Daily Office

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while. I don’t mean to ‘take-over’ the blog or anything, but I do think that sometimes we get so wrapped up in discussions that we utterly forget that we are all saved by grace by the same Lord. I’ve been meaning to do this—to start making a daily contribution to the blog (at least during the week) that would turn our thoughts to Jesus. You, the readers of this blog, so long as you choose to read, will be a congregation (of which I am a member) and these short devotionals, designed to turn our eyes upon Jesus, will be sermons of a sort. I will be following the Daily Office, Year One, as outline in the Book of Common Prayer because that is where I am reading.

There’s a little part of this pericope that is always overlooked by the commentators in their rush to point out that Peter will now be a ‘fisher of men’ or in the hurry to explain the miraculous catch of fish. It’s at the end, when Jesus speaks to Peter a second or third time. Notice what Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” In our hurry to get to that great part about ‘catching men’ we overlook the part where Jesus has to tell Peter not to be afraid. I suppose being afraid would be an appropriate response. Strange, isn’t it, that Peter’s response to Jesus was one of fear.

It’s too easy to think that Peter was merely humble (so, Bock, NIVAC, 154) or overly repentant of his unworthiness in light of ‘holiness’ (so, Wright, LFE, 55). It’s much more difficult to see Peter as absolutely terrified. Yes, yes. Peter calls himself sinful and bows down at Jesus’ knee. Yes. Yes! But Jesus tells him, “Don’t be afraid.” Jesus tells Peter that his new way of living henceforth is to be one without fear. “Don’t be afraid.” Howard Marshall suggests that here ‘do not be afraid’ functions as a ‘declaration of forgiveness’ (NIGTC, 205). But I’m not so convinced. If this phrase also marks ‘epiphany scenes’ (see Luke 1:13, 30), then perhaps it is much more than forgiveness Peter is asking for: in the presence of Jesus he was fearful for his very life! In the presence of Jesus Peter thought for sure he had seen something that marked his doom.

I think Peter recognized at that moment that Jesus was someone altogether different, altogether other—whatever that might mean. But let’s turn back to Jesus. It was Jesus who told Peter not to be afraid. It was Jesus who prophesied Peter’s vocation. It was Jesus Peter and the others ‘left all’ to follow. The fish were soon forgotten and off they went to follow Jesus. And before we go off and follow Jesus, and where he leads us we will follow, he tells us not to be afraid—even though in following him we may necessarily and inevitably end up in places that are rather frightening.

I know that perfect love drives out fear, but when we are about to embark on something so incredible as following Jesus won’t we necessarily be filled with fear? Or, at least, shouldn’t we be? Sometimes I wonder if we are a bit too glib in our calls for people to ‘come follow Jesus.’ He bids us ‘come and die;’ that’s rather scary. Does this strike no fear in us? Yet Jesus, the very one we will dare to follow, is the one who puts his hand on us and says, “Don’t be afraid.” We follow one who strikes fear into our hearts without fear. Is he safe? Of course not. But he’s good!

Do not be afraid.

It must be that even Jesus recognizes that some of the things we will see or some of the places we will go or some of the things he will ask us to do will cause us to be afraid. But isn’t it reassuring that before he asks us to go and ‘catch them alive’ he commands us not to be afraid? Isn’t it wonderful to know that when we follow him we do not have to be afraid? Isn’t it a blessing to know that this frightening One commands us not to be afraid? And whom shall we fear?

His word to us today is this: Don’t be afraid.

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This entry was posted on Monday, September 27th, 2010 at 1:14 am and is filed under Devotional. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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2 Comments(+Add)

1   John Hughes    
September 27th, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Thanks Jerry. Good stuff. Looking forward to the column.

To your point, yes, I think Peter did feel undone, echoing Isaiah as recorded in Isaiah 6:5 –

Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined!Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

2   John Hughes    
September 27th, 2010 at 1:46 pm

P.S. I probably should have given advance warning that I was staying on topic. Sorry to disappoint the fans. :-)