Rev’d Jonathan Gale
Peter was born in tough times. Yes, he had the example of Jesus, but when Jesus wasn’t with them anymore as he had been before, Peter was left with a group of shattered disciples who, in spite of Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit, must have felt bereft – and after the harrowing period of what we now call Holy Week – quite exhausted.
Peter had a choice. Either he could go back to fishing on Galilee and live his life in regret, or he could take up the challenge Jesus left him and do what God expected of him.
At first he did go fishing. In John 21: 3 we read, “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
But then Jesus meets him, forgives him for his betrayal, and commissions him to lead the church. However, even after this Peter faced a choice. He could still have opted for a quiet life in Galilee doing what he knew best – fishing.
However what couldn’t leave Peter, was his meeting with Jesus at the lake. There is always something about meeting with Jesus that encourages and enlivens us. This is one of the reasons why having a Quiet Time, spending time daily hearing Jesus speak to us in the Scriptures, is so important.
Just before Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Messiah we read 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ 14And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’
Every one of these outstanding prophets had reached points of exhaustion and disappointment as Peter no doubt experienced.
John the Baptist was sidelined by the arrival of Jesus and then arrested and beheaded by Herod. But before he was killed he was still enquiring of Jesus as to who he was. Jesus’ response gave him the courage to carry on. A word from God kept him going.
Elijah was pursued by Jezebel and fled for his life into the desert. When God approaches him he thinks he’s the only follower of God left alive! A word from God kept him going.
Jeremiah was one of the most abused men in the Scriptures and had every reason to throw in the towel. But Jeremiah is also someone who won’t leave God alone.
God is not easy on Jeremiah, in fact he challenges him. In Jeremiah 12: 5a God says, So, Jeremiah, if you’re worn out in this footrace with men, what makes you think you can race against horses?
But here’s the thing: Jeremiah had a secret. And his secret, was his love of God’s Word.
16 Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart;
for I am called by your name,
O Lord, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15: 16)
Jeremiah’s famous perseverance came from his delight in God’s Word.
I’d like to read you an extract from Eugene H Peterson’s book, Run with the Horses. (Read from p.108 109, 111).
From this reading we can see that Jeremiah’s persistence and faith grew from his early encounters with God each day.
In the extract we read from Ezekiel this morning we see the prophet literally down and silenced. But in Ezekiel 3: 27 God says, But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth
How motivated are you right now? What do you think when God says, 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it?
When you contemplate the church today does it strike you as a place against which the gates of hell will not prevail? Do you feel, as Peter no doubt felt, that you are left with a small group of people and faced with a tremendous task?
You see, like Peter we have a choice. We can either “go fishing” – possibly get together every now and again with some old Mates and think of what could have been – or we can open our eyes and realise that God has given us something. In Paul’s words, ‘His gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the equipment of the saints, for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. [Ephesians 4: 11 – 12]
I said earlier that there is always something about meeting with Jesus that encourages and enlivens us. For Peter it was Jesus’ words to him and knowing that he was called.
Jeremiah who rose early each day to pray, claimed the same thing: your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name.
Each and every Christian is called by God’s name in order to carry out the mission of God. I’d like to suggest that if we are to ‘run with the horses’ as it were, we could do worse than spend time speaking with God in the Scriptures and hearing his voice to us.
And let this be a daily experience. You may be retired, but that does not mean you need to be retiring. You may be tired, but that doesn’t mean you need to sleep on the job.
Vision, motivation and energy for the task come with a daily encounter with God in his Word. A word from God keeps us going.
It’s what we need if we are to run with the horses.
 Peterson, Eugene H. Run with the Horses. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Books, 2009, p. 108-109, 111.