Elder Holland has long been one of my personal favorite apostles to listen to, and then to study his words afterwards.
His recent General Conference discourse on Peter, was extremely insiteful. I thought I would add a few things that have come to me since then, as I’ve often pondered and taught regarding Elder Holland’s teachings.
Here we see Peter’s life in the 3 years of Jesus’ ministry with bookends. Both at the beginning and then at the end of Jesus’ 40 day ministry, we see Peter fishing all night long and catching nothing. As Elder Holland surmises, Peter spent 3 years with Jesus, then happy he was resurrected from the dead, went back to the fishing boat.
One thing that Elder Holland did not mention, but I recently realized is, there is a difference in the responses Jesus gives Peter at the first fishing encounter and the last. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus tells Peter he would make him a “fisher of men.”
But Jesus does not do this on the second time around. Instead, he sits on the bank with fish frying on the fire, showing Peter he already has sufficient fish for his needs. Instead, Jesus proposes a new job for Peter: “feed my sheep. feed my lambs.”
Peter is no longer a fisher of men (or fish), but a Shepherd. There are major differences in these jobs.
A fisher casts out a net. Once it is filled, he will rummage through the catch and keep the useful fish, casting out any unedible items. Once that is done, his job is basically finished.
For a shepherd, especially one of Jesus’ time, there is a lot more going on. The Shepherd is immersed in the birthing of new lambs every spring. He raises it as if it were his own child. It knows his voice, and he knows its name. Daily, he leads it to good grazing land, where it can be nourished and grow. He protects it from predators and other dangers. If it gets lost, he will leave te ninety and nine and search until he finds it. At night, he returns it to the safety of the fenced-in fold.
With this new job description, Peter realizes that he isn’t just being asked to be a short-term missionary, but a long term servant. He not only must catch or baptize the believer, but nurture her through her entire life.
Similarly, we could consider our 2 year missions today to be as fishers of men (and women), and our callings later in life to follow in the path of the Good Shepherd.