Run for Your Life
“Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks” (Jeremiah 16:16).
This is a wonderful prophecy and promise that can be applied in the last days of Earth’s history. The God of Heaven calls spiritual fishermen to share the gospel message, casting the net into the depths of a dark ocean—a sea of confused people. He’s calling for those who will diligently seek them as Job searched out those in need so that he could help them. (Job 29:16.)
When Jesus Christ was on earth as the Son of man, He had an interesting encounter with a fisherman named Simon Peter.
“And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, [Jesus] stood by the lake of Gennesaret, and saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: and so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him” (Luke 5:1–11).
Have you ever tried your best to do something that you were normally skilled at doing—only to find that it didn’t work this time? That’s how Peter felt. He was an experienced fisherman, but this time, much to his disappointment, that night he had not been successful. Then at a moment when it did not make sense to drop the fishing net into the water again, he obeyed the command of Jesus to do exactly that.
His obedience to the word of the Lord was abundantly rewarded. The unusually huge number of fishes broke the net—and with the tremendous added weight, the ship became so heavy that it began to sink.
This amazing moment deeply touched the heart of Peter. He suddenly realized he was face-to-face with the awesome power of the Creator of heaven, earth, the sea, and fountains of waters.
When that happens to a person, the realization then comes: “How unworthy I am to appear before the living God! How many of my own blemishes, flaws, sins, and iniquities are suddenly glaring before my eyes!”
Peter was not the only one struck by this. His coworkers were, too. Jesus, in His great compassion, then gave the tender reassurance, “Fear not.” But then a wonderful opportunity was promised—that from then on, they would catch men—in other words, win precious souls for the kingdom of Heaven.
Matthew records it as “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).
Mark writes, “Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17).
In other words, the same divine power that had directed the huge bounty of fishes to enter the net would be a creative force in these disciples to draw souls to the Master of earth, sea, and sky, the Saviour of the world.
Further evidence of the power of Christ:
On a later occasion, “when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother laid, and sick of a fever. And he touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them” (Matthew 8:14, 15).
Another time, one stormy night when the disciples were fishing, “the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus” (Matthew 14:24–29).
Here Peter was literally doing the impossible. Most of us are familiar with the next part of the story when, through human pride, Peter started to sink. He then cried out to Jesus, who immediately reached out to rescue him. What do we learn from this?
“When the tempests of temptation gather, and the fierce lightnings flash, and the waves sweep over us, we battle with the storm alone, forgetting that there is One who can help us. We trust to our own strength till our hope is lost, and we are ready to perish. Then we remember Jesus, and if we call upon Him to save us, we shall not cry in vain. Though He sorrowfully reproves our unbelief and self-confidence, He never fails to give us the help we need. Whether on the land or on the sea, if we have the Saviour in our hearts, there is no need of fear. Living faith in the Redeemer will smooth the sea of life, and will deliver us from danger in the way that He knows to be best.”1
While totally focused on beholding Jesus, Peter was able to do something utterly beyond mere human capabilities. Do we really comprehend the fullness of what that means? What is this telling us? “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27).
“When [Christ and His disciples] were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee” (Matthew 17:24–27).
Here was an awkward situation of apparent conflict between showing respect for the temple by paying the required tax vs. acknowledging Christ as a prophet sent from God. Peter hastily offered that Jesus would pay the tax to show Himself to be cooperative with the established system, although priests and prophets were exempt from that taxation.
The Lord used this opportunity to teach Peter a deeper lesson. Due to His relationship to God, Jesus was not really obligated to pay the temple tax. But that He might comply with the hasty pledge His impetuous disciple had just made, Jesus miraculously produced a coin in the mouth of a fish in the sea and directed that fish to be caught by Peter’s hook. Thus, He revealed Himself to be even more than a prophet. Here demonstrated was His omniscient, omnipotent power over creation—another proof of His divinity as the Son of God.
Another remarkable scene that Peter experienced was the transfiguration of Jesus. “And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them. And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid. And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves” (Mark 9:2–8). What an honor it was to be among the three to have this precious glimpse of Christ in His glory! A uniquely memorable event.
Peter deeply loved his Lord and boldly expressed his willingness to die for Jesus.
“Then saith Jesus unto [the disciples], All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples” (Matthew 26:31–35).
Yet the outcome was tragic. That very night, the spiritual strength of Peter collapsed—hence the customary phrase, “petered out.”
Why did this happen?
“Then cometh Jesus with [the disciples] unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:36–41).
Peter, along with the sons of Zebedee, neglected to watch and pray at a critical time when Jesus bade them to do so. He knew what was ahead—as well as their frailty.
