Arrive Safely at Death

“To arrive safely at death” is powerful irony. It calls us to the reality that we die.  It also calls us to the reality that too many live such timid lives as though by being timid we can avoid death.  Whether we march, dance or tiptoe to death, we all get there. The issue is not about meeting death.  The issue is how we have lived our life when we get there.

Afraid of failure. Afraid to work too hard. Afraid of any uncertainty. And for the risks we cannot avoid, there is an insurance company quite willing to bear that risk for you. We can tiptoe through life as though it makes a difference when we arrive at death’s door.

Christians can be among the most risk adverse people. We seem to think that when doing God’s work, we cannot risk failure.  In part, we are conditioned by the belief that if we are doing God’s work, we can never fail.  If we fail, it is not God’s work.  This leads us to a spirit of timidity. So we choose the least risk, and the options most likely to succeed and call it God’s work.

Jesus chose Peter to lead the twelve because he was bold.  He made mistakes and we mock his failures.  In part, it is because we are timid and are afraid of failures. Peter pushed himself to the limits of faith.  He is the one who asked Jesus to let him walk on water.  He is passionate about Jesus and eager to test what it means to trust in Jesus. 

Peter denied Jesus because he placed himself in the courtyard of the high priest when Jesus was tried. Only John was with Peter, and John was somewhat protected because he was known to the high priest. Peter took the most risk, and failed.  But it was part of God’s plan for Peter; that he will fail because he was tempted while the other disciples were not.

While Satan would put all the disciples to the test, Jesus said he had a special prayer for Peter, “But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32).

The tiptoeing Christian will not risk anything for God, will not invest in God’s work, will not stretch his faith even as God is calling him. He will never know victory because he never risked failure in spiritual battle.


Apostle Peter – Part 2

Bethsaida, about 2 km from the shore
Peter’s first hometown was Bethsaida (John 1:44; 12:21) before he moved to Capernaum (Matthew 8:5, 14).  There is both historical and spiritual significance in this.

There is dispute on the location of Bethsaida [Aramaic: House of Fishing].  The traditional site of Bethsaida (Julias) was under the jurisdiction of and raised by Philip the Tetrarch.  The chief problem with this site is that it is about 2 km from the shore of Galilee and it does not make a good fishing village.  Some have suggested Peter’s Bethsaida is a location yet not discovered, or not yet identified among the excavated sites, but one that is much closer to Capernaum where Peter eventually moved. There have been some suggestions, but none is confirmed. So for now, we will work with Bethsaida Julias as the site of Peter’s first home (that we know of). John is the one who recounts this detail. And John and James were fishing partners with Peter and Andrew. As far as John was concerned, Peter and Andrew were the guys from Bethsaida.  This suggests the move was fairly recent.  In any case, it suggests they were adults when they moved.

We do not know why Peter and Andrew moved to Capernaum.  If they had lived in Bethsaida Julias, it is unlikely that they were fishermen there as the coast was 2 km away. Of course it is possible that they were fishermen and were tired of making a daily commute and decided to move closer to the shore.

I like to suggest that when Peter and Andrew moved to Capernaum, it was somewhat   tied   to  their  entering  into   the fishing business with John and James, with their father Zebedee. Perhaps Peter and Andrew relocated to be closer to their business partners who had a better location than their own.  Perhaps they moved first and found James and John later.

At some point after they were business partners, Jesus called them to be his disciples.  We do not know the interval, but when we factor in Peter and Andrew’s move from Bethsaida and their fishing partnership, it could have happened not long before Jesus called them to follow him.

Peter and Andrew, James and John could view the call to discipleship two ways.  One is to argue that they have a newly formed and good business going on.  God couldn’t possibly want them to put that on hold, or on the backburner to follow Jesus.  The other way is to say that even though their aim was to build a business, and they came together for that purpose, God had a higher plan for them.  He was redirecting them to follow Jesus and put their fishing business on the backburner — they should follow Jesus and just wait and see what would happen to their business.

Bethsaida - The Fisherman House

We know they decided to follow Jesus. Their cost was to become absentee business owners rather than owner-operators. They had to let go of their business operations.  That too, was risk. That too was a step of faith. Especially for Peter and Andrew.  They moved from Bethsaida to Capernaum for a reason, and it wasn’t Jesus.  They had to make significant adjustments to follow Jesus.

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