At Your Word ( by Carley Evans )

All night Peter and the other fishermen toil yet catch nothing! When Jesus says to Peter, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught,” Peter responds, “At Thy Word, I will let down the net.” (Luke 5:4,5; KJV)

In the face of certain failure, Peter — with the other fishermen — obeys the Lord.

“And when they do this, they enclose a great multitude of fish; and their net breaks.” (Luke 5:6) When they “launch out into the deep,” they find what they do not find on their own — FISH!

The abundance breaks the net, probably at the cost of a few fish. Peter beckons to their other partners to come help. Together, they fill these boats with so many fish they begin to sink!

And Peter’s response is perfectly understandable. He falls at Jesus’ feet and declares, “I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:8)

Thank You, Lord that despite our sinful state, You continue to act on our behalf. You give us opportunities in which You show Your great power and awesome love. We praise You, Father God. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Why Marvel at This? ( by Carley Evans )

“Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? Or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man walk?” (The Acts 3:12, KJV)

Peter is downright flabbergasted that anyone would be surprised at the power which makes men walk or raises women from the dead. But he is even more bewildered that anyone would attribute this power to Peter himself rather than to Jesus.

Peter is distressed but not surprised when some of these same “men of Israel” “confer among themselves” to threaten Peter and John “not to speak henceforth to no man in this Name, nor teach in the Name of Jesus.” (The Acts 4:17,18)

Peter responds, “we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (The Acts 4:20) In other words, Peter tells the “men of Israel” that he and John speak only the truth of God. Of course, the truth of God trumps the threats of the “men of Israel.”

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the reminder that any natural gifts we may possess are directly from You, but any power we show forth is always only of You, emanating from Your nature and not from ours. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

The Multitude of Sin (by Carley Evans)

“Above all things,” writes Peter, “have fervent love among yourselves; for love shall cover the multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8, KJV)

I like the King James’  use of the article “the” rather than “a” for Peter’s description of multitude. We carry the multitude of sins to be covered by fervent love — virtually the weight of mankind’s entire history of sin can be felt by the individual Christian. Imagine that same weight crushing the body of Jesus Christ on the cross — His fervent love for us covered the multitude of sin.

If we practice even a tiny bit of His love for one another, our lives here on this earth can only be better.

Heavenly Father, thank You for love – love which covers the multitude of sin. Enable us to truly love one another as You love us. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

You Don’t Have Any Fish (by Carley Evans)

Part 2 of this morning’s post: A Mighty Big Piece of Wood.

Jesus calls out to Peter, “Twin,” the sons of Zebedee, Nathaniel, and two other disciples who are out in a boat on the Sea of Tiberas, fishing. Jesus says to them, “You don’t have any fish, do you?”

Fishing is what Peter does for a living — well, what he does for a living before he becomes a fisher of men. At any rate, Peter is skilled at catching fish. Likely Peter has fished since he was a toddler with his father or uncles or brothers.

Jesus is telling His disciples what they ought to know already — they don’t have anything.

Once back on shore, Jesus offers them a breakfast of fish and bread, both of which He provides. The 153 fish Peter and the others catch on the right side of the boat — once Jesus tells them to drop their net on that side — are extra provisions provided by none other than Jesus.

So, the fish on the fire and the fish in the net are not from the efforts of the fishermen. As Jesus rhetorically asks, “You don’t have any fish, do you?”

Thank You heavenly Father for providing everything we need for our salvation, our sanctification, our glorification. You are all we have and all we need. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

A Mighty Big Piece of Wood (by Carley Evans)

“That’s a mighty big cross you have there, but the question is — do you have faith, Charlie?”

The ultimate question — what good does the cross of Jesus Christ do you without a personal faith in Him as Lord and Savior? The obvious answer — no good at all.

Anyone can hold up the cross against evil, but only the one who holds it up in belief can overcome. The cross is only a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice, and in and of itself has no power.

After Jesus’ resurrection, He appears on shore of the Sea of Tiberias at daybreak. Simon Peter, “Twin”, Nathaniel of Cana, the Zebedee’s sons and two other disciples are there. Peter up and decides to go fishing. Everyone says, “We’re going with you.” They all go out in the boat, but catch nothing. From the shore, Jesus calls out to them, “You don’t have any fish, do you?” They do not recognize Him, but they say, “no” anyway. He tells them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. So Simon Peter and the others do what this stranger tells them. And they catch a “large number of fish,” so many “they are unable to haul it in.” And the disciple whom Jesus loves, says to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Peter, who has no clothes on, ties his outer garment around him, leaps into the water, and presumably swims to shore. The other disciples come in the boat, dragging the large catch.

