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, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He 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. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered,“Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and 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.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him. ************************************************************************************
Jesus sees two boats moored on the shoreline. The fishermen, who have come up shy of a catch, are cleaning their nets. Jesus strolls up and gets into one of the boats and tells them to push him out a little bit- away from the shore... And then he starts teaching/preaching. We have no idea what he was teaching about, but I have a feeling it was about renewal, or believing in renewal, or believing God can bring about renewal, because when he is done, and maybe to drive home the point... he looks over at Simon Peter and tells him to take the boat out to deep water and cast the nets again.
It's the end of Peter's day. He's tired, frustrated from his lack of fishing success, and now his nets are all prepped for tomorrow... and here is Jesus telling him to go back out and try again- "Go to the deep water." And so he looks back at Jesus and says, "Seriously? We've been fishing all day! You think you know something we don't? I don't remember seeing a fishing license pinned to your hat- what makes you think you know better than we do- we're professionals!" But then, maybe because of that compelling 'Jesus look,' he agrees- "Fine! You want us to go back out? We'll go back out! Because YOU say so we'll try again.. Happy?"
And of course they catch so many fish that the nets begin to break, and they have to call their partner boat over to help haul them in- and there are so many fish that the weight of them are causing the boats to start sinking. And Peter starts to freak out... and he goes to Jesus and falls at his feet and says: "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man." Literally from the Greek: "Get out of here! I am a sinner, Lord" Or in our language: "Get out of here Jesus! You've just rocked my world and I don't know what to make of it. You've just proven to me that I don't know squat, even about the things in which I am considered an expert. You've just done something that I could never do, something can't understand and frankly Lord, scares me to death! Don't you know me? I need to be in control! I need to have power over my destiny! I need 2+2 to equal 4 every single time! I need constants and truths- I need up to be up, and down to be down! That is how I function! Get away from me with your magic and your miracles and your fairy-tale- peaceable-kingdom stories where lions lay down with lambs and we love our enemies and I catch fish from an empty lake and everything turns out all right- I don't know how to live in a world like that! So get away..."
And Jesus puts his head back and laughs... and laughs... "Don't be afraid buddy... from now on you'll be catching people..."
Amazing! That's Peter's call story. No, "You of little faith," from Jesus... No "Go, and sin no more," from Jesus... No, "Go wash in the river seven times," from Jesus, or "Go, sell everything you have., from Jesus... Peter only gets, "Don't be afraid!"
So I have two questions: 1. Why is this all so scary? Why is it, that when the God of miracles actually shows up to do one, that we explain it away... coincidence... timing.... We have become so sure of ourselves, haven't we? We know what to expect, we understand cause and effect... and beyond that, we've come to put our trust in those things... It is the way we navigate our way through life. Moreover, to believe in miracles, or the "impossible" makes us appear foolish- especially in a progressive mainline church. We are "thinkers." We are "academics." We don't read the Bible literally or with rose colored glasses... we are realists! We are smart realists.
And while all that "smart" thinking is fine, I assert that sometimes we explain things away is so we can keep the scriptures within our control- (so we can keep God within our control) and under our power.
This story, whether you want to read it literally or metaphorically, says the same thing... that God breaks down the walls (or breaks open the nets) of what we think is possible, and points us toward a future that we think is impossible. And that future is the new reign of God. And the only prerequisite we need to participate, it seems, is a recognition that we're not yet a part of it. That shows itself in Peter's "I'm a sinner." In other words... "I didn't believe you... I hadn't thought that was possible... I've been relying on my ways and not your ways..." Or again, in our language: If we can keep reliant on "us" and not "God" then we can keep things going, and admittedly, it may not be the best right now, but science is coming up with new things all the time, and we're learning more about our world and how it works all the time... and how we work all the time. We can keep people alive longer, and kill each other more efficiently... on both ends, we are masters of life and death and that makes us feel strong-powerful. So yes, giving over our lives to God is world rocking... "Get away Jesus!"
2. (This question I can't answer for you... this one is personal.) What would it take for you to acknowledge that you are, in Peter's words, "a sinner"? What is it that Jesus would have to fill your nets with to help you see that the world as you know it has the capacity to change? And that God was the one who had the ability to change it? What would you have to bring in from the 'deep water'... something you've tried on your own to do but came up empty... Places you've tapped for hope and sustenance that have yielded nothing... ?
It's a tough one to answer.. but... How about money? Would that do it? Is it that big haul of fish that would finally get you over the hump- just so you didn't have to struggle anymore? You would think so... it's what every fisherman hopes for, isn't it? That great once in a lifetime catch... the big one! SImon Peter and his cronies... they had it! The big windfall that finally came their way!
But it's interesting to me that right after the fisherman caught all those fish... they didn't stay there to enjoy the profits... They left everything and followed Jesus.
Hmmm... so having all we can... all we want... all we think we need... perhaps that's not all there is...
Perhaps what this passage is supposed to show us is that the things we think are ever so important, in the new reign of God, are not the things that really matter after all. So think differently about it if you dare, if only for a minute. What would your net need to be filled that would blow your mind enough to leave it all behind and follow?