You have been called by Christ. The prophetic-apostolic Word has rung out into your ears. It has called you to repent of your sins. It has called you to believe in Christ Jesus. It has called you to leave your sins – and your love of sinning – at The Cross where He died for them. It has called you to join the Apostles in “following Jesus.”
Today we hear from and about St. Peter. That’s because this Sunday often falls near the day many Christians think is the day Ss. Peter and Paul died, June 29. Many Slovak Lutheran congregations are named Ss. Peter & Paul; this reminds us how God richly used them. But when we meet Simon Peter in today’s Gospel, he isn’t a memorable guy. He knew Jesus. His brother St. Andrew had already introduced him to Him, but the sons of Jonah and Zebedee hadn’t left their fishing boats yet. They still had one foot in their old world while the other was starting to follow Jesus.
Jesus came to them that day to call them full-time into His service. But first He had crowds to preach to. It sounds like they weren’t giving Him enough space, so He had to get on a boat just so they wouldn’t accidently push Him into the water! When He was done preaching His sermon, He told Peter to put out to sea to make a catch of fish.
Just one problem. They just finished cleaning their nets. They’d caught all sorts of stuff that night: plants, garbage, toys, maybe even somebody’s lost treasure; but they hadn’t caught what they wanted. They hadn’t caught a single fish. And they were fishing when they were supposed to fish! So he was shocked when Jesus told them to put out to make a catch. If he hadn’t caught any a couple hours before, why would he catch any now? It made no sense to this seasoned fisherman!
But out he went to fish. This time when he let down the nets they immediately overflowed with fish, so many the nets were tearing. He called the sons of Zebedee over to help with the catch and both boats started to sink. How could they have caught so many fish – perhaps all the fish in the sea – immediately when they had just caught absolutely nothing? Only one answer: a miracle!
That scared Peter. This experience was nothing short of “out of this world.” He knew only one person could be responsible, God, and it just so happened that the one human in history Who qualifies as God was standing right there in front of Him. He did the only logical thing: he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet confessing: “I’m a sinner, unlike You, Jesus. I’m totally unworthy of being in God’s presence, totally unworthy of ever being helped or blessed by God-made-man.”
But Jesus would hear none of it. He lifts Peter back to his feet with these words: “Fear not; from now on you will catch men.” Right then Peter and Andrew, James and John gave up their fishing business to enroll in the very first full-time Christian seminary class. They followed Him wherever He went and heard everything He preached. He was preparing them to go out into all the world after His Death and Resurrection to preach His Gospel in both spoken and written word to you.
They followed Him. They had no idea what they were in for. They had no idea that in 3 years they would mourn His Suffering and Death and be afraid of getting killed too. They had no idea, even though some of them were Jesus’ cousins, that all of them except John himself would be killed because they preached Jesus. All of them suffered greatly for Him, suffered imprisonment and physical punishment and the worst evil men could devise. They followed Him and endured and received the crown of everlasting life.
We are called to follow Jesus. Do we want to? Should we be allowed to? We are sinners just like Peter. He was often called to account for his misdeeds. He tried to tell Jesus not to die. He denied Jesus right after he claimed he’d die right then for Him. He even had to be corrected by St. Paul in Antioch. He was by no means a perfect disciple, certainly not fit to be their spokesman.
How about you? Are you a perfect disciple of Jesus? By no means. We do well to compare ourselves to what St. Peter says we’re supposed to be like in today’s Epistle. He tells us to be united with The Father’s will, sympathetic, tender-hearted, and humble, to not do evil things to those who do evil things to us, to not revile those who revile us. Instead we should bless them. We are to turn away from doing and saying what is evil to only say and do what is good. Then he says we might suffer for righteousness’ sake, just like he did – old church histories tell us he died hanging upside down on a cross, declaring himself unworthy to suffer and die the exact same way his Lord did.
Why would this happen? Because we are to sanctify the Lord Christ in our hearts. What does He have to do with this? Peter is telling us to follow Jesus on the path He trod. This is exactly what His Passion was like. The Son united His thoughts with The Father’s will when He wished He wouldn’t have to suffer so. The Lawgiver had sympathy for mankind in our lost condition and showed us a tender heart by dying for us. The Judge was humble because He submitted Himself to the evil judgment of sinful men. Evil men did horrible things to God and reviled Him, but He forgave them and even led a criminal crucified with Him and the centurion to trust in Him for salvation. Our Savior suffered unto death to win for us His righteousness, His forgiveness.
Do we act that way? Kids get into fights even at Christian schools and so do Christian siblings; the way we fight may change as we get older, but we never lose the ability to start one. We find it hard to have compassion for people, hard to be humble. We want to be on top of the world now, and if that means getting back at people who did us wrong or at least holding a grudge when we ought to forgive, so be it. We try anything we can to avoid suffering.
How should we respond? Fall at Jesus’ feet. That’s why we kneel to confess our sins and to receive Holy Communion. We’re confessing we are unworthy of His forgiveness. But we aren’t saying He won’t give it to us. We fall to our knees believing He will forgive us. We believe He will say to us: “Fear not.” For He did not take on our flesh in order to condemn us. He doesn’t need to be human to do that. Our brains can tell us what we deserve for sin. He took on our flesh in order to save us. He suffered for you, for righteousness’ sake. That means He suffered in order to declare you righteous, sinless and holy in His sight. Ever since He’s sent out men like Peter and Andrew, James and John to preach to you that He is our Light and our Salvation.
The preaching of Jesus has caught you. The Word netted you. You are baptized. You belong to Him. Now you follow Him, so follow Him wherever He leads you. Where is He leading? He’s leading to eternal life. It’s a path full of sorrow and pain. It’s not your best life now. It includes suffering, like all life, but this suffering is a taste of what our Lord suffered for us. It’s not a curse; it’s a blessing. It’s not a lazy life but a life of doing what is good, showing our Lord’s mercy to those around us and assisting the church’s work however you are able. So follow Jesus. When you suffer, trust Him for deliverance. When you do what is good, trust Him to bless those you meet.