TBT: The Restoration of Peter

Day 5: Peter is Restored

Today’s story is pretty short, as well as the context.

CONTEXT

Last week Peter denied Jesus three times. There is no additional historical context I can give this time except what is missing from the story between last week and this week.

 

After Jesus had been taken away to Pontius Pilot, He was questioned, flogged, mocked, and sentenced to crucifixion.

 

Crucifixion was a terrible, painful death that if I took the time to explain could take up several posts. However if you are curious here are a couple articles you can reference:

http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/crucifixion/roman-crucifixion-methods-reveal-the-history-of-crucifixion/

http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/controversy/common-misconceptions/the-facts-of-crucifixion.html

 

Jesus died and on the third day he rose again. Now for those of you who are familiar with the Easter season. Good Friday is not three 24 hour periods before Easter Sunday. Again I could make a post completely about that. Here are a couple links that may prove insightful if you struggle with the math of that: http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=6&article=756 and https://carm.org/how-long-was-jesus-dead-tomb

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After Jesus rose again, he appeared to His disciples and over 500 people. The story begins with a reflection back to the first time Jesus called Peter to follow him.  Peter and a few of the disciples decided to go out and fish. After a long night of no success, they returned to shore.

 

Before they reached the shore a man called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

 

They replied no and the man told them to throw their nets over the right side.

 

When they caught so many the nets were full, the disciple Jesus loved said, “It is the Lord!”

 

When Peter heard this, he jumped out of the boat and ran to shore, leaving his friends behind to drag in the catch. Leave it to Peter to act without thinking first. But who could blame his enthusiasm in seeing the Lord?

 

After bringing to fish to shore, Jesus told them to join him for breakfast, and that is where our story picks up.

 

THE BIBLE STORY

(NIV version)

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

 

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”fire-30231_640

 

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

 

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

 

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

 

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

 

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

 

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?”He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

 

stained-glass-645544_640Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him,“Follow me!”

 

Just like Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus reaffirmed Peter’s love for Him three times. Then just as He had called Peter the first time, Jesus ended with telling Peter to follow Him.

 

Peter would move from there to become one of the most influential leaders of the early church. His zeal for the Lord was no longer dampened by fear. He would never deny his Lord again, even when it meant death.

TBT: The Temple Police & Betrayal of Jesus

Today our mission team is finishing up our last day of Sports Vacation Bible School, so please be in prayer as we say our goodbyes and travel home tomorrow.

 

Day Four: The Betrayal of Jesus – John 18:1-27

 

THE CONTEXT:

This week’s story starts with the betrayal of Jesus and goes into Peter’s denial. Today’s context is only focused on the crowd that came to take Jesus away and His accusers. I always wondered who made up the crowd that was sent to bring Jesus back to the high priest. It turns out there were two main groups of soldiers.

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John is the only Gospel to mention a small contingent of Roman soldiers. The Roman soldiers were few in number and were likely only there to prevent rioting.

 

The temple police were the primary arresting officers. But who made up Temple Police?

 

The Temple Police

The temple police were drawn from the Levites and were charged with maintaining order in the temple precincts.

 

The Levites

Levites were the descendants of Levi. It was their job to serve as assistants to the priests in the worship system of ancient Israel. Only specific descendants of Aaron were charged with the responsibility of priesthood – giving the burnt offerings and leading people in worship and confession. The other Levites did more menial duties, like taking care of the tabernacle and the temple.

 

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A Levite’s special service to God began with his consecration at about 25. This was not a quick process. First, he was sprinkled with the “water of purification.” Next, the hair was shaved from his entire body and his clothes were washed. A sacrifice was made of two young bulls and a grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil was presented. After this purification, he was brought to the door of the tabernacle where the hands of the elders were laid upon them.

 

You Levites began as assistants to the priests and chief Levites, then progressed through the higher duties and offices such as a doorkeeper, a member of the temple orchestra, or an administrator.

