Peter's Perspective - Nets, Fear, and Following (3/26/2017)

The Bridge, 200 South Hanover Street, Hummelstown, PA - Pastor Justin Douglas

Imagine you're a first century Jewish boy and you just turned five years old and you start going to training in the scriptures. This would be around the time that you would begin your intense training of the scriptures. You would've already been very aware of the scriptures growing up in a Jewish family, but this is where it begins to get intense. You are to learn the scriptures, you are to memorize the scriptures, even as a five year old. From five to ten, the expectation would be that you would memorize the first five books of the Bible. That would this this much of the Bible memorized, committed to memory. The first five books - the Torah.

Imagine that being you, and wrapped up in all of that is as a five year old as you go into this education, you're told at ten years old there's going to be a cut-off. There's going to be a determination at that point if you go on to the next level or if you go home and start learning the family trade. If that's what you go to, you learn the trade of the family, the way to make money, or if you continue on this prestigious path toward a rabbi. And the goal of every child in this culture is to become a rabbi, really, even the family would say, wow, if you could do that, that would be amazing. That would be such an honor. That would make your father the proudest if you could do that. Right? For some of us it's throwing a football really far or putting a ball in a basket. Right? But for this culture, it was if you could do that.

And so you go with all those expectations, with all this, and at ten years old you're told we're taking Jimmy and Johnny but not you. You know, and the rest of the class goes and they go back and they learn the family trade. And then there's all kinds of other stepping stones. And at one point, at 30 typically in that process, you would become a rabbi. But you would follow a rabbi for a long time during that and be trained and learn and learn.

So this is the first century Jewish model - and even before the first century - model of education and model of the new rabbis coming in. They would learn for a long period of time before they would be released to teach. But it created all of these people who went through the process who really weren't worthy. Think of it in those terms. Weren't smart enough, weren't bright enough, didn't have what it took , maybe weren't good enough.

And so this is where we pick up the story, if you think about it, of Peter. Peter went through that similar path. Peter goes to the school most likely, just like every other boy in his culture would have done, and eventually he goes back to become a fisherman like many of the other disciples were fishermen. Now, Peter's first encounter with Jesus is in Luke 4. We're going to be focusing on Luke 5 today.

So imagine you have that experience and then you're still part...you're practicing your faith, you go to the synagogue, and one day you go to the synagogue and there's this new rabbi there who just started, and his name's Jesus. And there's a lot of buzz about this new guy named Jesus. And this new guy named Jesus, after the worship at the synagogue, says I'd love to come eat at your house, which for many of us...like if someone just comes up to you after church and is like, hey, I'd love to come eat at your house today, you're like, whoa, back off creeper. Right?

But, in this culture, that was actually a sign of respect because for Jesus being the rabbi there, He would've went to...most rabbis would've went to the person in the room who had the highest position of power and would've asked to come to their house and eat. But instead, Jesus goes to Peter and says I'd love to come to your house and eat. Very interesting that He would choose and single out this particular person who, by the way, did not make the cut, he's just a fisherman, just a common person. But He goes there, right? And when He goes there, what He finds is that his mother-in-law is really sick. Like so sick she might even die. And so Jesus heals her, and the text is so funny here because it says that Jesus heals her and then she got up and made them food, which was kind of funny. Jesus's motives might've been in question. [laughter]

But He heals her and then they share in a meal together, but the word gets out in the city that Jesus has the power to heal and Jesus is healing. And so more and more people start coming to the house, and Jesus is healing all through the night, and then Jesus leaves. And Peter is left with this very unique experience with a rabbi unlike anything else he probably ever had, and then he goes back to fishing. And this is his first experience with Jesus. We don't know how long the gap is from that experience to the experience we're going to cover today. We know it probably wasn't the next day; it was sometime later that he encounters Jesus another time.

And so as we read today, I want us to think about Peter's perspective. You know, we're starting this series called "Peter's Perspective" because sometimes when we read the Bible, we act as if the words are meant for us. And here's the deal, the words ARE meant for us, but they're meant for us as we understand the perspective of the first reader. As we understand the perspective of the one who those words were spoken to. I can speak words to you that carry no meaning, but the moment you understand what those words meant to that particular person, it reveals the character of God. Does that make sense? Because that person had a story, that person had an experience, and by God saying what He said to that person, He was saying a life-giving, hope-giving, grace-giving, love-giving statement that we maybe can't fully unpack because we read the Bible as if this sentence is just meant for me. Sometimes we have to understand the first person who would have read it, the first person who it would have been spoken to. And from that position, when we understand their perspective, we can say wow, God is up to something interesting here, and that means a lot for me. And so today and through this series, as we try to unpack Peter's perspective as he journeyed with Jesus, as we journey with Jesus, there's going to be reminders for us. Things that further root us in Jesus. And so here we go. We're going to start with Luke 5:1-3.

