Scripture: Luke 5:1-11
It does not happen often, but every now and then life plays out like a movie. There are rare instances where the real moments of life play out so perfectly that a screen writer could not have planned it any better. I remember one time where this happened a few years ago at a youth ministry event. It was a dodgeball tournament, and for whatever reason there was a lot of traction behind this event. A lot of teens came and brought their best teams. These youth were really, really into it. Several teams came in matching outfits, others had cheers all worked out, and when not competing most of the people there were very interested in the matches going on. It was a double elimination tournament, and one of the teams relegated to the losers’ bracket early on was a young man in the youth group, two of his friends, and his girlfriend. When it comes to dodgeball skill and general athleticism it was clear to all that one of the people on that team was not like the others. This team though, managed to climb out of their position and not get eliminated. They made it all the way to finals, because of how a double elimination tournament works in order to win it all they had to win twice. They managed to win the first match. Which meant the winner of the second match would be the tournament winner.
At this point the atmosphere in the room was full of energy and anticipation. With every ball thrown, dodge made, or hit scored there was cheering. In this final match it got down to only one person per team, and they managed a double elimination! It was fine, because in this unlikely event we had prepared a sudden death match off. We had two designated triangles, one person from each team had to stand in the triangle. Both people got one ball. Whoever hit the other first would get a point or if a person stepped out of the triangle then that counted as getting hit. The first team to two points won. This particular team we had been following was going up against a team of literal football players. Naturally the team we have been following put their lone girl last. The first pairing went, and the both missed. The next two pairings went and the both scored one point. It came down to the last pairing. If either team could score here, they would win. The whistle blew, the big football player threw high, she ducked threw low and hit him. Winning the tournament for her team. No joke, everyone who was there rushed the floor, and hoisted her up: like something straight out of a movie.
This event sticks out because it is honestly the anomaly. Normally the kids picked last get relegated to being present and that is about it. They never get passed the ball, they get put at the end of the batting order, and if they do ever take a shot they are only met with derision. The reality is that the people who tend to be picked last, just stop playing the game. However, those who stick with a sport because they love it, even if they are not the best of the best, get to play on the C-Team. I know this because it is was in the C-team leagues that I spent my entire college (intermural) sports career. The level of skill and the intensity of competition may not be at the same level as more competitive teams, but the common denominator for everyone on the c-teams is they are there because they enjoy playing the game and they are willing to do it.
One of the most encouraging elements of this morning’s scripture is that Jesus’ first picks tend to be the people who are picked last. When Jesus chose his disciples, his A-team looked more like what would be considered the C-team. There is good reason for this because, as the dodgeball story illustrates even the most unlikely person has the ability to be the one who makes the biggest difference.
I think we have a bit of misconceptions about the disciples. We kind of get this image that they were a bunch of oblivious country bumpkins that Jesus sort of uplifted out of their clueless state. We do have a lot of the stories where the disciples just do not get it, but that does not mean they were ignorant of the scriptures or religious thought. In truth, it is likely that Peter, James, John, and Andrew were all knowledgeable on the Hebrew Scriptures. In fact, there is a decent chance that they knew the bible better than most American church goers today. In Jesus’ day the galilee religion was highly religious, and they placed a high emphasis on learning and knowing the scriptures. There is a lot of evidence to this, and one compelling piece of evidence is the Synagogue in Capernaum- Peter’s home town. The remains of it still stand today, and it is an impressive structure. It truly would have dominated the small fishing town in its day, and the synagogue was much larger than could be expected in such a small town. Faithful Jews then and now take seriously the command in Deuteronomy to pass on the faith to their children, and so Peter along with the other disciples would have been raised being taught the scriptures.
The Mishnah, one of the first works of Rabbinic literature, does a great job of relating to us the realities of being Jewish around the same time that Jesus lived. This document describes the educational training of Jewish boys. By the age of five they began learning to read and memorize the scriptures. At the age of ten, they were to begin having an understanding of what the scripture meant, by thirteen they were to begin being intentional in following the law, and by fifteen they should be able to begin making their own interpretations and applications of scripture. It is at this point, that there began to be a division. The majority of young men would then spend the next few years learning and perfecting a vocation. However, the best and the brightest at learning and knowing the scripture would be recommended as a talmid. The Talmid would leave home and travel with a recognized rabbi. The word Talmid translates to disciple.
Only the best of the best would earn the right to study as a Talmid of a respected rabbi. For Peter and the rest of those that Jesus called, their time had passed. Only the best of the best got the honor to be a disciple of a rabbi. Since they were now carrying on the family tradition of fishing for a living, it did not need to be said that they knew they were not the top tier. Yet these were the people that Jesus chose. Typically rabbis had to the best of the best students begging to be their disciples, but Jesus hand-picked his disciples, even if they were the C-team.