 

Temple Police Duties

Generally, the temple police were the gatekeepers, the watchmen that guarded the entrance to the Temple mount.  This was a duty taken very seriously as you can see from the excerpt below:

 

“Levites were stationed at twenty-one points in the Temple court; at three of them priests kept watch during the night. A captain patrolled with a lantern, to see that the watchmen were at their posts; and if one was found sleeping, the captain had the right to beat him and to set fire to his garments.”

– http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/

 

Temple police also had the very difficult task of opening and closing the gates. According to Josephus (a first-century Romano-Jewish scholar, historian, and hagiographer), it took at least twenty men to do. They also had the menial duty of cleaning its precincts.

 

Arresting Jesus

When the temple police and soldiers arrested Jesus, they transported him not to the current high priest, but to Annas, the father-in-law of the current high priest. Why on Earth would they do that? And who was this Annas guy anyway?

Apparently, Annas was the high priest from AD 6 to AD 15. He was originally appointed to the office by Quirinus, governor of Syria, but he was deposed by Valerius Gratus, procurator of Judea in AD 15. Even so, his influence was considerable.

 

star-of-david-458372_640According to JewishEncylopedia.com, it seems that Annas and Caiaphas (the actually appointed high priest) seemed to discharge the duties together and each of them in a different sense was regarded as high priest. It was even suggested that Annas may have been encouraged to ignore the Roman appointment and continue in office. This may be the reason why Jesus was first brought to Annas.

 

When Annas had deemed Jesus guilty, he could not be the one to present him to the Romans, therefore Jesus was sent to Caiaphas. Since he was the one actually appointed, it was Caiaphas’ job to make sure Jesus was presented to the Roman government for punishment. However, the Romans would not punish theological differences, as was the complaint of the Jewish leaders, so they trumped up false political accusations when the time came to present Jesus.

 

By the way, Jesus’ “trial” did not follow procedures, thus his sentencing was completely illegal (even before the trumped up political charges). The testimony of one person for themselves is inadmissible. Even back then it was necessary for two witnesses sharing the same story to give testimony before a person could be found guilty.

 

gavel-1017953_640.jpgJesus even brought this point up. “Why do you question me? Question those that have heard me, they know what I have said.”

 

No two people could be found who could give the same testimony against Jesus.

 

THE BIBLE STORY

(As retold by me.)

After praying for his disciples and future followers, Jesus knew they time had come for Him to be betrayed. Knowing every agony He would endure, He went out to Judas the Betrayer and the soldiers. Only the Son of God could face such knowledge and still do what was commanded of Him.

 

Jesus asked, “Who is it you are looking for?”

 

“Jesus the Nazarene.”

 

“I am He,” Jesus told them, announcing His deity and His being the one they sought.

 

prostrate-153287_640The temple police had heard may people preach in the Temple courtyards, but they recognized Jesus’ teaching as unique. Hearing Him speak thus, they fell to the ground – a common reaction to divine revelation.

 

He asked them again, “Who are you looking for?”

 

“Jesus the Nazarene.” I can almost hear the quiver in their voice.

 

“I told you, I am He. So if you are looking for me let these men go.” This was to fulfill the words He had said: “I have not lost one of those You have given Me.”

 

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave. He was not going to allow anyone to arrest his Lord.

 

Jesus rebuked Peter. “Sheathe your sword! Am I not to drink the cup the Father has given me?”

 

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I can imagine his confusion and shock as he sheathed his sword, watched the other disciples run away, and followed behind the soldiers who had come to arrest Jesus.

 

Jesus was taken to Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest that year.

 

Simon Peter followed Jesus into the courtyard but stayed behind at a distance. What would the people here do to him if they knew who he was? He ducked his head as he entered, but the doorkeeper stopped him.

 

“Aren’t you one of that man’s disciples?” the doorkeeper asked.

rust-1281723_640Oh no! What should he do? He heard the coarse laughter of those berating Jesus. A Roman soldier brushed against Peter on his way out the gate. Fire reflected in the polished metal of the sharp sword hanging at his waist. Peter gulped.