We're going to stop right there. Here's the deal: Rabbis don't preach on beaches. Okay? This is not a common thing in this particular place. Rabbis would have certainly been out amongst the people. That's certainly something they would have done, but really their primary place would've been in the synagogue. Yet, Luke 4 and Luke 5, Jesus is in common places. We see Him in the synagogue, but we don't hear any story. The story comes when He goes and eats at Peter's house and then following that when He's healing people. And now He's out amongst the people. And any point where I can emphasize our mission at The Bridge and why we do what we do. When we talk about relating with relevance, we're talking about being out amongst the people, relating to people in a real way. This is where the people are. And a lot of times there's this expectation in the church where people need to come to where we are and then we'll talk about Jesus. And even Jesus is like, yeah, we're not expecting people to come into the synagogue, I'm going to go where they are. So even here we see the heart of Jesus is to go to the common person, to not make this some elite club where if you're good enough, you get in. He's critiquing that culture right from the start.

Even stopping there with washing their nets. Let's think about this. You wash your nets at the end of fishing. Now, fishermen in this culture would fish most of the night or very, very early in the morning all the way through, and then when the sun came out, this was a time where you could no longer fish or it was very unlikely you would catch fish. This is the time of the day when fish are not to be caught. So they come in, they clean their nets, they hang them up, and they get ready to either go out that night or to go out early the next morning when it is time to catch fish.  And so Jesus is saying I'm coming to the shore at the time where all the fishermen are coming in - all of them - because this is the end of the fishing day for them, or at least the end of the first shift. And that's important as the story develops.

Now imagine this, Jesus is in the water. So imagine I'm in the water here, not kicking over mic stands, and so I'm in a boat in the water, and you guys are all on a beach. You guys are all on the shore. This is exactly what He's experiencing, almost like...think of like an amphitheater on the beach, and you have this rabbi teaching in a way that would've been so incredibly counter-cultural to what this upbringing of all of these people would've been. They would've probably never seen a rabbi in a boat teaching to a mass crowd about God the way in which Jesus was, which as we see over and over again, with authority and also with the background of miracles. They would've known the stories. Remember, this is not far from where Peter lives, so some of these people might've actually been healed by Jesus as they're sitting here listening to Him teach now. So this is the landscape of what we're seeing now. Jesus is among the common people teaching.

So, really quick, right there. Peter's kind of like, okay, Jesus, I know You've got this whole rabbi thing on lock. Like, You're really good at that; actually You're doing some interesting stuff. I'm actually really interested in seeing how this works out for You. But I've been fishing for awhile now, and no one goes out right now to catch fish. This is not the time we go out to catch fish. Maybe You're not an outdoorsman, but let me tell You about this, how it works. This is not the time where we go out and catch fish. There will be no fish caught, it's a waste of time, but okay, You're in a position of authority, and I want to honor that, so at the very least, we'll make a trip around the lake. Right? And that's kind of what...and by the way, I mean, he didn't even have an engine, so he's even committing to manual labor right here out in the middle of the sun. But he does that, and it says:

On the verge of sinking. Think about that, how many fish they would've had to catch to be on the verge of sinking. Now think of...again, we're looking from Peter's perspective. Peter has now - and most likely a short period of time, we don't know exactly - experienced two miracles of Jesus: the healing of his mother-in-law, which some may say is a miracle, some may say is a curse depending upon your situation {congregation laughs}; and then the catching of all these fish. Right? And so he sees all these fish caught, and think about that. Financially, he's catching all these fish...think about the financial repercussions of that. This is like, wow, this is amazing. We, we're going to be...it's very rare you would come into the bay with this many fish that you're almost sinking, so think of that...the families, the money they would make, the investment they would be able to make back into their business, or just the ability to know they're set for the next month or the next couple months, however that would be. So he's experienced this in a real way, an impacting way. Jesus has impacted his life before Jesus ever asked him to follow Him. It's very interesting. And as we continue:

Oh, Lord, please leave me - I'm such a sinful man. Peter knows who he is. Peter knows his identity. Not only does he know that he's sinful, but he knows that he's not good enough for this life. This isn't really a veil he's allowed to see behind. He didn't pass the class. He didn't move on to the next level. This isn't meant for him. So he's like, this was really cool for awhile, but I'm not worthy of this, I'm a sinful man. And then there's another element here of, you know, everyone in this culture would've been waiting for the Messiah. This would've been something taught to him even before 5 years old. That the Messiah was coming and was going to free him and they were no longer going to be slaves to Rome. Like all of these Passover metaphors, all of this stuff, waiting and waiting and waiting for the Messiah. And now, part of this even is, you wonder if he's even seeing the Messiah in Jesus and saying like, I'm not even worthy of being next to the Messiah, let alone the Messiah blessing me through two miracles. Are you kidding me? The passage continues.

