WHEN I GROW UP . . .
It’s the question every young person hears at least a thousand times during their childhood, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” However, perhaps more interesting than the question itself, is the reason why it is asked so frequently; namely being that it seems children will change their answer to this question every time it is asked of them.
For example, years of my life were spent aspiring to be a renowned, published author. Other years I could only imagine myself conducting experiments and developing inventions in a lab coat. However, that quickly changed upon my discovery of iMovie, and suddenly the world around me was no longer a laboratory, but a red-carpet award show. Perhaps my least grandeur dream, was to be a shopping clerk, purely because for years I was convinced that they slept underneath their registers, and living essentially in a cubby house, was all the fulfillment I needed for my future career.
However, as years passed and I grew more mature, many harsh realities began to set in. I discovered that I found chemistry and physics both boring, writing was demanding on an intense schedule, directors did not get time off during filming, and shopping clerks did not really live under their registers.
Now I imagine that my younger self would be disappointed were I to tell him that we never grew up to become a famous director or the next great scientist children would read about in their textbooks. Instead, he would grow up to study a Bachelor in Ministry and Theology. I guarantee he would not believe me that of all the jobs in the world, we had settled for a pastor. But what my younger self would not know, is the reason why we chose that path; the same path a great man once walked millennia ago, and many great men and women have walked since: the path following Jesus’ footsteps.
It’s the answer every young person wanted to hear two millennia ago during their childhood “follow me”. However, perhaps more interesting than the answer itself, is the reason why it was given only once in a lifetime; namely that if a Rabbi (teacher of the Jewish Law) deemed you unworthy of his discipleship now, you would not be worthy in the future either.
Years of every young Jewish boy were spent aspiring to be the disciple of a prestigious Rabbi; to be tutored as a future teacher of the Jewish Law. Years were spent memorizing the Torah, the Talmud and the other Jewish Scriptures, all culminating in one final test. If the child passed the test, the Rabbi would say those precious words “follow me”. However, were the child to fail this test, he would be told “go home and learn your father’s trade”. This was the same test that the great man Peter, once attempted, and failed.
Now I imagine that Peter’s younger self would be disappointed were his older self to tell him that he never grew up to become the next great teacher of Jewish Law. Instead, he would grow up to become something very different. I guarantee that he would not believe that of all the trades in the world, he would settle for a fisher of men. But what his younger self would not know, is the reason why he chose that path: the path following Jesus’ footsteps.
A SECOND CHANCE
Like every child who had failed that life determining test, Peter adopted the trade of his father. Along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Peter fished alongside his brother and father every day. This was Peter’s reality, and he had likely become content with his career, and abandoned all hopes for a different future. Until one day, a Rabbi performed the impossible.
He answered Peter’s desire for greater things, and gave him a second chance. The great Rabbi Jesus called to Peter,
“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).
Never before had a test drop out been asked to follow a Rabbi, and yet here was Jesus, asking Peter to become his disciple, and follow in his footsteps.
Peter’s decision to answer that call, to drop his fishing nets and leave his old life behind, was the best decision he would make. It was the beginning of a new journey of which when had finished, his younger self would never believe.
The next three and a half years were spent being the disciple of Jesus, following him through towns as he healed the sick, showed mercy to the poor and defenseless, and preached profound messages of the kingdom to come. Peter had changed from an ordinary fisherman, to the disciple of the world’s greatest teacher.
Like any disciple, Peter learnt from observing his Rabbi and the experiences they shared together. Once obsessed with the notion of leading the new kingdom of Israel, Jesus demonstrated to Peter, that true leadership was not governing over others, but serving others (Matthew 20:24-28; Mark 10:35-45). Once concerned for how to sustain their nomadic lifestyle, Jesus taught Peter that God provides for his children (Matthew 6:25-34; 17:24-27). Once afraid and insufficient in faith, Peter learnt to keep his eyes fixated on Jesus as the foundation of his faith (Matthew 14:22-33).
And so, just as the other Rabbis would continue to test their disciples, Jesus also gave Peter one final test, to see what he had learned over the past three years.
THE FINAL TEST
The night of the Passover Feast, Jesus declared to his disciples, that he would be arrested and sentenced to death, and that all of them including Peter, would desert him in his greatest time of need. Peter replied in opposition to his Rabbi
“Lord, I am ready to go with you, both to prison and to death!” (Luke 22:33).
Peter had failed his test in his youth, he would not fail it again now.
Imagine the defeat which came over Peter’s face, as his Rabbi looked into his eyes and said,
“I tell you Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know me” (Luke 22:34).
Peter could never imagine leaving the man who had changed his life, and yet here was his own Rabbi telling Peter that he would not only abandon him but would deny he ever even knew his great teacher.
Imagine the guilt which came over Peter’s face when the one situation he imagined to be a complete fantasy, became a bitter and harsh reality, as his Rabbi was arrested, and all of Jesus’ disciples including Peter, ran away in fear of their lives. Imagine the regret which weighed on Peter’s demeanor, as in hiding for his life, and questioned whether he knew the now criminal Jesus, he denied his own Rabbi and friend three times. As the rooster crowed in the distance, Peter realised that he had once again failed his final test.
Jesus had been killed, crucified on a cross and buried in a stranger’s tomb. But a miracle had taken place three days afterward: Jesus had risen from the dead, and had even shown himself twice to his disciples, including Peter. But unsure whether Jesus would want to continue to disciple a twice drop out student, Peter returned to his career: fishing along the shores of Galilee. It was along this same shore that Peter met Jesus three years ago, that Peter would encounter his Rabbi again.
Seeing his Rabbi along the shore, Peter swam through the waters towards Jesus, pleading for forgiveness for his failure. It was then that Jesus asked a question three times, “
Peter, do you love me?” Every time, Peter replied with Yes Lord; you know that I love you” (John 21:15).
However, perhaps more interesting than the question itself was the reason why it was asked only thrice. The question of Peter’s love and devotion to Jesus was asked three times, once for every time Peter had denied him.
Despite his failure, Peter had been given a second-second chance. In spite of his short comings, Jesus still wanted to disciple and mentor Peter. As Jesus and Peter walked along the sands of Galilee, I can imagine Peter reflecting on how much he had changed in the past three years. I’m sure if Peter had told his younger self that he would be a disciple of Rabbi, all those years ago, his younger self would not have believed him. Peter had learnt the true meaning of leadership, the provision of God and the importance of faith. And as they finished their walk together, Jesus gave Peter these final words “follow me”.
Today, Jesus is asking you to make the same decision Peter did; to follow his footsteps and see the amazing journey he has prepared for you. Jesus wants to teach, mentor and love you all the days of your life. It may be difficult to see where Jesus is taking you in the future, and you may not fully realise yet why you chose this path. But many great men and women have walked the same path, and their lives have been changed by the great Rabbi Jesus. I have chosen to be his disciple, as did Peter. Will you answer the call, and follow Jesus?
By Christopher Petersen
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