Just reading Ken Bailey’s book last night, Jesus Through Mid-Eastern Eyes, I got a whole new take on the invitation Peter gets to follow Jesus. For a long time I just thought this rabbi passed him whilst he was working and when Jesus called out Peter downed nets and followed him. But the truth is a little more intriguing…
According to Luke’s blog Jesus has just healed Peter’s mother-in-law, so Peter owes him. That was all part of their culture and custom. Jesus then asks if he can borrow Peter’s boat so he can go further out into the bay to speak to the crowd. Though Peter’s exhausted from a long, fruitless night of fishing he reluctantly agrees. This makes Peter a captive audience. He needs to stay in the boat to use his expertise to stop it drifting away while Jesus talk to folks from it. Jesus really needs him to do this. So he gets to see Jesus in action. Then comes the crunch point. Jesus, the rabbi landlubber who knows nothing about fishing tells Peter to throw his nets over in the daylight. This is daft. Experienced fishermen like Pete don’t do that. Fish are caught at night. And not in this part of the lake. So Pete replies with a certain amount of sarcasm about having already tried plenty thanks very much, but hey! if a rabbi says so, well… why not?
When Peter throws the net and catches a huge haul of fish the first thing he doesn’t do is make a noise about it. Sound travels well over that lake and he doesn’t want every fisherman in the neighbourhood coming for a share in the rich pickings. Instead he just beckons to James and John. His work mates. They come over and they cannot believe their eyes. This is like winning the lottery. This is the catch they dream about, it will make them very rich. So massive, they almost need that bigger boat. And that’s what blows Peter’s mind. If, by some means, Jesus had found that there was a huge haul of fish down there, why was he not interested in getting it for himself? As it is Jesus isn’t bothered by the thought of all that money. He’s happily giving it away. Why? And this is what really impacts Peter and the others. This rabbi doesn’t just teach differently, he lives differently. Who is he? Peter’s response is to fall on his face, knowing that his motives are very different to those of Jesus.
Jesus has his eyes on the next move though. Peter and his friends catch fish, and that means the creatures die. Now he wants them to do another sort of fishing – for people – so that they come alive. And there’ll be a huge catch where that’s involved. They’d need a whole fleet of boats. So having provided a huge sum of money for them to feed their families for a while, he asks them if they want to come with him. Rabbis usually waited for their prospective students to come to them, not Jesus. As he will point out later, they didn’t choose him, he chose them. A reassuring thought when we hit the inevitable walls. We didn’t choose him, he wanted us.
Jesus does the lottery winning catch of fish one more time – just before he leaves his friends three years later. This reminds the depressed Peter of his original call, and once again Jesus provides for their families so the disciples can get stuck into helping people to discover God in their lives.