See, Peter knows his place and he knows he's not worthy of this. He knows. I'm a failure. That's who I am. That's where I am in life. And by failure, I can still do okay. I'm going to do okay because I can learn the family trade. I'm going to go on and do that. But in this whole religious area, I'm a failure. And Jesus is like, you know what? Later on, Jesus says I've come for the sick, not the healthy. He says later, I haven't come for those who are righteous, I've come for those who are sinners. And like, there's this upside down element that we see here when we look from Peter's perspective because Peter is like, literally the last person a rabbi should be interacting with is me. And even more so the last person a rabbi should be blessing is me, and this is getting on the borderline of calling. The last person a rabbi should be calling or have this much interaction with is me. You're in my boat with me. Why are You here? I shouldn't be a part of this. Interestingly enough, if you think you shouldn't be a part of what God is doing in the world, God like, yeah, you're ready. Like, that's what we're hearing in the story. And the story continues.

Don't be afraid. Think of that word. Don't be afraid. That phrase. And fear. Peter has a lot of fear. Fear of rejection. He's been rejected. Fear of failure. The fear of not being good enough. His shame, his guilt, his brokenness that he brings to the table. The first thing that Jesus says here: "Don't be afraid," as Peter has experienced this. And his response is I'm a sinful man, I can't be in Your presence almost. Don't be afraid. See, for some of us, our guilt binds us, our shame binds us, the limitations we've experienced already in life bind us and make us a slave to fear. But Jesus is saying don't be afraid. Don't be afraid because I have something in store for you that you can't be a part of if fear controls your life. Don't be afraid. From now on, you'll be fishing for people. So He doesn't just tell him don't be afraid, He says don't be afraid because I have a purpose for you that overcomes your fear.

Keep in mind, though, Peter is this conflicted character that we see through the text. We see times where Peter has amazing faith, and then we see times where Peter...and you're just sitting here like Peter, were you...are you even foll...hold on, Jesus? Is that the name that's familiar to you right now when you're doing this decision? Like you know? We see times of great failure and great faith, but even in that Jesus is saying don't be afraid. And Peter might be like, I've been there, I've done that, I got the T-shirt, I've gone that direction. It doesn't work. I'm not good enough. I know You're trying to maybe call me to that, but You weren't there when I failed the 5 tests. Like, You weren't there when Jimmy in class was way better than I was and had all the stuff together and I don't. Like, you know? And Jesus is saying...doesn't seem very interested in the systems that declare righteousness of that day, that determine who's best to follow a rabbi. Jesus isn't going to the Harvards of rabbi schools and saying tell Me your A-list students right now because I want them to follow me. He's going to a beach, a random beach where there are fishermen. And by the way, then he goes to a tax collector booth [Justin laughs]. Like He's not interested in the elite.

Safety and security, the known versus the unknown, change versus staying the same, they left everything. Think of that. Think in your mind for a moment. Let's all just close our eyes for a moment, and we really want to adopt Peter's perspective here, so if we could all just close our eyes and imagine for a moment we're standing on the beach. We've experienced a miracle, whatever that might be in our life that would be meaningful for us. And we're standing on a beach with things that hold us, whatever that might be, just lined up. And this person who's handed us this miraculous experience saying come follow Me and leave all of this behind. So what is that on the beach for you? Just visualize it. What is it? What's lined up there? What possessions are lined up there? What fear is lined up there? What guilt, what shame, what limitations? What's the list and litany of things lined up on the beach?

Open your eyes. Now, Peter leaves that. And it doesn't...it's not like Peter gets to the shore, parks his boat, and then contemplates. That's not even what we see. And James and John leave it, too. They're like, wow, this is a whole different turn than we ever would've thought possible. They would've never seen this as a possibility.

So like sometimes we have the one-in-a-million story, like this is March Madness right now, and I remember as a young person being raised in Indiana, there was this small Indiana school called Valparaiso, and some of you might remember the shot. Bryce Drew shot this random shot that sent them into the Sweet 16 and like everybody in Indiana was going crazy because they were a seed that was not supposed to get there. Right? And so this was a longshot for this team to even get out of the first round, let alone get this far, and in the fashion that they did it with the buzzer-beater shot.

The thing is, we've seen that. Even before Valparaiso, we'd seen that. It was just really cool. This is something that Peter, James, and John don't have a filter for. This isn't something they've seen. There isn't a rabbi coming along doing radical things like calling fishermen and tax collectors. And now, they've decided they're going to leave everything. So Jesus says to you, "Follow me! Don't be afraid." Don't let the things in life that capture your fear - again, the guilt, the shame, the fear of failure, the fear of change, the fear of stepping into something new and maybe even unknown - don't let that hold you so much that you miss, you miss this beautiful reality that I have something for you that's so much greater.

