Epistle: 1 Corinthians 15: 1-11
Gospel: Luke 5:1-11
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ 5Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’ 6When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ 9For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ 11When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
I'd like to draw a contrast between how Mark and Luke tell the early part of Jesus' story. It will help us see something Luke is saying to us.
In Mark, Jesus comes almost out of nowhere; he comes to Galilee, meets Simon and the others on the sea shore and calls them as disciples. It's all very dramatic, and often makes us feel a bit inadequate as disciples. And then, after that, there is teaching and healing, including Peter's mother-in-law being healed by Jesus. The Gospel of Mark is "in a hurry" from the first moment; This is important, cries Mark.
Luke is a little calmer.
Luke imagines something different from his encounter with the same traditions and stories about Jesus. Luke tells us Jesus already knows these blokes. They've seen him at work, preaching, and healing. He even heals Simon's mother in law.
So Simon knows Jesus is becoming quite famous, and he understands why: after all, Jesus healed his mother in law.
One day, when there's hardly any room left on the beach, Jesus asks Simon if he can borrow the boat to teach. I reckon Simon is probably listening while he's cleaning his nets.
Simon is like us. He's met Jesus. He knows of what Jesus is on about. He's had Jesus in his house as a guest. We've been hanging around with Jesus, too. We've heard the stories. Like Paul we have heard the witness: "died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, buried, raised again on the third day."
And then Paul said, "Last of all, as to someone untimely born, he appeared also to me." Because Paul, like us, had never met him in the flesh. Would Jesus appear to us? Where would he appear to us... and how?
Well, this is how he appeared to Peter. And we need to understand here, that there are two ways of appearing. Appearing is not just about seeing with our eyes. Appearing— here— is also about Jesus getting under our skin... and touching us deeply.
Jesus says to Peter, appearing to his eyes, "Put out into deep water and put down your nets for a catch." He asked Peter to do something which seemed too hard; "we have worked all night long but have caught nothing!" What's the point of trying again? I'm ready to give up. What's the point of trying something new? Fishing in the daytime doesn't work. Or perhaps Peter may said, "I'm getting too old to try out these new-fangled ideas about daytime fishing."
Jesus has asked him something very big. It's about more than fish. "Deeper water" is a symbol of entering dangerous places and doing dangerous and frightening things. In Jesus' time, deep water is the place where chaos and evil is barely under control.
I don't think we quite understand that, we don’t' quite feel that in our guts, so let me give you an equivalent example:
If I'm on one of my long endurance rides and I have to get to a remote town to get water, right? And if I arrive in some town I've never visited at 2a.m. and finally find a tap, where's the safest place to sleep? Anyone?? ...
Well, hands down, the best place— it'll even have nice clear spots to roll out a swag— is the local cemetery. No one is going to bother me there...
... except... well a part of us is not quite sure about that, is it? That's what deep water is for Jesus' people. It's being called into places where a part of is really quite deeply afraid; where it is all too hard.
So Jesus challenges Simon to go out over deep water... and the catch of fish is huge. It just about sinks the boats.
Have you noticed something here? I used to think that if God did something really big in my life, then I'd be able to trust God. But what Luke suggests... is that once we've been hanging around with Jesus, there will be times when he challenges us to go out over deep water! Then— after we do that— then things change and become clear!
Do you notice that in the way Luke tells the story of Jesus choosing his first disciples, Jesus doesn't ask Simon to follow him as a disciple!! He just assumes it's going to happen, and he's right, because Simon Peter knows he's in the presence of holiness, and there is no way he needs to be asked to follow, because he has seen the power of God. Jesus has got right under his skin, and Simon wants to be a part of it all.
But we have to go out over deeper water.
We have to let things change.
Andrew Prior (2019)
Direct Biblical quotations in this page are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please note that references to Wikipedia and other websites are intended to provide extra information for folk who don't have easy access to commentaries or a library. Wikipedia is never more than an introductory tool, and certainly not the last word in matters biblical!
The companion piece to this post in 2019 is Dying for the cool of deeper water - Luke 5:1-11