When they reach shore, Jesus is sitting at a charcoal fire cooking fish on it. And He has bread, too! He invites them to have breakfast.

No one dares to ask, “Who are you?” because they know it is the Lord. (John 21:1-14, HCSB)

I can imagine there was an order to the recognition of Jesus by the disciples. Obviously the disciple Jesus loves is the first to know Him, then likely Peter. After that, I wouldn’t venture a guess. Until each believes, he does not recognize the Lord. It does not matter that the other disciples know Jesus; each must recognize Him for himself.

A personal faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior gives the cross its power over evil; otherwise the cross is “just a big piece of wood.”

A Rooster Crows

A servant girl is introduced to Peter outside the court of the high priest by another of Jesus’ disciples. This disciple is known to the high priest, Annas. When the servant girl casually states, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” Peter takes advantage of the manner in which this statement is worded, and denies that he is one of Jesus’ disciples, responding, “I am not.” (John 18:17, ESV) In other words, Peter agrees that he is not one of the followers of the man, Jesus. Peter does this even though he has just been introduced to the girl by one of Jesus’ disciples. His denial is rather akin to the professor saying to Dorothy and her friends, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. I am the great and powerful Wizard of Oz.” Except Peter is saying, “No I am not.”

Warming himself by the fire, Simon Peter is noticed by the servants of the high priest — and perhaps by the band of soldiers who arrested Jesus in the garden and who are gathered outside the court where Annas has just questioned the Lord. Simon Peter is probably startled when one of the crowd rhetorically asks, “You also are not one of His disciples, are you?” (John 18:25) Peter responds exactly as he did to the servant girl, denying that he is a follower of Jesus. Yet, he remains close at hand, waiting for his Lord to emerge from the interrogation with the high priest, Annas.

The soldier whose ear Peter cut off in the garden of Gethsemane happens to have a relative also standing near the fire. This relative notices Peter, and asks, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” (John 18:26) This time, Peter responds slightly more emphatically, denying that he was even with Jesus in the garden. Perhaps, at this point, his fear is becoming frustration that he keeps being picked out of the crowd standing nearby.

Whatever the case, immediately after this final denial — and exactly as Jesus has said — a rooster crows. Jesus turns to look at Peter. (Luke 22:61) Perhaps Peter recalls, at this juncture, the Lord’s Word, “Whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33) Obviously, Jesus is not planning to deny Peter before His Father in heaven. Why not? Because, of course, Peter “goes out and weeps bitterly.” (Luke 22:62) In his weeping, Peter seeks forgiveness and obtains grace.

Thank You, Lord for Your loving-kindnesses; thank You that joy comes after weeping, that forgiveness follows after sin and confession. Thank You for Your wondrous mercies. Thank You that You are always faithful. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

God Loves the Communal Giver

Imagine “the full number of those who believe” being “of one heart and soul” with “not a needy person among them.” (Acts 4:32,34; ESV) No one among them says “that any of the things that belong to him is his own.” Instead “they have everything in common.” (Acts 4:32) If any one of them is an owner of land or house, he “sells them and brings the proceeds of what is sold and lays it at the apostles’ feet, and it is distributed to each as any has need.” (Acts 4:34,35)

God loves the cheerful giver; not that the one giving should then find himself in need, but that each person is able to meet his obligations.

Within this context of sharing one’s personal property among the body of believers, Ananias and his wife, Sapphira sell a piece of property and rather than give the entire purchase price to the apostles for distribution, they secretly withhold a portion for themselves. In doing this, Ananias and Sapphira “lie to the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 5:3) They are free to not sell the property, and even to keep part of the proceeds; what they are not free to do is lie to God.

When Peter confronts Ananias, Ananias “falls down and breathes his last.” (Acts 5:5) Three hours later, Sapphira comes to the apostles, “not knowing what has happened.” (Acts 5:7) When Peter asks her about the purchase price, she also “tests the Spirit of the Lord” by lying. (Acts 5:9) Sapphira joins her husband in death.

“And great fear comes upon the whole church and upon all who hear of these things.” (Acts 5:11)

Father God, thank You for Your enormous generosity. Help us to be willing to give to one another above and beyond. Keep us honest, Lord with You, with ourselves and with one another. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Stay Awake, Pray; Get Up, Let’s Go

Today — still exhausted from my trip and lack of sleep last night — I kept thinking about Peter and the two sons of Zebedee falling asleep while Jesus agonizes in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus has asked them to “sit here while I go over there and pray.” (Matthew 26:36, HCSB) I can imagine Peter sitting down on the ground, perhaps leaning against a tree while Jesus grows ever more “sorrowful and deeply distressed.” (Matthew 26:37) About this time, Peter and the sons of Zebedee must be somewhat bewildered. Why is the Son of God so distressed?

