Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Fisher

He fished for a living. Together with his brother and other burly, well-muscled men, Peter could hold his own on a boat - or in a fight. 

But one day his brother came running up to him, out of breath. "I found him!" he exclaimed. "The Anointed One! I'm sure it's the Deliverer!" 

He was skeptical. "Really? how can you be sure?"

"Come and see!" Andrew told him. 

Peter followed - from afar. He watched this fellow from Nazareth touch sick people and they would instantly be well. He listened to this man teach, watched him love, care for people. He couldn't help himself. Maybe Andrew had been right.

And then, one day, it happened. Jesus called him to be one of His inner circle. "You'll fish men," He told Peter.

He left his nets behind for good. Ever impulsive and whole-hearted in whatever he did, Peter embraced this Master with everything he was. He soaked in the strange, compassionate teaching like a spiritual sponge; Jesus touched something in him that had never been stirred before. For the first time in his life, he felt truly loved. He marveled like a child at the mystery and the power of God shown in the miracles Jesus did, the things He said, and His willingness to touch the untouchables. 

He was absolutely sure that Jesus was the Messiah, that it was just a matter of time before the Master would burst forth and deliver them all from their oppressors, the Romans. He expected it to happen any day. 

Until the day that the opposite happened. The time was ripe, the soldiers were right there; it was perfect. 

He even took a swing with his sword at one of the arrest party - missed his neck and cut off his ear instead.  Jesus stopped him, and healed the man's ear.

Now. Now was the time; something amazing was bound to happen. 

Only ..... Only He didn't call the hosts of Heaven to come charging to the rescue. 

He let them arrest Him and take Him away. What??

Peter was dumbfounded. The tide had turned! How could this happen?

He'd built his life on the Master. He'd forsaken everything. Now ... the only One who could do anything to turn it around ... wasn't doing it. 

And anyone who was associated with Him would be the next target. He knew it as sure as he knew his own name. As much as he was unafraid to face the whole arrest party, he feared the Sanhedrin and their guards; they had the ear of the Roman governor and that made him very nervous! His fear made him want to cut and run - but his love for Jesus, and his curiosity about what might happen next, made him stay close - even if at a distance. Even while his world was falling apart.

And then ... someone recognized him. 

Peter felt trapped. He backpedaled. All he wanted to do was get away, find a place, lick his wounds. Bewildered, unsure, insecure, he denied ever knowing Jesus. Not once, but to three separate people in the space of a few hours. 

And suddenly Jesus was looking at him. One glance was all it took. The Master had said he would do this - and he (ever impulsive, ever leading with his heart) had promised that even if the others ran away, he wouldn't. He knew that Jesus knew what he'd done. His eyes brimmed with tears. He ran out into the night, into the dark, alone. This was so unusual for Peter; he usually liked the crowd - it invigorated him. Not now. Now, he buried his face in his hands and burst into deep, wracking sobs - for how long he didn't know and he didn't care. 

He was a failure. 

Even after Jesus rose from the grave - the greatest miracle of all - Peter still doubted himself. He decided to go back to the sea, to what he knew, to the life he'd abandoned three years ago. That, at least, he knew how to do. Besides, Jesus would never have any use for him. He'd dropped the ball. He had royally messed up. There was no going back.

Even that didn't work. All night he fished. Not one fish.

"Throwing Fishing Net During Sunset" courtesy of noomhh at

He and his friends the Zebedee brothers were rowing back into shore in the dawn light when a voice called out to them. "Throw the net on the other side of the boat," it said. 

It went completely against what they were used to doing. Yet ... something about the tone of the Man's voice made them obey. 

Immediately, the net filled with fish - all kinds of fish - so many that the net almost broke! The men were laughing and sweating, straining against the sudden influx of wiggling, flopping fish.

Their laughter died down as they caught each other's eyes. Only One Person could do that. "It's the Lord," John said. 

Peter let go of the net - for the second time in his life - and jumped into the water. He rushed toward the shore, to the growing, tantalizing smell of frying fish. Jesus had cooked breakfast. 

The Master never said a word about the pall that hung between them. Both men knew Peter had denied knowing Him, that he was awash in shame. No, now it was more important to feed the body. They'd worked hard all night, and hunger was a great distraction.

After breakfast, Jesus and Peter found themselves alone - apart from the others - talking. 

"Do you love me more than these?" Jesus asked. 

Peter had learned his lesson about promising the moon. "You know that I like you," he replied.

"Feed my sheep."

"Do you love Me?"  Peter again affirmed that he liked the Master - as a brother or a friend.

Again the mysterious command. "Feed my lambs."

The silence was deafening. "Peter ... do you like Me?" 

Ouch. "Lord, You know all things. You know that I like You." 

"Feed my sheep."

In the space of five minutes, Jesus let Peter know that he was completely forgiven, that He was willing to start where Peter was - in the midst of his insecurities and self-doubt, and He refocused his attention on what really mattered: not comparing himself to others, but concentrating on his own relationship with God and listening to whatever it was that God had called him to do with his life. 

Seven weeks later - after Jesus had returned to the Throne, Peter's life would change completely.

He was about to get a much bigger net.

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