“I am not!” Peter denied.

 

He tucked his head down and scurried to a fire, close enough to hear Annas questioning Jesus about His disciples and teachings, but far enough away to not be recognized.

 

“I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus said. “I have always taught in the synagogue and in the Temple complex, where all the Jews congregate, and I haven’t spoken anything in secret. Why do you question Me? Question those who heard what I told them. Look, they know what I said.”

 

When Jesus had said these things, one of the Temple police slapped Jesus. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?”

 

“If I have spoken wrongly, give evidence about the wrong; but if rightly why do you hit Me?”

 

Having decided what to do, Annas sent Jesus to Caiaphas, the high priest, for official judgment.

 

fire-30231_640While Simon Peter was standing and warming himself, one of the other men said to him, “Aren’t you one of His disciples too?”

 

“I am not!” Peter denied again.

 

One of the slaves, a relative to the man whose ear Peter had cut off, said, “Didn’t I see you with Him in the garden?”

 

Fear gripped at his heart. They would send him to be punished with Jesus if he admitted it. He must convince them once and for all he was not a disciple of Jesus. Peter denied it vehemently. When he finished, a rooster immediately crowed. Peter remembered Jesus’ prophesying his denial and he was ashamed. He had failed Jesus, the Lord he proclaimed to love.

 

TBT: Light Up the World – Phillipians 2

This Saturday, our church mission team will head to Wisconsin for a week of Sport Vaction Bible School. Pray for use as we reach out and try to light up the world. Below is Day 3 of my preparation for the prayer journals. This week I am going to reverse the order on you. First, I am going to present you with the Bible story, or verses in this case, and then give you the context.

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Day 3: Lights in the World – Philippians 2:5-18

THE BIBLE STORY

(Pulled directly from the HCSB version this time.)

5 Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,

6 who, existing in the form of God,

did not consider equality with God

as something to be used for His own advantage.

7 Instead, He emptied Himself

by assuming the form of a slave,

taking on the likeness of men.

And when He had come as a man

in His external form,cross-66700_640

8 He humbled Himself by becoming obedient

to the point of death —

even to death on a cross.

9 For this reason, God highly exalted Him

and gave Him the name

that is above every name,

10 so that at the name of Jesus

every knee will bow —

of those who are in heaven and on earth

and under the earth —

11 and every tongue should confess

that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

 

12 So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. 14 Do everything without grumbling and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked an perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world. 16 Hold firmly to the message of life. Then I can boast in the day of Christ that I didn’t run or labor for nothing. 17 But even if I am poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 In the same way you should also be glad and rejoice with me.

 

 

THE CONTEXT

 

Philippians

The book of Philippians is actually a letter that Paul wrote during his first Roman imprisonment to the church he planted in Philippi. In this portion of the letter, Paul was exhorting the church in Philippi to unity.

Two prominent women within the Philippian church were conversation-799448_640at odds with each other. Selfishness lay at the heart of their problem and Paul reminded believers of the humility of Jesus.  If they would allow the outlook of Christ to guide their lives, harmony would be restored. Christian unity is restored when individuals develop the mind of Christ.

 

Work Out Your Salvation?

sport-927759_640.jpg “Work out your salvation” does not mean that you can earn your own salvation. Think of it as more of a workout, like you do at the gym. You apply the principles of Christ’s teaching to your actions and your attitude. Do it, and you grow closer to Christ. How do you do a “Salvation Workout”, there are lots of great exercises in your Bible. Paul has written many letters that are quick and easy to read.

 

Excuse Me, Paul, But Can You Say That Again?

“But even if I [Paul] am poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. In the same way you should also be glad and rejoice with me.” (v. 17 and 18).

 

As I read this, my eyes began to glaze over and I could picture the dunce hat waiting for me on the corner chair. To understand this, I had to do a little research.

