Tuesday, January 28, 2003

The Choosing and Training of the Twelve -- The Call of Peter

The Beginning

Of the four accounts of Jesus' life, John’s gospel takes us closest to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. John’s beginning shows Jesus still in the presence of John the Baptist and we can assume that either Jesus had just been baptized or that He had returned from His wilderness temptation. Either way, we get a glimpse of the very beginning:

Again the next day John was standing there with two of his disciples. Gazing at Jesus as he walked by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When his two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Jesus turned around and saw them following and said to them, “What do you want?” So they said to him, “Rabbi” (which is translated Teacher), “where are you staying?” Jesus answered, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. Now it was about four o’clock in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two disciples who heard what John said and followed Jesus. He found first his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah!” (which is translated Christ). Andrew brought Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon, the son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). (John 1:35-42, The NET Bible)

I conjecture that Peter and Andrew and John had gone on a retreat to see and hear John the Baptist. They were John’s disciples in the sense that they heard and followed his teaching, but they were not with him all the time. The three other gospels tell us plainly that they continued to fish for their livelihoods.

They had the good fortune to be with John at the very moment when Jesus returned from the wilderness. John, whose prophetic calling was to proclaim the coming Messiah, directed John and Andrew to the “Lamb of God.” So they left John and tailed Jesus. Shortly afterwards, Andrew introduced his brother, Simon, to Jesus. Then Jesus gave Simon a new name, Cephas = Peter = Rock. Apparently Jesus had already chosen Simon Peter for foundational work, but Peter, as will we see, had not yet chosen Jesus in return.

A Return to Fishing

It would seem that, sometime after the wedding at Cana, Simon, Andrew, and John returned home and resumed their fishing. This is not an unreasonable supposition. They had work to do and their vacation was over. Consequently, Mathew’s tells us about a second encounter:

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon (called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea (for they were fishermen). He said to them, “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people.” They left their nets immediately and followed him. Going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in a boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. Then he called them. They immediately left the boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-22)

Can you see how knowing about the earlier encounter gives greater sensibility to this passage? We know, for example, why Simon was also “called Peter.” Jesus had already given him that name. We understand better why they immediately left their nets to follow Jesus. They had already spent time with Him, had heard Him teach, and seen Him turn water into wine to rescue a wedding party. They had good reason to follow Jesus.

It was still early in Jesus’ ministry. He does not seem to be among a crowd. With Peter and Andrew, James and John, Jesus began a tour of Galilee:

Jesus went throughout all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of disease and sickness among the people. (Matthew 4:23)

Now here is the interesting thing. A close examination of Luke's account of Peter's call shows yet a third call to Peter and his companions. The details of that story are for tomorrow.

Wednesday: The Final Call of Peter


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