Part 2: Taking Liberties
“Hey, you there! Get off my boat. It’s my boat, my problem, my livelihood, and my leisure time! Find someone else to be your lackey.”
Peter could have responded that way to Jesus’ rather bold approach and invitation. I wonder if there was even a wisp of that line of thought in his mind that morning when he first met Jesus. It wouldn’t be unusual.
Jesus had just come from his hometown, Nazareth, where he had infuriated the synagogue-goers by calling them fickle. They had tried to toss him over the town’s cliff, the usual method of dealing with irritating folk, but He had peacefully walked away. Those people, neighbours He had lived among for thirty years, had sent Him a clear message: get out of our town.
And later, after healing a madman at the expense of a herd of swine we’re told, “all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear.” So He left them too.
It becomes a common theme for Jesus. He meets people; He takes what some view as liberties by turning tables upside-down on social norms, and there is a reaction. There is no wishy-washy ignoring of Him. It’s either reject Him fully or embrace Him completely. That’s what happens when people meet Jesus. It makes sense, because if we look at this event where Jesus meets His first four disciples in Matthew five He does seem to take liberties with them. And, from everything we learn about Him in the gospels and later epistles, it’s how He treats every follower. So it’s important to study this narrative carefully. If we want to be His followers, we need to see what we’re in for.
He commandeers our possessions for His work: He takes Peter’s boat and uses it first as a speaking platform to minister to the Capernaum townsfolk, then as a resource to bring in a haul of fish. But did we notice something? There is a theme here. His use of Peter’s boat transforms that possession into something that works for others’ good. Townsfolk are taught how to pursue the kingdom of God; later, they are presented with a boatload of fresh fish, free for the taking. Jesus doesn’t use up the possessions of His followers – He expands them. The same is true for us. When we allow our possessions to be used for His work and glory, others benefit in amazing ways. Try it.
He commandeers our strength and skills for His purposes: Did you notice how Jesus asks Peter to do a menial task in His presence? It’s the same task Peter has tried to accomplish overnight but has failed. This time, as Peter obeys – tired as he may be – a miracle happens. Sure, there is a huge catch of fish waiting, but the real miracle is happening in Peter’s heart and our hearts when we allow Jesus to use our strength and skills. We begin to see Him as Lord and Master of our lives, and ourselves as His servants. It’s a huge lesson in humility, and that’s not a bad thing.
And finally, He takes our fears and makes them faith: When Jesus addresses Peter’s fear – of following Jesus, of being sinful, of leaving everything he’s ever known and stepping into the unknown – Jesus is transforming Peter from the inside out. It’s the same with us. When we truly meet Jesus, not just the first time, but every day, Jesus goes to the very heart of us. He sees the fear, addresses it, and offers to exchange it for faith, a new perspective on life and a new calling. So in a way, He not only takes liberties with those He meets, He gives liberties too. He frees us to live fear-free lives when we live for Him.
Jesus, meet us today in our present places. Speak into our hearts, step into our lives and do what you do best – make us people of faith. Amen.
(Picture Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Gunter Klug)