You shall be called
People view the things around them in different ways, some people see treasures, where others don’t see anything at all. Michelangelo, for example, used the stones that were rejected by others, and he found a way to use them to bring beauty and glory. The same could be said about Jesus. He saw value in people, beyond themselves. Jesus said to Peter. “You are Simon … you shall be called Cephas” (John 1:42). These two simple statements are the beginning of one man's journey from being a fisherman to being one of the apostles of Jesus.
Peter is one of the more interesting characters among the apostles. He was not known for being a calm and thoughtful person. I wonder if he was already aware of his limitations and weaknesses? In any case, the gospels illustrate the clear elements of Peter. He was impulsive, impetuous and strong-minded. Curiously, he is listening to Jesus in the first chapter of the gospel of John, when the Lord declared the previous comments mentioned. When we read that Jesus “looked at” Peter, it really means more than we may think - Jesus looked intensely through him (John 1:42). Jesus knew all that He needed to know about Peter with no explanation necessary. The Lord knows man more than man knows himself (John 2:25). Thus, Jesus knew Peter. He saw Peter’s weakness, failures, but also his potential and destiny. Peter was at the beginning of a journey where he was going to learn many life lessons.
Jesus made such an impression on Peter than he joined Andrew and, in all probability, John and James, in the company of “the Messiah” (John 1:41). There was a clear promise to be fulfilled. More disciples, Philip and Nathaniel, came to the group the next day. These original disciples became witnesses of the first miracle of Jesus. It happened in a Canaan Wedding. There were guests with Jesus. There, Jesus turned water into wine. This was a sign of God to clearly proclaim His power to provide for our daily needs. John said that Jesus “manifested His glory: and His disciples believed in Him” (2:11). This means that Peter and the other apostles took a step of faith to trust in Him, as the one capable to provide for their well-being, not only naturally, but also spiritually.
After the wedding, Peter and the other disciples went back to their daily occupations. They now knew what Jesus was capable of doing, however, they did not yet understand the calling on their lives. Thus, in Matthew 4:18-22, we read that Jesus found Simon and Andrew fishing. On this occasion, Peter heard clearly the calling, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Peter’s weakness became his strength at this moment in time. He followed immediately, without thinking twice. This was the beginning of the birth of a movement that would soon turn “the world upside down” (Acts 17:6), the Church of Jesus Christ.
Jesus continues to call people to follow Him. He has done this for the past 2,000 years. It is not always those that the world would choose as their first option. However, Jesus calls the foolish of the world (1 Corinthians 1:26-28) to fulfill God’s purpose and plans for this world. The end promises from God are victory, even in the darkest hour of this time. The Lord can raise a man to lead His people into victory.
Let me share the story of another man raised by God to bring salvation and victory. In Judges 6:4, we read the Midianites and Amalekites were destroying Israel’s crops and cattle. In this story, we find Gideon hiding wheat from the enemy. The Lord called upon him. He did not willingly receive God' calling at first; in fact, the opposite could be said. However, it is clear that he received the commission and assurance, “Go and … save Israel… Surely I will be with you” (Judges 6:14-16). Gideon did not see himself, as the one bringing salvation to Israel.Maybe, this is one of the characteristics that the Lord looks out for in those that He calls? If we think we are good enough and have no fault, then we don’t think we need help or salvation. However, if we are conscious of our own sin and weaknesses, then God grants victory through His grace (2 Corinthians 12:9,10).
It is in our weakness that we may become stronger, as it was in the case of Gideon. In Hebrews 11:32-33, we read, he was taken from beating out wheat in secret, through fear, to subduing kingdoms, through faith. One of the most interesting things is the meaningful sense of words in Scripture. Gideon was called at Bethabara (meaning, the place of transition) to replace his flail with a sword and, we could say the same about Peter, he was called to change his fish with souls (Judges 7:24; John 1:28).
There is always a cost involved in following Jesus. We can be so keen to make everyone a Christian, that we forget to share this fact, with those that we share the good news of Jesus Christ with. Peter received the call to follow Jesus (Mark 1:17). We can't do anything to receive God’s calling. There is a clear urgency to follow Him, once we receive the call, as we realise who is calling us. There is a cost. I am not saying that our deeds or works will make us receive such a call or be worthy of the same. It is important to realise that the spiritual works the same way as the natural. We are born by an act of love. Nothing could be done by us to be born, we just are. Spiritually, we are born again in the same way. It is an act of God’s love towards His people, the Church. Nevertheless, there is a cost involved in living. This is the same when we consider following Jesus.
