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Luke 5:1-11 : The Fourth Before Lent Year C


5 1 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. 4 When 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. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" 9 For 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." 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

Have you ever had the experience of someone who invades your personal space ? You are having a conversation with them and they stand a little too close to you and make you feel uncomfortable. You feel like you want to step back half a pace so they will keep their distance.

In today's gospel reading we have Jesus invading Simon's space. This was not the first time that Jesus and Simon had met. In 4:38 we read that Jesus left the synagogue and went to Simon's home afterwards where he healed his mother-in-law who had a high fever.

So Simon had encountered Jesus before and witnessed his power over sickness. He had probably heard Jesus preach before. Jesus used his boat as a floating pulpit. I have been on the shore of Lake Galilee and can imagine a crowd of people on the slopes, like a mini-amphitheatre, listening to the words of Jesus carrying across the still waters in the morning light.

Simon was tired that morning. He and his fellow fishermen had been fishing all night. In fact, Simon was tired and rather fed up, because they had caught nothing. He normally didn't mind washing and repairing the nets if they had got a good catch, but it almost seemed to rub salt into the wound that they had caught nothing. He just wanted to go home and sleep. Perhaps tomorrow night's fishing would be better.

Then Jesus came to ask Simon if he could borrow his boat hereadily agreed. How could he refuse after what Jesus had done for his mother-in-law ? After pushing a few yards out, Peter lay back in the boat, enjoying the sunshine, listening as Jesus addressed the crowd in the sitting position, the normal stance of a teacher.

Jesus was a good speaker. He made the Scriptures relevant, easy to understand, he spoke with authority and had a good sense of humour ! But suddenly he had finished and was talking to Simon. "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch."

Simon had been happy letting Jesus do his own thing. Healing, teaching, and driving out demons. But this carpenter's son was now telling him how to fish ! Simon had been fishing with his father from the time that he could walk. You didn't fish in the morning when the sun reflected off the water making it difficult to see. A mixture of indignation and resentment welled up inside Simon. But he put these to one side and decided he had better follow Jesus instructions. After all, he had already done miracles and he and his colleagues had failed to catch anything in their own strength. So he said, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."

This is an example of faith. Sometimes God calls us to step out in obedience to him when it seems to defy logic and all our experience. But unless we do step out in faith, God cannot bless us.

Simon was blessed with this enormous catch of fish. So big that he had to call his partners to help fetch them all in. This shows the power of Jesus over nature and his willingness to provide in abundance for his followers. Even as they pulled the fish in the fishermen were on a knife edge. There was this gigantic catch, but the danger of their boats sinking.

Simon had seen Jesus heal his ill mother-in-law, preach, and now produce a catch of fish the size of which he had never seen before. This man must be from God ! It was too early for Simon to realise that Jesus was the Messiah or that he was God and man. But he still realises his own sinfulness when compared to Jesus. He said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!"

Simon has now become Simon Peter in Luke's account. Perhaps this reflects a change from Simon the fisherman, to Simon the Petros or rock, the name given to Simon by Jesus when he told him he would build his church on him. Simon Peter acknowledges his inadequacy and Jesus holiness, power and stature.

Jesus could have accepted Simon Peter's humility and distanced himself from this irreligious, uneducated, fisherman. Instead he tells him not to be worried and accepts him unconditionally, calling him to take up a new vocation, fishing men. "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men."

You might have expected Jesus to chose well-educated men from Jerusalem who were religious and knew the Scriptures to follow him. Instead he selects three fisherman from the unfashionable North and a traitorous tax-collector ( 5:27ff ) to start his collection of disciples. This shows that Jesus can choose anyone to follow him. None of us are good enough, but Jesus will not reject us.

Jesus would use and transform the skills of this fisherman to make him into a fisher of men. This miraculous catch of fish is like a dramatic parable. It foretells the time when many people would come to trust in Jesus. This was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when about three thousand people came to faith in response to Peter's first ever sermon.

This wasn't the only time that Simon Peter had a fruitless night's fishing followed by Jesus telling him to cast his net resulting in a massive catch of fish. In John 21 this happens again, after the resurrection of Jesus. Once more Jesus shows his love and acceptance of Simon Peter, who had denied him three times.

Simon Peter, James and John responded to Jesus' invitation. 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. Simon Peter had a mother-in-law and, therefore was married, perhaps with children. He left 'everything', his family, friends, home town and business to follow Jesus. Jesus transformed this irreligious, uneducated, volatile fisherman into the leader of the early church, versed in the Scriptures, brave, full of the Spirit, fishing for a different type of soul !

This account shows us Jesus through the eyes of Peter. The one who has power to control nature. The one who can transform and enhance us, using our gifts for his service. He gives a new meaning and purpose to Simon Peter's life.

Peter represents 'sinners' everywhere. We are all called to bow the knee in humility before Jesus and to give up everything to follow him. In turn Jesus will not reject us, but accept us, forgive us, and remake us into the people that he wants us to be. Giving us a new reason for living.

A small boy thought his pocket knife was primarily something to be stuck into the ground or flicked into the side of thick barked trees. Then one day his grandfather said, "Hey, let me show you what you can do with that." The boy handed over the knife and watched intently as the older man took a piece of kindling and carved an intricate design of stars and circles on its side.

"Let me show you something else," said the boy 's Grandfather. He took a small block of wood, 3 inches by 5 inches, whittled off the corners, rounded the rough edges. He gouged and cut, grooved and shaved. In 1/2 an hour the boy was staring at the smiling, bearded face which emerged from the block of wood.

Let me show you one more thing." said the grandfather. He went into the refrigerator and using, the knife's bottle opener, opened 2 bottles of pop for a mid-morning snack.

"There," the Grandfather said as he handed the bottle of pop and the knife back to the boy,, "you can see there are a lot of good things you can do with a knife."