Thursday, April 15, 2010

Devotional 4-16-10

Peter’s call to discipleship, to be a fisher of people, came after he confessed Jesus as Christ after a night of unproductive fishing. (see Luke 5:1-11). In response to Jesus’ invitation to “follow me,” Peter left his nets and committed himself to Jesus and his ministry. Later, Peter would boldly promise to follow Jesus even unto death.

Today’s gospel passage of a post-resurrection breakfast on the beach echoes that earlier account of a miraculous catch of fish. This time, Peter and the other disciples had gone back to fishing. It had been a strange few weeks; during the celebration of their last Passover celebration with Jesus, he would warn them of things they didn’t want to hear, of betrayals, denials, crucifixion, death, and, YES, resurrection.

It seems strange that after witnessing Jesus’ victory of live over death, the disciples would not be able to go back to their old ways. But then again, what else were they to do? Jesus had not yet given them any instructions as to how to continue his ministry.

I can imagine Peter rehearsing over and over again in his mind the events of the garden the night Jesus had been arrested. How could he, “the Rock,” have denied Jesus not once or even twice, but THREE times? And Jesus had called it. How could Jesus have known? How could he have let his friend down?

And I can imagine that Peter probably felt that, as a fisher of people, he was a complete failure, so he might as well go back to something he knew how to do.

“I think I’ll go fishing.”

“Me too!” the other disciples chimed in, each wrestling with his own doubts and fears.

In that context, Jesus makes his appearance on the beach as a stranger. He is revealed when his friendly fisherman’s advice yields another miraculous catch. The impetuous Peter doesn’t even wait to haul in the catch. He dives in and rushes to greet Jesus, who is broiling some fish.

After breakfast, Jesus and Peter have a conversation in which Jesus three times asks Peter, “Do you love me?” to which Peter three times responds that he does. I can imagine Peter, hearing the question the third time, recalling the third denial in the garden just before the cock crowed. Recently, I learned that our English translations limit the meaning of the conversation because of the different Greek words for love. In Jesus’ question, the Greek word “agape” is translated as love. In Peter’s responses, the Greek word “phileo” is also translated love. Agape love is unconditional; it is a full commitment, the highest form of love. Phileo, in contrast, is brotherly love.

Whatever we may make of the questions and answers, let’s not forget the three commands of Jesus after each of Peter’s responses.

“Feed my lambs.”
“Tend my sheep.”
“Feed my sheep.”

The subtle differences in the words of the commands suggest that Jesus is calling Peter to all of the duties of a shepherd. Peter’s human frailty and failures were no obstacles for Jesus.

As one who identifies with Peter’s impulsiveness and pride, as well as his failures and the limitations of his ability to fully commit, I find hope in this passage. In spite of my shortcomings, God can use me. Jesus doesn’t demand or ask for perfection—he calls us to love him.

Jeff Taylor

No comments: