Every time I read through one of the Gospels, I’m struck by the rollercoaster ride that Jesus’ disciples seem to be on. Some days, everything seems to be going their way. Other days, they face unexpected setbacks and perplexing situations. There are times when Jesus seems gracious and friendly to them, and other times it seems that he’s at his wits’ end. And, there are days when the disciples seem to “get it” when it comes to understanding what Jesus is trying to teach them and demonstrate to them, and other moments when they don’t seem to have a clue.
This range of episodes and experiences has always been so encouraging to me, because it reminds me that even those who had face-to-face encounters with Jesus weren’t necessarily quick on the uptake. Their faith seemed to wax and wane, their level of devotion appeared to waver, and their willingness to follow Jesus when the going got tough faced some significant challenges. The fact that these twelve followers of Jesus were in for a bumpy ride encourages me through the ups and downs of my own journey.
One time that one of these friends of Jesus got it right was when, early in Simon Peter’s apprenticeship to this unusual rabbi from Galilee, Peter went against all the professional wisdom of his long career and took fishing advice from Jesus. In Luke 5, we read:
When [Jesus had finished teaching from Simon’s boat], 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.
What a line to live by… “Because you say so.” How often do we hear the words of Jesus and then filter them through our own sense of what’s reasonable, what’s logical, and what’s expedient? How often do we decide that what Jesus says is simply too demanding, too counterintuitive or too inconvenient? There are certain teachings of Jesus that seem easy to live by and live with, and others that simply don’t resonate too well with us. We often end up picking and choosing, sometimes subconsciously.
I’m convinced that in this new year and in this new season of shared ministry as a congregation, we’re going to hear the call of Jesus, and at times we’ll think, “Yes! Of course! We’re all in!” Other times, though, I believe we’ll hear things that challenge our preconceived notions. We’ll perhaps find our priorities challenged and our level of commitment tested. I believe the same will be true of us as individuals in our own lives and in our own spheres of influence and responsibility.
Even when those calls from Jesus don’t seem to make complete sense, if we’re sure it’s Jesus calling out to us, will we be willing to say with Peter, “Because you say so”? As we read again the words of Scripture, and prayerfully discern the call of Christ to live out those age-old instructions in our contexts today, will we be willing to turn away from what makes sense to us and from what “seems reasonable,” to a radical obedience and a deep trust in what Jesus says, simply because we acknowledge him as Lord and master?
Peter and his friends caught a lot of fish because they were willing to say yes to what Jesus told them to do, simply because it was he who told them. They would go on to see far greater things, and to experience the joy of blessing others through their obedience to Jesus. In these days ahead, let’s encourage one another to keep following Jesus closely, to pay attention to his every word, and then to respond with lives of faith and obedience.