 

First off, what was a drink offering? Well, before Jesus’ atoning sacrifice of himself, Jews had to present animal, grain, and drink offerings to the priests, who would then ceremonially offer them as a burnt sacrifice to God.

 

Below is the description that was given by God of what was supposed to be done:

 

“On the day you wave the sheaf, you are to offer a year-old male lamb without blemish as a burnt offering to the Lord. Its grain offering is to be four quarts of fine flour mixed with oil as a fire offering to the Lord, a pleasing aroma, and its drink offering will be one quart of wine.” Leviticus 23: 12 -13

 

In the footnotes of my study Bible, it mentioned the priests would pour out the drink offering onto the lamb to be burned.

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Personally, I think burning flesh and burnt wine smell terrible, but I do not think it was the actual smell that pleases the Lord. I think it has more to do with the obedience and attitudes of those offering up the sacrifice.

 

God is spiritual, He doesn’t need physical food, but He did insist the sacrifices be given to Him. Sacrifice as worship is people giving back to God what God has previously give them as a means of grace.

 

So let’s look at the verse again:

“But even if I [Paul] am poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. In the same way you should also be glad and rejoice with me.” (v. 17 and 18).

 

So even if Paul is burned up (okay so maybe killed is more likely) because of his faith and sacrificial worship, he will rejoice. And we should rejoice too. Faithfully serving God is our personal sacrifice, our act of worship, and it will bring us joy.

 

So how do you faithfully and sacrificially serve? Go back and reread verses 5-16. We are to adopt the humility of Christ. We are not to grumble and argue. We are to be different. We are to stand out like stars in a dark world.

Shine bright, my friends.

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Reflection questions for you:

Did anything in the passage from Philippians convict you?

What are some areas you could adopt the attitude of Christ?

How will you faithfully and sacrificially serve God this week?

TBT: Sea of Galilee

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Here is the research and story for Day 2 of or mission trip prayer journal:

Day 2: Jesus and Peter Walk on Water – Matthew 14:22-33

THE CONTEXT

The Sea of Galilee… or is it?

The Sea of Galilee is known by many names, but the two most important to Biblical studies is Lake Gennesaret (as it was known in Jesus’ time) and the Sea of Chinnereth (as it was known in Old Testament times).

 

The Sea of Galilee’s Geography

This pear-shaped lake extends 13 miles from north to south and 7israel-1162839_640 miles from east to west and has a surface area of 64 square miles. When I researched the depth of the lake I found numbers ranging from 141 feet deep to nearly 200 feet deep during Biblical times. So pick a number, whichever number you pick will still make it a relatively shallow lake.

 

The surface elevation has long been given as 686 feet below sea level, although it has dropped below that level for that last several decades. Surrounding this low elevation are 2000 foot high hills and cliffs on the east, plains to the north, the hills of Lower Galilee to the west, and another plain to the south.

 

Why Did Storms Occur Without Warning?

israel-555771_640The Golan Heights to the east are a source of cool dry air. In contrast, directly around the Sea of Galilee, the climate is semi-tropical with warm, moist air.  The large differences in height can cause large temperature and pressure changes, resulting in strong winds dropping to the sea, funneling through the hills.

Trapped in this area, the winds can be deadly to fishermen. A storm in March 1992 sent waves 10 feet high crashing into downtown Tiberias.  Now imagine being a 23 x 7-foot boat battling those waves… Yikes!

 

Quick Tidbit: The Jordan River flows through the lake from north to south.

 

THE BIBLE STORY

(Retold in my own words.)

Jesus had just finished feeding the crowd of 5,000 men. He told the disciples to get in the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the people.

 

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Jesus went off by himself to pray for a while and it was evening before he finished. He was ready to join the disciples but the boat was over a mile away from the shore. The wind was strong and the waves were high.

 

Around three in the morning, Jesus came toward the boat, walking on top of the sea. Waves were crashing all around him. The wind was blowing. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they thought Jesus was a ghost and they were scared.

