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The Heart of God

When Philip asked Jesus to show him the Father, Jesus responded by saying, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (Jn. 14:9). Christ revealed the Father in many ways, but I’m thinking specifically about Him meeting Peter at the docks as he returned from fishing all night. He had been skunked, a fact that no fisherman likes to mutter, let alone admit. But it was true. Not a fish all night. Nothing to show for his effort. There is a "tired" from working all night and accomplishing your goal, and there is a "tired" from simply working all night.

Pete was beat. The thing he knew best, and loved more than anything, his job and hobby all rolled into one, hadn’t been much fun at all. There wasn’t any glory to be shared, only nets to be washed and cleaned. Jesus could have said, "Come on Rock, I’ll buy you breakfast." He could have offered encouragement: "Fishing is like that. You’ll have better luck next time." He might have commiserated with him, "What were you using? Was anyone else catching anything? Doggone! I can’t believe that. All night and not a fish?"

Each of the above options would have been typical of a friend. Each would have expressed interest and shown compassion. But, none would put fish in the hold and all would dodge the real issues churning within Peter’s heart: I didn’t catch a single fish. Am I loosing my touch or what? I got skunked. Not only was it no fun, but now I have to eat bread and fruit for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and breakfast.

In His inimitable way, Jesus seized the moment and met Peter where he was in his heart: Frustrated with fishing. "Let’s go out in the deep water and drop the nets; no telling what we might catch."

Peter’s response is the telltale sign that Jesus had hit the mark. He let Jesus know that they had fished all night with no luck, but since He wanted to go out, they would. And the rest is history. It took two boats to haul all the fish to shore, and they were lucky to get there without sinking.

Even though this episode occurred right after Jesus delivered a sermon from the bow of Peter’s boat, He didn’t meet Peter during the sermon, even though Peter may have benefited from the message. He met him on his turf, in a manner he could relate to, in a place where he felt comfortable: Fishing. And Peter’s response to Jesus revealing the Father’s heart? He left all to follow this man who met him man-to-man, heart-to-heart.

Jesus met all sorts of men and women. In fact, a study of his disciples reveals an eclectic band of guys who probably had to work to find common ground for discussion purposes around the dinner table. But one of the most famous men Jesus met was Zaccheus, the short man who climbed up in the sycamore tree to see Jesus.

My guess is that it was not that unusual for Jesus to see people up in trees who were trying to catch a glimpse of Him. There are a number of instances recorded in scripture where large crowds gathered to see Him. In fact, that is what He was doing in Peter’s boat. The crowd was pushing Him into the sea. Out of self-preservation, He climbed into the boat to speak, and when He was finished, He suggested they go fishing.

But Jesus took notice of this particular man in the tree. I would venture to say that Zaccheus was up in the tree not only literally, but also figuratively. Although he was wealthy and had the best of everything money could buy, he had no friends, no peace, and no satisfaction. He had gotten ahead by stepping on people, defrauding them, and taking advantage of them through the Roman, tax-law loopholes. He was considered by most to be a "low life" and a "sinner."

Yet Jesus, representing the heart of His Father, tracked Zaccheus right to the base of the tree. Just think of all the things He could have said to Zack. He could have simply inquired what he was doing up there, or remarked about how short he was. He could have offered him a better seat, a backstage pass, a special audience, a confrontation, rebuke, lecture, or sermon. But instead He asked to meet him where he lived. "Hey, Zaccheus! Please come down; I’d like to have lunch with you at your place."

In God’s mind, apparently it wasn’t enough to use Peter’s boat as a pulpit or pursue Zaccheus to the base of the tree. It wasn’t enough that both had heard Him deliver a fine sermon. He wanted to meet them at a place where they could feel comfortable because He had important business to talk over with them. They were on His heart and He wanted to build a vibrant relationship with them. About this, He felt passionate. When it comes to sharing His heart, the Father will go anywhere and do anything to follow through—even to a sinking, stinking boat full of fish and the base of a sycamore tree. The fish and the tree are incidental to His sharing His heart; His real concern is the fisherman and the tree climber.

When I think of all the places God has met me in order to share His heart, I am convinced that He places a high premium on our communication. He has chased me to the base of my own flesh and sin, climbed to the pinnacles of both victory and loneliness, trudged through the wilderness and swamp alike, and shared the good, the bad, and the ugly without reservation or condescension. On a number of occasions He has even met me fishing. Why? To spend time with me, believing that by doing so He will have the opportunity to share His heart with me.

Of all the places for Him to go, and all the things for Him to do, He chooses to keep tabs on me—to pour His heart into mine as if that was all He had to do. I get the distinct impression that He cherishes the moments we spend together in the same way my wife cherishes the moments I spend talking with her.

God’s relationship with us is what Gene Edwards called a "divine romance." Can you think of the days of romance you have experienced? You would go anywhere, do anything, meet any place provided your love was there. Where, how, and when were only important in that they provided an appointment for you and your love. And once together, you spent your moments building memories of your relationship together.

In my heart’s ear I can hear the Lord saying, We can fish, we can talk after the movie, we can walk, drive, ride, swim, run; I like ball games, theaters, an early breakfast at the bagel place, quick lunches at the diner, dinner for two, or three, the museum, or the mall. I like to travel–planes, trains, automobiles, or the bus. We can sit in the yard or on the porch, fish from the bank or the boat. I’m just interested in being with you. You name the place. Shoot! I’ll even meet you in a tree.

Preston Gillham

About the Author

As a co-founder, Preston Gillham led Lifetime for 30 years. Preston is a writer, speaker, and leadership guide. He has authored numerous articles and several books including No Mercy and Battle for the Round Tower. He blogs on “Life and Leadership”. More about Preston, his writings, speaking, and his consulting practice can be located at PrestonGillham.com.