Gone Fishing

Peter015You’d think once Peter and the other disciples really grasped the fact that Jesus was alive, they’d be ecstatic. Plans back on. Messiah about to plant His kingdom. Disciples next in the chain of command.

Except, apparently the crucifixion had done a number on their thinking. Maybe the fact that Jesus had not stood up against the Romans but actually, in His dying hours, called on God to forgive them—maybe that did a number on their old plans. This rule of Messiah, if it was even going to be a rule, would be different from what they expected.

And if truth be told, Jesus was different from what they expected. I guess death and resurrection can do that to a person. But apparently at some point, Peter said he’d had enough. He’d done the evangelist/healer thing and it hadn’t worked out. Not the way he wanted. So it was time to get back to what he knew best–fishing.

Since Peter apparently had some natural leadership ability tucked inside him, the other disciples did a “yeah, me too,” and off they all headed for the boats. Except the great return to fishing didn’t go so well, at least at first.

The disciples spent all night fishing and caught nothing. I can imagine what Peter was thinking:

Wouldn’t you know it? First the Great Teacher I recognized as the Messiah, the Son of God, gets arrested, but then I deny I even know Him. Not once, but three times! Which maybe kept me from dying that night, but instead I had to stand helplessly by and watch the Romans crucify my Lord.

For three days I couldn’t think of anything except how I wish I could take back those awful words that separated me from Him, that I didn’t know how I could go on because my purpose in life no longer existed. And then the women came back from the tombs with a crazy story about the rock rolled to the side, men in white, grave clothes in place, and no body. Jesus, they said, is risen.

John and I decided to check it out and the women were telling the truth, but none of it made sense until that day Jesus stood in front of us. He didn’t knock or walk into the room. He was just suddenly there. I couldn’t believe my own eyes, but it was Him. He had the nail-print scars from His crucifixion, and . . . He knew Scripture. Like old, He started teaching what the Law and the Prophets actually said about Him. Not what people thought they said, but what they really said.

For a few days, I thought things would be like they had been before–except, I could hardly look Him in the face. I’d let Him down. After I’d claimed I’d follow to death, I swore I didn’t know Him–the very thing Jesus told me ahead of time I’d do. Later He’d told me to stay awake and pray. Three times. Each time, I fell asleep.

But now Jesus was back. Except, not like before. He pretty much came and went in a blink of an eye, when and wherever He chose. No following Him now. I couldn’t hang around doing nothing, so fishing seemed like a good idea. After all, I’m a good fisherman. Or used to be. All night we stayed out and fished. In the end, we caught nothing. Figures.

How gracious and kind of Jesus to come to Peter when he had to be at his lowest point. By His omniscience He directed the men where to find a catch–or perhaps it was by His omnipotence that He supplied the fish for them to catch. At any rate, He’d done that once before, and John immediately recognized Him. As they brought in the fish, Jesus sat before a fire cooking them all breakfast. They sat with Him and ate, then Jesus singled Peter out for some one-on-one time.

He asked Peter three times, do you love Me: Do you love Me more than these, do you love Me with self-sacrificing love, do you love me with brotherly affection? The declension grieved Peter, but he had at least learned one lesson–no more was he going to inflate his devotion to Jesus. He faced the truth that of himself all he could claim was a fond affection for this man He knew to be the Son of God.

Yet Jesus persisted in telling Him to shepherd His sheep and feed His lambs. He brought it home and said as He had three years earlier, Follow Me (see Matthew 4:18-20). This time, though, Peter knew what Jesus was asking and what it would cost him.

It all may have seemed like an impossible task. The one thing Peter didn’t yet know was that God would fill him with His Holy Spirit, and in His power he’d be able to do what heretofore he’d been incapable of doing. He was just beginning to learn about this gracious Christ he served.