 

Jesus wanted to calm them and told them, “Have courage! It is me. Don’t be afraid.”

 

Peter called out to Jesus. “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”

 

“Come!” Jesus said.

 

Peter had to have the first moment of courage to leave the sure safety of the battered boat to the completely wild waters of the sea. He had no safety net. He truly believed that Jesus would keep him above the water. There was no doubt in his heart. It is almost as if he acted with his heart before his head could catch up and tell him logically why this was not possible.

 

J0UAWTH21ZHe stepped from the boat. Eyes on Jesus, eager to reach him. Then his brain caught up. He could feel the wind tug at his clothes. The cold water lapping over his feet. The waves slapping his legs and soaking his clothes. Fear began to seep in. What am I doing out here? Jesus is too far away. I am going to drown! I can’t do this. The wind is going to blow me over. The waves are going to consume me. I won’t be able to breathe. I will die.

 

So the water begins to rise as he sinks. He panics.

 

“Lord, save me!”

 

Immediately, Jesus reached for Peter’s hand and caught hold of him. But hadn’t Jesus been a long way off? Wasn’t that what scared Peter most? Jesus was too far away to help him. But no, Jesus was right there. Peter would not drown. He was safe now. Jesus had him.

 

“You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

 

I can just imagine the scene as they walked back. The wind is still blowing, the waves are still slamming against Peter. Peter clings to Jesus’ body, soaked, exhausted, trembling, but moving with his Savoir. He will not drown, no matter how bad the storm is. Jesus has him.

 

When they reach the boat, the wind stops, the waves calm, and the boat stills. Peter is still soaked, but he has survived because of his Lord.israel-1162839_640

 

Jesus’ power was demonstrated.

 

Those in the boat worshipped Him and proclaimed, “Truly You are the Son of God!”

 

But if Jesus is the Son of God, why did He allow the storm to happen? He could have prevented the storm or stopped it at any moment. He could have prevented Peter from sinking at all. But He didn’t.  Why didn’t He?

 

To find the answer, you have to look at the results of Peter going through the storm.

 

Because of the storm, Peter’s faith was tested. He was able to start through the storm, strong and firmly holding on to the belief that he could walk to Jesus through the storm on his own. Jesus would give him the power, the strength.

 

As he got farther away from the safety of the boat, and the logic of his mind took hold, Peter grew fearful, frantically looking for Jesus. But Jesus was too far away. He would never make it on his own, so he cried out, and Jesus was there for him at that second.

 

UHVEE852V2Jesus could have prevented Peter from sinking, He could have prevented or stopped the storm, but He didn’t. Instead, He walked with Peter through the storm, allowing His warmth to seep into Peter’s cold, trembling arms. He held Peter up when Peter had no power of his own to stay above the waters.  Peter was not going through this storm alone. The Son of God was with him.

 

When they reached the boat, Peter knew who Jesus was, both in heart and head. He had a stronger relationship with Jesus because he had depended on Jesus to carry him through.

 

No matter the storms in your life right now, you are not alone. Jesus right there, hand extended, waiting for you to call out to Him. He will keep you from sinking. He will walk with you through the storm and you will be closer to Him because of it.

 

He could make the storm go away, but the benefit of drawing near to him during the storm, warms your body, you soul, and your mind. Without the storm, you could miss out on learning just how dependable Jesus really is and just how much He loves you.

 

Reflections for You:

Here are a couple videos of relatively small wind storms on the Sea of Galilee.

How would you feel if you were Peter?

Do you ever think with your heart before your mind can stop you? What was that like?

Are you in a storm right now? How can you see Jesus helping you in the midst of the storm?

 

 

TBT: Fisher of Men

For the next few Throw Back Thursdays, I am taking a break from my novel research and am instead sharing some Biblical Times research.

 

For the last five years, my family and I have traveled to Wisconsin with our church to provide a Sports Vacation Bible School. And for the last three years, I have created a daily prayer journal for the missionary teams to complete as they progress through the week.

