Acts 9:1-20; John 21:1-19
Today’s readings offer us two accounts of encounter and call and we will be taking time to consider the wonderful ways the risen Jesus encountered both Simon Peter and Saul (who would later be called Paul) in ways that were perfectly tailored to them individually. We’ll also think about what these encounters might have to say to us today!!
The Context for Jesus:
- Death and resurrection
- “Some time later” (John 21:1)
- The best summary we have of this period = 1 Corinthians 15:4-8 in which Paul lists Jesus having appeared to Peter, then the other apostles, then a gathering of 500 disciples at once, then James (Jesus’ brother), then all the apostles again … and then finally … after Jesus’ ascension to heaven … He appeared … in a blinding encounter … to Paul (our Acts reading today).
- The risen Jesus is encountering and calling people … and He still does today!
The Context of the Disciples:
- On the morning of resurrection, Jesus commanded the women (in Matthew 28:10) “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see Me”.
- Same evening He met them in upper room
- Next week, again in upper room with Thomas present
- Now finally they have gone to Galilee.
- With no sign of Jesus, Peter decides to go fishing.
- No mention of praying for the Holy Spirit to come … no mention of pursuing the mission of “as the Father sent Me so I now send you” (John 20:21)
- Out on the Lake all night … no fish (personal fishing story)
- They are aimless … and totally fruitless both physically and spiritually … drifting on a literal and metaphorical lake.
The Context of Saul (Acts 9)
- It is months later… it is Post-Pentecost …
- early Church is taking Jerusalem by storm … thousands are hearing the Gospel, believing, being baptised and following what became known as “The Way”.
- Jewish authorities are actively persecuting believers, imprisoning and even executing them … and Saul is the “lead detective” so to speak.
- Saul has taken up a crusade against the Christians
- He is pursuing believers who have fled Jerusalem and are preaching the gospel in Damascus in order to “take them as prisoners to Jerusalem”.
- So whereas Peter is adrift and aimless… Saul is radically and actively opposed to Jesus.
- The one over-riding point of both of these encounters we read is this: Jesus comes to them … Jesus encounters them face to face where they are … Jesus radically transforms their relationship to Him … and Jesus calls them to a life of discipleship and ministry … then they must respond!
- And He may very well do exactly the same in our lives in unique ways.
1.Face to Face Encounter
Let’s take a look at the way Jesus encounters both Peter and Saul.
- Beautiful how Jesus comes to them!
- They are not looking for Him!
- But He encounters them in an unmistakeable way.
- Peter: It’s beautiful how Jesus comes to “their special place”
- where much of Jesus’ ministry happened … but more than that
- where Jesus called Peter … and as Luke records it in Luke 5:4-6, “When Jesus had finished speaking He said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so I will let down the nets.’ When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.”
- Now … 3 years later … Jesus reaches out to Peter in such a way as to make it clear:
- It’s Me Peter
- Nothing has changed about your call Peter.
- Back then you were called to be a fisher of men … that is still the case.
- Once Peter realises it is Jesus he rushes ashore to be with Jesus and the encounter unfolds.
- Jesus comes to Peter in a way specially tailored for Peter!
- Saul: To a man of forceful directness, Jesus come in head-on confrontation.
- Saul was a man to force the issue
- He was not a gentle soul who you could influence gently.
- He was a bull in a china shop.
- Jesus meets him where he is at … in the only way that will get through to him … with an explosion of light … a voice from heaven calling him by name and confronting his animosity… and an “I’ll show you who’s boss” affliction of blindness.
- And Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush:
- “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting!”
- “Why are you persecuting Me?”
- “Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what to do.”
- Jesus comes to Saul in a way perfectly tailored for Saul.
- YOU and ME:
- Notice from the 2 examples that Jesus has a “horses for courses” approach
- He won’t come to you in the same way as to me
- One size doesn’t fit all
- My experience of encounter will NOT be yours
- But Jesus has your number and He will encounter you in the way that is just right for you.
- Be expectant.
2.Transforming the Relationship
Beautiful how (in these encounters) both their relationships with Jesus are transformed:
- Floating on this lake of uncertainty … aimlessness …
- Jesus focuses him on LOVE
- All through the last 3 years, Peter’s been so task-orientated … so intent on rushing into things … it’s like Jesus slows him down
- Do you love me?
- Do you love me?
- Do you love me?
- Unmistakably Jesus brings Peter back to the heart of the matter
- His call is not to be based on performance … it is to flow out of a heart of love for Jesus!
- Our love for Jesus is to be the well-spring from which everything else flows.
- For Saul it took a power encounter
- Peter had to be re-centred on loving Jesus above all BUT
- Saul has to decide to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus.
- Jesus put on a power display for Saul – light … a loud voice … confrontation … blindness … and straight-talking instruction to get up and go to the city and wait for further instructions.
- And Saul meekly goes
- Then, through Ananias the encounter continues as a miraculous healing and infilling of the Holy Spirit.
- And when it’s all over Saul is preaching that Jesus is the Son of God.
- The relationship is transformed from fierce opposition to total surrender.
- Our Mission in life is to be based on total surrender to Jesus
3.Call and Response
For both, love for Jesus and surrender to His Lordship is followed by a Call to Service.
- Peter: “Feed My lambs”:
- Peter knows Jesus is the good shepherd
- He knows He is referring to those who will believe in him
- Peter’s call is to nurture and nourish those who will believe …
- with the level of commitment required by the fact that these people are “lambs” of “the good shepherd”
- It was not enough for Peter to love Jesus … that love had to be translated into the service Jesus called him to.
- Now John 21 does not tell us but with hindsight we know that Peter spent his life obeying this call.
- Saul: “This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel” (Acts 9:15)
- Talk about a high calling
- I think Jesus ministered this calling to Saul while he was blind
- I think Ananias probably spoke to him about what God had told him too
- But Acts 9:20 shows that Saul immediately responded to the call.
What about us?
- Be expectant that Jesus will encounter you … often … and in way uniquely tailored for you!
- Be expectant that Jesus will encounter you … often … to grow and shape your relationship with Him!
- Be expectant that Jesus will encounter you … often … to issue a call to follow Him and serve Him … and to shape and reshape that calling and service as your life unfolds.
- Be expectant that Jesus will encounter you … often … and will demand a response!
- Then RESPOND