You may click here to read the passage, which is Luke 5:1-11 and John 21:1-7, 20-22.

This sermon series is inspired by the work of www.sanctifiedart.org. The liturgical help and scriptural framing were beneficial for my study and sermon writing. Each week a phrase from the hymn “Come Thou Fount” is highlighted and viewed through the life of the disciple Peter.

Introduction

Today we start a series titled, “Figuring Out Faith,” in which we will take a phrase from the hymn, “Come Thou Fount,” which we will sing after the sermon today. We will think through these themes through the life of Peter. 

Peter was a close friend and follower of Jesus. He became one of the most influential people in the 2,000-year history of the Christian Church.

However, Peter wasn’t always a friend or follower. He started just like you and me. He started as a stranger. And Jesus sought him, just like Jesus seeks after you. 

What do I mean by, “Jesus seeks after you?” I mean that the teachings of Jesus are taught to you and are so special and profound that they can change your life forever. I mean that the person of Jesus is so special and unique (there is no other person like him in the history of humankind) that he can change your life forever. 

In the 13.7 billion years of the cosmos, in the 300, 000 – several hundred thousand of years of human development, there has never been anyone with the impact of Jesus Christ. Billions of people on earth now and billions and billions of people before now, would sit eye-to-eye with you today, with tears in their eyes or smiles on their faces and tell you the difference that Jesus has made in their life.

The words on this page and the words in this book are so special that when we read them, it’s as if Jesus is speaking right to us, like Jesus is seeking us out, and calling to us, not Peter, not to Andrew, not to Nathanael, but is saying to us, “Hey, you, dear daughter, you dear son, I know you are tired and you’ve tried a lot of answers in your life and you’ve gotten nothing to show from it but a lot of weeds, but can you try one more time with me. Let’s go out in deep waters together and see what we can pull up together by faith.”

It’s as if Jesus is calling us, but first, we are strangers and then by God’s grace we become friends and followers of Jesus. The call is to own our faith and as we will see, Peter’s faith is going to look different than Andrew’s and John’s. Your faith is going to look different than someone else’s because your situation is unique to you. All of us will have to learn to believe and grow as as we go through our life.

Soles and Souls

I think of it like this. When my kids were very young, Barb would take them to the store to pick out a new pair of shoes. 

It was a holiday for them. They would come home and celebrate– bright designs, lights on the bottom, or neon laces. Sometimes they would wear those shoes until the soles wore out.

Then one day it would happen. We’d say, “Hey, we need to go to the store, so go put on your shoes.” 

No! I’m not putting on my shoes.

What? We need to go. Please go put on your shoes right now, before I give away your inheritance.

I don’t want to go to the store and I’m not putting on my shoes.

We do the checklist: they’ve had breakfast, so they are not hungry. It’s nowhere near their naptime. They’ve been happily playing. They are in a good mood. They don’t have a fever. They normally love going on errands; something else is going on.

Then we get down to the issue.

Do you know what it is? The core issue is not about going to the store or wearing the shoes. The core issue is that they have grown and now the shoes don’t fit and the shoes they once loved are hurting them because it is too small for them. 

The core issue is not negative. The core issue is growth and growth is not negative.

What do Barb and I say in response to that? Hey, I understand. Let’s go to the store and get you some shoes that give you space to grow into. “I get to pick shoes?”

And they respond with a celebratory, “Yes!” 

When you buy shoes for kids, you don’t buy them snug shoes. You buy shoes that are a bit bigger, so they have room to grow. They become bigger so the shoes become bigger. Pain or discomfort is the signal. This will happen for the next 17 years! This cycle of growth, pain, and choice.

Many of us grew up with a faith we love. Then our lives became very complex and the faith we grew up with no longer suited our needs and it literally pained us to pray or to go to church. That faith didn’t fit us. 

We face these hard experiences and the frustrations we feel may be signaling to us, “Hey, I think I’ve grown past the limits of those easier answers. I’m thankful those answers of the past got me this far. I needed those more narrow boundaries, but now I need a bigger faith, a more complex life because life has become more complex.” 

The task, then, is to learn how to grow a real-life, adult faith as a follower of Jesus. And the way you do that is that you figure it out as you go—that friends is what we call “Christianity.” 

Peter had to learn this. In our passages, his life has become unmanageable and overwhelming and has brought him to his breaking point. He has to grow beyond his first faith and Jesus invites him into a new, bigger faith. 

Peter’s Openness to Faith is Due to Hardship

Soon after following Jesus, Peter has gotten a phone call from his wife, which we are allowed to overhear, “Sweetheart, I need you to come home right away. It’s mom. I don’t know. She’s not doing well. The doctors don’t know what it is. They’ve given her antibiotics and they’ve ordered tests and she’s resting. She’s sleeping now.”

Luke, the author of this gospel, was a physician by trade, so he notes in the original language that she is literally, “besieged and tortured by a scorching heat.” Our English translation renders it, “a high fever,” and we can think, “Too bad they didn’t have Tylenol PM,” but for them to call the Rabbi to their home would be something akin to calling the priest for last rites.

Many of you can easily place yourself in this passage. You know how it feels to have your body go on high alert when the phone rings. You know that illness causes missed days of work and the shuffling around of your schedule. 

It’s no different with Peter and his wife. This undoubtedly placed a strain on everyone in the family, including Peter.

I can imagine Peter saying “Just yesterday when you were in the synagogue, you healed loved ones of people you didn’t even know, but my wife’s mom is in the doorway of death. Make it make sense.” 

The why question. Why must this happen? I’m literally closer to you than 99% of other people and yet I’m over here suffering. Why? 

There’s more to it than just her illness. About 94% of the people living under Roman occupation were living in abject poverty or subsistence. That means they did not know where tomorrow’s food would come from. They are borderline malnourished, so for someone to get sick, to get a fever, and to be bedridden, is bad. Their body does not have reserves.

Very few people in Peter’s circle have savings. To miss a day of work is to miss a payment or to go into debt. Sometimes that meant and still means having to choose between clothes for the kids, food, or medical care. 

Peter and his family are in a vulnerable position and Peter is a close follower and friend of Jesus and he is quickly coming to the end of his rope. 

The why questions and the what-if statements. Oh, Peter and his family were on everyone’s prayer list.

To add to this burden, Peter is a business owner. He employs others in a commercial fishing business. He works at night. Why at night? Today we fish with nylon fishing nets, which fish don’t often see, but then they fished with nets made of flax and linen, so they fished at night, so the fish would not see the nets.

The boats they were in were about the size of a pickup truck (23 feet long and 7 feet wide) and would probably have 4 or 5 workers per boat and could hold about 1,000 pounds of fish.

They fished by throwing these bell-shaped nets that were weighted into the water. The nets would slowly sink, and the fish would swim right into them. In one evening, they could toss and retrieve the nets 8 times, and on this night these professionals caught nothing.

“The sun’s rising boys. Go home to your family. I’m calling it. Maybe tonight. Let’s go and clean the nets.”

And then as his crew is rowing back to the shore, Peter thinks. How am I going to do this? Those doctor’s bills must get paid. These 14 men have families that depend on them, just like me. 

Empty nets lead to empty pockets and empty pockets lead to empty mouths.

How am I going to figure this out? 

They come to shore and begin to untangle the nets and the crowd is bad, bad, bad. Have you ever been in a crowd when your life felt like it was falling apart? Not fun.

Jesus is on the beach and asks Peter, can I use your boat as a pulpit so people can hear me and stop pushing me? Sure, help yourself. 

After he finishes cleaning his net, Jesus says, “Peter, now let’s go out and drop your nets in the deep water and catch some fish.” 

If you’ve been where Peter has been—at that quiet bedside. If you’ve been where Peter has been—you have more days at the end of the month than you have money. If you’ve been where Peter has been—you fear you are going to disappoint those who depend on you the most—then you know Jesus is asking Peter to do something that is so difficult for someone who has come to realize that the complexity of life has outgrown the size of their faith—Peter, I’m asking you to have hope and faith in a God that is bigger than the one you have right now.  

