Why did Peter put his coat on before jumping in the water? John 21:7

I have the great pleasure of facilitating every week a Bible discussion group with several high school students. We've been discussing the Gospel of John  this past year, and we finally finished tonight. We enjoyed the humorous scene John writes about in this last chapter. The great apostle John can't help himself when it comes to embarrassing his fellow inner circle apostle; the denial of Christ, his slowness in getting to the empty tomb, and this event in the last chapter.
John 21:7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.
What's the joke? Well John is the first to realize that Jesus is on the beach, #humblebrag, but then Peter puts ON his coat before jumping out of the boat? I've seen some academic ink spilled trying to explain this weird behavior on the part of this fisherman (good one here). Why didn't he keep his coat dry and let the buddies bring it in with them on the boat? Well, Peter exhibits the behavior of a "ready, fire, aim" kind of guy. But he really seems to be aiming before he shoots this time. He actually stops to put his coat on. My suspicion is that he actually expected to walk on the water to Jesus., based on his previous, nearly successful attempt (Matthew 14:22-33). So he put on his coat as a demonstration of his faith, stepped off the boat, and took a swim instead of a walk. That cracks me up.

One application we came up tonight is that Jesus shouldn't be presumed on to work supernaturally in the same ways, then it would cease to be miraculous. His methods of healing people were varied, from speaking the miracle, to commanding the miracle, to doing the miracle over the horizon, from being touched, from spitting on people, from sticking his fingers in their ears, etc. There is no formula, because he's about the relationship, not the method.

Peter learned this in a funny way. He got to Jesus, just slower and wetter than he planned. Then Jesus restored him after the three fold denial, not by any brutal act of penance, but simply by asking him three times if Peter loved him. What a gentle Lord.


Luke Holzmann said…
That's an interesting take. I'd always heard it that, as a rough-around-the-edges fisherman, Peter was rather indecently dressed--or not really at all--and put on his clothes again to see the Lord. I haven't really read anything about it, so I'm not sure where I heard that... but I understood it as a respect/modesty thing.


John Umland said…
Hi Luke
It certainly could be the idea you heard is the right one, but if I have to pick one, especially in discussion with teenagers, I'll pick the funnier one every time. Until we get to heaven and ask Petey himself, I think we got plenty of wiggle room on this.
God is good
Anonymous said…
This was not the first time Peter was humbled to the core by a net breaking, boat sinking load of fish. See Lk.5:8. At such times, our tendacy is to cover ourselves as Adam and Eve did in the Garden with leaves when they heard Him walking, as Peter did here when He realized the man on shore was indeed the Lord! We now realize the ~only~ covering is His precious blood, not leaves, not a coat, nor any good deeds, however religiously correct they may seem.

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