Let us consider Peter’s life. Peter fulfilled his calling when he was willing to lay down his known life for an unknown future and uncertain destiny. He left behind all that he was familiar with: his boats, town, business, friends, and family (Luke 5:11; 18:28). In doing so, he began a journey to places that he had never thought about. The Lord would be true to His promise. He also discovered, that those who follow Jesus receive more than they leave behind (Luke 18:29,30). The reality is Peter’s decision to follow Jesus had many uncertainties; on the other hand, he knew Jesus was the Messiah (Christ), that Israel has been waiting for. Thus, Peter knew that his life was not going to be lost by leaving fishing, but there was a greater destiny awaiting. He probably did not realise at the time that his quest was an eternal one. He learned and then, wrote, “for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11).
The stories of Gideon and Peter are still relevant today, because we may find ourselves wondering whether the Lord is able to use us? Our expectations are always so limited to the temporal reality that we live in. God’s destiny goes before time and space into eternity. Paul explains such truths when he wrote to the Ephesians. He said, the Lord is still able “to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we think” (Ephesians 3:20). Today, like yesterday, Jesus still calls people, “Come … after Me, and I will make you …” Are you ready to follow Him?
I believe it is impossible not to follow Him if people hear the calling. It is interesting that we have seen the use of different prepositions. “To” Jesus, “after” Him, and now, “with” Him (Mark 3:14). Each of these prepositions points us to the work of Jesus in our lives. They formed the actions, the teaching and the character of those called to follow Jesus. Peter was changed forever, as he walked with Jesus. He became one of the key witnesses of the risen Christ. Thus, he wrote to others, “we were with Him” (2 Peter 1:18). You see, Peter walked with Jesus.
Here, we have a pattern to disciple other disciples that they were able to disciple others in the same way. As Peter walked and was with Jesus, he learned. This is the same pattern that Paul followed when he discipled Timothy (Acts 16:3). Discipleship is about sharing life together and learning in the way (2 Timothy 3:10).
We learn the Way, because it is not always easy to follow Jesus. There are times that we would probably prefer to do anything else. Peter had his moments. He denied Jesus on three occasions when he had proclaimed not long before that, he would never do so. Peter knew the cost of following Jesus and, also, his own weakness. He learned and, as a result, he grew to be more like His teacher.
If we walk with Jesus, people will recognize it. In Exodus 43:29, Moses’ face shone after being in God’s presence. I remember the time when I shone after being in a prayer meeting, or Sunday Service, or another time with God’s people. It was a time that bought so much joy in my life. The Lord reflects His glory through His people. It happens, if we are prepared to follow Him, to submit our lives and surrender to His will. The greater adventure is when we come to God’s presence, and the Holy Spirit changes our monotone lives to transformed lives that begin to radiate the glory of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).
I want to finish this chapter by bringing to your attention, one of the subjects rarely mentioned when it comes to talking about following Jesus. There is a cost always involved and, there is a real chance that you will be persecuted for your ideas and teachings that you hold dear. Peter learned it, as his life was changed by the teaching of Jesus. Thus, Peter heard from Jesus, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake” (Matthew 5:10, 11). Also, “Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets” (Matthew 5:12).
Such teachings became part of Peter's message as well, as he wrote to fellow believers, “If you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed” (1 Peter 3:14). “Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings. If you are reproached for the Name of Christ, blessed are you” (1 Peter 4:13, 14).
Peter learned to follow Jesus and obey His teaching. The Lord lived according to His Father’s will and harmonised it with a lifestyle that still being considered radical and counter-cultural (Acts 1:1). Our calling is to manifest the life of Jesus through our lives (2 Corinthians 4:10). Doing so, our prayer should be that “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30)?
“And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him … these twelve Jesus sent out” (Matthew 10:1,5). Through Christ, and with Christ, and in Christ, His followers are sent out to proclaim about Jesus. It was through the mission of the twelve that the apostolic mandate began from Jerusalem to all the nations. Today, Jesus continues calling people to follow Him, and He desires to work in our lives to change our perceptions and lifestyle to be more like Him and, thus, reflect God’s light to a dark world in despair. Are you ready for the challenges?
Bishop Josep M Rossello-Ferrer
Christ Church Minister