This passage is real, y’all. In response to Jesus, Peter says, “Jesus, dude, my arms hurt. We fished all night. We caught nothing but weeds.” 

Peter says, “We’ll do it, but only because you asked, Jesus.”

And they do it.

Peter is likely directing his workers where to row and he’s probably talking to himself. Why? Why am I opening myself up to have hope, to believe it can be different this time? Why should he?

You know his feeling when you are going back over familiar territory, and you are expected to think it can be different this time around—it feels dangerous to hope. It feels scary to believe and to have faith. 

They throw the nets, and they wait for 30 minutes. They pull the net, and it sticks, but this time they don’t get sticks. It’s not just a batch of weeds. It’s tilapia. Really, based on archaeological evidence. 

Nope, it’s 1,000 pounds of tilapia, enough to sink the boat. 

And because of this wonderful mysterious mixture of Peter’s willingness to have hope and Christ’s willingness to give the opportunity, Peter screams out, “We’re over here sinking in the blessings of God! Won’t he do it, boys! God is good! Get over here and enjoy it with me!” 

Notice, though, Peter’s other response: Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man. Why that phrase? Why that thought? 

Well, I think in that moment when all the tilapia are flopping around in the boat Peter looks down at the spiritual shoes he put on that morning and he finally sees that his toes are poking out the end. 

He realizes his faith had been way too small for the life he was living and being called to live into.

And Jesus showed him the new pair he had to grow into. And Peter put them on and made his big toe stand up and felt the end and he realized there’s a mighty big growth gap between the size of man he is now and the man he needs to become.

He says, “I’m a sinful man.” We call it an integrity gap. A spiritual pediatrician might say, “Keep eating the good stuff, Peter, and you’ll get your growth spurt soon enough. Try some tilapia.”

Doesn’t this passage just come alive to us!?

How Do We Grow and Make Our Faith “Ours”?

How do you grow? How do you figure out faith as you go? For 8 days I have thought about this.  Last night as I lay in bed with our youngest, after having read 2 of his favorite short books to him, he fell asleep and I was listening to him sleep and then I feel asleep thinking about this story.

And then I woke up 20 minutes later and said, “That’s it! That’s the ending. That’s the answer!”

Y’all, it’s the hardest answer. It’s the hardest truth you may ever have to believe. And here it is: how do you begin to expand your faith so that it begins to be as big as God and as complex as your life?

You learn to believe the hardest truth in the hardest moments: at the center of the story is not you, but a God whose hands are capable and a heart that is filled with love who calls you to follow and to trust as you walk into the future. God has a pair of shoes tailor-made just for you.

That’s why we need to read John 21 so we see the truth of believing the hardest thing. (Read more here)

This is after the resurrection and Peter and the disciples don’t know what to believe. What does Peter want to do? He wants to go fishing. He wants to go back to life before, but you and I know, that life doesn’t exist anymore.

The story in John mirrors the story in Luke. Peter goes fishing at night in a boat and they throw nets and they catch nothing. Jesus is on the beach and tells them, “Trust me and try it another way and your nets will be filled.” Only then does Peter see Jesus as he truly is.

Peter then has another conversation with Jesus and Peter starts talking about John. Jesus has told all the disciples, “Your life has changed. They crucified me and I’m resurrected and I’ll be with you only for a little while longer but I’m going to the father. You will all disperse. This group is breaking up and you will go into all the world and experience all new things.” You will have to figure it out as you go.

Peter asks, “What about John?”

Jesus says, “You can’t worry about John.” You can only worry about yourself. 

But, Jesus, there are so many unanswered questions I have. How do I do this? How do I become the person I want to become? How do I become the person I know you want me to become? How do I continue that journey? You once sought me and met me when I was a stranger and now I am a close friend, how do I keep the friendship close and tight? I never want to let it go.

Peter, the answer is always the same.

Follow me.

Put on your new shoes and follow me. 

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