So as we go through this series, as we go through Peter's Perspective, what we're going to see is we're going to see this conflicted character who at times steps into great things and at other times steps back and steps like into failure. And the interesting thing is Jesus never says, 'I'm done with you.' And so this perspective is for us, but we have to read it from his perspective. We have to close our eyes at times and think what would it be like if I was in that place? Sometimes so easy to look at the life of Peter and be like, what an idiot! But then it's hard for us to say what would I have done in the same exact situation with the same exact upbringing as this young man who's called out of the life of fishing to follow this radical rabbi who's turning everything upside down? It's such an interesting thing because that same call exists today. We are called to follow a radical rabbi who's turning things upside down in our world, and sometimes those things He's turning upside down make us very uncomfortable and we're very afraid. Even in our own life. Don't turn that upside down, Jesus. You can turn everything else upside down, but that you can't turn upside down.

But here in the life of Peter, we see Jesus journeying with Peter and the rest of the disciples, turning their lives upside down, and here's the deal: I don't think at the end of Peter's life he would've went back and changed a thing about this day. He would've said I'm leaving everything. He maybe would've left it faster.

And so for us today, the question is: Are we following, and is there stuff we've tried to take with us? How hard would it be for Peter to follow Jesus if he would've said Jesus I'll follow You but here's the deal, I'm going to bring my boat along. [Justin laughs} Just in case. Safety net, right? No. He leaves it all behind. And so what are we holding onto? What fears are we holding onto while we follow Jesus? What guilt, what shame are we carrying that we don't feel like Jesus can release us from?

As we go through this series, I really feel like we're going to grow closer in our relationship with Jesus because I feel like we're going to start to see the perspective of how Jesus calls us but then how Jesus journeys with us through our triumphs and through our failures. And then how Jesus even, just restores us and showers grace upon us when we fail really bad. And I think this is something we each need. We need to be reminded of this, and we need to see that this isn't some, like, one sentence in the Bible, but it's literally in this life of this individual. And so it's in our life, too, so we want to identify with Peter so that we can experience it in our life, so that we can see the parallels within our lives and be reminded that yeah, I've failed, I messed up, but it's beautiful that God doesn't give up on me. And so through this series, we're going to do that.

Today, I want us to focus on the reality that God has probably done a miracle in your life. Somewhere. Think about it. Think about it. What has God maybe done in your life? Reflect on that this week. And then reflect on what is on the shore that you either need to let go of to follow Jesus for the first time, or if you are following Jesus, what are you trying to hold onto while you follow Jesus? And there'll be more next week. Let's pray.

Good and gracious God, we are so thankful that You give us raw, real people as examples because we are raw, real people. We desire to be authentic. We don't want to be people who wear masks, who pretend to be something. We thank you that Peter, even in this story, is fully aware of who he is. I'm a sinner. I shouldn't even be in your presence. We thank You for that perspective and that humility, and we pray You would work that into our story, work that into our lives. God, be with each and every one of us this week as we reflect on the miracles You've done in our lives. The time when You've showed up where we've needed You most. The time where You transformed our situation, our circumstance, maybe provided that relationship where we needed it. God, you are our provider, so may we look back and see where You've provided for us and cared for us.

God, may we also see what we cling to because sometimes we don't cling to You, we cling to other things. Whatever those things may be, whatever it is actual things, possessions. Whether it's status and wealth and power, whatever it might be. Whether it's fear. Fear of failure, fear of... even just fear of failing at following You. For some of us, that is a big struggle. Remind us of Your grace if that's where we're afraid to even take a step. God, in our fear, meet us there. God, if we're guilty, if we just feel overcome by what we've done and we just can't get past that, remind us of Your grace. If there's shame for things we've done in the past, God, I pray that You would release us of that.

All these things that might line up on our shore, God, I just pray You would meet us in that place and make it to where we can walk away. Walk away from that and walk toward You, even if each step is a process, even if each step is a season of life. God, we want to be closer to You. We want to follow You because we know in that place, You're transforming us into something new, taking us from being identified with that - fishers of fish - and transforming us into something far more beautiful: fishers of men. So whatever that transformation is, whatever image You need to give us to get us there, show us what we're gaining even as we let go.

God, as we continue to open the scriptures and see Peter, I pray we would see ourselves. I pray we would see a man who journeyed and attempted to follow You the best he could and failed and also succeeded. And may we realize our journey is full of that: failures and success. And God, Your grace is abundant in our failures and You celebrate with us in our successes, and You never leave our side through it all. And so may we be reminded of that through this series. In the name of Jesus, amen.