We often think of Peter’s call as the time when Christ walks by the Sea of Galilee and sees Peter and Andrew fishing. Jesus tells them to try the other side of the boat and they catch a lot of fish. Jesus then says, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Andrew and Peter drop everything, get out of the boat and follow Jesus. (Matthew 4:18-22)
This passage is sometimes used to illustrate Peter’s faith and willingness to let go of everything after one miracle. All of this is true, but it isn’t the first time that Jesus and Simon Peter met. In fact it was the third. This doesn’t take away from the fact that Peter boldly answered Jesus’s calling. It does illustrate the fact that we should follow Jesus’s calling every time he calls.
The Call To Believe
Andrew was originally a disciple of John the Baptist (John 1:35-42). John calls Jesus “the Lamb of God” which fascinates Andrew so much that he follows Jesus and spends the day with him. Convinced that Jesus was the messiah, he runs and gets his brother, Simon. It is in this first meeting that Jesus gives Simon the name Cephas (which means Peter). But there is no real explanation of the name until much later.
Sometime later, possibly later that day, but more likely after Christ’s temptation in the wilderness, Jesus spends some time at Andrew and Simon’s house. This is during the first miracles of his ministry which primarily consisted of casting out demons and healing. It was here that Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law. A casual miracle that fits in thematically with the turning water into wine miracle at the wedding. Rather than have a gathering inconvenienced by running out of drinks or a high fever, Jesus easily remedies the situation and they go back to business as usual. This is typical of the casual miracles that God performs in our lives. Often, without writing them down and reflecting on God’s amazing work we can even forget them. (Luke 4:38-39)
The Call To Follow
It is at this point that Jesus meets Andrew and Simon fishing. Mark 1 makes it clear that John the Baptist has already been arrested at this point and Jesus had already begun his ministry. It is at this point in time that Jesus calls Andrew and Simon to be his disciples (not apostles yet). Simon and Andrew were not only fishing with their father and the hired servants. They were also fishing with James and John and their father. All four knew each other, worked together, and had undoubtedly discussed the events of John the Baptist, their previous conversations with Jesus, and the recent miracles happening. And after John was arrested Andrew returned to fishing, a foreshadowing of what the disciples would do after the arrest and death of Jesus.
The Call To Go To Your Neighbors
But even Peter’s calling while in the boat was not his call to become an apostle. That didn’t happen until much later in Matthew 10 when Jesus called his 12 disciples and sent them out to the “lost sheep of Israel” and preach that the kingdom of God is at hand. They are explicitly told not to go to the Gentiles and Samaritans, just to their own people group. Don’t worry about food or money. Just go, preach, heal, and raise the dead.
This was a big ask because typically the role of a disciple is to follow and learn. Now Jesus is flipping that and calling these specific 12 to go and do. Each calling that Jesus has given Peter has been progressively more challenging. But it becomes more and more clear that each call is built on what came earlier. Jesus renamed Peter the very first time they met when they were introduced by Andrew. But it wasn’t until Matthew 16:18-20 when Jesus asks Peter who does Peter say that Jesus is. Peter proclaims him to be the Christ, the son of the living God and Jesus says that “upon this rock I will build my church.” Jesus had been planning to build his church from the beginning. He had planned for Peter’s confession from the moment they met. But it took the revealing of the Holy Spirit for Peter to make that confession so much later.
The Call To Repent
By now, I hope that you’ve noticed that Jesus doesn’t call us only once. But the Christian life requires faithfulness, responding out of faith over and over again each time that we are called. Those of us who believe that our salvation is secure and that we are incapable of losing our salvation often run the risk of assuming that our moment of salvation is our moment of faith and repentance. But Peter’s moment of repentance didn’t come until after Christ’s resurrection. For maturing Christians, repentance often comes years later. Like Peter, the call to repent comes from missing another calling. Peter denied Christ three times during one of his master’s darkest nights. Peter abandoned the messiah, left him to be beaten and die. Then Peter went back to his daily life and started fishing again.
The story in John 21:15-19 is one of the most intimate and redemptive stories in the Bible. Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him. Each time Peter responds that he does. Each time Jesus commands him to feed his sheep (a reminder of the call to go in Matthew 10). On the third and final time Peter says, “Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you!” Jesus again calls him to feed his sheep and reminds him of the responsibility and weight of that calling and even alludes to Peter dying in service of this calling. He then concludes with by simply saying “follow me.”
The command to follow Christ is a call of repentance. Often in our Christian life we forget our faithfulness, forget that, yes we were saved by grace through faith, but that we were created for good works. Repentance is one of the most challenging calls but it is a necessary and vital part of faithfulness.
The Call To Go To The Whole World
Matthew 28 records the Great Commission. Peter’s call to carry the good news to the whole world. This calling could only be accomplished by faithfulness. It could only be done by someone who was prepared for the ups and downs of a lifetime of service, but someone who knew the cost of obedience, the cost of disobedience, and meaning of repentance.
The call to go to the world also meant a calling to be a part of a group larger than himself. Peter was to a vital player in the early church. He worked together with others to accomplish the task at hand. It was a call to be one small part in a greater thing.
When Peter received this final calling, he didn’t understand the true scope and meaning. He didn’t understand the Holy Spirit, he didn’t understand that the Gentiles truly could be made whole and redeemed. That it didn’t matter if you were Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free. He didn’t understand that there was a difference between a circumcised Jew and the circumcision of the heart. But by faithful obedience he was able to learn all of those things. He didn’t always get it right, and he didn’t always remember, but he knew how to return to his calling over and over. He knew how to live a life of faithfulness.
You’ve been called to accept Jesus as your savior. You’ve been called to leave the boat. You’ve been called to share the Gospel with your neighbors. You’ve been called to repent when you got back in your boat. Going back to our daily lives isn’t even a temptation, it’s a habit, it’s our natural inclination. We don’t have to think about it. We just somehow wind up back in that boat. It takes an effort of the soul to stay faithful. But that is what God wants.
Your engagement and your wedding were big moments in your marriage, but they have little to do with the actual health of your relationship. It is the daily things that make all the difference. Choosing to serve and love the other each day rather than give in to our natural inclination of selfishness. Your moment of salvation has little to do with your faithful obedience. Even big moments of infidelity can be healed through repentance and obedient faithfulness. Moments don’t matter nearly as much as the journey. The journey will have hills and valleys. It will have missteps and it will mean learning and changing. And for many of us, our journey of faithfulness will even cost us dearly. But the one thing we need to do is just simply follow Him. Just follow Jesus… every day.