“When [Simon Peter, James, and John] had brought their boats to shore,
they left everything and followed [Jesus].” (Luke 5:11, NRSV)
Simon Peter and his fishing partners had fished all night without much luck. As they cleaned their nets and prepared for their next outing, Jesus climbed into Peter’s boat, asked him to push off from the shore, and then taught a crowd that gathered to hear him teach. Peter’s immediate obedience indicates he and Jesus were not strangers and may have interacted many times before. Jesus finished his lesson for the day, then asked Peter to take the boat into deeper waters to let down his nets for a fresh catch. At first, because Peter had been unsuccessful just hours before, he pushed back against Jesus’ request but then agreed to give it a try. When his boat was in position, he let down his nets and harvested a catch so large he needed James and John to come with their boat to help him haul in the load.
Once Peter pulled himself together after the mind-boggling catch, he recognized he was in the presence of a godly and powerful man. Indeed, Jesus would already know all the bad things Peter had done and condemn him. Instead, Jesus invites Peter to follow him in sharing God’s message of love and grace for all people. Peter’s decision to follow Jesus and his eventual transformation would be as miraculous as the haul of fish.
As we begin a new series this Sunday on “Following Jesus,” I want to stress that discipleship is a process of transformation that starts when we take the first step in following Jesus. The late 19th and early 20th centuries’ evangelical missions taught that following Jesus was a transaction rather than a life-long process of growing in faith and devotion. It’s as if becoming a Christian involved “signing on the dotted line” and becoming a member of the Christian “club.” Instead, Jesus asks us to follow him, watching and learning along the way and developing his habits, practices, and attitudes toward living and loving with one another. We can’t become a Christian in an instant—it takes time to develop the mind and character of Christ, which is the essence of what it means to be a Christian—that is to be “Christ-like.”
Following Jesus begins with the first step of believing that he might be worth following. Once we do this, God allows ample time for us to get to know Jesus, his love for us, his love for others, and his passion for the world. Our experience following and learning from Jesus leads us to an ever-deepening understanding of God so that our lives are in a state of constant transformation where we more faithfully reflect God’s love in and through us. It’s a life-long process, but it begins with one step. Join us Sunday as we explore more about taking the first step on a life-long journey of transformation.