Just like the girl who was the dodgeball hero, Jesus chose disciples that were capable of doing so much more than what others assumed of them. Jesus saw the true potential of the people who did not get picked first. Because Peter was passed over initially to be a Talmid, he did not know the bible as well as other people, he did not have as much scripture memorized as other student, and he could not articulate an interpretation of the scripture as well as the top studiers. Despite that Jesus chose him to be a disciple, Jesus chose him to be the person who would learn the good news that Jesus taught, and then be expected to share that good news with others. I think in this morning’s scriptures we see three qualities that Peter displays that made him exactly the kind of disciple Jesus was looking for.
First, Peter was willing to trust. Notice verse five of this morning’s scripture. Peter had been out fishing, and he did not have much luck. Yet, when Jesus asked him to do it again, Peter replied, “Because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
We have to remember that Peter was a professional fishermen. This was his day job. Unlike Jesus who grew up on the hills, Peter grew up on the lake. He probably knew a thing or two about fishing, and he probably had a feeling how successful following Jesus request was going to be. Despite his likely misgivings, Peter trusted Jesus. Even though his reply seems to imply he did not think going back out in deep water was going to do anything he did it anyway. Peter trusted Jesus and he was faithful in the small things.
That is an example that we should follow. Often we think of ministry and mission has big things that are only done by the truly dedicated and special. We do not have to be a chaplain sitting at the bed of the dying or missionary in a foreign country to share God’s love. All of us can and should be intentional about sharing the love of God through our words and actions. We may not all be able to board planes and serve in foreign countries, but we can all practice the kind of intentional generosity and kindness week in and week out. For instance, we can make a point at least once a week to go out of our way to help someone else. This might mean we cut an elderly neighbor’s grass, bring a casserole to the family who is always busy going from one practice to another, or tipping with incredible generosity when we go to a restaurant. These small micro-acts of kindness can be viewed as mini-mission trips at home, and they follow the examples of Jesus to put others first and think of others before ourselves. These kind of mini-mission trips at home are a perfect way to be a faithful disciple in the small things.
The second quality that Peter display that made him good discipleship material is that he was humble and willing to confess. In response to being faithful in the small things, and going back out to fish with Jesus he pulled in a miraculous haul. Peter recognized it as such and his response is worth emulating. Peter experienced the miraculous provision of God, and his first reaction was not to pose for a selfie and hashtag it #blessed. His reaction was to fall on his knees and said “get away from me Lord; I am a sinful man!”
Humble realization of sin and true confession is so rare today. When people in the public eye get caught of wrong doing, very rarely do they confess and when they do apologize we often roll our eyes at the lack of sincerity. Worse it seems more and more the reaction wrong doing is to double down and justify away the wrong doing, to claim that they are the victim and not the transgressor. False humility and self-righteousness is not godly behavior and it is the opposite of Peter’s example. One of the reasons why Peter was such great Disciple material is that he confessed his sin. He did not rationalize it away by saying at least I am not like those people. He did not justify it and proudly try to explain it away either. He owned that he is an imperfect person in desperate need of a perfect savior. All disciples of Christ should strive to be so honest with themselves. As followers of Christ we should follow Peter’s example, we should be willing to confess our sins and we should be willing to express grace, forgiveness, and acceptance to one another
The final quality of a good disciple that Peter demonstrates is that he follows. Despite not being the best of the best, despite being a sinner, Jesus still sought Peter to follow and that is what he did. As the scripture records, “They pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” They followed Jesus, seemingly without reservation. They did not say, “I am a little busy right now” or “I just need to wait until I get my things in order.” They simply followed. In our era where people somehow manage to be busier than ever before while somehow being less willing to commit, the ability to follow sometimes seems in short supply. This quality that Peter shows is really about prioritization. Jesus told him he could be a fisher of people. Peter knew that Jesus was a rabbi, he knew that Jesus had a potentially life changing understanding of the scripture, and Peter knew being a fisher of people knew coming to know that life changing understanding well enough that he could share it with others. Peter followed Jesus, because he decided then and there that following the gospel of Jesus Christ was going to be the most important thing to him. We give our time, energy, and focus to thing we value the most and Peter clearly shows that he is willing to follow?
In his own day, Peter would have been considered a C-team level disciple, but Jesus called him because Jesus saw that Peter was faithful in the small things, humble in confession, and willing to follow. What about you? Can you say you exhibit some of those same qualities, because if this morning’s scripture is any indication this is the kind of material that Jesus is looking for in disciples. We do not have to be the best and brightest to be a disciple of Jesus. We do not have to have the entire bible memorized or be able to talk eloquently about theology. We need to be willing trust, willing to confess, and willing to follow. So may you trust that God does not call the equipped, but God equips the called. May you be willing to let go of your pride and humbly confess that you are a great sinner but Christ is a greater savior. And may you be willing to follow without reservation or excuse where ever God is leading. Brothers and sisters in Christ, welcome to the C-team, let’s go make disciple and transform the world.