Sometimes we’d rather stay with what we know best and where we feel safest instead of stepping out into the unknown and experiencing God’s transforming power at work in our lives.
But a lakeside encounter can change everything.
Pebbles crunched under my feet and reeds rustled in the light breeze–the only sounds on a peaceful morning at the Sea of Galilee. Rays of early morning sunlight hit the waves throwing sparkles in my direction. Before long the sun would be high overhead and beating down furiously. I would then be forced to look for cover instead of standing out on the rocks.
For now, though, I shaded my eyes with my hand and gazed at a small boat making its way into the middle of the lake.
I imagined Jesus doing the same thing as he watched his friends out on the water doing what they knew best, trying to earn an early morning catch of fish.
After the gloomy and disturbing events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion in Jerusalem, Jesus’ disciples no doubt felt relieved to return to the tranquility of the lake and the normality of fishing life.
The resurrected Jesus turned his attention to building a fire for cooking breakfast before he beckoned his followers from the lake. But, they didn’t recognize Jesus, until he gave an instruction that filled their nets to overflowing with fish.
Then Peter jumped into the water and waded ashore, wanting to be the first to greet his Lord.
After they had eaten, Jesus singled out Peter. He gave Peter, a fisherman, unusual orders.
“Feed my lambs.” “Take care of my sheep.” “Feed my sheep.”
I wonder what those commands sounded like to a man who was familiar with the water and the waves, but not with knowing good pastures. I wonder whether those instructions puzzled the fisherman used to scanning the shallows for shoals of fish but who knew nothing about evaluating the landscape for thickets and thorns that would snare a sheep. And, I wonder if Peter knew the cost it would mean to his own life to care for and carry those who needed a shepherd, the Good Shepherd.
But more than understanding and following these unusual commands, what troubled Peter more was the question that Jesus asked him—not just once but three times.
“Do you love me?” “Do you love me?” “Do you love me?”
Peter’s answers—”you know I love you”—to Jesus’ questions were not for Jesus’ own healing, but so Peter could know that Jesus had forgiven and healed him.
Peter’s life needed to be transformed on the inside so he could follow through on the transformation on the outside from fisherman to shepherd. And Jesus turned a brusk and burly, and perhaps self-serving, fisherman into a people-serving, Christ-preaching shepherd.
Sometimes Jesus invites us to do something out of the ordinary for him, something we feel ill-equipped to do. We might prefer to do what we know best, that which comes naturally to us. But, when he calls us to step out for him, let’s look out for three things:
The instructions that, if we follow them, fill us with hope—like a net full of fish.
The questions that, if we answer them honestly, fill us with wholeness and peace—like “do you love me?”
The transformation that, if we submit to it, fills us with the strength to do that which we could naturally not do ourselves—like a fisherman becoming a shepherd.