Throughout the Gospel narratives, Jesus consistently did three things:
- Picked out men and women to be followers.
- Invited them into community.
- Called them up to greater things.
He did many other things of course, but this was a core of Jesus’ ministry. My last three posts, point to a passage in Luke showing this pattern with Peter. Jesus picked Peter out among a host of fisherman. Jesus invited Peter to be part of his community of disciples. Finally, Jesus called Peter up to a greater purpose – from being a fisherman to a fisher of men.
Small but life altering.
I’ve read this passage (Luke 5) dozens of times over the last 30 years. It’s a popular passage to preach from. I’ve seen it in portrayed on television and in movies. I never noticed one small but life altering truth about that passage until just recently.
To remind you, Jesus was teaching a crowd along the Sea of Galilee in the same town Peter lived and worked in. In order to give himself some space from the growing group of people listening, Jesus borrowed Peter’s boat to teach from (Jesus picked Peter out).
After he was done teaching, Jesus challenged Peter to push the boat out into deeper water and cast his nets. This was an unconventional fishing tactic. Fishing in the middle of the day doesn’t usually bring results. Peter alludes to this, as well as the fact that he had been fishing all night without much luck. Jesus remains silent to Peter’s protest, so Peter casts the nets.
The rest is history.
The catch comes in. It nearly tears the nets and requires Peter’s partners to come and help haul it all in (Jesus invited them into community). Peter is convicted of his unbelief, and begs for forgiveness. Jesus calms his fears, and makes the most famous of callings, “From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” (Jesus called him up to greater things).
I’d seen all of that before. I knew that part of the story. I didn’t notice one fact about Jesus in all of action swirling around him.
Jesus never left the boat.
After teaching from Peter’s boat and the challenge to head into deeper water, Jesus remains with Peter. Peter wasn’t alone. Jesus was in the boat the entire time.
When Jesus calls you up to greater things, you will be challenged to do unconventional things. Jesus will ask you to do things that may make you look foolish to the world around you (“We’ve never done it that way before!”). Jesus will remain in your boat.
King David realized this centuries before Jesus walked the earth when he wrote,
“I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.” -Psalms 139:7-10 NLT
Jesus is in your boat!
Jesus isn’t directing you from the shore. He’s not calling you to do scary, hard and difficult things from a distance. Jesus is in the boat with you. He’s right next to you. You can’t escape him. He will guide you. His strength will support you.
So as he told Peter, as Peter is falling to his knees in repentance, Jesus is saying the same thing to you, “Don’t be afraid.” Jesus picked you out. He invited you in. Jesus called you up to greater (and harder and scarier and more amazing) things.
Best of all, Jesus is in your boat.