“When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him” Luke 5:11
The Gospel reading for today comes in part way through the story of Jesus and Peter, how their friendship began, we are not told. Simon Peter seems to have been a friend of Jesus before he became a disciple, for we read today about Jesus teaching at the lakeside and the crowd being so big that Jesus has to get into a boat to have space to speak to the great gathering of people; in Verse 3 we read, “He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore.” After Jesus has finished teaching, it seems almost as though he wishes to reward Simon for his willingness to respond, telling him in Verse 4, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Again Simon responds readily, even though the previous night’s fishing has been a failure, and the catch is so large, they have to call for help. It is the turning point, Verse 8 tells us, “when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!'” Jesus will not accept a refusal, saying to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”
Reading the story of that encounter between Simon Peter and Jesus, how ready are Christians to respond as Simon Peter did when they know that God has called them to a task? In the next chapter, Jesus chooses his disciples and while Simon Peter is the first named, he must work with others, how good are Christians at working together for God’s Kingdom?
Simon Peter’s ministry begins in this story from Saint Luke Chapter 5. It is an important story to people twenty centuries later because Simon Peter is the person who asks the questions people now would want to ask. Simon Peter is the person who says the things that people now might have said.
If we read Saint Luke Chapter 8, the daughter of Jairus, one of the leaders of the synagogue is gravely ill, and Jairus goes to to Jesus to beg for help. Jesus agrees to go to Jairus’ house, but has to push his way through the crowds, and as he does so, he is touched by a woman with severe gynaecological problems who thinks that just that touch will be enough to heal her. In Verse 45, Jesus asks, “Who touched me?” Simon Peter gives the sensible and practical answer, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” It is hard to imagine what Peter might have thought when the woman comes forward and Jesus tells her that her faith has healed her. Perhaps Jesus feels Peter needs convincing, for when they reach Jairus’ house, it says in Verse 51, “When he came to the house, he did not allow anyone to enter with him, except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother.” If Peter had doubted, the healing of Jairus’ daughter must have convinced him.
People are right to be practical in the way that Peter was, but, sometimes, it is easy to be so practical that the possibility of God being at work. In Chapter 9 Verse 20, Jesus asks Peter, “who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” Practical, but also persuaded.
Peter, John and James, who had been at Jairus’ house, are also chosen to be on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured and Moses and Elijah appeared with him. It is a wonderful moment and Peter wanted to make it last, In Chapter 8 Verse 33, Peter says, “‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said.” Peter’s reaction is very human, he does not want to lose something special.
It is human instinct to hold on to a special time. When times are good, to want them to last, but, like Peter, there is a need to go back down into the valley.
In Saint Luke Chapter 12 Verse 36, Jesus says, “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit.” He goes on to warn his listeners about their need to be ready because the Son of Man may come at an unexpected hour. Peter must have pondered Jesus’ words because in Verse 41, he asks, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?” Jesus’ answer is not direct, it is for the disciples, and for all who will follow him, saying in Verse 42, “Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives.” Peter’s question clarifies the teaching, Jesus’ words are not ones that can be avoided.
Peter would be very helpful in to Christians now. It is easy to read challenging words about being followers of Jesus and think they are intended for someone else. Peter might ask whether or not it had been understood that the teaching was for everyone.
“When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him”- Peter would say that choice was one to be made by everyone.