 

The process for this takes me hours for each individual entry. While I am not going to share the devotions, I thought I would share some of the Bible story and the research that helps me understand the context of the Bible story.  So here we go…

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Day 1: The Calling of Simon Peter, Luke 5:1-11

THE CONTEXT

Biblical Times Fisherman

Most of us today think of fishing as a relaxing venture with a pole or two in the water, a hat pulled down over your eyes, and a dozing kind of day. And perhaps if fishing were done for leisure it might not have been too different for our Biblical friends.

 

However, the life of a fisherman was anything but leisurely.

 

A Day in the Life of a Fisherman

Being a fisherman was strenuous work which required persistence, dedication, and long hours, often with little results.

 

Nets were handmade out linen or flax. Pieces of cork or wood were attached to the tops so they would float. The weights were stones with holes hand-drilled through the middle.

 

To prevent rotting, fishermen had to carefully clean, character-1161955_640dry, mend, and then fold their nets every day, and this was all completed after working as a team, dragging the nets along the bottom of the lake toward shore, drawing them up, emptying the nets into the boat, rowing back out to deep water, and then dropping the nets again… seven or eight times each night.

 

And don’t forget the fish had to be sorted, cleaned, and then sold before the fishermen could head home for an afternoon of rest.

 

Why Did They Night Fish?

Was it to avoid the heat of the day when the sun would bake their backs? Was it so the fish would be fresh to send to market in the morning?

 

Good reasons, but actually, no.

 

Due to the fact the fishing nets were made out of linen or flax, fish could easily see and avoid the nets during the day. That is why most fishing occurred at night.


What Was the Boat Like?

fishing-boat-164308_640The typical fishing boat was 23 feet long and seven feet wide. A crew of five people manned it: four to row and one to steer and supervise the catch. The last person also had the job of watching for signs of sudden storms.

 

THE BIBLE STORY

(My own retelling of Luke 5:1-11.)

 

Simon Peter was part of a fishing team of at least two boats who had fished all night long only to end up unsuccessful. Not a single fish. Weary, they sat on the shore tending to their nets when Jesus came along, a crowd pressing against Him.

 

Jesus asked Simon to allow Him to get in the boat and put out a little way. After the long night, they had, and the many chores ahead of him, it would have been easier for Peter to say no. However, Peter did as he was asked and had the privilege of listening to Jesus teach the crowds.

 

When the teaching was complete, Jesus asked Simon to network-1028678_640once again put out into deep water and try fishing again. Peter was tired and reluctant to do so. He knew that fish would see their nets during the day and the likelihood of this trip being a failure as well was high. But he wasn’t doing this on his own. The Great Teacher had asked him to put out into the deeper water.

 

“Master,” Simon replied, “we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing! But at Your word, I’ll let down the nets.”

 

Can you hear the reluctance in his answer? It is almost as if he is saying, “I really don’t want to do this, but because you have asked me, I will do it anyway.” He wasn’t enthusiastic about it. In fact, it was probably the last thing he wanted to do, but he did it anyway.

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His obedience was rewarded with so many fish, their nets began to tear and they had to call for help. When Simon Peter saw this, he realized Jesus was holy and had divine power. He knew he was unworthy to be in Jesus’ presence.

 

“Go away from me, because I am a sinful man, Lord!”

 

But Jesus knew Simon Peter better than even Simon knew himself. He had created Simon. He valued Simon. He had a job for Simon.

 

“Do not be afraid. From now on you will be catching people!”

 

Simon had been called. He left a successful business behind and followed Jesus.

 

Reflection Questions for You

What trepidations do you have as we go into the weekend?

Is there anything holding you back from following Jesus or serving God?

Do you feel you have been called to do the impossible?

 

Jesus called you. He knows your skills. He knows your heart. He wants to use you. Admit whatever is holding you back and say, “But at your word, I will let down my net.”

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