I have heard it called the biggest failure in Pete's life.
It’s not like we don’t have other moments to choose from. This is the guy that cut off a Roman soldier’s ear. Noble, but bad form Peter. Pete was the one who tried to keep Jesus from washing his feet. He tried to set up tents for Moses and Elijah. In other words, he talked when he should have been silent. He walked on water…almost. And let’s not forget that he denied he even knew Jesus..(cough)…three times. Oh, and Jesus once referred to him as the devil.
So, go ahead and pick any of Peter’s Greatest Hits and decide which one was his biggest failure. Oh, there’s also another failure recorded in the book of Acts when Peter decided he wanted to only eat kosher, even as God invited him to a meat buffet. Then Paul called out Peter in his letter to the Galatians, basically for being a hypocrite.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Peter, a man of God.
But before I get to his biggest failure, let me ask you a question. What if your life were to be written down like we have Pete’s? What if all your highs and lows were recorded, for people to read throughout all of history? How would you fare? What chapters would you want left out? What episodes would you want to be able to explain to people as they read through and judged you without being there? (That Roman soldier…ha…he had it comin’.)
Let’s not forget that Peter was a flesh and blood man. He may have been a big, unschooled fisherman, but he received an invitation from God. There had to be a reason. Even as Peter fumbled along, trying to keep up with Jesus, clearly there was something in him that God saw of quality.
What do we do when we fail?
What was Pete’s biggest failure? Let’s set the picture.
Jesus has been raised from the dead. The same Jesus that Peter chose to follow, to leave his livelihood behind for, the one he attacked a Roman soldier for. This was the Jesus he betrayed and felt immense guilt over. This was the Jesus he saw resurrected. At least a few times.
Let me read John 21 to you and see if you catch it.
Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. This is how it happened. 2 Several of the disciples were there—Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples.
3 Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.”
“We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.
It’d be easy to assume the failure was in not catching anything. I would offer the bigger failure was in going fishing at all. If you are someone who sometimes fishes for fish, don’t get offended and storm out. I’m not saying that fishing is a sin. But let’s put this in perspective for ol’ Pete.
Peter was a fisherman by trade before Jesus called him. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all record Peter and Andrew leaving their nets behind. Luke emphasizes that they left behind everything. This was total liquidation. It was a going-out-of-business sale. What was Peter doing, going out fishing? Where did this equipment come from?
We’re not given the idea this is just a relaxing, toes-in-the-sand, let’s see what happens adventure. This is 7 men going out with nets at night, which is when the business fishermen liked to fish. This is a day at the office, working for the previous employer.
I’ve had people comment in my presence that I could do other things besides ministry. I’m never quite sure what they are suggesting. I’ve always assumed the best, they were merely complimenting my ability to support a family in other sectors of life. And there have been days when I have thought….I could do something else….hmmm…
But the truth of the matter is that I have been called to youth ministry. I have been called by God. It is a calling I take very seriously. In fact, I have two rules I share with people when they are considering youth ministry. The first rule is…run (as far and as fast in the other direction as you can.) Think Jonah; God said go this way and he went that way. If you choose to ignore rule #1, the listen to rule #2; commit at the beginning to stay until the end.
This is what I would offer to any of you as well when accepting a call from God to do anything. It doesn’t have to be a pastor. I’ve got news for all of you. Each of you has been called! Each of you, accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior, has accepted His call on your life.
This is what I would have said to Peter. Your calling is not done. In fact, if anything, it has just started. Put the fishing nets down and go do what Jesus told you to do. It doesn’t matter that he messed up…big.