Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
St. Luke 5:1-11
Jesus is The Lord
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, 07 February 2010
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
A wise, old Jewish rabbi was asked by one of his students, “Rabbi, what is the best day to repent?” The rabbi replied, “Always repent on the last day of your life.” That answer did not satisfy all the students, so several of them pursued the conversation. “But, Rabbi, how can we know which is the last day of our life?” “You can’t,” the rabbi answered. “So,” the students wanted to know, “how can we repent on the last day of our life?” “If you can’t know the last day of your life,“ the Rabbi concluded, “then you had better repent today.”
The Rabbi caught his students, his disciples, in a net. In the text for our meditation this morning from St. Luke, we also see a net. The net brings in a large number of fish, a miracle manifesting Jesus as Lord, as The Lord. But His net, just like that of the Rabbi, is also designed to catch disciples!
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around Him and listening to the Word of God, 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then He sat down and taught the people from the boat.
Galilee is our setting once again, just as it has been in the Gospel Reading for the last two weeks. Following His visit to Nazareth and also teaching and healing in the neighboring towns, we find Jesus on the shores of the Sea of Gennesaret, also called the Sea of Galilee.
The text is laden with nautical terminology—boats, nets, fishermen, and lake. And people are there, too. They, too, have heard about this Jesus. They wanted to hear what He had to say. They wanted to hear the Word of God.
So where were Simon & Co.? The text does not directly answer our question, but considering Simon’s response in verse five, it is likely that he was listening to Jesus as he worked. Jesus wanted him to pay attention. He had a lot to teach Simon about fishing! And about catching people.
4 When [Jesus] (He) had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
Simon calls Jesus Master. A title of respect. He is not too sure about the request though, but he complies. “A rabbi wants to teach me about fishing? Oh, well.” They were going out into deep water—without a fish-finder! And, to make matters worse, in the daytime. This was the wrong time and place to find fish—at least in the Sea of Galilee. What was this rabbi thinking?
Simon obeys the master and goes. Simon knew this was no ordinary rabbi. Faith was created in him as he heard Jesus teach the Word of God. The Word creates faith, and faith acts. It is willing to obey the Word of the Lord in spite of misgivings. And even when one thinks putting the nets out would be silly.
But look what happens! A great plethora of fish—so great the nets creaked, strained, and were about to break. Simon calls to his partners to bring in the catch, two boatloads of fish.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
Watch for name changes in the Scriptures. They are a great key to what is going on. St. Luke now calls Simon “Simon Peter” for the first time. The faith at work inside Simon is like a rock, hence the name Peter, meaning rock. That faith no longer calls Jesus the generic “Master,” but Lord. God in flesh is made manifest once again. Jesus is revealed as Lord, as The Lord, God, the God of the Old Testament.
Faith responds. And Simon Peter sees how sinful and unworthy He is to be in the presence of the Lord, the Holy God. Our faith responds in a similar way as we prepare for worship. We confess our transgressions unto the Lord as well. We acknowledge, at the feet of our Maker and Redeemer, the Lord, that we are poor sinners, by nature sinful and unclean. We seek and implore God’s grace for the sake of Jesus.
9 For [Simon Peter] (he) and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.”
Jesus words are best translated, “Stop being afraid.” The Greek word recognizes that Simon Peter is already visibly shaken. He is already afraid. Jesus words, “Stop being afraid,” are his absolution. Following forgiveness, Simon Peter is given something new to do. “From now on you will capture men alive.”
We hear forgiveness as well. This morning it was heard as a declaration of grace. You have heard the Word read, sung, preached, and prayed. And His Body and Blood will touch your lips.
11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything, and followed Him.
Why would Simon Peter and his partners leave such a successful business? Faith. Faith created by the Word of God. Just as the Word created light and all of heaven and earth in the beginning, the Word of God still creates today. The Law convicts us of sin and leaves us despairing of our condition. We yearn for rescue, a lifeline, a life preserver, a lifeboat. And that is what the Gospel provides. As the Law shows you your sin, the Gospel shows you our Savior. Not only that, but the Gospel is powerful and actively gives you rescue and the gift of a Savior, the Lord God Himself. The Word creates faith.
The Word of God, “Follow Me,” called these fishermen to full-time service. They now cast their nets, calling all to repentance and then point to Jesus, the Lord. God in flesh made manifest.
When we compare this account of the calling of the disciples to the accounts in Matthew, Mark, and John, it appears that this is the second calling of these disciples. In John chapter one, John the Baptist points to Jesus as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. He then directs his followers to become disciples of Jesus. For a while, Jesus’ new disciples kept their day jobs. Some, like Simon Peter and his brother, were fishermen. They are now called into full-time service, full-time work as Jesus disciples.
All of us are to be full-time disciples, not just Sunday Christians or Christmas & Easter Christians. The fishy-scent of a Christian permeates our entire existence. We serve our Lord Jesus in all that we do, as father, mother, child, employer, employee, or student. When we serve our neighbor, we are serving the Lord.
But I ask you, have you considered full-time service to the Lord? Have you considered a church career? Men—especially you young men in junior high or high school—have you ever seriously considered being a pastor? Our Lord still needs fishers of men. Our Missouri Synod has hundreds of pastoral vacancies. The need is great.
Women—especially you young women—have you considered being a Lutheran School teacher, a parish musician or a deaconess? The need here is great as well. There are potentially thousands of opportunities. Consider a church vocation and pray about it. And please talk to Pastor if you are interested or even curious.
This Gospel account by St. Luke relates the events surrounding a miraculous catch of fish, an epiphany revealing Jesus as Lord. But this text reminds us of something else, something closer to home. It is also about catching people! We are caught in Jesus’ net. But it is good thing that we were caught in the net. Sinful human beings are not the best swimmers in the water of sin. We flail about in the water and waves, fearful of the wind, and we tire of treading water. We would certainly drown without rescue!
Christians do make good fish. We know how to swim in the waters of baptism. We do believe in one Baptism for the remission of sins, but it is not just a one-day thing. Christians continually swim in the waters of baptism, rejoicing in this gift of forgiveness that affects us every day of our lives.
In the text, the boat was a boat, no doubt about it. The boat can remind us of something else, however. The boat does remind us of the Christian Church, a refuge from the stormy waters, where God provides protection for you, His people.
Do not be afraid of the storms of life, our Lord Jesus tells us. And we do not have to fear, in fact, we are called to stop being afraid, because Jesus is The Lord, The God of the Old Testament, and He is Our Lord, piloting our ship through the storms of life. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.