Following Jesus (Luke 5.1-11, 27-32)
And leaving everything, they/he rose and followed him (11, 28)
Luke includes just these two call narratives.
While the first concludes with Peter, James and John leaving their nets to follow Jesus, the focus is on Peter alone.
Fishing was a respectable profession and it may be assumed that Peter, as the owner of a boat, was respected in the community. As an experienced fisherman who had toiled unsuccessfully all the previous night, it would not have been unreasonable of him to have resisted Jesus’ command to fish again. That he did not do so indicates a certain humility, and a respect for Jesus.
What though of his dramatic response to the miraculous catch? The implications of touching feet have already been noted. Falling down at Jesus’ knees comes very close, with Peter’s words, which echo Isaiah’s at his call (Isa 6.5), confirming his self-abasement.
This is the first use of the word ‘sinner’ in Luke, and Peter applies it to himself. Moreover, in contrast with the crowds at Capernaum who “would have kept him from leaving them”, Peter implores Jesus to depart from him. These are the qualities Jesus is looking for in a lead disciple.
Levi, in contrast, was someone everyone else would have regarded as the worst of sinners, yet he is confident to invite Jesus to feast in his house. Whereas Peter feared Jesus wouldn’t be able to abide his sinfulness, Levi celebrates without any regard for the fact that Jesus would defile himself by keeping company with such a sinner (and his friends, 30).
Jesus seems equally pleased with both responses. Both men responded in a way which showed they were fit to be called, and confirmed that by “leaving everything.” Jesus is quick to defend his choice of Levi: he has come to call sinners to repentance. This will be a recurring theme to which those who - unlike Peter – don’t acknowledge their sinfulness, will take increasingly greater offence.
How did Jesus call you? What was your first response to him?
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your call on my life. I was not worthy to be your servant, but you raised me up and fitted me for your service. Give me every gift of your Spirit I pray to fulfil that call. For your name’s sake I pray. Amen.
Michael Hewat is currently serving as the Senior Minister at West Hamilton Community Church, New Zealand
Photo by Nick Tiemeyer on Unsplash