All four of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) have stories about how Peter was called to follow Jesus.
The gospels of Matthew and Mark contain what is probably the best-known story of Jesus’ calling Peter to follow as Jesus walks by Peter, Andrew, James, and John while they are tending their nets and fishing. There is no recorded discussion between Jesus and the first four disciples as he issues his call for them to follow him. Jesus simply walks by them and says “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” Their immediate response is to follow Jesus as they leave their nets behind and follow Jesus into a future in which Jesus will define their identity as his disciples.
The Gospel of John records an entirely different account of how Jesus called Peter to follow. Whereas Peter is a primary character in the call stories of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Peter is a secondary character in the Gospel of John. In the Gospel of John, Peter’s brother, Andrew, is a disciple of John the Baptist who hears John the Baptist identify Jesus as the Lamb of God. In turn, Andrew and another disciple of John the Baptist begin to follow Jesus.
John reports that when Jesus saw Andrew and the other disciple of John the Baptist following him, he asked them, “What are you looking for?” Their reply was, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” to which Jesus replies, “come and see.” There is no invitation to Andrew to fish for people. There is only Jesus’ invitation to come and see.
Following this brief conversation with Jesus, Andrew tells his brother, Simon, “We have found the Messiah” and introduces Simon to Jesus When Jesus sees Simon, he gives him the name by which he shall be identified as the leader of the disciples by saying “You are Simon, son of John. You are to be Cephas (which is translated Peter).” As Simon becomes Peter, he follows Jesus into a future in which Jesus will define his identity as a disciple.
The story of Peter’s call in Luke is different from Matthew, Mark, and John but it does contain some common themes of Jesus’ call of Peter. Two of these common themes are:
- Jesus is the primary character in each account as Jesus invites Peter to follow him.
- Peter is called to live into a new identity as he becomes a follower of Jesus. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, this new identity is defined by Peter fishing for people rather than casting nets for fish. In John, Peter’s new identity is defined by Jesus identifying Simon as Cephas.
What is unique in Jesus’ call of Peter in Luke is Jesus’ command for Peter to put out into the deep water where Peter and his fishing partners had spent the previous night casting their nets. They returned from their work with empty nets, but Peter was willing to do what Jesus requested he said, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” As you will recall, the catch of fish was so great that both boats began to sink. This larger manifestation of Peter’s obedience of Jesus results in Peter falling down at Jesus’ knees professing who Jesus was while confessing who he was, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
While all four gospel accounts may contain unique features about Jesus’ calling of Peter, I believe that all four gospel accounts of Jesus’ call of Peter contain the same requirement for all disciples of Jesus. All four gospel accounts require us to live into a new identity as we put out into the deep water as we confess who we are and profess who Jesus is.
Rev, Timothy J. Keller, defines the identity of discipleship in this way:
Discipleship is not just a matter of bending your will to Jesus’ will; it’s melting your heart into a whole new shape. A disciple is not someone who simply sets a new priority; a disciple finds a new identity.
CS Lewis Institute, 2011 Winter
Martin Niemoller was a pastor who was placed into solitary confinement in a Nazi prison. In the reality of his confinement, each day he would set out into deep water by choosing a text from each testament, the old and the new. Daily he would whisper the texts to his fellow prisoners who came near enough in their exercise walks to hear him through a crack above his door. Daily his heart was melted into a whole new shape as his faith in Jesus shaped him in the deep water of discipleship.
Where are you being shaped in the deep water of discipleship?
The Deep Water of Discipleship
by Pastor Marc Brown
February 6, 2022
Accompanying Scriptures: Luke 5:1-11
Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for February 6, 2021
Scripture Lesson Luke 5:1-11
The Good News “The Deep Water of Discipleship”
Music “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go”
Closing Music “Built on the Rock” by Edward Broughton