I take great comfort in the fact that the disciples Jesus chose to journey with Him throughout His earthly ministry were (to put it nicely) pretty dumb sometimes. I say that out of immense respect, of course.
These weren’t high power, fancy guys with loads of money and community influence. They were fishermen. They spent the majority of their time casting nets, hoping for a big haul so they could pay the bills and feed their families. They had never written complex theological texts to be studied or given stirring, inspirational lectures at the synagogue, nor did they even really influence anything save for the dinner menu in most homes. They were nobodies.
And then this guy Jesus, as He’s walking by the Sea of Galilee, calls out “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew’s Gospel says that, “Immediately they left their nets and followed him.”
Not after the thought about it. Not after they went home and got permission from their wives. Not after they sold the fish they’d just hauled in so they could have a bit of cash in their pockets.
Immediately, they left their nets and followed Him. What the disciples may have lacked in education they certainly made up for in faith.
Jesus called the simplest, and in Matthew the tax collector’s case the most hated, of men. Rather than asking the teachers in the temple to stand beside Him as He preached, He traveled around with a bunch of misfit fishermen who didn’t have anything seemingly significate to contribute.
I can only imagine what some of the small town gossip must’ve been when Jesus passed through the town…
“Oh. My. Gosh. Did you see who He was with?! That bozo James and his brother John…they sold me rotten fish once.” “CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT JESUS IS HANGING OUT WITH THAT RAT OF A TAX COLLECTOR, MATTHEW!” ‘Yeah…Jesus must not know that Peter is just a guy catching fish…”
And yet, casting aside any cookie-cutter notion of what the Messiah was expected to be and do, Jesus chose twelve simple, unassuming, common men to be His apostles. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jesus got a bit frustrated from time to time at the thick-headedness of His apostles.
At the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus had to oh so delicately remind the disciples that He, being God and all, could really do anything, so they shouldn’t worry about lack of money or raw materials when it came to satisfying the hunger of a large crowd. Despite tell them simple, understandable parables using examples and references from their everyday life, Jesus still had to give a detailed explanation of each on so they wouldn’t be too confused. And despite His simple request for them to keep watch for just one hour, Jesus found His best friends asleep at their post while He prayerfully prepared Himself for His own death.
Out of the whole bunch, Peter wins the award for “Best-Disciple in a scew-it-up-constantly role.” Time after time we see instances of Peter just being, well, Peter…and we shake our heads slowly and peer over the rim of our glasses as we think, “Really, Peter? Really?”
But this is who Jesus chose: men who often got it wrong, but who stuck around anyway. Men who, despite not always fully understanding what Jesus was saying, continued to follow Him because they had such incredible faith. And the one who messed it up the most, the one who denies, doubts, questions, and argues is the rock upon which Jesus built His Church.
Of all the numerous “character flaws” we could point out in Peter, there’s one quality we can’t ignore: Peter trusts. Even though he didn’t always get it right or follow through, he continues journeying with the Lord because he has an immense faith that can move mountains. For every time we point and laugh at Peter’s stupidity, we can also sit back and say, “huh…guess you knew what you were doing after all.”
It’s Peter’s declaration of love for the Lord that prompts Jesus to implore him three times to feed His lambs and tend and feed His sheeps. (John 21:15-19). It is Peter who runs to the tomb, and despite John arriving first, goes in before him and sees that the linen cloths are left there, revealing that Jesus has risen from the dead. (John 20:6-10)
It is Peter to whom Jesus appears, confirming the He has risen indeed! (Luke 24:34). It’s Peter who calls upon the crowd to repent and be received into new life with Christ. (Acts 2:7-41)
It is Peter who performed the first miraculous healing after Jesus’ resurrection, proving that he had been bestowed with authority from Christ Himself. (Acts 3:1-10)
It is Peter, a fisherman who got scared, asked dumb questions, denied the Lord, and doubted divine plans, whom Jesus looks at and says, “…you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bin don earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18)
Jesus proves to us that He, the Son of God, can truly do anything, including forming an unsuspecting man of the sea into a fisher of his fellow men. What better testament to the statement, “Nothing is impossible with God” than to take a man such as Peter and form him into an incredibly faithful, trusting, holy leader of the Church who would call people forth to follow the Way, believe the Truth, and have new Life. A fisherman who spent his life hauling in the day’s catch and bargaining for a fair price for his fish, was raised to an unrivaled position of honor and preeminence among the twelve Apostles. A man often confused and scared who questioned His savior, became the shepherd of the early Church, the rock upon which the Church was built. And how? Not on his own efforts and merits, but by the power of God and through the grace of immediacy.
God is able to take men in boats and form them into men of intense faith, all because they immediately say yes. There is a great grace in jumping up and taking a faithful step forward, placing yourself in the hands of God and trusting He will guide you. Peter did not necessarily know where he was going or what he would be doing, but he knew this invitation to become a fisher of men was one not to be rejected. When we give God our entire selves, in an instant, with no hesitation to weigh our options or figure out if something better could come along, He is able to take and do incredible things with us. If can Jesus do all of that with Peter, imagine what He could do with us if we were to immediately get up and follow Him…