Rev Dr Stephen Lee
Lam Ko Kit Tak Professor of Biblical Studies
Simon Peter gave up everything to follow Christ in Galilee, after the Lord had visited his home and healed his mother-in-law. That day, by the Lake of Gennesaret, Jesus got into Peter's boat to teach the people from there. When he finished, Jesus said to Peter, "Put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch." (Luke 5:4). We are not sure if Peter was upset, his reply being neither haughty nor humble: "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything." What Peter was probably thinking was: "You are a teacher and may be an expert in preaching. But when it comes to fishing, that's my area of expertise. Do I need you to teach me how to do it? Catching fish should be done at night. Now it's daytime, so where are we to find fish to catch?" Peter was an outspoken person, but he probably realised something was not right as soon as the words left his mouth. So he quickly said, "But because you say so, I will let down the nets." And the result? Two boats filled with fish. When Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' feet and said, "Go away from me, Lord. I am a sinner." It was at that moment that Jesus called him, "Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Matthew 4:19)
Again by the Sea of Tiberias, again after one whole night of fishing, again the Lord commanded the disciples to cast their net, and again they caught a net full of fish. At the end of it, Jesus spoke again to Peter, using the same words he had used in His very first call to him: "Follow me." (John 21:22). Only this time, it was after Jesus had asked Peter three times, "Do you love me?" Not only that. It was after Peter had sworn he would lay down his life for the Lord, but then very quickly afterwards denied Christ three times before the rooster crowed.
Jesus called me to be His disciple not because I had the right kind of upbringing, nor was it because I was a smart, rags-to-riches guy who got ahead in the world. He called me for only one reason: I was a sinner. As Martin Luther put it, we all who follow Jesus are "sinners justified by grace (simul iustus et peccator)."
This gospel of love, revealed by God in Jesus Christ, is what we as Christians testify to with our lives. We need no longer cover up our failures and glorify our achievements, casting a life of flesh and blood, with its loves and hates, into a plastic mould of a spiritual superhero. This is because my Lord who calls us "is not unable to sympathise with our weaknesses." (Hebrews 4:15) In His sacrificial love, we can have confidence to forget what is behind and strain towards what is ahead, to fight the good fight, to finish the race and to keep the faith.
This is exactly what theological education aims at: to provide holistic training to the believers to enable them to follow our gracious Lord in a humble, honest and authentic way.