A Rabbit, an Apostle, and a Net
“For my eyes are ever toward the LORD, for He shall pluck my feet out of the net.” -Psalm 25:15
If you are a follower of Christ, then you are familiar with nets and their ability to entangle. I know this because the very process of moving from unbeliever to believer involves the recognition that you are in a net and that you need help in removing yourself from its clutches. You realize you are trapped and that only the Son of Man holds the power to pluck your feet from the net. Recently, I was reminded of the power of nets and of their presence in our lives. Even after we have been rescued from the net of unbelief and are safely in the arms of our Net Breaker, we will still, from time to time, encounter other nets that lie hidden along our path. These nets await those who wander off the designated path and their purpose is to slow up one’s movement, to hold captive one’s belongings, and to ultimately impede one’s travel. Such was the case for me.
Recently, I found myself caught in a net. As I struggled to get free, the net tightened its grip and lessened the likelihood of my freedom. But God, in His tireless mercy, plucked my feet out of the net. When this happened, I couldn’t help but think of the Tale of Peter Rabbit and, in doing so, realized that Peter and I had a lot in common.
In Peter’s case, his detour led him into Mr. McGregor’s garden where, after a short feast on lettuce, and carrots, and peas (oh my!), he was spotted by the gardener and fled for safety. But rather than finding a way of escape, he found a net of entanglement. The buttons on his jacket held him captive and he quickly realized that there would be a cost to his freedom: his beautiful blue jacket. Peter did manage to wriggle out of the jacket and the net, but he didn’t leave the garden as he had entered it. Gone were his jacket and also his shoes, which he’d flung from his feet during his sprint to the gate. In my case, a detour also resulted in a net and the freedom from it came with a cost; I too had to leave things behind in order to be free.
Upon realizing my kinship with this fictional bunny, I thought, “Why couldn’t I be more like Peter the Apostle rather than Peter the Rabbit?” Peter has always been one of my favorite Bible personalities. He was passionate, determined, and a doer. Before he set his eyes on Jesus, he had already set his heart on Him. (In John 1:41, when Andrew told Peter about Jesus he said, “We have found the Messiah.” This shows they had been earnestly seeking Him.) Peter was impulsive, which sometimes led to less than ideal responses such as, “You shall never wash my feet, Lord.” (John 13:8 paraphrased) and less than ideal reactions such as the cutting off of a soldier’s ear (John 18:10). But to Peter’s credit, these fumbles only show his love and commitment for his Lord; they show his desire to declare and defend the Son of God. That’s who I want to be like! That’s the consuming passion I want to exhibit! True, there are some messes along the way, but at least this Peter didn’t get hung up in a net…or did he?
Peter was a fisherman, so he would have come in contact with a lot of nets. They were a tool of his trade. He bought them, cast them, cleaned them, and mended them. But did he ever get stuck in them? Yes, he did; even the apostle Peter had encounters with nets of entrapment. There were two types of nets that caught Peter. The first was the figurative net of fear; this one wrapped around him on the night of Jesus’ arrest and of his all too well documented denials. Having seen Jesus’ arrest, and His acceptance of it, Peter followed after his shackled Lord. But in the midst of confusion and mind-numbing incomprehension, Peter’s fear overtook him. Reeling from the night’s events, Peter denies three times that he is in any way associated with Jesus. Denial number one, “I am not a disciple of Jesus!”…left foot enters net; denial number two, “No, I am not His disciple!”…right foot enters net; denial number three, “I was not in the garden with this Man!”… net closes and secures its prey. (Read John 18:15-27 for this account.)
The second net that caught Peter was the literal net of uncertainty. Following Jesus’ death, resurrection, and appearance to the disciples, Peter still didn’t know what to do. So, he did what most of us do when we don’t know what to do…we do what we know. For Peter, that meant fishing and for this, he was going to need a net. But this time, Peter’s net was going to be cast by another and Peter, the fisherman, was about to become the catch of the day. His efforts to catch any fish were futile; he and his friends headed for shore but before they arrived, Jesus instructed them to cast their nets one more time…one last time…into the sea. As they threw out their nets, Jesus also threw out His. With one swoop, both nets were filled to overflowing. Peter’s net was full of fish; Jesus’ net was full of fishermen. But, before the fisherman could be released to go and become fishers of men, they first had to be freed from the net.
For Peter, this was a painful process as he found that he couldn’t be released from the second net of uncertainty until he had first been freed from the first net of fear. He still battled those denials; he still heard a recording of those words play in his mind again and again. It was deafening…and paralyzing. Jesus knew this and so He placed a new recording in Peter’s mind; a new declaration and direction for each denial. To cover denial number one, Peter now heard his voice say, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”, to which Jesus replied, “Feed My lambs.” To cover denial number two, Peter’s voice now sounded, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”, to which Jesus responded, “Tend My sheep.” And, for the third and final recording, Peter heard himself say, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”, to which Jesus lovingly said, “Feed My sheep.” Net severed, freedom granted; fears erased, future established.
Two different stories, one fictional and one factual, but both with lessons learned through nets and both with truths that apply to us today. Peter Rabbit was caught in a net and lost his coat and shoes. Peter the apostle was caught in a net and lost his fear and uncertainty. Peter Rabbit’s coat and shoes were strung up in Mr. McGregor’s garden to deter others from making the same mistake; Peter the apostle’s mistakes are strung up in the New Testament for much the same purpose, but also to allow others to see that entanglements can happen to us all but through God’s grace we too can be cut free and given a new declaration and a new direction. So, maybe I am more like Peter (the apostle, not the rabbit) than I thought. Of course, having already established a connection between myself and Peter Rabbit, this new found connection to Peter the apostle simply means that I have inadvertently connected Simon Peter with Peter Rabbit; I am the missing link. For that snag, I apologize…darn those nets!!!