Luke 5:1-11 (click to display NIV text)
Feb. 10, 2013
Pastor Dwight A. Nelson
“When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’ ”
Jesus is Lord. That is the message that Luke opens up to us in chapter 5. He began his Gospel by telling us that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, and the Savior. Then he showed us Jesus the teacher of the Word. In chapter 4 he revealed Jesus as the prophet, mighty in word and deed. Now he says “Jesus is Lord.”
The people of Nazareth did not accept Jesus, especially in his role as prophet. They tried to kill him. But Jesus walked through them and he went to Capernaum, where he taught the people. There he silenced and cast out an evil spirit in a man, and then he healed Peter’s mother-in-law from a high fever, and healed many others. The demons recognize him as the Son of God, but they are resisting him and not accepting him. Jesus goes on to proclaim Good News in the villages of Galilee.
Now in chapter 5, the narrative changes. We come to see Jesus as Lord, as one who speaks with authority, as one who gives direction to people, as one who bears the holiness of God, who brings the Kingdom presence in his life. Peter discovers that to be in the presence of Jesus the Lord is to be astonished, and also to be aware of his own sin in comparison to the one who is holy.
Peter is in his boat one morning, after a night of catching no fish, but now he hears the Word of God and he obeys the requests of Jesus, and he puts out into deep water and lowers his nets for a catch. At the end, he leaves everything behind and follows Jesus. Jesus is Lord.
You notice that this passage is filled with details. We are given the name of the place, “the Lake of Gennesaret,” which referred to a particular section of the Sea of Galilee. We are given names of people, Peter and James and John. We are told they wash their nets, that Jesus sat down to teach the people, that the nets are breaking, the boats are sinking. This is detailed language, painting a picture. It invites us to place ourselves in the account, to actually hear Jesus speak into our lives.
The other thing that is new is that here Jesus the Lord tells people what to do. He is bold to climb into Peter’s boat. Then he starts telling Peter where to take him.
“Put out a little from the shore.”
“Put out into the deep water.”
“Let down the nets for a catch.”
“Don’t be afraid.”
Each time Peter or the others do what he says. Jesus is Lord. This is the language of Lordship. There is no resistance to Jesus. Peter obeys, “because you say so.” He knows that the nets he uses are made out of linen, meaning the fish can see them in the daylight. That is why they fish at night. Jesus wants the nets let down in the daylight. Peter knows there are no fish in that area of the lake just now, he has been trying to catch some all night. Jesus wants him to fish in the deep water where Peter knows there are no fish. “Because you say so.” I do not think we should read this as a resigned, hopeless, bad attitude kind of response, as if Peter is saying “Whatever.” This is faith in Jesus because Jesus is Lord. “Because you say so.”
People have said to me, “I’m not sure why I need to be baptized, but I feel the Lord says so.” “I’m not sure why I am going on this mission trip, but I feel the Lord saying I should go.” In so many ways I have heard people say, “I am not sure why I am going, why I am doing this, why I am joining his ministry team, why I am caring for this person, why I am praying fervently, but the Lord seems to be saying so in my heart.”
Whenever we live that way, whenever we enter into something new, something challenging, something beyond our sight or reason or preparation, whenever we put out into the deep water, because the Lord says so, our life goes better. We see things we had not seen before; we learn to trust more deeply, we discover the Living Lord who is faithful. When we only do what we feel like doing our lives soon run aground. It is in the deep water with the Lord that life is good. We always need to leave room in our lives, in our schedules, for the Lordship of Jesus. I am not sure why Peter went into the deep water with Jesus, but I wonder if that is why Jesus called him to be a disciple. I don’t think it was Peter’s character or his intelligence. I think it was his willingness to do what Jesus said to do.
The three fishermen soon discover that the catch is beyond what they had prepared for. It was not just a good catch, a school of fish that suddenly happened by. I am confident they had dealt with that before. This was so many fish that their nets began to break and the boats began to sink. They are not ready for this. This catch is a kingdom amount. This is beyond good fishing, it is astonishing.
Peter knows he is in the presence of the Holy, just like Moses at the burning bush, when he had to take his sandals off for it was holy ground. Just like Isaiah in the temple when he had to have his lips purified by a burning coal from the altar. Peter feels unworthy in the presence of the Lord. He becomes aware of his sin. David Tiede writes, “Peter is not presented as uncommonly guilt ridden, but he has suddenly seen the overwhelming disparity between the power and purity of God’s reign in Jesus and his own mortal, compromised life.”
There are some commercials on TV; I think they are for a credit card company. They feature a series of celebrities who are described as being “comfortable in their own skin.” Peter is not comfortable in his own skin. He calls himself a sinner. When we are in the presence of the Lord we are not so confident, so convinced of our goodness, so full of ourselves. We see ourselves in a new way.
Jesus does a remarkable thing here. He does not forgive Peter of his sin. He does not convict Peter of sin. He tells Peter not to be afraid. I think there is something very insightful here. So often in the church we focus on our sin and ignore our fear. But Jesus in the Gospels often tells people to “fear not.” That is important to him. We often pray a prayer of confession of sin. That is as it should be. But we also need to pray in a way that releases our fears. When the fishermen let go of their fear, they were able to follow Jesus. You see, sometimes it is our fear that keeps us from following Jesus and doing what he says. We fear failure, we fear what others might think or say, and we fear that we don’t have the right answers. So we stay in the shallow water. We keep the nets rolled up. But the fishermen followed Jesus order to not be afraid and so they pulled the boats on shore and followed him. They became disciples. Sometimes that is the most difficult obedience, to let go of our fear.
What happens next? The disciples actually drop out of the text for a few chapters. But we know they are there. They are learning, watching Jesus. Joel Green writes, “Leaving all that has been of value, they will now find their fundamental sense of belonging and being in relationship to Jesus.”
Next Jesus heals a leper, forgives and then heals a paralytic, and then calls a tax collector to be a disciple. All those are signs of Lordship, of authority. Jesus is Lord. He calls us to follow him.