Simon Sez… Lessons from the life of Peter

#1  Because you say so, I will…

Read first:  Luke 5:1-11

Today we’re going to begin a look at the life of the Apostle Peter.  I’m calling it “Simon Sez…”  We’re going to looking at the life of Peter in a variety of places and situations – and by doing so hopefully we will learn some things about who we are in Jesus Christ –or perhaps, who we ought to be in Jesus Christ.

We know a few things about Peter.  We know that he was a fisherman – involved in the family business with the sons of Zebedee – his partners on the Sea of Galilee.   We know that Peter was married though we don’t know if he had any children or not.  We know that the sea he was most active in – the Sea of Galilee – was about 13 miles long and 8 miles wide and that there were about 150,000 people who lived along the shores of that lake.  Today that area is mostly deserted – but in Biblical times it was quite a popular place to live.  We know that he was one of the first disciples – along with his brother Andrew – and in fact he was one of the “big three” disciples – for when Jesus would go off and take a small group from the disciples with him – it was usually these three:  Peter, James and John.  Therefore, Peter got to see even the most intimate things that Jesus had done.  We know that his given name was Simon – but that Jesus renamed him – Cephas in the Aramaic – or Peter in the Greek – and the word had the meaning of “Rock” – thus he sort of nicknamed him, “Rocky.”  For what purpose we are not sure – was it because he was to become the rock upon which the church stood – or perhaps it was because Peter’s personality could be a bit rocky from time to time – he was the personification of the proverbial description of someone who was a “bull in a china closet.”    There is no indication that prior to following Jesus that Peter was a particularly religious man – but he obviously had a heart for God.

Peter is very much present in all four Gospels.  We find him also in the book of Acts.  Paul mentions him and there are two letters that bear his name later in the New Testament.  The tradition tells us that eventually Peter made it to the city of Rome where he became a leader in the church there.  We are told that he was martyred – executed upside down – on a cross – crucified upside down the tradition says because he was unwillingly,  feeling himself unworthy, to die in the same way as his Lord.  He are told that it was his request then to be crucified upside down.

In the 5th chapter of Luke we have one of the early accounts where we get to see Simon Peter interacting with Jesus. On this occasion, Jesus has left behind the synagogue where he began most of his preaching and he is now speaking from a moving pulpit if you will – one time we find him on the side of a hill – another time in somebody’s house sitting around a table teaching.  This particular time we find him along the shore of the Sea of Galilee (the Lake of Gennesaret as Luke calls it.)   It must be early in the day – the fishermen are cleaning and mending their nets from their fishing the night before – it had not been a good night for them – they hadn’t caught a blasted thing.

The crowd around Jesus must have become rather large – because he asks if he might use their boat to sit along the edge of the lake – so that it will be easier for him to speak and to teach the people.  The fishermen oblige him – and then when he is done speaking – he sends the people home.  It must be getting on towards mid-day now – the fishermen are hot, tired – they are ready to head home – they want to grab a bite to eat – and catch 40 winks – they’ve been up all night and now through the middle of the day.

So you can imagine that as Jesus sends the people home – they begin to maneuver the boat – back towards the shore.  But suddenly Jesus looks at Simon Peter and makes a strange request. He said, “Let’s head out to the deep water – it’s time to catch some fish.”  And you can almost hear the groans on the boat.  Understand these are professional fishermen.  This is what they do for a living.  They know when, where and how to catch fish.  And they know that this – midday – is certainly not the time.

You can just picture them, rolling their eyes at this itinerant preacher – what does a preacher know about fishing anyway?  Besides he’s from Nazareth – not exactly the fishing capital of the middle-east – and he grew up in a carpenter’s house – that was his trade.  Talk to him about building a house – or a table – or a wagon – and they might be interested.  But don’t suggest to these fishermen – the professionals – how to fish.

It is then – just before the others start to respond,  no doubt in some sort of condescending manner, to Jesus – that Simon Peter says something rather amazing.  He begins to lay out the situation to Jesus – “Master, we worked hard all night – and we haven’t caught anything.”

