Imagine the scene. You've put in a long, full, and tiring night shift. It has not been a good shift. It has been one of those shifts where you have worked very hard but things just didn't go to plan. But now you are putting everything away and looking forward to heading home and resting. A friend or a stranger comes along and asks you to extend your hours of work for something that they need. How do you feel? What do you do? Do you do it willingly, begrudgingly?
This is the key message of discipleship. Can you extend yourself for others? Can you put others before yourself. Can you serve even when you feel frustrated and tired?
Simon Peter runs a fishing business with two partners on the Sea of Galilee. One of the main fish they caught would have been the red-belly Tilapia among 20 other fresh water fish found in the Yam Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). It looks like he and his partners may have 2 boats. The names of Simon Peter's partners are James and John who are brothers. They have been out on the lake all night fishing but their nets have come up empty. The are tired - it is likely early to mid-morning and they are cleaning their nets and tools at the beach now. Suddenly a crowd gathers with Jesus who asks Simon Peter to take him in one of his boats, a little off shore. Just enough where he can teach but not be pressed by the crowd. Simon Peter agrees. That is the first characteristic of discipleship. Be willing to serve.
Once the people have been taught and leave, the real lesson begins. Simon Peter having proved his ability to serve, and follow the Master's instructions (seemingly without question) is now about to learn of the blessings of discipleship.
The Lord now tells him to go even further from the shore and go fishing again. Simon Peter and his crew are by now tired, maybe even hungry, but certainly very tired. They've just finished cleaning the nets and the equipment, they already helped Jesus out and now he is trying to tell Simon Peter and his partners to do more? Again, the question Luke asks with his story is - what would we do? When pushed to our limits would we go further, would we do more? Simon Peter tells Jesus of his doubts "we have toiled all the night and have taken nothing" But it is what Simon Peter says next that gives us our second lesson in discipleship, "nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net".
|"We're tired" or "Nevertheless...I will"|
How often do we do what is required and then when asked for more we respond that we are tired, we are burnt out, we don't see the logic in what is being asked of us. But Simon Peter recognizes that true discipleship is not about our will but the will of the Master. In doing as the Saviour asked, they filled both ships with fish, broke their nets and almost sank their ships. This is how the Lord works. He blesses us bounteously IF we not only do our basic job but push beyond duty to discipleship. True discipleship is not convenient and is sometimes not logical. True discipleship is often times not popular. True discipleship means giving up your self and serving the Master.
Seeing the blessings from serving Christ, Peter James and John follow him and they become fisher of men. What happened to the fish they caught? We are told they forsook all. This was likely the biggest catch of their lives and yet they still left it all behind? What are we willing to give up and what are we willing to do to be true disciples of Christ?
When did the Lord's call come to them to follow him and be fishers of men? It was not immediately after an unsuccessful night when it would have been easy to leave it all. He waited until they had two boats filled with fish, almost sinking, before he asked them to leave it all and follow him. Do you see what it takes to be true disciples? We have to be willing to give it all up in an instant?
How responsive would we be in those circumstances?
Jeffrey Holland said,
"To launch out into that limitless sea of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Peter brought his craft to shore, turned his back on the most spectatcular single-catch ever taken from Galilee, "forsook all and followed him"" (However Long and Hard the Road)Do we leave educations, promising careers, and good lives to preach the gospel uncomfortably to the uncaring masses? Missionaries do.
Christ also calls others to follow him including Peter's brother Andrew, Philip and Bartholomew (also known as Nathaniel), Matthew (also known as Levi, a tax collector) and Thomas, Judas or Jude also called Thaddeus and his brother James, Simon Zelotes who was a Canaanite, and one other called Judas Iscariot. This created a quorum of 12 apostles, with Christ as their head. Note the process by which these special witnesses were chosen. He prayed all night in the mountain and then chose 12 from all of his disciples.
What is the difference between disciples and apostles?
These disciples were given authority to cast out unclean spirits and to heal all manner of sickness and disease. But they were told not to preach to the Samaritans or Gentiles but instead reclaim the lost sheep of the Jews.
Christ also gives a long list of instructions regarding how they should be, who they should stay with, how to cope with rejection, and how to preach his gospel.
Today this same gospel of Jesus Christ is taught with the same foundation of a quorum of twelve apostles called to the same task as special witnesses of Jesus Christ:
We who are disciples are not necessarily called to give up our earthly careers as the apostles are but we are asked to sacrifice at varying levels. Once we learn to go beyond the shallow waters and sacrifice willingly it is then that we find our nets full.