Does Jesus Ever Go Fishing?
Rev. Kurt Lantz Trinity 5 Luke 5:1-11
July 09, 2023 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear people called by the Lord,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
Many of us are familiar with fishing as a past-time, a means of relaxation, something to do on vacation. Even so, it can be disappointing if we don’t catch anything. We might be able to brush off one or two or three outings without any success, but if it keeps happening we will soon throw in the rod and find something less vexing to do.
The lack of a catch which brings disappointment to the hobby fisherman, brings frustration and fear to the commercial fisherman. When it is more than a past-time, when you are a professional, when your livelihood depends upon it, when it is your calling; then no catch means failure, shame, and defeat. Fear and frustration boil over to exasperation, desperation, doubt and anger.
These feelings and pressures are not confined to personal pain and damage. No matter what our vocation may be, when we toil and have nothing to show for it, then the damage we suffer is easily deflected in outbursts against those around us: our fellow workers, our employers, the government, and (most damaging) our family members. Frustration at work can lead to substance abuse, financial fraud, yelling at the children and shunning our spouses. We can become miserly toward those in need and jealous of others who don’t seem to have to toil for their toys.
Did Jesus ever go fishing? Did He know the frustration of toiling all night and not catching a thing? In today’s Gospel reading we hear that Jesus got into Simon Peter’s boat. From there He taught the crowds on the shore. When He was done teaching He asked Simon to take the boat out into the deep water and let down the nets for a catch.
How might Simon have responded after toiling all night and catching nothing, to this travelling preacher who seemed to want a leisurely boat ride and a little hobby fishing to pass the afternoon? We must remember that as Peter was washing his nets, he had the benefit of listening to the preaching of Jesus from the pulpit of his boat. He heard the sermon, the hopeful words urging repentance because the kingdom of God had come to His people.
At the proclamation of God’s Word, Simon would have been cut to the heart and acknowledged his sins of frustration and fear over an unproductive night’s work, and all that spews out from them. He would have heard the gracious words of forgiveness and restoration from Jesus’ own lips, and known that he was cleansed from every stain of anger and jealousy.
So, what otherwise might have been stubborn and repugnant refusal, became a humble acquiescence to Jesus’ request. He would certainly give a leisurely boat ride to the Master, who had set his guilty conscience at ease. And even throwing the nets in one more time would be the least he could do for the One who had reassured him that the faithful people of God have a blessed future.
And so, we too, who have heard the blessed Gospel of Jesus are quite content to let the Master enjoy a ride-along as we carry out our vocations. His message of peace and consolation quiets our fears and frustrations. We are blessed to have Him with us on the construction site, in the classroom, to the grocery store, behind the counter, wherever our work takes us. One truck driver I knew said he was happy to have Jesus sitting beside him in the cab.
Why not humour Him by going through the motions of our vocations (the sometimes useless toils) with an obliging smile. Like Peter casting the net in the heat of the day we might rather mindlessly yet even pleasantly swing our hammers or give our lectures or cut the grass or buy groceries without ever thinking that something extraordinary might happen, even though Jesus is there.
But something extraordinary did happen when Simon took Jesus for a ride-along in the boat. He expertly cast the net and let it sink down into the water. Then as he began to haul it in, a serious look came over him as he felt the strain in the muscles of his arms, back, and legs. His hands felt the vibrations on the cords as if the net had suddenly become alive. It was full and overflowing with great fish, like no catch he had ever taken before even in his most intense and promising outing.
Peter fell to his knees before Jesus, afraid not of failing as a fisherman but of failing as a man, failing as a repentant Christian who had heard Jesus preach on several occasions, had accepted His message of repentance and the coming kingdom, but had not truly realized all that it meant in terms of this Man Jesus and his own sinful depravity and their coming into contact with one another.
When Simon’s nets were filled with fish as never before, as never possible, he knew that the Master riding along in the boat was not just a lucky companion for the journey. Jesus was not just someone people liked to be around, one of those friends for whom everything seems to turn out right. Simon and the crowds who came to hear Jesus preach, and we also who have come here today to be with Jesus, we all learn throughout our life of faith who this Jesus is and who we are and what it means for us to be in His presence.
It is a learning process that is the life of faith. And each encounter that we have, each time we learn more about the eternal Son of God in the flesh, or discover more of the depths of our sinful depravity, or bring the two together to receive the miracle of forgiveness and cleansing in Christ through His Word and His Sacraments, we fall to our knees with Simon Peter.
Jesus has filled our net to overflowing with His grace and mercy, and we don’t know how we can stand it. Like Simon we are inclined to send this holy Jesus away from us. But like as to Simon, Jesus bids us to come closer and follow Him and to receive good things that surpass all understanding.
Jesus didn’t promise Simon more fish, but something greater. “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” Follow Me and I will draw your brothers into my net. Follow Me and I will haul in your fishing partners, too. Follow Me and I will bring healing to your mother-in-law. Follow Me and I will rescue your children from the deep through the waters of Holy Baptism.
As we struggle in our vocations with fears and frustrations, Jesus has come to bless us with more than His divine accompaniment on our walk. The one who rules the deep recesses of the sea and the vast galaxies of the universe comes into your life through the waters of your Baptism in order that you might be cleansed and healed of your sinful depravity. Each encounter with this holy Son of God, by whom the land and sea and all that fills them were created, is an encounter with God who has entered His own creation in order to give you His holiness and righteousness in such abundance that those around you are also caught up into His net of saving grace.
Sometimes the Christian Church on earth also struggles in its vocation. It toils through the darkness of this world deep in dangers and depravity. The Christian Church on earth does what the Master tells it even when it doesn’t make any sense to modern reason. The Christian Church continues to do those things that Christ has instituted in His Word.
We gather together to hear Him speak through the words written by the inspiration of His Spirit. We bring our babies to the font and sprinkle water in His name so that they might be drawn out and into the nave of His Church. We sit around the pulpit and His divine commands and promises are spoken to us by a man no better than anyone else in the room. We eat a bite of bread and drink a slurp of wine through which He gives to us His body and blood that were offered up on the cross for all of our sins. And we do this as pleasantly and obligingly as Simon taking Jesus for a ride in his boat.
And sometimes it hits us, the sudden jolting weight of His net bringing others into our boat. Jesus is still providing a miraculous catch. Over the centuries and around the world Jesus has been granting His Church a haul that she can scarcely pull in. And, whether you have noticed it or not, whether you have appreciated it or not, whether it has brought you to your knees in humility and fear before Jesus or not, He has made you a fisher of men.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.