When a group of armed men came to arrest Jesus that night, Peter, who had been too sleepy to pray, was courageously ready to fight for his Lord. He quickly drew his sword in the Master’s defense and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest. Yet the response of Jesus to this action may have come as a surprise as the Lord declared:
“Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels” (Matthew 26:52, 53)?
Here Jesus makes clear the invisible source of His protection—a precious blessing available also to His followers. Do we really comprehend as we should the deep significance of the words, “All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword”? That is not a statement to be taken lightly. It is quite solemn. Our Master explains, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight” (John 18:36).
To all who would be citizens of a kingdom based on God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven, Jesus says, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same” (Matthew 5:43–46)?
“Love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 6:35).
Then there was the tragic denial. He who had been bold as to draw a sword to defend his Master crumbled at the taunting voice of a mere maid. At Pilate’s judgment hall, “when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him [Jesus]. And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not” (Luke 22:55–57).
Peter had eagerly listened to the teachings of his Lord. He enthusiastically drank in all of Christ’s words. But when the crucial hour came, did he remember them? When such an hour comes to us, do we remember them?
To forget is to succumb to disappointing—even disastrous—results, especially in times of crisis. Later in life, Peter was to illustrate the process of sanctification in the Christian walk: “Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” (2 Peter 1:5–9). Whenever we forget that we have been forgiven and cleansed from our past sins by the justifying power of our merciful Saviour, we will end up lacking the fruit of the Holy Spirit—and will indeed fall off Peter’s ladder, the process of sanctification. The disciple was able to explain this so effectively because he himself had seen his own frailty without Christ—yet he had wholeheartedly repented of his sins. (Luke 22:61, 62; John 21:15–17.)
“There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea” (John 21:2–7).
How much did Peter love his Lord? We see the answer here. Jesus provided for Peter’s needs in abundance and the disciple joyfully jumped into the water to see Him—yet not without the reverence of covering himself more fully in the presence of the One whom He knew to be the Son of God. What a beautiful experience, a truly memorable moment.
“When Peter said he would follow his Lord to prison and to death, he meant it, every word of it; but he did not know himself. Hidden in his heart were elements of evil that circumstances would fan into life. Unless he was made conscious of his danger, these would prove his eternal ruin. The Saviour saw in him a self-love and assurance that would overbear even his love for Christ. Much of infirmity, of unmortified sin, carelessness of spirit, unsanctified temper, heedlessness in entering into temptation, had been revealed in his experience. Christ’s solemn warning was a call to heart searching. Peter needed to distrust himself, and to have a deeper faith in Christ. Had he in humility received the warning, he would have appealed to the Shepherd of the flock to keep His sheep. When on the Sea of Galilee he was about to sink, he cried, ‘Lord, save me.’ Matthew 14:30. Then the hand of Christ was outstretched to grasp his hand. So now if he had cried to Jesus, Save me from myself, he would have been kept.”2
Today, when the pressure comes in so many ways to violate our conscience, do we remember and appreciate God’s abundant bounties in our behalf as did the disciple Peter? The mercy of Christ toward this struggling soul extends to each one of us today. We need not err. Just as when His hand reached out in response to Peter’s cry when he started to sink, it is likewise outstretched to everyone who wholeheartedly seeks it right now.
“When trouble comes upon us, how often we are like Peter! We look upon the waves, instead of keeping our eyes fixed upon the Saviour. Our footsteps slide, and the proud waters go over our souls. Jesus did not bid Peter come to Him that he should perish; He does not call us to follow Him, and then forsake us. ‘Fear not,’ He says; ‘for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour.’ Isaiah 43:1–3.”3
“When in the judgment hall the words of denial had been spoken; when Peter’s love and loyalty, awakened under the Saviour’s glance of pity and love and sorrow, had sent him forth to the garden where Christ had wept and prayed; when his tears of remorse dropped upon the sod that had been moistened with the blood drops of His agony—then the Saviour’s words, ‘I have prayed for thee: when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren,’ were a stay to his soul. Christ, though foreseeing his sin, had not abandoned him to despair.
“If the look that Jesus cast upon him had spoken condemnation instead of pity; if in foretelling the sin He had failed of speaking hope, how dense would have been the darkness that encompassed Peter! how reckless the despair of that tortured soul! In that hour of anguish and self-abhorrence, what could have held him back from the path trodden by Judas?
“He who could not spare His disciple the anguish, left him not alone to its bitterness. His is a love that fails not nor forsakes.”4
As the storm bursts, let us ever keep this in mind! Amen!