In John 1:14 the beloved apostle writes “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John paints a touching picture of God, the Son, the living Word, choosing to become a man in order that He could dwell among us.
It is a picture of Jesus pitching his tent besides ours. Looking like us, talking like us, acting like us and yet, in all of this revealing to us the glory of God in human flesh. It’s a word picture that shows us just how personal God is. It tells us that He is a social being, who loves communion. A God who longs to come close to His creatures and connect with them where they are.
It also tells us that Jesus didn’t come to stand apart from us, cocooned in an austere and distant bubble of pristine holiness. He came to roll up His sleeves and get down among us so that we could get to know Him. He came to invest in humanity and while he was on earth this investment was largely centered around twelve men that he called as his disciples.
It wasn’t that Jesus felt that these men were somehow better than everyone else he associated with. In some cases, like with Judas, they were worse. Instead, it was simply an acknowledgment of reality. His time and resources were limited. His plans were specific. In order to use the limited resources He had as a man and ensure that He could still launch his plans, He chose twelve men to form the nucleus of what would become His church on earth.
Each of these disciples was handpicked and called by Jesus. None of them were perfect. They were all deeply flawed individuals from all walks of life. Some were more educated than others. Some rougher around the edges. Regardless of their backgrounds and personal idiosyncrasies Jesus looked at them and saw potential. And that is what made them worthy of His calling, not their qualifications but rather His ability to qualify them for the work before them, that and the fact that they were willing to be molded by Him.
Jesus called his first disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Fresh from his ordeal in the wilderness and focussed on the mission ahead of him, Jesus came down to Galilee and attracted a crowd of eager listeners. Unable to preach to them while standing on the thin strip of beach he found himself standing on, Jesus looked around for inspiration. He saw a small fishing boat, bobbing on the pristine surface of the lake and motioned to the fisherman who owned it.
Simon Peter knew Jesus. He had seen him at his baptism and followed him immediately thereafter. He had then left Jesus and come back to his regular day job but Jesus wasn’t finished with Peter.
Jesus asked Peter for permission to borrow his boat as a platform he could use to preach to preach from. Peter readily agreed and most likely helped Jesus launch out a little way from the shore in the boat. Jesus sat in the boat and preached to the people for a while. When he was done and the crowd began to disperse he motioned to Peter once again.
Jesus had yet another request for Peter. He asked him to launch his boat out into the deep waters of the sea and let down his nets for a catch of fish. Warily Peter eyed Jesus before telling Him that he had been out on the lake all night but had caught no fish.
A fisherman by trade Peter knew that the best time for fishing was during the stillness of the night when the waters of the lake undisturbed and no noise echoed across the open space. Fishing on the lake in the middle of the day was considered a fool's errand, mainly because the noise and commotion on and around the lake scared the fish away.
But Peter only hesitated a moment before choosing to follow Jesus’ advice. After explaining “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing” he relented and said “nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net” Because Jesus had spoken, Peter was willing to launch out on the strength of that word alone.
How often are we willing to launch out into new and deep waters simply on the strength of God’s word? Is God’s word enough of a motivator? Is it enough to propel us forward? It was enough to propel Peter into motion that’s for sure.
They launched out into the deepest part of the lake, let down their nets and almost immediately caught such a massive cache of fish that their nets threatened to break. In stunned and joyous disbelief Peter and his brother Andrew struggled to pull the catch on board and in the end they had to resort to calling out to their friends John and James to come out to help them.
It turned out that the catch of fish was so large that both boats were filled and nearly sinking as they made their way back to shore. When they were close enough to wade ashore Peter jumped out of the boat and splashed out to Jesus, who stood watching them on the pebbled shore. Falling at His feet Peter exclaimed “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man O Lord!” and yet even as he asked Jesus to leave him, paradoxically, Peter clung to Him as though he never wanted to let Him go.
It was a turning point for Peter because he saw in that one miracle Jesus’ ability to provide for every one of his needs, as long as he was willing to venture out in faith. When Jesus called him, Peter along with the other three men who had witnessed the miracle were ready to leave their nets and follow Jesus. He had demonstrated to them that He would provide for them, as long as they chose to cast their lot with His.
Speaking to Peter Jesus said “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men” Jesus changed the trajectory of Peter’s life. Up to that point he had been concerned with the mundane realities of life; he was a fisherman, going about the business of making a living. But Jesus called him to engage in something more. With the promise that his temporal needs would be cared for so fresh before him, Peter understood that Jesus was calling him to invest his life in a greater calling.
The Bible describes their response in Luke 5:11 “So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.