I have a phobia. What is a phobia? An inexplicable, illogical, exaggerated response to a situation or object. Let me tell you about my phobia. Snakes.
About 48 years ago, we rented an old abandoned farm house and started to work on it. The grass in the yard (mostly weeds) was over my head when we began so a farmer brought in a mower to mow it down. One morning as I walked down to the highway to get the mail, a garter snake slithered over my exposed foot. I screamed bloody murder and I’m pretty sure I jumped at least 20 feet. (Might be exaggerated a bit.) The next morning and for every morning thereafter I wore my snow boots to get the mail. In my mind that harmless small snake was like a python that could eat me alive and its mouth was open like an alligator ready to chomp down on its meal. Realistic? Hardly. Almost laughable, but it’s real! A phobia.
Jesus tells a fisherman where to fish
One of the benefits we have because of the Day of Ascension is power for purpose. A story in Luke sheds light on that benefit. And on our phobias.
1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, 2 he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Luke 5:1-5 (NIV)
Peter had fished all night, pulled his boats on shore and was cleaning the nets. When Jesus asked him to push his boat back out so Jesus could use it, he did. When Jesus finished speaking and no longer needed the boat, He told Peter to shove back out in the deep water and let down the nets for a catch. This seasoned fisherman had fished all night the night before, relying on his fishing skill and wisdom, and caught nothing. I can hear Peter saying, “Uh, I worked hard, applying all my skill, and caught nothing. But, if you say so, I will go do it again!” He recognized something in Jesus’ teaching, something that moved him to agree to do as Jesus directed. He chose to rely on the word of a carpenter he had not known long. (photo from pixabay)
Peter’s response to a miraculous catch
Scholars believe this catch was the equivalent of two weeks’ worth of work. Miraculous indeed. How did Peter respond?
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:6-11 (NIV)
This time, not only was his boat filled, but also the boats of his partners, James and John. Simon was blown away by this catch and by the wisdom of this Jesus who Simon probably thought knew nothing about fishing.
In spite of his amazement, Peter still declared he was only a sinful man. “Sinful” suggests he was one who had erred in divine things, deviated from the path and missed the mark or the goal God had for him.
How did Jesus react to that assertion? I love that He did not agree with it at all. Notice Jesus addressed him as Simon, not Peter. Jesus not only abundantly blessed him beyond imagination for the gift of the use of his boat, but also corrected Simon’s wrong and flawed identity. Rather than one who had deviated beyond hope and completely missed the mark or goal God had for his life, Jesus assured him he didn’t need to be afraid and said Simon would now be a fisher of men. That should simply remind Peter because it’s the same thing Jesus told him when He called him. (see Matthew 4:19)
Failure haunts Peter
When Jesus told Peter not to be afraid, He was telling him don’t phobia.
Jesus knew what was really in Peter’s soul at that moment, in his thinking and emotional response to the catch. He was exposing Simon’s fear so he would be restored to Peter in his thinking. Jesus does the same thing for us. Why would Peter have a phobia? I can think of a couple reasons.
At that time, only boys went to school, and school for Jewish boys consisted of learning the Torah. They would closely follow a Rabbi, learning his way of life and the books of Moses (first five books of the Bible) and the prophets. At various points in their study, they were given an exam. Failure to pass the exam meant they did not go on but were sent back home to learn their father’s business.
Why do I think Peter was training as a rabbi? Think of all the times he quoted Scripture in Acts. I believe Peter demonstrated initiative and leadership that made him seem like an ideal rabbi. I wonder what his dreams of his future might have been.
And then he failed. Flunked out. Got sent home to learn the fishing business. If he dreamed of being a rabbi, now he may have felt deep shame over his failure to succeed. He had missed the mark or goal.
The second reason I believe Peter felt he missed mark or goal came from following Jesus. Let me explain. Scholars suggest that the disciples didn’t fully follow Jesus until after the Ascension. Until after power for purpose. Until then, it was a bit much, even for them, to try to really get their heads around being the kind of rabbi that Jesus was.
Peter probably still thought of rabbi as he had seen that lifestyle modeled at school and in synagogue as he grew up. As he watched Jesus perform miracles and teach in remarkable, authoritative ways, he remembered flunking out. If he couldn’t pass rabbi school exams, how would he ever be a rabbi like Jesus modeled? He simply couldn’t imagine at all being the rabbi he saw in Jesus.
Jesus was calling Peter’s thinking a phobia. Can you hear Jesus saying, “Peter, this statement about being a sinful man and missing the mark makes no sense at all to Me. Your fear of failure is highly illogical and exaggerated. I know better. I see what you are going to be and do. You’ll see.”
I can see Peter looking back at that incredible catch of fish and thinking about how Jesus felt about the fear he had expressed. Thinking about this carpenter turned rabbi who had just told him how to fish for such a catch. Then looking back at Jesus. I think Jesus chuckled as He said, “I know you don’t feel qualified. I don’t see that as a problem. People think I’m just a carpenter and not qualified as a fisherman. But look what you just caught!” Jesus knew Peter would be empowered for purpose by the Holy Spirit.
Like Peter, you and I have phobias when it comes to the purpose God has for us. Areas where we feel so unqualified. Perhaps you have tried in the past and failed. Perhaps your efforts have been ridiculed. Perhaps you feel like that purpose is totally beyond your ability and out of your comfort zone.
Today, hear Jesus say to you, “I know you don’t feel qualified. I don’t see that as a problem.” Let’s explore together in the next few weeks why Jesus would make such a statement, and how we can succeed.
Carol Boggess, author and speaker at A Healing Journey
Rivers – A Journey of Restoration From Broken to Breakthrough and God Sees Broken Hearts
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