Devotional for January 21, 2018 based upon Mark 1: 14-20
One of the things that I find very interesting about the Gospels is the way that at times they describe different events in the life of Jesus and the disciples’ relationship with Jesus. Other times – even when they describe the same event – they mention different details or emphasize different aspects of a particular event. Such is the case in the spiritual life journey of the disciple Peter.
Mark 1: 14-20, our Gospel lesson for this coming Sunday, January 21, tell of Jesus’ calling Peter to become a disciple. Verses 17 and 18 – Jesus said, “Follow Me,” and they (Peter and his brother Andrew) immediately left their nets and followed Him. “Immediately” is a word that the Gospel writer Mark uses often. There is an immediacy – an urgency – to everything in the Gospel of Mark. I see Peter, being called by Jesus, responding immediately.
In Mark 1 Peter begins following Jesus. John 2 tells of how Peter, along with the other disciples, actually come to have faith in Jesus. After telling the story of Jesus’ turning water into wine, the Gospel writer John says in verse 11, “Jesus did this, the first of His signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.”
But then Luke 5 tells us that even though Peter had begun following Jesus and had come to believe in Jesus, he still went back to his old ways of life. Jesus uses Peter’s boat as a place from which to speak to the crowds and then tells Peter in verse 4, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Peter responds in verse 5 – “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing.” Not continuing to follow Jesus, even though he had come to faith in Jesus, but instead going back to his old life, Peter experienced futility and frustration and fishing all night and catching nothing. Peter responds – after a miraculous catch of fish in verse 8 – “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” I had begun following You and had come to faith in You, but still I had gone back to my old way of life, which has resulted only in futility and frustration and fishing all night and catching nothing. Luke ends his recording of this event by saying in verse 11, “When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed Him.”
There is one more incident in this sequence. In John 21, after the resurrection, Peter says to six of the other ten living disciples, “I am going fishing.” (verse 3) The verb tense is saying not “I am going to go fishing once,” but “I am going back to fishing – I am going to go back to keeping on fishing.” Peter must have been a person of influence, because the other six disciples say, “We will go with you.” And with what result? “That night they caught nothing.” (verse 3) Again, not continuing to follow Jesus, even though they believed in Jesus and even though they had experienced the resurrection of Jesus, but instead going back to the old way of life, they fish all night and catch nothing. Again Jesus appears on the shore. Again there is a miraculous catch of fish. Again Jesus recalls Peter and the other disciples to a life of following Him.
Where do you see yourself in the story? Have you just begun to follow Jesus? Have you recently come, or are you beginning to come, to faith in Jesus? Have you returned to your old way of life even though you had begun following Jesus and had come to faith in Jesus? Are you experiencing the futility and frustration that results from doing that? Are you fishing all night but catching nothing? Have you recently made a renewed commitment to follow Jesus? Have you again – even though you have experienced in a mighty way the love of God as shown on the cross and the power of the empty tomb – gone back to your old way of life, only to again experience the futility and frustration of fishing all night and catching nothing? Have you recently again experienced being recalled by Jesus? Have you recently again experienced the grace and forgiveness and new life available from Jesus?
Wherever you are in your personal spiritual life journey, know this. The same Jesus, who was so loving and forgiving and patiently persistent with Peter, will also be the same way with you.
Dennis D. Nelson
President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE