The Call of Peter
Luke 5: 1 — 11
In many respects we may find we are left stunned at the massive rejection of Jesus by the Nazareth Synagogue congregation. The crowd pushed him to the brow of the hill to cast him to his death. Miraculously he "passed through their midst and went on his way". He went on to heal a number of people in quite different situations. Then, true to this pattern of life, (Luke 4: 42), in preparation for his teaching ministry he "went into a lonely spot:" (eis eremon topon). That is, he went to a place where he could be, not necessarily alone, but "single minded". He wanted to pray.
In sharp contrast to the crowd at the synagogue, the local people located him, swarmed around and gradually forced him, inch by inch to the edge of Lake Gennesaret, demanding to hear more and more of all he had to say.
Notes On Our Text
It is not hard to imagine the inner joy of our Lord who found that common people, outside of the constrictions of religious obligation, were actually eager to hear what he wanted to tell them! Eventually due to their enthusiasm, he had backed down to the edge of the water.
Verses 2 and 3
Two fisherman (one of them Simon Peter) had pulled their boats up onto the beach and had stepped out into the water to clean the nets after fishing, carefully folding them back into the boat ready for the next excursion. Our Lord noticing them near him, and knowing that Peter would not mind, climbed into Peter's boat. He asked him to push the boat out just a little so that he was not jostled by his enthusiastic listeners. Obviously Peter obliged. Our Lord sat down (as was his custom) and continued teaching the crowd of people. A great miracle was soon to take place before their eyes, but even this must wait and let the Lord's teaching ministry take precedence.
"When he had finished speaking" (and not before) he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water". Then to the group (Simon and probably 2 others), "let down your nets for a catch". It was common knowledge that you would normally fish in the deeper waters at night, but during the day, the shallow parts.
Peter is desperately tired after a whole night's heavy net trawling which brought in absolutely nothing. He has just cleaned the nets and folded them at the back of the boat ready for the next excursion. The last thing he wants is good advice. All he wants is a good sleep. He makes his polite protest but then adds "but because it is you who asks, I will go out and let down the nets".
Verse 6 and 7
They go out into deep water and do as the Lord had asked. As soon as they did it they enclosed the largest catch they had ever seen. Naturally they called their partner team to come out and help with the massive catch. Both boats couldn't hold it all.
Peter, naturally, has been as busy as the rest, loading the fish on board. They had been exhausted from the night before, but the exhilaration of this monster harvest gives them new found energy. Suddenly, the account notes, "Peter saw this." Suddenly, the awesomeness of the event dawns on him. He sees what has really happened. Immediately Peter kneels down and bows his head till it is level with Jesus' knees. Suddenly aware of his sinfulness, he bids Jesus to depart from him. This is not some excessive gesture of humility, parading himself as the most sinful of all creatures. Rather true to his nature, he suddenly realises how lacking he is in spiritual fortitude, and he does not wish to pretend otherwise. One senses that he Lord waits a moment before replying. Peter is a demonstrative man and possibly needs a moment or two to finish weeping and settle.
All Peter's work mates likewise are awe-struck. But the account keeps the main focus on our Lord and Peter.
Jesus chooses his moment and quietly says to Simon only what needs to be said at this sacred moment: (literally), "Do not be afraid. From now on and for the rest of your life, you will be catching people; — alive!"
That was enough for Peter and his little group to pull the boats up on to the sand, leave everything, and follow Jesus.
In a quiet moment let us revisit the scene.
Peter and his work mates are just so very exhausted — heaving wet nets up and down the depths all night, desperate to catch at least something. They finally give up and bring the nets in for cleaning and storing. The master appears and starts teaching. Like the common people around those parts, so deeply moved by St John the Baptist, they too loved to listen to Jesus. Despite their physical tiredness and disappointment they listen until Jesus decides to conclude. He orders Peter to row out to the deep water and drop the nets.
Now, not only physically exhausted but mentally tired, Peter reminds Jesus: "We've been doing that all night, and I tell you, there's nothing out there!" "But because you say so, we will". They do so and behold! The catch!!! Peter jumps too, like the rest, excited and suddenly very energetic, and gets the fish on board.
All of a sudden a moment of stillness comes over him. He stands back and sees what is really happening both out there and within himself. This is the moment, the whole point of the account; in the presence of the holiness and lovingkindness of God, he sees how unworthy he is. This is what brings him to his knees.
But Peter must learn by personal inner experience, that the Lord has no intention of departing just because of his sudden awareness of his sinfulness. On the contrary, it is because of this, that Jesus has come among mankind, and seeks out those who are humble enough to receive God's forgiveness.
Peter is being prepared to take that message to the world. And so mercifully it is Jesus who has been doing the deep fishing in Peter. And Peter has been caught! Only now can he go and fish within others and catch them for the Lord.
As this event was told and retold in the infant church, those probing for deeper meaning found themselves asking, "What kind of man is this who waits till men are at the final moment of mental and physical exhaustion, who are despondent that their hard work has been a total failure? And then he asks of them either the impossible or the absurd!"
What kind of man is this?
This is the One who looks for such people as these to help him bring in this harvest and chooses those who, when asked to do the unthinkable, obey at once: because they trust him!
Fishers of men: that is what we are!
Apostles of Jesus Christ: that is what we are!
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