We need what Peter had – individually and collectively. And we need it desperately.
We readily recall Peter’s boldness in asking his Lord for permission to walk on water. That story is full of encouragement as we face the impossible in our lives. If ever there was a story in the bible that illustrates the success one will have by following Christ’s commands, this is it. Even with Peter’s failure to keep his eyes on his Master, we still find an experience of a lifetime. If Peter could walk on water surely we can move forward in confronting the issues before us.
That boldness and confidence of walking on water is in sharp contrast to the biggest failure of Peter’s life. The denial of Christ could have spelled the ruin of Peter. His self-confidence serves as a warning to all who read his story. And in the merciful forgiveness and redemption of Christ to Peter we find rays of hope that can penetrate the darkest sins. If Peter could be forgiven and move past the worst day of his life, surely we can do the same.
Those two highlights of Peter’s life tell us a lot about the man. If we are honest with ourselves we often exhibit the same behaviors as Peter. One minute we’re bold and courageous in the Lord but the next minute we’re overwhelmed and in an all-out panic just to survive. One minute we are full of confidence and sure of our relationship with our Lord yet the next minute the glaring light of being different causes us to shrink away and to hide our lights under a bushel.
Yes, we are often like Peter and usually with regret. But there was one experience of Peter that we all desperately need. The details are recorded in Luke 5.
Peter, an experienced fisherman, and his comrades had spent a very unproductive night of fishing. They had done the best they could using all they had and had nothing to show for it. As they were washing their nets Jesus had come into the area. As normal, a large crowd was pressing about Him. To accommodate this massive crowd Jesus got into Peter’s boat and from the shore He taught the people.
The bible doesn’t record what Jesus taught that day. I’m confident His message contained guidance for life, hope and reconciliation with God. Just imagine for a moment Peter sitting in that boat as it sways back and forth with the Son of God on board giving the Bread of Life to the people.
“When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Luke 5:4
That simple command with a clear promise is emblematic of our relationship with Jesus. He commands and promises while our task is to obey and claim. It is just that simple.
Peter and his companions obey and the promise is fulfilled. So great is the haul of fish that their boats began to sink. All that they failed to accomplish using their own strength and abilities was more than achieved when they operated under the direction of Christ. That’s a profound lesson for us to explore another time. Right now we want to examine the effect of this miracle upon our brother Peter. Listen how Peter reacts:
“When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Luke 5:8
In this miracle, as no other, Simon Peter realized he was face to face with divinity. So powerful was this moment of awareness that the contrast between the holiness of his Master and his own sins overwhelmed him. Banished from his mind was any sense of self-importance or pride. He was as it were naked before God. The wave of emotions that rolled over him shook him to his very core.
That experience is identical to the revelation Isaiah had when he saw the Lord sitting on a throne. Nothing he had ever experienced before came close to the magnitude of that moment. Like Peter, Isaiah saw himself in a new light and his words confessed what his soul was experiencing.
“So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.” Isaiah 6:5
And that is exactly what we need – individually and collectively. Our greatest need is not more things or resources. What we most desperately need is a revelation of God. Not another casual encounter where we walk away with our pride and arrogance intact. We need the experience where we can see God as God. An experience that overtakes our emotions, moves past our prejudices, pierces through our prideful hearts and makes clear who we really are and who God really is.
Without that experience we live under the delusion that knowing the right things and living the right lives equals a relationship with heaven. We go through life believing in an abstract God way up there somewhere and no sense of His majesty and power. And this misconception of who God really is prevents us from having the abundant life we were meant to have.
It is easy to wear the garment of religion without experiencing true religion. Individually it is easy to fix our affections on ourselves. Pride is real. And it’s just as easy to believe that our religious life is intact because of our appreciation of a teaching or how much we are moved by a song. Without knowing it pride is celebrated and emulated and “church” becomes nothing more than a checklist on our weekly agendas. We need something better.
Peter on his knees before his Saviour is where we all must find ourselves. Of all of the needs we have our greatest need is to see God. And we need it desperately.
Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:
- What does it mean to see God?
- What is the difference, if any, between healthy pride and unhealthy pride?
- How, if at all possible, does a person go about removing pride from their heart?
- What does the word “humble” mean to you?
- Is it possible to be proud of being humble? Explain your answer.
- Why would humility be a desired character trait?
- Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: You can be a dedicated, devoted, loyal disciple and have never really encountered God. Explain your answer.
We close this week’s lesson on Comrades in Arms with a line of a prayer of Jesus. This is one of those texts we can never exhaust.
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. John 17:3
Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School.