Simon Peter and his men decide to follow Jesus unconditionally. They abandon everything. Peter’s boat is now serving the cause of the Kingdom.
Jesus is preparing Simon for his future life as head of the Church. Simon was not picked because of his great faith, he was called because he is a broken man in so many ways, a fighter that does not give up, a marginal Jew who has fought every inch of the way to get where he is. Now, Simon shows enough faith to leave everything behind and follow this mysterious man whom he has recognized as the Hope of Israel.
But the new Master wants him to grow up. “Speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15) Simon’s Master is the Logos, the very impulse that moves the universe forward. Because Simon is no different than anyone of us, he wants to remain who he is. He wants to be the force moving towards his destiny, the one to unwrap the meaning of his own life. His Master disagrees, of course. He disagrees because He is the only force that can take us to our destination. He knows what our final shape will be when we are complete. He is the only one who can unfold the meaning of our own mystery. But we resist his impulse and thus we suffer. The great Christian apologist, C. S. Lewis put it beautifully:
“Does God want us to suffer? What if the answer to that question is yes? Because I’m not sure that God particularly wants us to be happy. I think he wants us to be able to love and be loved. He wants us to grow up […] You see, we are like blocks of stone out of which the sculptor carves the forms of men. The blows of his chisel which hurt us so much are what make us perfect.”
Peter the Rock will have to endure many blows of God’s chisel until he is ready for his mission.
Immediately [after feeding the five thousand, Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’
Isn’t this passage of the Gospels a perfect parable for us, for our experience? Jesus himself is taking care of the flock while the Church seems to be distant, lost far away from shore battling terrible opposing winds in the darkness of night.
After ascending a mountain and spending the night in prayer Jesus approaches the boat. The disciples, most of them grown men, are terrified until he identifies himself and calms their fears. Today, as we approach the obvious end of an age in the history of the Church and the world, we also fear for what it seems to be coming upon us. Rumors of war, environmental catastrophe, pestilence, economic collapse, etc. Dark forebodings fill the hearts of men with fear. It should not be like that for Christians who have the perspicuity to discern the times. We are not ignorant of God’s designs, we know He is coming to our aid every time we are in trouble.
The morning hour completes the parable, a new day is rising, there is no need to fear: this is the day the Lord has made for us. Now Peter takes the initiative. Jesus has put in the Fisherman’s heart the desire to imitate him, to be like him. He wants to walk over the waters just like the Master.
Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’ (Matthew 14:22-33)
Peter’s faith is not steady, yet. He fails. Who wouldn’t! The strong wind, the dark abyss under his feet are frightening. He cries out to Jesus because he knows Jesus can save him from perishing. Jesus gives Peter a friendly rebuke but the experience has taught all the disciples that doubts kill the faith, and lack of faith can kill a soul. Then they see Jesus come into the boat and — as the wind stops — they realize it was him teaching them another lesson.
Every time the Church goes through a time of crisis we must remember God has allowed the trial to happen. Perhaps we have wandered away and we have grown used to being far from Him to the point that when we see Him approach, we tremble. The present crisis will rage. We will call for God to save us. As soon as God is in the Church, in our nation, near us again, peace will return. Peter did not miss the teaching. Many years later, addressing the flock he wrote:
For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls. (1Peter 2:25)
Peter serves as a model for all of us. We are just like him. We all have to be trained in faith, we all have to grow to the knowledge of how useless our self-sufficiency is. Like Peter, we are called to go out to the deep. Duc in altum! orders the Master and we must follow Him all the way to that place where all our strength and wit are worth nothing and all we have is Him. Peter learned that lesson well and wrote:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. (1Peter 4:12)
Like Peter, we will always find Jesus at the end of our faith, when we had given all the fight we had in us. He is waiting for us there to pull us up. That is the point where the new lesson starts, a lesson that will go on eternally as we move towards God’s light: ever forward, ever higher until we are made perfect to His image and likeness.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
Continues on Peter: Sign and Action
The Cycle of Peter
- Made Anew
- The First Great Catch of Fish
- Peter Grows in Faith
- Peter: Sign and Action
- The Fisherman’s Destiny
More articles will follow soon.