I recently once more became aware of how well our Father knows me when He revealed His insight into my character through an inconsequential incident. I love this about God. He manages to use each of us despite ourselves, turning our apparent weaknesses into strengths when it comes to our ministry. He did the same with Peter, the hot-headed disciple Jesus called to build His Church upon. But first, He had to tame Peter just a little to make those characteristics work towards good, rather than evil.
Peter was a man who lived his life in exaggerations, in hyperbole, if you wish. He was fast to act and quick to speak. When Jesus would wash His disciples' feet, Peter would have none of it. This went against his grain. He uses hyperbole to express himself when he tells Jesus that he would NEVER allow it. Jesus then tells Peter that if it didn't happen this way, then Peter would have no part of Him. Peter makes an immediate about turn, telling Jesus that he not only wanted Him to wash his feet, but also his hands and face. See John 13 for more details.
Still with the disciples are all gathered around the table with Jesus, He informs them that one of them would betray Him. It is Peter who insists on having a name placed upon the culprit-to-be, indicating to John to ask for more information. When Jesus informs Peter that he himself would betray Jesus, he again uses exaggerated speech to deny the accusation, saying he would rather die, than to betray Jesus. (Still John 13).
Later on, Jesus is arrested and Peter responds by chopping off the ear of one of the men in the party. Again, he follows his own head, instead of waiting for direction from Jesus. When later confronted by others about being part of Jesus' entourage, Peter denies it not once, but three times! (See John 18).
In John 20 we read that when Mary Magdalene brings the news that she could not find the body of Jesus, Peter and John both RUN towards the grave. It is Peter who goes inside first, venturing in where others hold back. He is the one to discover the discarded burial cloths.
In the final chapter of John, we see that it is Peter who suggests that they, him and the other disciples with him, go fishing. At this stage, Jesus had already appeared to them, but they had no clear indication of what to do next. The others would simply wait around, but Peter was a man of action. He would do what he had always done before Jesus entered into his life, he would go fishing. The others agree to this suggestion. It must have made perfect sense to these seasoned fishermen.
I had recently had the privilege of spending an extended period of time in a fishing village. I had a clear view of the harbour, and every morning I would come out to see if the fisher boats had taken to sea. Later on, I would saunter down to the seaside where I would fall into conversation with the fishermen hanging around there. They would look at the waves, the wind and the weather and be able to tell me what sort of fishing day it would be. They could tell when it would be a waste of time to go out, or even what types of fish could be expected in this particular weather. To me, who was born and raised inland, this was a real eye-opener.
I suspect it must have been much the same for Peter and his group. They must have cast an eye on the weather and assessed the waves and winds, before deciding to brave the sea at night. Still, for all of their combined experience, they caught nothing. When approaching the land again in the morning, they saw a man, who would shortly be revealed to be Jesus, on the shore. He told them to cast the net out once more on the right side of the boat. Suddenly the barren sea became alive with fish, to the point of threatening to sink the boat.
Peter jumped out of the boat and immediately swam to shore, leaving his mates to struggle alone with the catch. Only when Jesus told him to return to tend the catch, did he do so. Hot-headed Peter was still acting on whim! Now, for all their trouble, it seemed there was no purpose to going out after all, for Jesus had no need of their catch. He had already cooked some fish and bread for them on the fire! What a lesson there is in this! We are all guilty of this. We fool ourselves into believing that we need to take care of these important survival matters, when Jesus has a widely different perspective on things. He said He would take care of us, the same way He tends to the fields and the birds. As long as we are in God's will, things will work out for us. When we follow our own heads, we might find we have wasted a good night's sleep out on a fishing boat, for no good reason at all, our combined experience aside!
It was this moment that Jesus chose to reaffirm Peter's calling. Three times He asks Peter to confirm his love for Him, every time entrusting Peter with the care of His Church. And then He tells Peter that as much as he had been following his own whims all his life, the time would come when others would lead him where he did not wish to go, but that it was all part of God's plan for his life. This was indication of how Peter would die. The hot-headed Peter was exactly who God needed to establish and take care of His church, but it had to be a Peter who was willing to ultimately submit to God's will, even if this led to death.
I know obstinacy. Those who know me well, consider me one of the most obstinate people they've ever met. And this is a good thing. God has often found good use for my obstinacy in the advancement of His Kingdom. However, not unlike Peter, I too had to learn to submit my will to that of our Father's. I want to invite you to try this and note the difference it makes in your own life, as well as those of others. And yes, even though I am an experienced fisherman, I no longer fish unless our Father tells me to do so. The fish and bread has always been waiting on the shore for me. Take God at His word. He will not fail you.
Marietjie Uys (Miekie) is a published author. You can buy my books here:
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