You can tell from the tone in his voice that (a) he knows what he is talking about – and (b) that he thinks the whole idea is without merit – it is silly and a hopeless waste of time.  But then he adds these words – “But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 

Because you say so, I will…

The other guys on the boat no doubt looked at him incredulously – they just can’t believe it – and the same thing would, no doubt, be true for most of us – if we had been there that day – if we had shared the boat with Simon.

Why would I say that? – that it would be true for us too?  Because I think that is the way that most of us act today.   We respond to Jesus by saying, “He wants me to do what?  Ohhhh.  What does He know?  We’ve tried that before – it didn’t work – or – this is the modern world – that isn’t the way it works in this day and age – we know better than he does!!”  And we do think at times, don’t we, that we know better than God.

I smile every time I hear that there is a separation of church and state in this country.  First because most folks that use the phrase don’t realize that it is not in the constitution but rather that the phrase “wall of separation” was used by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802 referring to the principal that it is the church that has to be free of state interference, rather than the other way around.

But the primary reason I smile is because I know that when push comes to shove –as a people we really don’t want our lives and our country to be totally secular.  In time of danger – or disaster – there really is no separation of church and state.  How many thousands gathered for worship – for special services – after the Oklahoma bombings – after Columbine – after 9/11 – after Katrina – and a thousand other such occasions.

On the one hand, we like to pretend in our culture that we know better than God – that we don’t need God – but, in the midst of these occasions – we want God there – we look to Him for answers in the midst of the hurt.  When we send our young men and women off to war – we want God to be with them.  We want people praying for them – in the time of danger and disaster and tragedy there is no separation of church and state.  In our personal lives we want Christ and his church there – when we hurt.  But, what about when we don’t hurt?  Or when we are not – right now – just this minute – scared?  Are we willing to listen to him then – as well?  Are we willing to go and do that which he tells us to do?  Or do we think that we know better – and that we can pull one over on God?

I enjoy the story of the man who once was in conversation with God – he asked God how long a million years is to Him?  God replied, “It is just like a single second of your time, my child.”

So the man asked God, “Well, what about a million dollars?”  The Lord replied, “To me it’s like a single penny.”

Thinking rather quickly the man said, “Well Lord, can I have one of your pennies?”  And God looked at him and said, “Certainly my child, just give me a second.”

At least one lesson to be learned from Peter today is that we need to do in the good times, what we know to do by instinct in the tough times.  And that is to do what God tells us to do.  Because you say so, I will, Simon sez.  It doesn’t always make sense, sometimes it goes against the grain of what I know – but because you say so – I will.

Parents say it all the time to their children, “Do this” – why?? – “Because I said so…”  What we are really saying is – trust me on this.  I happen to know better than you – and if you just do it – it will work out right.  Do it – trust me.  We need to remember that in the Spiritual realm we are all called to be God’s children – and He knows better than we.

Because you say so, I will…  says Simon.  If we would try like him – to honor God with our living – if we will try to do what He says – simply because He says so – not because we are necessarily going to gain from it – not necessarily because we know where it’s going to take us – but simply because He says so – and He knows better than I do.  It may not seem to make sense to the world around you – they may even think you a bit strange – it may not seem to fit in very well with the culture we live in – but we need to do it – because it is the best and the highest and the right way to live.

Of course, in the end, we all remember what happened to Simon and the boys on the boat – don’t we?  The nets became so full of fish – that it almost swamped the boat – and all this time they didn’t think Jesus knew what he was talking about.

How about you this day?  Do you believe that Jesus really knows what he is talking about?  Does He understand 2016?  Can He understand what it is that you are in the midst of and where it is that you are headed?  Or do you just see Him as this kind of interesting person in a robe – with a beard – who lived 2000+ years ago – and only understands what happened long ago in Palestine?

Or better yet – no matter how you envision Him – are you willing to amend your way of living – and say, “because you say so, I will…”

That’s a good first lesson from Simon – Simon who sez, “because you say so, I will…”