I AM THE “I WILL NOT FOLLOW” FOLLOWER (Mark 14: 27-31).
I was a fisherman and ran my in-law’s fishing business. The work was hard and I was tough. And my family depended on me. I could not wander about the country, like my brother Andrew, following religious rumors. One day, he did come back and insisted that I meet a Man called, “Jesus.” He was certain that He fitted Moses’ and the Prophet’s description of another leader like David was. I did go with Andrew and I was a bit surprised that this “Stranger” was Jesus of Nazareth and that He knew my name and called me a hard man; namely, “Simon the rock.” Well, I was hard. I had to be. But I was not as hard as I thought I was. Jesus’ knowledge of me was impressive; but, I needed a lot more convincing that He was the one God had designated as our leader.
We had fished all-night and returned to shore empty. On shore, Jesus was teaching a crowd. Then, He came over and asked me whether He could use my boat and speak to the people. It was a short speech about some “kingdom” that had come and man had to repent to join it. Then, He asked me to drive out, and cast my net for a catch of fish. I told Jesus that we had fished through the night and caught nothing; but, I obeyed Him, and lowered my nets, expecting nothing. We caught so many fish that the nets broke. I, the tough man, fell on my knees and told Jesus that I was a sinner and that He should leave me. His next words were even more astonishing than the large catch. He said “Simon, stop being afraid. From now on you will catch men.” I felt like being shackled to this Man, Jesus. I got up from my knees, left the boat and followed Him, so did my brother Andrew and my partners James and John. Except for Andrew, the three of us became close companions of Jesus. I, in particular, assumed the role of a guardian and spokesman of the group.
Following Jesus was full of surprises. Whenever I thought that I was doing something right for our Teacher, the very next moment, I would do something wrong. On the Mountain of Transfiguration, I wanted to build three huts. I wanted to show off and walk on the water. I wanted to stop Jesus from going to Jerusalem, where He would be arrested, mistreated and killed. I bragged that if everyone would leave Him, I would definitely go with Him and die. Did I ever put my foot in my mouth? There were no huts to be built. I sank and almost drowned. Instead of helping our Anointed, I was helping the devil. Jesus had to order the devil to get out of my life. How could this be? I was willing to die with and for my Master. I had such good and noble intentions, but I was wrong. Satan was using me and made my intentions look good in the eyes of my fellow men; yet, in the eyes of my Lord, he was sifting me like a farmer sifts his wheat. Jesus had to pray for me to wake me up from my stupor so that I could be helpful to the others who were beginning to look up to me as their strong man.
I am telling you this as a warning. When I guest right, that Jesus was the Son of God, my pride and success got in my way. And when the Master praised me for my insight and promised to use me as a starting point for his fellowship or kingdom, I underestimated fully my strength and opened the door for Satan to trip me. I, too, fell asleep in Gethsemane and had to be reminded how weak my flesh was. When the traitor Judas and his gang arrested our Teacher, I again hindered His purpose by striking out with a sword and then I ran and left my Lord to clean up my mess. I, the brave bragger, followed from afar, watched from the shadows how He was being tried and abused; then, I who wanted to die with my Master, denied Him three times before the rooster crowed. Even then, Jesus had to look at me and remind me that He had told me that I was the one, the only one, that would do this shameful thing. Yes, His words did come alive in me and I went out to be by myself and wept my heart out.
Fortunately, this was not the end. With the help of that other disciple and his family’s generosity, he gathered us and we all mourned the loss of our Teacher. Very early, on the first day of the week, the women aroused us that the Lord had risen from the dead. Again, I had trouble believing them and ran to the grave myself. It would take three more appearances of Jesus, before I began to click as a totally humbled and reformed man. I no longer was surprised to find our Lord waiting for us on the same shore where He had first met us. The way He called me, the second time, brought back painful memories. He asked me whether I, more than the others, would still lay down my life (agape) for Him. I had learned my lesson and I knew that I was not that strong. So, I replied that I would do all I could to be His friend (phileo). He repeated the same question and I gave Him the same answer. For the third time, He asked me whether I really could be His friend (phileo). This did hurt me deeply but I managed to affirm that I could. Then, He pointed at the others, and told me to be their shepherd.
My Lord’s message became very clear to me. He wanted me alive, and not dead. His followers and His reason for coming were now in my hands. I was to lead them and others into His kingdom. We were to be His messengers to the world and proclaim that He was the Christ, the Savior of the world. Strangely enough, I no longer was afraid to profess before Jews and Gentiles at home and abroad that the Jesus, whom our authorities had crucified, was indeed the Son of God and Savior of us all.