Nov 29 2014
Peter had a business; he owned a fishing boat, some nets, and was obviously good at what he did. So we can only wonder what he thought when Jesus said to he and Andrew, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt 4:19). I’m sure he knew Jesus was a rabbi, but others were saying he could be the Messiah and he probably decided he would follow to see if he was as special as others thought.
Later Peter became totally convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. When Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was Peter said “You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the Living God” (Mt 16:16). And Jesus said “This was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”
This revelation was the first step in Peter becoming a ‘fisher of men.’ ♦ You cannot draw people to Jesus unless you first believe he is the Messiah. When the revelation hits, you suddenly have something attractive to share, and you have what it takes to go fishing.
Peter’s conviction that Jesus was the Messiah only grew from that point so that when Jesus told his disciples “This very night you will all fall away on account of me,” Peter said “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” (Mt 26:33) in fact he said “I am ready to go with you to prison and to death” (Lk 22:33). But Jesus knew that although Peter loved him, he was not ready to make this strong a stand. And he simply said to Peter, “Satan has asked to sift you as wheat, but I have prayed that your faith won’t fail.”
That last statement carries a lot of information about what sometimes happens when our faith is tested. Satan asked God for permission to attack Peter and God allowed it. It happened to Job (Jb 1:12) and it may have happened when the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted (Mt 4:1). Often what Satan intends to use to destroy us is the same thing God intends to use to strengthen us. Peter had a revelation, Satan wanted it destroyed but God wanted it strengthened. God wanted Peter not just to confess he was the Messiah, but to live like it.
Well all know how the test took shape. After Jesus was arrested, Peter followed at a distance. He was asked three times if he was a disciple of Jesus and three times he denied it. On the third occasion Jesus looked straight at Peter from across the courtyard. That look said a lot and Peter was devastated. He broke down and wept.
Sometimes like Peter we make big faith claims thinking we are strong, but God knows better and a sudden test can help us grasp reality. But Jesus had prayed that Peter’s faith wouldn’t fail and it didn’t. Isn’t it great to know that when our faith is being tested, Jesus is praying for us? He’s willing us to come through stronger than before.
After this Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead. The first time all the disciples saw him resurrected there was great joy. But I can only imagine that Peter excitement was dampened, for he knew what he had done and did not know where he stood with Jesus. This comes out strongly in the last two chapters of John.
The account of Peter reinstatement has a telling beginning. Peter says “I’m going fishing” (Jn 21:3). He doesn’t sound happy at all. The other disciples say “We’ll go with.” Were they all bored, or were they concerned about him being alone? I think the latter.
To make things worse they catch nothing the whole night. You can imagine Peter’s thoughts, ‘I’m called as a fisher of men and I blow it, now I can’t even catch fish! I was used to do miracles; bread multiplied in my hands, now it’s over, Jesus will never trust me again!’
Just then a stranger calls out from the shore, “Do you have any fish?” “No!” comes back the frustrated chorus. “Throw your net on the right side and you’ll get some” says the distant stranger. So they did so and suddenly Peter’s net was full and his boat was tipping with the load. At this point John awakens to what’s going on and says “It’s the Lord.” That’s all Peter needed to hear. Bread had multiplied in his hand, and now it was happening in his net. He jumped overboard and swam to Jesus.
Peter here is a picture of hope. He loves Jesus and is hoping like crazy that he can get back into his good books.
When the other disciples reached the shore, Jesus invited them to have breakfast with him. It seems to have been an awkward meal. The disciples ate in silence. Were they also wondering about Peter’s situation?
Suddenly Jesus breaks the silence, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these [others]?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you” (Jn 21:15). Jesus asked this three times because Peter had denied him three times, and each time he responded “Feed my sheep” or similar.
Now this is surprising. Forgiveness we expect, but who expected Peter to be commissioned? Should someone who has just denied Jesus feed his sheep?
Surprising as it is, there is a lesson in it. The person who has bumped his head is in the best position to tell you how painful it is. The repentant Peter had just become the best person to warn the others against compromise. It is the same with others. Thomas is easily the best person to talk to those who doubt Jesus rose from the dead (I know a few who should speak to him) and Mary Magdalene is the best to talk to women who are engaged in a wayward lifestyle. Paul would be the ideal guy to speak to those who have persecuted Christians to death.
All these people were able to fish for men and women because of weaknesses that became strengths. This is the grace of God.
Metaphorically, Peter limped for the rest of his days. We remember that Jacob limped after struggling with God. Such limps are good, they tell others that we are real, we get things wrong, but we have grown through pain. This is why Jesus said to Peter “When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Lk 22:32). Don’t you love that? Jesus expected Peter to come through, and he knew it would turn Peter into someone that could edify others.
Has your faith been through a test? Have you wondered if God is still with you? Have you felt unworthy? Perhaps God is preparing you to feed sheep. Perhaps you’re going to fish for men.
If you’ve got a story of God’s grace you have something to share with others, you have something to give, something to minister. So don’t keep quiet, feed God’s sheep!
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