People and Fish – March 1, 2015
Joel 2:21-27, Luke 5:1-11
March 1, 2-15
This story represents one of things about the Bible that is fascinating to me. I like to think about how it was written, and how it came to us in the form we have it today. And I know my good wife would say to me, “Not everybody likes the history and biblical studies like you do.” And she’s probably right. But I do want you to try to think about this one.
Why is it that some stories appear to be different in the different Gospels? If you go back and look at these stories and compare them, you’ll find that Luke sometimes tells things differently than say Matthew. And sometimes Mark tells something differently than Luke. And of course John is usually out there all by himself!
Well, I’d like you to consider that the writers of the Gospels were probably not all present at all of these events. Did you ever think about that? We kind of think they were, don’t we? We think that, wherever Jesus went, whatever he did, there was Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, standing by with their parchments and their pens, writing stuff down. “What did he say, ‘Blessed are the poor’?” “No I think he said ‘poor in spirit!’” “I don’t know.” “What do you think, John?” “I don’t know. I didn’t hear anything!”
No. It didn’t happen like that! Some were there for some of the events, others were there at other events. And some of the accounts of those events were shared among the Gospel writers. They may have even read each others writings to some extent, and included some of the same stories in their own writings!
About a hundred years ago, scholars began to analyze the scriptures to try to figure out which stories in the Gospels were similar in wording, and therefore may have been shared, or may have come from the same shared source. Well, it’s all fascinating to me. And I think it makes the scriptures come alive even more. It’s kind of like the way archeology sometimes proves out the scriptures.
So, this story for today is told differently by Luke than it is by the others, and it makes me wonder who was there and who may have heard the story from someone else. This is the story of the call of the fishermen. This is where Jesus calls Peter, James, and John to be his disciples. In the other Gospels this story is told in a much more brief way. Jesus finds them along the seashore and says, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” You know those words. But here in Luke, it’s “fleshed out” a lot more. Funny, it’s usually John who gives us more of the details and dialogue. But in this case it’s Luke. And I like that!
Luke was a physician, and he was also Gentile, a convert to the faith. And from what we know, he was a colleague of the Apostle Paul. And I would suggest to you that Luke knew the importance of Peter. Peter had become the leader of the Apostles by the time of this writing. Remember, the Gospels were written later than the rest of the New Testament! So for Luke to “fill in” Peter’s story a little more, to give him more words, to make him more prominent, that would make sense, I think!
Look how this happens. Just before this, we have the story of Jesus healing a woman who had a bad fever. As you can imagine, in those days, a bad fever was much more serious than it is today! And who is the woman in that story? Who remembers? She is the mother-in-law of (?) Simon. That is, she is Peter’s mother-in-law. Now, remember what I said on Wednesday night, this was a close-knit community. People knew each other. They had grown up with each other. And here, at the beginning of this story, it says that Jesus “entered Simon’s house.” So, did he know him before he saw him by the sea? It certainly seems possible from reading this, doesn’t it? Sometimes we don’t think about those connections. We think Jesus went to the sea and found some fishermen he’d never met before. But that may not be so!
Well, when Jesus heals this woman, it was his first healing miracle, according to Luke. And that was something very important for a physician, if you think about it! Well, that healing caused quite a disturbance! People went out and they brought to Jesus everybody in the area who was sick! And he healed them! We can only imagine the excitement, the fervor, that caused!
We’re then told that Jesus “departed and went to a lonely place.” He needed to get away from the crowds and have some peace. He recognized the need for solitude and renewal. (Do we do that? Do we recognize the need for Sabbath? We could have a whole sermon on that right there, couldn’t we!) But in this case, it didn’t work! The people searched for Jesus, and they found him! And there were many people! This is a case of Jesus being “mobbed” by the crowds! And that’s a good word for it! The crowds were pressing in on him all around. This is what I like to refer to as “Jesus the Rock Star!” So many people were there that he got into a boat and pushed off from the shore a little. And low and behold, whose boat was it? It was Simon Peter’s boat!
Well, after Jesus speaks to the crowds from the boat he turns and tells Peter to “put the nets down for a catch.” And you know this story. Peter objects, but then he obeys. And they catch an enormous school of fish. So now along with the huge number of people, we also have a huge number of fish! I was trying to put those two things together here. That’s the picture we’re seeing.
Well, when that happens, Peter is ashamed of his objection. He is ashamed of his reaction to Jesus and his command to let down the nets. He says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man!” But Jesus then says to him the words that are found even in the other brief versions of this story. He says, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” And then, also like Matthew’s and Mark’s version, they left everything and followed.
That’s a great story, with some great imagery! And one of the things I love in this story is Peter’s “humanness.” We often talk about what it means to do the “Will of God.” But how hard is it for us to obey, when we think “it won’t work,” or when God’s will seems to be “outside of our comfort zone?” How often do we object to something we feel God is telling us, because it’s out of our control?
We talked recently about accepting Jesus on his terms, not ours. Well, here was Peter learning that same lesson. He was the fisherman! He knew those waters! He knew his business! The way he objected to Jesus was probably a nice way of saying, “Listen, Jesus, you do the preaching, you do the healing, I’ll do the fishing! Ok?” What Jesus was telling him to do made no sense – in his experience! And it was hard for him to obey. And it can be the same for us.
As you know, my name is hard to pronounce. It’s hard to say it and be “correct.” But if you take that word, “correct” and put a “B” in front of it, you come pretty close. Yet we get all kinds of pronunciations! And spelling it for people is sometimes hard, too. And every once in a while I’ll be spelling it for someone, to put on a form or something, and as I spell it out, there’ll this moment of hesitation. And the person will have a look on their face, like “Well, That can’t be right.” One person even questioned it! “Are you sure it’s “CHT?” “Yeah, I’m pretty sure!”
Some people think they know better. And here Peter had one of those moments. “Really, Jesus?” “Are you sure?” “Are you really telling us our business?” “We fished all night, and we caught nothing!” “And do you know what a pain it is to get out all that gear again?” And there was almost a note here of, “Ok, Jesus, we’ll show you how little you know about this!” Even in Peter’s obedience, I’ll be there was a note of defiance!
I seeking God’s will, do we ever react in a similar way? “Yeah, God, like that’s gonna work!!” Is it hard for us to understand and accept that God does know what he’s doing?! I think it is! But then sometimes, when he does show us, he does so in a big way! Or at least the impact for us is big! Peter and the boys did catch fish. They caught a “plethora” of fish! And they were in danger of having their nets break! That big crowd of people saw the boys catch that big “crowd” of fish!
May that lesson they learned be an example for us as well. When God works in the Bible, he often does so with liberal use of the exclamation point! Think about the plagues of Egypt, the Red Sea, the battle of Gideon, the day of Pentecost, and the road to Damascus! And then perhaps think, “What are the exclamation points in our lives?”
Maybe God is asking you to “let down the nets.” And maybe what he’s asking makes no sense to you. Maybe you think you know better. Maybe it’s hard to trust when so much is at stake. That’s been the story of faith throughout the history of God’s people! But the other story of faith throughout the history of God’s people has been the faithfulness of God. Over and over, he has proven that we can trust him. He has shown us that we too can listen and heed his call on our lives. And if we think about it, we can know that he continues to call us every day!
So, what will your answer be… today?
Eternal God, help us to hear you when you call. Help us to have the courage and the faith we need to answer your call. Help us to see your glory in the big things and the little things. Help us to be still and know you are God. We want to follow Jesus, our savior, and we pray in his name, Amen.