Jesus instructed Peter, “Put out into deep water, and let down the net for a catch” (Luke 5:5). There was more at issue than the latter realized, as is often the case when we respond to the Lord’s leading.
“Master,” he replied, “we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” If for no other reason than he says so.
“Don’t be afraid,” Jesus then enjoined him, “from now on you will catch men.” There are striking similarities between catching fish and men. For instance, one must find those who are receptive. Having done so, to offer an appealing alternative. Then to encourage a decision. After which, to secure the catch.
Nonetheless, the persuasion of persons constitutes a formidable task. One that recalls the admonition, “Anticipate great things from God.” Along with its corollary, “Undertake great things in his name.” Set one’s goals high, and then even when falling short, accomplish more than would otherwise be the case.
Sometime later, Jesus saw Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus invited him. Only two words, but with vast implications. At which, “Levi got up, left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:28). Which assuredly qualifies as affirmative action.
In greater detail, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:23-24). For what does it profit a person to gain the whole world, and yet forfeit himself?
“Love your enemies,” Jesus subsequently insisted, “do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27). Love and do good, rather than hate and do evil. “Forgive and it will be forgiven” (6:37). Do to others as you would have God behave toward you. Which serves as an incentive to compliance.
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” Jesus concluded (Luke 8:8). In like manner, “Let those with eyes to see, let them see.” So also those who have feet, diligently pursue the course set before them. Calling for careful attention, a ready response, and unrelenting resolve.
As they were walking along the road, a man assured Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go” (Luke 9:57). Presumably without having given due consideration as to what might be involved. So while the circumstances might greatly vary, it required a putting away of the former life, while embracing the new.
Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Like mentor, like disciple. In greater detail, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him” (Luke 14:28-29). Likewise, if a ruler is about to go to war, he will consider whether his forces are strong enough to defeat the enemy.
Jesus admonished another man, “Follow me.” As he had done on other occasions, with differing results. Sometimes with the best of intention, but lacking determination. Conversely, sometimes with increasing fervor.
“Lord,” the man requested, “first let me go and bury my father.” That is, see to his family obligations before taking on the task of discipleship. Seemingly not that the corpse was actually awaiting burial.
Whereupon, Jesus said to him: “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Which is to say, let those who are spiritually dead see to the matter. Since those who have received are obligated to appreciatively share with others.
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” So that matters might be postponed indefinitely, given the social restraints. Leading persons to indulge in procrastination.
Jesus responded, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Since one who is prone to looking back is likely to falter. Which recalls the observation that Christians are less driven by the past than drawn by the future. Accordingly, to embrace change within continuity.
All of which brings to mind a time when I was having lunch in the school cafeteria with the acclaimed clinical psychologist Don Tweedie, and a student stopped by our table to request his help in selecting a major. Tweedie, known for his novel advice, replied: “It doesn’t matter. Find an instructor who understands life, and learn all you can from him or her.”
As applied to Jesus, one could not hope to find a more capable mentor. So the words of the gospel chorus refrain affirm: “Yes, Lord; yes, Lord; yes, yes, Lord. Amen.”
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