I always love reading about Peter. I just read Luke 5:8, where, after Jesus tells Peter to go fishing and they pull in a huge haul, Peter falls at Jesus’ feet and shouts, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
Peter thought he was the kind of dude that God didn’t love. He was a sinner. He wasn’t some fancy pants religious guy. Peter did his own thing.
He probably figured that as long as he showed God the proper respect (going to synagogue sometimes, respecting the rabbis, not breaking the ‘big’ commandments, etc) and stayed out of his way, God was content to let him do his thing.
But suddenly, Peter realizes that God’s chosen one is sitting in his very boat.
This was bad. This was really, really bad. All his life, he’s tried to keep himself out of God’s crosshairs. As long as he wasn’t too bad, God didn’t have a reason to single him out for punishment, right?
So when Peter realizes that God has come near, his only reasonable solution is to beg him to leave. Simon isn’t worried about what he could miss out on…he’s worried about what God might do to him.
But what Peter doesn’t realize, at least not right away, is that God isn’t interested in all the people who are acting religious, who are only acting holy, who have the best attendance at synagogue, who have the fanciest looking robes.
Jesus is looking for people who are genuine and real. People who are broken and need to be fixed. People who will respond to the love he gives. And that’s Peter to a tee.
So the first words out of Jesus’ mouth are “Don’t be afraid.” I can’t see him saying that without a smile on his face. He knows all about Peter, and loves him none the less. Then Jesus says that he’s got a plan for Peter: “from now on, you will catch men.”
Despite his gruff, rugged exterior and brash, loud-mouth ways, Peter was looking for something bigger than himself to believe in and to pour his life into. It’s why Peter won’t leave Jesus after the hard sermon in John (see 6:68).
It’s Peter who boldly declares that Jesus is the Messiah when everybody else is debating (Matthew 16:16).
It’s Peter who pledges to die with Jesus, if need be (Matthew 26:33). Peter falters the first time, but he bounced back. Eventually, according to Christian tradition, Peter did die for his faith.
Peter is willing to tell Jesus what he thinks and how he feels. He’s open and honest and raw. Half the time, he’s wrong or mistaken, but Jesus doesn’t send him away or punish him for saying what he thinks and how he feels.
In the church, we seem to want people to be restrained and to suppress how they really feel. Say nice things and smile at all times. I hate that. It’s some kind of creepy, fake gospel that I want nothing to do with.
When I read the Psalms and Job and the Gospels, I see real people who love a real God and have real problems in a real world.
You want shiny happy people all the time? Join a cult.
I follow a real saviour. One who was willing to get his hands dirty and bloody in order to pull me out of the mud pit I was stuck in. I thank God that he’s transforming me, and the transformation isn’t to a boring wallflower.
I want my life to bring attention to how wonderful he is, and the only way I know how to do that is by being genuine.