In the Name of Jesus
Dear Fellow Redeemed in Christ:
This entire event with boats, nets and fish gets its cue from the section of the Gospel that immediately precedes it:
[Jesus] said to them, "I must preach as the Good News the Kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose." (Luke 4:43 Just)
In the Holy Gospel According to Saint Luke, Jesus' preaching, Jesus' heralding the Word, always takes center stage. Despite what our worldly nature thinks of it, this event is not ultimately concerned with Jesus' authority over perch and bluegill. This event is an epiphany, a manifestation of the glory Jesus will ultimately reveal upon the Cross. It is a sign that points to something infinitely greater and more glorious. Here, with boats and nets and fish, our Lord gives a sign that points to his saving Word — that saving Word that alone can gather in and send out. Here, Jesus orchestrates a "parable in motion" as he uses common, earthly things to announce that the heavenly kingdom of grace and redemption has come, and it has come in the person and work and word of God's one-and-only Son.
And it came to pass, while the crowd was crowding upon him and hearing the Word of God, he was standing by the lake Gennesaret, and he saw two boats standing by the lake. And the fisherman, having gone out of them, were washing the nets. And after stepping into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out from the land a little. And after sitting down, he went on teaching the crowds from the boat. (Luke 5:1-3 Just)
The crowd that crowds in around Jesus is a mixture of faith and unbelief, a hodgepodge of hunger for heaven and for the immediate wants of stomach and the comfortable life. Nevertheless, despite the double-natured hearts of the people. Jesus continues to cast out his Word. Without him, the crowds (and each of us) are merely aimless drifters in a sea of chaos, darkness, and despair.
For many that day, Jesus was seen as just another prophet, just another in the long line of men with special abilities to speak a Word from God. But, for the eyes of faith, Jesus was so much more than even Moses himself. Moses had parted the Red Sea; Jesus prepares to divide doubt from trust, human wants from eternal necessities, as he preaches the difference between the Kingdom of Power and the Kingdom of Grace and Mercy.
His desire that day, and his desire this day, is that in the casting out of his Word, people would truly hear — as the Word of Christ goes out into our ears, into our minds, into our hearts and souls.
And when he had stopped speaking he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and lower your nets for a catch." And answering, Simon said, "Master, working hard through the whole night, we took nothing; but at your word I will lower the nets." And having done this, they enclosed a great number of many fish, and their nets were at breaking point. And they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats so that they were almost sinking. (Luke 5:4-7 Just)
Jesus will now call for an act of trusting faith from someone to whom he had been preaching his saving Word. That same word from Jesus' lips will now be revealed as the same divine Word that created the heaven and the earth, that almighty Word that breathed life into our first parents, that gracious Word from heaven that forgives and restores and promises eternal life.
You see, Jesus' was called to preach the Good News of the Kigndom of Grace, from the boat, on the road, from the moutainside, the Good News that defies all logic and reason: "God has come in his Son to forgive the unforgiveable, to heal the incurable, to secure the wandering and wayward in the net of the preaching of Christ.
"At your Word, I will." summarizes the entire Christian life. "At your Word I will believe. At your Word I will receive simple water connected with the promise of heaven. At your Word I will receive common bread and wine connected with the promise of forgiveness and strength. At your Word, Master, Lord, I will."
And the results under the direction of Jesus' Word are not only complete, but they are overwhelmingly complete. This is the "overflowing" praised in the Twenty-First Psalm. This is the abundance of wine provided at the Wedding Feast at Cana. This is the richer-than-imagined generosity of salvation given in and through the Word.
In this miracle of nature, Jesus is revealing to Simon and to you and to me, how he will establish his Church: by calling his own through his almighty and gracious Word.
And when Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus, saying, "Depart from me, because I am a sinner, Lord." For awed amazement had seized him and all those with him at the catch of the fish that they had caught, and likewise also James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were companions to Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not fear; from now on you will be catching men... ." (Luke 5:8-10 Just)
Peter saw, and then he really saw. Peter heard, and then he really heard. Before anything else, he was swept away with the almighty presence of the Almighty. This was not just another prophet. This was the One who commanded the world and the people of the world. Peter not only saw a glimpse of who Christ was, he saw clearly who he was before God: an undeserving sinner.
That's a God-given reality only faith can accept: we are in desperate need of rescue from our own dark and cold sea of weakness and sin and rebellion against the will of our Creator.
We swim so much in our sins we don't realize how much they are a part of us. It's like asking a fish, "How does it feel to live in water?" "Water? What water? What weakness and sin and rebellion?"
But, by the grace of God, Peter gets his confession out of his mouth and before God. "I can't catch a thing if left to my own understanding and abilities," he says.
And with that confession, Peter will now know not only something about his own heart, he will see and hear about the heart of his Master, his Lord, his Christ.
"Do not fear." Here is holy, saving Absolution for Peter, as Jesus begins to reveal to his disciple, "I have proclaimed my Word to you. Your sins are forgiven. Now you are mine and I am yours. Now you're in my saving boat, caught in the net of my Word."
Peter went from believing in Jesus the miracle-worker to Jesus the sin-forgiver.
This same Jesus comes to you this morning, and says, "Receive what I have won for you upon the Cross through the proclaiming of my Word. Receive my hold upon your heart and upon your soul. And in faith, keep — treasure — my Word always.
Only Christ-engendered faith can say, "Amen." to being caught by this fisherman with nail-pierced hands.
And having brought the boats to land, having left all things, they followed him. (Luke 5:11 Just)
May Christ, in his mercy, proclaim his redeeming Word into our hearts, that we might be saved in the net of his Gospel and abide under his care forevermore. Amen