Summary: The right response to God’s call
In a few moments, we are going to ordain and install new deacons and elders in our church. This is a very appropriate passage for this occasion. For this is a first passage in Luke of Jesus calling forth leadership – particular people to follow him in a specific way. And looking at Peter and his call is a great way for us, each one of us, no matter what our specific call may be, it is a good picture of the right response to have to the call of God on us.
I don’t have much time today, so I just want to quickly look at the three specific responses Peter has to Jesus. First of all, he casts out his net, then he bows before Jesus, then he leaves everything to follow him.
I have shelves of books in my office on how to have a good church. I have shelves more at home. They have great ideas and testimonies to the things that they have done that have worked. I had three years of training in seminary – the same amount of time that the disciples had with Jesus. And I had four more years in college as a religious studies major. I am full of information.
I imagine between the four of them, Peter, Andrew, James and John, they’ve been fishing for a whole lot of years. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think we know of any previous fishing experience for Jesus.
You can know this for when you have suggestions to run by me. Whenever somebody has an idea about how we ought to do things in the church, I quickly run it through the database in my brain in the categories of church growth and church history and biblical studies as well as my own experience. If somebody suggests that we shut off the plumbing to the bathrooms to save money on water, well, I’ll remember that the church growth specialists say the women’s bathroom and the nursery are the two most important facilities in the church.
Jesus walks up to the experienced fishermen and has a suggestion for them. We have just enough feedback from Peter to know that Jesus’ suggestion is completely wrong for all the textbooks and experience they have in fishing. Based on all their wisdom, it ain’t gonna work.
The first criterion for a leader in the church is that they be a follower – a follower of Jesus. Peter responds on the basis of Jesus’ word; nothing else. His experience and his knowledge are secondary to his standing before the man from landlocked Nazareth and doing what he suggests. We see here, when Jesus has a suggestion, it’s going to work out. Jesus doesn’t need a leader. He needs and requires followers. He doesn’t need to be directed about how to fish or how to run a church. He needs people who are willing to listen to him and do whatever he suggests. That is willingness to be obedient.
The result of that initial willingness, that first obedience, was, to their well-trained eyes, miraculous. Peter sees it right away. He sees that he’s in the presence of someone whom he does not deserve to be in the presence of. And he bows down and recognizes just that fact. He is sinful, but this man standing in front of him obviously comes from God.
There is an irony in church work, any work in the church. There is so much need in and surrounding a church, that it is impossible to have all those needs met. It is true for all churches, but even moreso in smaller congregations such as ours. All we have to do is walk around the building and see a great deal of need. That’s not to mention the needs of the people inside and outside of these walls. And the truth is, we have very few resources and even less people for all these needs to be met. Very often you can say, if you don’t get something done, there is no one else who will do it.
But we see in Peter’s humility that he understood that he needed God, and it was not the other way around. We have very few members on the session or deacons. We will be stretched much thinner than is reasonable. But the truth is, we don’t respond to God because he needs us. We respond to God and whatever he has for us because we need him. Peter understood that as a sinner, he had nothing to offer except that which God was able to direct.
And then we see in Peter and the others that they left everything and followed Jesus. He gave them a new vocation. Now, they are going to fish for the hearts and souls of men and women, that they may know salvation.