Life of Peter, by N .E. Rhodes Jr. — No. 2
THE CALL OF SIMON
After his first meeting with Jesus, Simon went back to his fishing boat impressed but not completely convinced. He probably had his doubts about ever becoming Peter the rock. He went out and fished all night and didn’t even make a good job of that. When he came back to shore and started cleaning his nets, he had his second meeting with the Carpenter from Nazareth. Jesus preached from Simon’s boat and, having finished his sermon, turned to Simon and told him to cast his net out into the deep water. It sounds almost casual but it was a crucial moment. Simon impulsively started to answer, “I have fished all night and haven’t caught a thing,” but suddenly he stops. He probably wondered what on earth this carpenter knew about fishing. But something in the calm confidence and poised expectation of Jesus stops him. It is evident that Jesus is not just passing talk. He is expecting obedience. By what authority? Yet it seems to Simon that authority is present. This strange carpenter is a man to be obeyed. We can almost hear the change in Simon’s voice as he says, “Nevertheless, if you say so I will do it.” It was a great moment for Simon, and it is a moment we all must face. Jesus comes commanding, and we don’t see the sense in his command. We think we know what we want. We can’t see how his command will help. It is a vital moment when we shrug our shoulders and say, “Not today, maybe tomorrow will be a better day for it.” It is a greater moment when we stop, listen to the quiet insistence of the divine command and then say in a great second of decision, “Nevertheless, if you say so, I will do it.”
Opportunity in Obedience
When this decision is made, things begin to happen almost immediately. We can refuse obedience and life will move steadily on as it might for Simon. Some days fishing will be good and other days bad, but day succeeds day in weary futility. Life becomes a tedium that never goes anywhere at all. But when we say, as Simon did, “Nevertheless, if you say so, I will do it,” life suddenly becomes exciting. In a few minutes Simon is struggling with a net full of fish the like of which he has never seen before. He calls for his friends to come and help him. And then, as it becomes apparent that the catch is safe in spite of a broken net, Simon looks up, shakes the wet hair out of his eyes and gazes at Jesus. The great haul of fish is forgotten. Nothing in the world seems important right then but that strange man standing there, waiting. Simon starts toward him but stops. The awful truth rushes over him. This is no ordinary man he faces. What right has Simon to rush up to him? The dark picture of the wasted years of his past flashes before him. What business has he, blustering Simon, before a man like this? He is gripped by a new humility; a terrible realization of the difference between what he is and what this man is. He stands stricken.
Calmly, in that tense moment, Jesus stands waiting to see what the man will do. Will he turn and run? Will he offer Jesus a partnership in the fishing business? That would be a right sharp deal for Simon. Yet it is terribly like what we want to do with Jesus sometimes.
Simon falls on his knees. He confesses his sin. At last it has happened. When a man meets God, the moment must come when the man sees his own bankrupt soul.
The first commandment that Jesus had given Simon had called for him to do something on faith but had demanded no sacrifice. To let down the nets looked foolish but not hard. Now Jesus asks Simon to do something that will prove costly. “Follow me and I will make you a fisher of men.” This is a demand that Simon not only do something but give up something. There is a fishing boat and a business to give up. Simon is a married man with responsibilities. Jesus gives him no guarantee whatever. Later Jesus will promise God’s providential care but for the present Simon must decide to give up his livelihood, and follow without any assurance that he and his family will not suffer destitution as a result.
For all of us there must come a time for sacrifice; a time when we have to give up something. We see that Jesus isn’t going to help us accomplish the desires of our own will. He demands that we give it all up and surrender to his will. Jesus has great things in store for you as he did for Simon. But the way will be costly. Demands will be made. If we surrender to them we will find obedience our greatest joy. Look at that man crawling out of a warm bed at four o’clock in the morning. He bolts his coffee and leaves a warm, comfortable house to brave cold morning air. He drives quite a distance and then gets out and walks over rough country. He gets wet and sunburned and smelly. He gets hungry and tired. Do you feel sorry for him? Well don’t. He is having the time of his life. He has gone fishing. Nobody but a fisherman could understand why he does it or how he enjoys it. The same thing is true in far greater degree of the fishers of men. Quit worrying about the hardships of fishing for men. Sure, the Lord may ask you to get up early or sit up all night. He may make you go hungry and get tired. He may want you to drive great distances. You may have to take being laughed at. You may find yourself working hard for very little pay. But oh! What a joy beyond joys when you are fishing for men! You don’t have to be a preacher to do it, any more than you have to be a commercial fisherman to fish.
Christ is calling you to follow him just as he did Simon. You may not understand all there is to know about the Kingdom of Heaven. Neither did Simon when he was called. You may doubt your ability to really make a success of it. But can you say as Simon did, “Nevertheless, if you say so Lord, I will do it”? If you can, life can begin for you the minute you do just as it began for Simon