It is said that Michelangelo took the pieces of stone that other people had rejected and put them to one side for his own use. He could see potential in these cast-offs that others had never visualized. The Lord approached Peter and made two statements to him. “You are Simon … you shall be called Cephas” (John 1:42). It was not often that Peter was quiet. However, on this occasion, he never spoke a word. Quiet acquiescence wasn’t one of his strengths. But although he may already have been aware of his innate weaknesses, his impetuous nature, his outspokenness, the fickleness which saw him blow hot with impulse, but cold as the snows of Lebanon, and his shaly, Simon-tendencies, he did not protest when the Lord spoke in glowing terms of what he would be as bed-rock Peter. When Scripture records that “Jesus looked at” Peter, it means that he looked intensely through him (John 1:42). The Lord did not ask Peter for his Curriculum Vitae, nor did He concern Himself with testimonials. The Lord didn’t need witness from anyone, for He Himself knew what was in a man (John 2:25). He knew Simon Peter better than he knew himself. He looked through him, through the failures, to the time when Peter would act with rock-like dependability. He knew too, that before that was achieved there were some hard lessons for Simon to learn.
Deeply impressed by the Lord’s perceptive promise, Simon Peter joined Andrew and, in all probability, John and James, in the company of “the Messiah” (John 1:41). The next day, two more, Philip and Nathaniel, were added to the little group. “And so” wrote Dr. Luxmoore, “there were perhaps half a dozen disciples with the Lord when He went down to Cana of Galilee”. There, Peter, with the others, saw the Lord’s first manifestation of His glory when “the simple wedding Guest” did to water what only almighty God can do, and turned it instantly into wine. It would surely have served to strengthen Peter’s faith in the Lord’s capability to replace dire deficiencies (“They have no wine”) with overwhelming provision. John records the impact of “this beginning of signs” when Jesus “manifested His glory: and His disciples believed in Him” (2:11). The word “believed” implies that they put their trust in Him, especially for their spiritual well-being.
“Why”, continued Dr. Luxmoore, “they ever went away again we may well marvel. We may also marvel why after the Lord has had us with Him for a precious and fruitful time He has again to come and find us occupied with everything else and again say, Follow Me”. That they did go away is evident from Matthew 4:18-22, when the Lord found Simon and Andrew fishing. Had the Lord been mistaken? Was this man, Peter, demonstrating the sort of dependability that would repay the Lord’s early faith in his rock-like qualities? Graciously, the Lord appealed to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Peter’s response was immediate. This, then, was the secret. “I will make you …” The transformation was to be achieved in the Lord’s company and by the divine hand that had forsaken forever the shaping of wood for the village folk of Nazareth for the moulding of lives that would soon turn “the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).
In this manner, in the days of Scripture, and today, the Lord approaches the most unlikely of people (1 Corinthians 1:26-28) with promises of victory. The marauding bands of Midianites and Amalekites, which had been destroying Israel’s crops and cattle (Judges 6:4), forced Gideon to abandon the more usual threshing-sledge on an exposed site for the flail, or rod, in the smaller, sheltered winepress of Ophrah. His was a small, secretive service, hiding wheat from the enemy, not heading warriors in open conflict. Though perplexed and protesting, he was given the divine commission. “Go and … save Israel”, and the assurance of the divine Companion, “Surely I will be with you” (Judges 6:14-16). It is to just those kind of people, conscious of their own weakness, that God grants the needed grace for glorious victory (2 Corinthians 12:9,10). So Gideon was taken from beating out wheat in secret, through fear, to subduing kingdoms, through faith (Hebrews 11.32,33)! At Bethabara (the place of transition) the Lord took one man, Gideon, to replace his flail with a sword, and another, Peter, to replace his fish with souls! (Judges 7:24; John 1:28). Perhaps today, even as you read, the Lord is calling you to richer, more challenging service. This meditation could be your Bethabara, place of transition. But there are conditions attached.
Peter had been brought to Jesus (John 1:42). Next would come the call to go after Him (Mark 1:17). If Peter were to fulfil the potential that the Lord saw in him, then it would mean following. It was to cost Peter everything; his boat, his business, his nets and his family (Luke 5:11; 18:28), but the Lord would be true to His promise to return all that he had forfeited with unparalleled interest (Luke 18:29,30). If Peter sacrificed the thrill of coming to land with heavy draughts of fish, he secured the prospect of a glorious abundance on reaching the shores of the eternal kingdom of his Lord and Saviour (2 Peter 1:11).
Both Peter and Gideon must have marvelled that the Lord had worked in them far beyond their highest expectations. He is still able “to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we think” (Ephesians 3:20). Disciple, the same Prospector, the Lord Jesus Christ, invites you, “Come … after Me, and I will make you …”
Who would not follow if they heard Him call? “To” Jesus, “after” Him, and now, “with” Him (Mark 3:14). What a wealth of glorious experience is contained in those prepositions! Peter never forgot those rich periods of his life. They moulded his actions, his teaching and his character. Years later, he recalled for his readers, “We were with Him” (2 Peter 1:18). Timothy’s years with Paul (Acts 16:3) were golden seams of informative training (2 Timothy 3:10), but they could not equal the first-hand privilege which Peter enjoyed as he walked and talked with the Master Himself. Inevitably, it showed, even though at times Peter wished that it didn’t. “This man was also with Him” one of the servant girls said confidently (Luke 22:56). On a later, happier occasion, the religious leaders recognized the same undeniable fact that he “had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). It is bound to happen. Although he did not know it, Moses’ face shone as a result of his being in the presence of God Exodus 34:29). It will happen to us, too, if we are prepared to submit our lives in unclouded exposure to the glorious Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the secret of His presence, the Lord the Spirit will transform these lacklustre lives of ours until they radiate the glory of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Not only was Peter’s life affected, but so was his teaching. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”, the Lord taught him (Matthew 5:10). “If you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed”, Peter wrote to the dispersed pilgrims (1 Peter 3:14). “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake”, taught the Master (Matthew 5:11). “If you are reproached for the Name of Christ, blessed are you”, echoed the servant (1 Peter 4:14). “Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings”, counselled Peter (1 Peter 4:13).
Hadn’t he learned that too, from his Mentor on the mountain? “Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets” (Matthew 5:12). Followers of the Man whose doing and teaching were perfectly harmonized (Acts 1:1) will also find, like Peter, that their life and lips tell the same unmistakable truth that they have “been with Jesus”. Could there be a finer, more challenging contemplation than this, “that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body”? (2 Corinthians 4:10). Shall we not say of our Lord, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30)?
“And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him … these twelve Jesus sent out” (Matthew 10:1,5). To Him, after Him, with Him, and now, sent out for Him. Though the mission of the twelve was a special apostolic work, the same sequence must characterize all the Lord’s servants. He is using the hours of secret communion to shape us for His commission, “Go” (Matthew 28:19). Today, the challenge is to the same progression. The Lord is seeking those who will spend time with Him before He can send them out for Him.
“So send I you – to leave your life’s ambitions,
To die to dear desire, self-will resign,
To labour long and love where men revile you,
So send I you – to lose your life in Mine.”