The Fisherman and the Shepherd

If you’ve ever heard me talk about the disciples before, or my favorite characters (other than God of course) in the Bible, you probably heard me gushing about the one Jesus called Peter. Ever since I started learning more about the disciples in the Gospels, Peter has stood out to me to the point where I read certain verses now and just say, “Oh, Peter.” It probably has something to do with the fact that he gets the most in-depth attention in the story, the most complete character arc, if you will. But I’m sure it also has to do with the way Jesus loved him, constantly and consistently, even after he still didn’t get it, even after he finally got it but ran away. Peter just seems so real, you know? His character makes sense, and Jesus’ love for him doesn’t, which makes his life such a great picture of Grace.

The Sea of Galilee

So we’re studying the book of 2 Peter in church this month. I’ve also been going through Luke, and I just finished reading about Peter’s first encounter with Jesus (which you can read about at Small, Still Voices on Friday.) Then, Peter came up again in my reading of Donald Miller’s Searching For God Knows What. So you could say I’ve got Peter on the brain.

Donald Miller talks about Peter’s last recorded conversation with Christ on earth, where Jesus asks him to feed His sheep, and Miller really drew my attention to the significance of that encounter so much so that I felt I should blog about it. Now, I could write a book on Peter (but that probably already exists), and in fact I’ve led an entire Bible study session centered on what we can learn from Peter’s story…. but there is always more to glean, more to think about, and so today I just want to meditate on this single encounter in John 21.

In this last chapter of John, the disciple whom Jesus loved records a moment after the Resurrected Jesus has already appeared to His disciples and a few of them have gone fishing. Simon Peter is back where he was at the beginning of the story, in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. He is doing what he was doing long before he ever met Jesus: fishing.

He has just spent three years living and learning and walking with the Creator of the Universe. He saw Him transfigured before his very eyes, but he also watched Him betrayed to death, and then he saw Him return, completely alive. And now Peter’s back on the sea, fishing.

Perhaps he was hungry. Perhaps he didn’t know what else to do. Perhaps he wanted to be back in a place of comfort where he knew exactly what he was doing. Maybe he wanted to return to this fishing business because he was good at it, he understood it, it made sense. But he fishes all night and never catches anything, until Stranger calls out to him from the shore in the early morning light and tells him to let down his nets again.

The same miracle happens again, the one I had just finished reading about in Luke 5 at the beginning of Peter’s story. It’s as if Jesus is gently reminding him of the time he once pulled his boat ashore and left everything behind to follow the Lord, that time when he was called to something greater: to catch men in the net of the Gospel of salvation and grace.

Jesus called him to something greater, and He wouldn’t let Peter run from it. “Feed my sheep,” he said, “Take care of my lambs.” The fisherman is called to be a shepherd.

Am I returning to something other than what Christ has called me to because it’s safe, reliable, and all I’ve ever known? Because it’s all I think I’m capable of?


Christ calls us to something higher, and He equips us with everything we need to do the job. He breathes His Holy Spirit into his disciples, and the Spirit teaches Simon the fisherman how to be Peter the shepherd. It’s exciting to think that God is working in me right now to prepare me for each moment, hour, day, and year that lies ahead. It’s comforting to know that He won’t leave me alone in the boat on the sea, but will continue to call me ashore and help me to follow Him. What is it that He is calling me to? What is it that He is calling you to? Oh, Peter.

P.s. Who is your favorite disciple?