Many men similar to Peter, have walked the earth, men whose brains find difficulty in keeping up with their minds and whose lives are a chiaroscuro of contradictions. Lest we be too hard on him, we should always bear in mind that none have ever joined Jesus in leaving footprints on water. I cannot help but wonder what Simon Johnson (that would have been on his birth certificate) would have said if he heard that he would someday stroll on the same billows that he spent so much time reaping fish from. His quick mouth would have voiced his incredulity no doubt.
Stroll on the water he did nonetheless and so much more. Once, an angel broke him out of maximum prison without firing a single shot but long before that, Peter had the privilege of being one of three witnesses to some of Jesus’ most spectacular activities such as the resurrection of Jarius’ daughter, the Transfiguration and Jesus’ blood-sweating agony in Gathsemane although he did sleep through some parts of that it.
Action is never far from Peter’s name in the aptly named Book of Acts. When he wasn’t breaking out of jail, Cephas healed the sick both actively and by his shadow. Ever so often, he found himself speaking with boldness before the Sanhedrin and taking a detour to resurrect the thrifty Dorcas. However, it is hard to hide from the ping ponging that Peter did – swinging to great heights in one moment before falling to great depths in the next. Declaring Jesus as Messiah in one breath, he misunderstood Jesus’ mission in the next exhalation. Once more he slipped from celebrating the salvation of Cornelius to the murky waters of hypocrisy when in trepidation, Peter suddenly stopped eating with the Gentiles when a high powered delegation from headquarters came to investigate. Surely, Jesus could have chosen better.
Choose Peter, Jesus did. Embroiled in sorting fish, Simon found himself called to join a radical rabbi’s happy band. This rabbi promised him not the excitement of skipping on water nor the pain of hearing the most dreadful cock crowing ever but He simply promised that Peter would fish men. Discarded by the prestigious rabbinical schools and consigned to a thankless life at the mercy of the lake’s generosity, Peter found himself in the presence of a Teacher who gazed upon an unsophisticated fisherman but saw only what he could be.
Despite his faults, Peter was always ready to try something new. God can bring about anything in, and through, those who are willing to learn. Peter was a learner. Intrepid in his quest to learn from Jesus, he got out of his safety zone and stood in the water. The message of that story is clear: Jesus is longing to lead us to do “impossible” but that requires us to defy our fear of failure and embrace the possibility of failure while striving for higher goals than our frivolous prayers and unimpressive plans.
Quite sadly, we the church are guilty of painting any mistake as sin. Thus we coalesce around the tried and tested, never venturing too far from the shore lest we make a terrible mistake. Thankfully, God has a grasp of reality that allows for our mistakes. It comes as no shock to Him that we make errors and so He doesn’t call us to keep from making mistakes, rather, he calls us to get up from our falls and learn the lessons we would not have learned otherwise.
Thus, when Peter, crushed by the memory of his denial and returned to fishing, Jesus returned to recall that beautiful morning when a fisherman became a disciple. Peter was called to stand up. He calls us too, albeit without fish roasting on the coals, to step out of our mediocre comfort zones to stroll on the stormy billows of life, leaving our footprints on the water.
“Feed my lambs,” were Jesus’ words to Peter. Though faltering along the way, Peter lived up to the charge and left two letters for us to read and find nourishment within them. One week done, twelve more to go!