Fifth Sunday After Epiphany | February 10, 2019
One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”
“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.
When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.
Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.
Luke 5:1-11 New Living Translation (NLT)
In today’s scripture, Luke tells us how Jesus selected his first disciples. Luke has already recorded some of Jesus’ miraculous acts of healing and people coming to be healed. Jesus is gaining popularity (by our standards) in the region of Galilee. The people are coming from near and far to hear this amazing teacher and healer.
It is here that we find Jesus on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. A great crowd has gathered to listen to Jesus – to hear him preach the good news of the Kingdom of God. The crowd that he is preaching to – presses in – and Jesus notices some empty boats – he steps into one and Simon – the owner – pushes him out into the water. Jesus teaches from the boats and the crowd is amazed.
Now Jesus asks Simon to go out fishing. Simon replies, “We’ve been out all night. We are exhausted. We didn’t catch anything.” But curiously enough, Simon then says, but if you say go, we will go. We know nothing much of Peter up to this point. The gospel writers give us the idea that Peter was an impetuous person. Perhaps Simon Peter has heard of this itinerant preacher. Maybe he’s heard of the miraculous healings and the amazing teaching – and he says to himself – yes, if Jesus is telling me to go fish, I should go fish. And so he does and before they know it they have more fish than they know what to do with – even summoning their partners to come help them. They have so many fish, they almost end up sinking both boats.
I think of the faith of Peter, even before Jesus calls him to be a disciple. How many of us hear God saying to do this or that. We make excuses just like Peter when Jesus says, “Go fish!” Yes, Peter made excuses, but then he made up his mind, if Jesus tells me to do it I should. If Jesus calls us to do something, he will give us all we need to do it. Jesus called his disciples and subsequently us to go into all the world and preach the Good News and make disciples. If he gave Peter the power to catch some fish, won’t he also give us the power through His Holy Spirit to make disciples?
But that doesn’t bring an end to our story. Peter is so humbled by this experience. He bows to his knees. He feels that he is not good enough to have been blessed by God. Peter says, “Oh, Lord, please leave me – I am too much of a sinner to be around you.” We all have had that thought when it comes to doing the work of the Gospel. I know there are many times I don’t consider myself worthy of the blessings I have received from God. Yet, Jesus tells Peter, “Don’t be amazed – don’t be afraid.” Isn’t interesting that everytime God says “Don’t be afraid, something amazing is about to happen.” Jesus tells them (Peter, James, and John) that their fishing days are over – that from now on they will be fishing for people and making disciples.
They must have taken Jesus’ words to heart because Luke records that immediately upon getting back to shore, they left everything – the fish, the boats, the nets – and they followed Jesus. Jesus is calling for us to “Go fish!” as well. He even calls us to leave everything that we know, in order to follow Him – in order to make disciples.
During Epiphany we have been looking at this theme of broadcasting the Good News. We have been called by God to take the Good News everywhere. As Christians, we have been commanded to preach the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the very ends of the earth. The command to “Go fish” is not optional – it is for every believer. Let’s go fishing and broadcast the light and love of Jesus!