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Jesus Catches Peter

February 8, 2019

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On one occasion, Jesus and Peter were in a boat together, just the two of them. It was a wonderful moment. Peter sat there and watched and listened, amazed as Jesus taught the crowd along the lakeshore. Peter had never heard someone so knowledgeable. He had never witnessed someone hold people’s attention so well. He had never felt so enlightened. Peter instantly came to admire and respect Jesus. What a privilege to have Jesus in his boat.

The crowd was awestruck by Jesus. He was a celebrity, a superstar. After Jesus had mesmerized the crowd, he turned to Peter with a startling request: “Please, push off and go further out onto the lake” (see Lk 5:4). Earlier Peter had to share Jesus with the crowd. Now Peter would have him all to himself. And it was Jesus’ idea. What an unexpected thrill. Usually a common person takes the initiative to reach out to a famous person hoping for a little time and attention, but this time the famous person wanted to spend time with an ordinary fellow.

When two men are out in a boat for a long while fishing, it is connect time. Fishermen are talkers, and usually there is a constant line of chatter between them. It is not known what Jesus and Peter spoke about, but it surely was meaningful, and it is not known how much time they spent together, but it surely was quality time.

Then Jesus made a bizarre request, “Lower your nets for a catch” (Lk 5:4). It is not strange for a fisherman to lower his nets. It was Peter’s job. He did this over and over again. But it was really strange to lower his nets during the daylight hours because fish feed in shallow water at night and swim out into deeper, cooler water during the heat of the day. Peter had to make a quick decision. He thought, “No one has ever been nicer to me. I do not want to offend him. He has been right on everything else. I will go along with him and see what happens.” Incredibly, Peter had a catch like never before – at the wrong time of the day, at the wrong place in the lake.

Peter was not just amazed. He was overwhelmed by the man in his boat. This Jesus is all-powerful, omnipotent; all-knowing, omniscient; and truly loving. It dawned on Peter that Jesus is not just a celebrity. Jesus is almighty, sovereign, and supreme, and he instinctively blurted out, “Lord,” because that is exactly what Jesus is, divine, the Son of God.

In the same moment, Peter realized that Jesus is pure goodness, holiness personified, and suddenly he was mortified that Jesus was in his boat. Peter thought, “Jesus is so good all the time, and I have been so bad so many times. I am unworthy. I do not deserve to have him in my boat.” Peter’s kneejerk response was, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man” (Lk 5:8).

Jesus does not take orders from Peter. Jesus was on his own fishing expedition, and that day Jesus caught Peter. Instead of departing, Jesus stayed, and instead of breaking ties, Jesus formed a partnership. Jesus wanted Peter to catch people (Lk 5:10). His plan was to give him the keys and to build his church upon him (Mt 16:18,19), and he wanted him to be his successor, to serve as shepherd, to feed his lambs (Jn 21:15,17) and tend his sheep (Jn 21:16). Peter was a sinner and unworthy, but if a person has to be perfect or blameless to serve, Jesus would have no one laboring in his vineyard. Jesus loves sinners and he asks them to be his co-workers, and as frail and flawed as they may be, through his healing grace the unworthy are chosen to serve.

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