experiences of Mary and the apostles with the Lord, John relates a simple experience on the Sea of Galilee (called the Sea of Tiberias in John 21:1, as well as in John 6:1). Because the directive "feed my sheep" is often quoted, we should examine it in context.
Despite having seen the resurrected Savior and despite having received personal assurance of his divinity, the disciples are portrayed as still foundering, still lacking direction and motivation. From our perspective, on the basis of both Luke's account in Acts and John's statement (John 7:39; see also John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:13) that the Holy Ghost had not yet been given, we may conclude that the disciples had been touched by the Holy Ghost but had not yet received that cleansing, revitalizing force we term the birth of the Spirit. Although they had been promised they would receive the Holy Ghost, the gift itself was not made manifest until Pentecost (Acts 2), more than a month and a half after the resurrection. It was during the forty-day ministry that the events of John 21 took place.
Seven disciples were in Galilee: Simon Peter, Thomas (or Didymos), Nathanael, the two sons of Zebedee (John the Beloved and his brother James), and two other disciples. (John 21:2.) Manifesting his natural leadership, Peter stated that he was going fishing; the others concurred. Implicit in Peter's words was a growing impatience about waiting to learn what they should do. His response to the situation was to return to his former work by going fishing. In the structure of John's Gospel, this setting is reminiscent of Peter's call recorded in John 1:35-42. Peter's brother, Andrew, had been one of the adherents of John the Baptist, from whom he learned the identity of the Redeemer, the Messiah or anointed Savior (Greek Christos means "the anointed one"). It is in Matthew 4:18-20 that we learn more about Peter and Andrew as fishermen by trade; and so, echoing Jeremiah 16:16, Jesus invited them to join him, saying, "I will make you fishers of men."
Then, with characteristic irony, John notes that though they fished throughout the night, they caught nothing. As dawn came, Jesus stood at the shore, unrecognized by the disciples even when he spoke. At his instructions, the disciples cast their nets to the right side; the net was so full of fish—John states that there were 153 (John 21:11)—that they could not pull it into the boat, and the net nearly broke. Immediately John realized who it was on the shore. Peter's impetuous response, after clothing himself, was to hurl himself into the sea to hasten to the Lord. The event may have been so recorded by John to counterbalance Matthew's account of Peter walking on the water, which Matthew alone appends to the story of Jesus approaching the disciples by walking across the water. (John 6:15-21; Matthew 14:22-23; Mark 6:45-52.) Certainly the very setting of this postresurrection appearance of the Lord brings vividly to mind other instances in John where Jesus was around the boats, the sea, and fishermen. And the disciples knew well his identity without inquiring.
(Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 5: The Gospels [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986], 461.)
Bruce R. McConkie on Jesus Appearing to His Disciples at Sea of Tiberias:
This appearance of the resurrected Jesus, as far as the record shows, seems to have been made to issue the final ministerial call to the apostles and to instruct them in their duties. Probably he ate again and the fact that he stood on the seashore unrecognized, apparently as though he were a mortal man, again testifies of the nature of resurrected beings.
John 21:1. Sea of Tiberias] Sea of Galilee.
John 21:2. Seven of the Twelve were present.
John 21:3. I go a fishing] Not yet fully knowing what was expected of them, not yet having received the great commission to evangelize the world, and perhaps needing sustenance, the apostles turn to a temporal pursuit.
John 21:7. John, reflective by nature, first recognizes Jesus; Peter, impulsive, swims ashore to greet him.
John 21:14. The third time] This is the third time they have seen him as a group. It is his seventh, perhaps eighth, known appearance. He came first to Mary Magdalene; then to the other women; then to Cleopas and his companion on the Emmaus road; thereafter to Peter alone; perhaps somewhere during this time to James, his brother; and twice to the apostles in the upper room. He has yet to appear on the Mount in Galilee, which probably is the occasion when he came to "above five hundred brethren at once" (1 Cor. 15:5-7); he has yet to spend the balance of the first forty days of his resurrected life ministering to and teaching them (Acts 1:3); and finally in their presence he has yet to ascend to eternal glory. And of course there may have been appearances without number of which there is no New Testament record. He of course ministered among the Nephites on the American continent and among the Lost Tribes of Israel in an unspecified land. (3 Ne.)
(Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1: 862.)
Daniel H. Ludlow on Christ's Admonition to Feed His Sheep:
John 21:15-19 The Greek text adds considerably to an understanding of these verses. The English texts indicate that the Savior asked Peter essentially the same question three times. However, the Greek verb of the third question asks for a higher degree of commitment than the verb used earlier. Also, although the English texts use "feed" all three times in the response of the Savior, the Greek text uses the word for "shepherding" in verse 16. Thus, the Savior was not asking the same question each time, nor were his responses identical.
This is a very important question for each one of us. May I ask each of you, "Do you love the Lord?" The answer almost without exception would be, "Yes.". . .
We show and prove our love by feeding the lambs and the sheep. There are over three billion people on the earth today, and at the present rate of teaching, over two and a half billion of God's children will never be taught the gospel of Jesus Christ. What if you were to live on this earth and never had a chance to hear and be taught the true way of life?
Our task is great. Teachers are needed. Every member of this Church that has a testimony and is converted is urgently needed. The lambs and the sheep are hungry for the bread of life, for the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can show our love by following the prophet of God, "by every member being a missionary" to bring one or more souls into the Church each year. (Bernard P. Brockbank, CR, Oct. 1963, pp. 66.)
Now Peter, still not fully converted, for such must await the Spirit's descent on Pentecost, is called upon to erase the three averrals that he knew not the Man, by thrice asserting his love for the risen Lord. That he was singled out from the seven apostles there assembled is an added evidence that he was chief among them. The question, "Lovest thou me more than these?" was one of deep import, for Peter, the senior apostle of God on earth, had gone fishing; that is, instead of devoting himself, with all his means and energy to the ministry, he had gone off after temporal things. Our Lord now calls him back and asks: "Lovest thou me more than these one hundred and fifty-three fish, more than the things of this world?" And the commands, "Feed my lambs. . . . Feed my sheep," are announced as tests for Peter and for all Christ's ministers, tests which measure how much the elders of the kingdom love their Lord. (DNTC 1:863.)
(Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Doctrine and Covenants, 2 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 2: 442.)