Published in: on April 1, 2013 at 6:28 pm  Comments Off on Gone Fishing  
Tags: , , ,

Back To Bible Memory

I don’t memorize well. Never have, and it doesn’t get easier the older you get. I can memorize a line, recite it word for word, over and over, but when I come back to it the next day, it’s as if I’ve never seen the material before. This isn’t unique to Bible verses, mind you. It’s just the way my brain works. Concepts, I get. Rote memorization, not without much repetition.

I say this so you don’t think memory work is easy for me, explaining why I think everyone should jump in too. Just the opposite. I think it’s hard. And for a time I thought it was sort of self-defeating. I mean, I’d learned Bible verses as a kid going to Sunday school. The result was that I could rattle off passages like Psalm 23 and John 3:16 and Romans 8:28 without giving much thought to them. They were in my head, but the meaning of those words wasn’t connected.

Then the day came when I stood beside my mom’s hospital bed, holding her hand as she breathed her last breath. Into my mind flashed, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” Yes, it was there in full-blown King James English though I hadn’t used that translation since I was a child.

It may not have been right at that moment, but I began to see how the Holy Spirit could call to my mind the verses I needed when I needed them — provided, of course, they were in my mind to begin with.

That motivates me to memorize Scripture, and a few years ago, I took it up again. As I worked on different passages, I discovered something else. During the memory process — the one I find so hard — I see things about verses I never noticed before, no matter how many times I may have read them.

Take my new project, for example — 1 Peter. I don’t think I’ve ever done much with that book. It seems pretty straightforward. Nothing earth shattering, no big doctrinal revelations or controversy that I am aware of.

For one thing, I’m more mindful that this is Peter writing. I’m seeing the content through the eyes of someone who actually hung with Jesus. So in chapter two when he refers to Jesus as a living stone and those who believe in Him as living stones, I can’t help but think of that day when Jesus asked His disciples who they said He was and Simon answered: You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus replied by saying, You are Peter, or “Stone.” Scholars debate about the meaning of what came next, but I don’t doubt that Peter was thinking about that conversation with Jesus when he wrote

you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

I’m still at the beginning of chapter 1, but I’ve noticed a couple other things. For one, Peter’s language seems more straightforward than Paul’s. Some of Paul’s sentence construction seems, at times, a little convoluted.

When I need extra help remembering a verse, I will sometimes diagram it in my mind (something left over from being an English teacher. And go figure — I always hated diagramming!) Some of Paul’s are beyond me. So far, Peter’s are pretty standard — kind of what I’d expect from a fisherman versus a Torah scholar.

But here’s something else. Peter was always the exuberant disciple. It was Peter who wanted to walk on the water with Jesus, as a test to be sure it really was Him. Peter was the one who dared to take Jesus aside and rebuke Him for talking about His upcoming execution. Peter was also the one who adamantly said he would rather die than desert Jesus. It was also Peter who whipped out a sword to stand against the mob who came to arrest Jesus in the garden (that would be, right before he ran away).

Peter was flamboyant. Many of us like him best of all the disciples, and I suspect that was the case for those in his circle, too. After all, when he said he was going fishing after the resurrection, a handful of the others followed him out to sea.

Well, for the first time, as I’m struggling to memorize what he wrote, I’m seeing Peter’s flamboyance come through in his writing. For instance, he doesn’t just greet those he’s writing to with the blessing, Grace and peace be yours, as Paul so often does. In true Peter fashion, he goes a step beyond. “May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.”

He refers, not just to an inheritance reserved in heaven for believers, but one that is “imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away.” In verse 5 he says those believers “greatly rejoice,” not merely “rejoice.” Then in verse 8 it’s “greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible.” I don’t know about you, but to me, that sounds like a guy who would run to a tomb, push past his friend who’d arrived ahead of him, and plunge inside to see what he could see.

In short, because I’m memorizing some of what Peter wrote, I’m seeing his life poured out in his words. And it’s an amazing thing — realizing that God inspired the writing, down to each jot, and did so by using Peter, just as he was.

I love what I’m learning through this memory process!

Published in: on February 1, 2012 at 6:30 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , ,