Today we look at Christ’s commissioning of Peter. It took place on a beach after Christ had already shown the disciples that He had risen. The disciples are in what we call a “liminal space.”
Definition of Liminal: Comes from the Latin root, limen, which means “threshold.” The liminal space is the “crossing over” space – a space where you have left something behind, yet you are not yet fully in something else. It’s a transition space.
The disciples had left their nets and fishing careers to follow Jesus. His death brought the leaving behind of the way they lived a new life following Him. Even though He had risen again, He had not given any direction to the disciples yet. Because they didn’t know what to do, they went back to the fishing. They are out on the water, not catching a thing, when Jesus called out from the shore to cast the net on the other side. When they did, they couldn’t lift the net because it was too full of fish. Peter was the first to reach the shore. (I love how he jumps out of the boat again!)
Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him more than these. I am grateful for the article written on this passage of scripture by Dr. Harold Greenlee, Ph.D. in Biblical and Patristic Greek (Harvard). I won’t go into his wonderful exegesis, but he declares that what Jesus means by more than “these” is Peter’s nets and boat – his fishing business.
Before Jesus commissions Peter to something new, He commissions him to love God more than his former career. More than all that career stood for – maybe secure, lucrative, etc.
What we do really gets under our skin. I know this. Last August I walked away from my pastoral job of many years. The biggest part of the discernment in doing this was to surrender that role’s hold on me in a liminal space of not knowing the future. How God helped me do that was to renew me in a love for Jesus “more than these.” It’s hard inner work.
Our resurrection commissionings must come out of this question: Do you love me more than what you have done before, more than what you depend on, more than the comfort of clinging to past ways of self-sufficiency? Our serving has to flow out of that love.
Are you in a liminal space of sorts? You know what you are walking away from but you don’t know where you are going? Hold this liminal space with great compassion and tenderness. The inner work you are being called to within the question is very deep and not easy.
Read the story from the angle of the reflection (instead of the angle of Peter getting an opportunity to redeem his betrayal of Christ). John 21:1-17
Place yourself as Peter in the story. What do you sense, feel, or think about your fishing career? What about not knowing what else you would do? Stay with this in Jesus’ presence.
Think of your own life. Is there something you are leaving behind or walking away from? (It doesn’t have to be a job; it can be anything.) Allow yourself to feel how much this thing is under your skin and hard to surrender. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a grace that will strengthen you to do it. Think of the unknown future. Acknowledge how scary that is.
I offer these verses for you to pray and hold onto in your liminal space:
Yahweh will always guide you where to go and what to do. He will fill you with refreshment even when you are in a dry, difficult place. He will continually restore strength to you, so you will flourish like a well-watered garden and like an ever-flowing, trustworthy spring of blessing. Isaiah 53:11 (The Passion)
Photo by Joe Byrnes-Unsplash