By Revd Canon Michael Everitt, Canon Pastor, Durham Cathedral
Do you like doing favours for God? Do you like to tell God what to do? Do you think you know better than God?
Whilst initially we would claim that is not how we are. The sad truth is, like Peter it is true. When Jesus called Peter. Peter told him that the crew were tired, had been fishing with no joy, but for the “teacher” they would follow his advice. The word used for teacher is more akin to “boss” and has a hint of disdain. Later on, Peter tells Jesus not to go to Jerusalem, even calling on God to prevent him. And of course, he says that he will stay with Jesus on that fateful Thursday evening, yet despite good intentions, denies him.
God does not want our fancy words, our bravado, our noble gestures. Quite simply what he wants is us. Who we are, who he knows us to be and he wants our response to be not of duty, or of posture, or even of fear, but of love.
To be prepared to follow Jesus, will involve being taken out of our comfort zones. Peter the Fisherman is charged to love in language more suitable for a shepherd. Peter the Rock is told there will come a time when he is bound and led to places he does not want to go. Peter the leader is asked to “Follow.”
It is too easy to tell God what our skills are, what he should be doing, how he should be using us, what indeed he should be about. Yet here we are reminded as Jesus recommissions Peter, that we must love Jesus unconditionally, unhesitantly and totally. With this being in the context of love and not of contract, like Peter we are then asked to respond in a gracious way, tending and feeding others. This is response in the pattern of Christ, rather than that of the impetuous and flawed Peter.
The key call at the end of this is the same as at the start of Peter’s discipleship. We no longer need to simply “come and see,” this is no journey of curiosity. That we saw with Peter in the High Priest’s house can still lead to denial. Peter is told to follow Jesus. This time not transitioning from being a one who fishes for food, to one who fishes for people, this time the fisherman becomes a shepherd feeding and tending a flock. The action of following this time is not into an unknown adventure. Peter and we are called to follow, knowing that the path includes that of the cross, of our being taken where we do not choose to go, even to death for ourselves.
We need to move away from telling God what is needed, or what is “our way.” Or even our gift to him! Instead we are called to “Love Jesus totally, live according to his commission, and follow him,” This is resurrection discipleship, Alleluia!