Jesus says, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow — to the point of death.” (Matthew 26:38) Such deep sorrow is imaginable for us, who have experienced the loss of a child, a parent, a dear friend, a spouse — these sorts of sorrows we understand. Jesus is facing utter isolation as well as intense physical suffering. No wonder He “falls facedown and prays, ‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.'” (Matthew 26:39) No wonder He is disturbed when He finds Peter and the others asleep rather than keeping watch with Him. He commands, gently I am certain, “Stay awake and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation.” (Matthew 26:41)

He goes away to pray again. When He returns, He finds Peter and the sons of Zebedee asleep, “because they can not keep their eyes open.” (Matthew 26:43) Right now, I can barely keep my eyes open. I understand physical and mental exhaustion. Peter doesn’t fully grasp what it is that they are doing in the garden. Why are they sitting there? Why is Jesus in such agony? The third time Jesus goes away and comes back to find Peter and the disciples asleep, He tells them, “Look the time is near. The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up; let’s go! See, My betrayer is near.” (Matthew 26:45-46) I imagine Peter and the others scramble to their feet right quick at that message from Jesus.

And when Judas appears to kiss Jesus, “one of those with Jesus reaches out his hand and draws his sword. He strikes the high priest’s slave and cuts off his ear.” (Matthew 26:51) Now the disciples spring into action when earlier they are unable to remain awake to watch with Jesus even for an hour.

Notice how “get up, let’s go” is easier than “stay awake; pray.” Such is human nature. Doing is easier than watching. Keeping busy seems more desirable than sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening. Won’t you keep watch with Jesus for an hour.


All, Not Some

At Peter’s house, Jesus finds Peter’s mother-in-law sick with fever. He touches her hand, and the fever dissipates. She gets right up and waits on Him. Maybe Peter is a little frantic at this point; his mother-in-law is very ill, now she’s up serving drinks and dinner to God! Nevertheless, she’s healthy again and ready to work.

Many are brought to Peter’s house — some with demons, others with sicknesses. “With a Word” Jesus “heals all who are sick” and “casts out” the oppressing spirits.

In some accounts of healing, Jesus says, “Go, your faith makes you well.” But in this account, Matthew reminds us that Jesus heals all who come or are brought to Him. With a touch or with a Word, Jesus heals all, not some.

“He has no form or majesty that we should look at Him. He is despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He is despised, and we esteem Him not. Surely He bears our griefs and carries our sorrows; yet we esteem Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He is wounded for our transgressions; he is crushed for our iniquities; upon Him is the chastisement that brings us peace, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep are gone astray; we are turned — every one — to his own way; and the Lord lays on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:2-6, ESV)

If It Is You, Lord

During the storm, Peter doesn’t recognize Jesus from the boat; as a matter of fact, Peter and his companions are terrified, thinking Jesus is a ghost. This ghost is walking atop the waves.

Jesus has been praying. He’s told the crowds to disperse, and has gone “up on the mountain by Himself to pray.” (Matthew 14:23) We aren’t certain how long Jesus prays, but Matthew’s account indicates “when evening came, He is there alone.” (Matthew 14:23) And in the time He has been on the mountain, the boat has traveled far from land. Peter and the other disciples are “a long way from land” and “the wind is against them,” meaning they can’t return to Jesus. He must come to them. (Matthew 14:24) And, of course, Jesus does walk out on the waves to join them in the boat.

At some distance, however, Peter and the disciples see Jesus and believe He is a ghost, a disembodied spirit likely planning them harm. They are terrified, shouting out their false belief. Jesus hears their fear. He reassures them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27)

Peter takes the lead. He tests, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” (Matthew 14:28) Jesus goes along with Peter’s request, and commands him to come out of the boat and walk to Him on the water. Peter obeys. He steps out of the boat and walks all the way to Jesus. Again, we don’t know the distance but it can’t be extremely far — Jesus has heard His disciples shouting over the wind. When Peter becomes aware of the wind and the storm, his fear overwhelms his faith and he begins to sink. Peter intelligently asks Jesus to save him. And, of course, Jesus saves Peter. Jesus also points out Peter’s lack of faith. When Jesus and Peter get into the boat, presumably by walking together across the wave-tops, the wind ceases. Then, the other disciples exclaim, “Truly You are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:33)

Lord God, we thank You that You are willing to save us even when we are too terrified to even recognize and know You fully; that You are able and desirous to rescue us from our fear and from the danger of sinking even when we show such little faith in Your power to save us. Help us Lord to know You, to know Your love, its depth and faithfulness. In Jesus’ Name, amen.