“A SUCCESSFUL DAY FISHING IN THE SEA OF LIFE"
Text – LUKE 5:1—11
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR - JESUS THE CHRIST.
In Galilee, God had blessed His people with a lake boasting some of the best fishing in the world. Not only were those fish a food staple in Galilee itself, but the fish were salted and shipped to Jerusalem and to places as far away as Damascus and Egypt - and even to Rome.
Profitable as the fishing was, the licenses Rome required were very expensive and always had to be accompanied by an expensive bribe for the tax collector. In our Gospel text, we meet two of the families with those licenses to fish.
Each day - as the sun was setting - Zebedee and his sons James and John and Jonas and his sons Simon and Andrew headed out onto the lake. Throughout the night they would cast their weighted nets into the sea and then slowly draw them back to the boat - hopefully filled with fish - and there they would remain until the hold was filled with fish or the sun was beginning to rise. The hours were long and the work was hard - but each morning the fisherman's wage was one third of his catch.
Along with the holders of those precious fishing licenses, one of the more prosperous industries by the lake involved the boat owners who took care of the boats and rented them each night to the fishermen for one-third of the night's catch. The remains of this First Century fishing boat recovered from the Sea of Galilee gives us some idea of how large these boats were.
The final third went to the net people. Every morning, they cleaned and stitched the nets and did everything necessary to get them ready for the next night’s rental.
One day as Jesus was standing by the Sea of Galilee, with people crowding around Him and listening to The Word of God, Jesus saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. Luke goes on to report that the fishermen who were washing their nets by their boats were Peter and Andrew. Zebedee and his sons James and John were in their boat with the hired men – people they were employing in the fishing business.
Peter and Andrew with their father Jonas and James and John with their father Zebedee had those very expensive fishing licenses and they had earned enough from their fishing to own their own boats and nets meaning every night’s catch belonged totally to them. And you no doubt recall when Peter and John followed Jesus to His Judean trial, they were admitted to the high priest’s house because the gatekeeper recognized John as the man who sold fish to the high priests’cooks.
Zebedee and Jonas and their sons were not only fishermen, boat people, and net people, but they were also involved in sales which meant they were involved in preparing their fish in Magdala and Taricheae where the day’s catch was brought and prepared for shipping.
Their fishing business was indeed a very successfull First Century corporation – but they still felt something was missing in their lives.
Getting into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon to put out a little from the land. And Jesus sat down and taught the people from the boat. One of the central characteristics of our Lord and Savior is His constant willingness to do whatever is necessary to communicate with us. When He had ceased speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."
Everyone knew Simon to be a proud man who would never want people to laugh at him for following advice everyone knew was contrary to all their fishing experience. The fishermen waited for a verbal explosion from Simon. Instead he calmly replied, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at Your word I will let down the nets."
And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and, as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw the miraculous catch of fish, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord."
Simon Peter caught a wonderful vision that went far beyond a miraculous catch of fish. Simon Peter discovered himself to be in the visible Presence of The Lord -- and that is not a comfortable place for a sinful man to be.
Simon Peter knew himself to be an overly-proud, boastful, hot-tempered man with many a sinful failing in his character. How could he possibly feel comfortable in the Presence of The Lord? The Presence of The Lord drove him to his knees and caused him to feel a sinful man's fear and discomfort in the Presence of The Lord Who can command the very forces of nature to do His bidding.
We have all been there. We all recognize the Divine Truth God proclaimed through St. Paul in his EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS (3:22b-23). "There is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God …" St. Paul and each of us truly understand Simon Peter's feelings in the Presence of The Lord.
"Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." was Simon’s plea, but Jesus did not depart from Simon Peter.
Jesus said, "Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men."
That day, in one miracle, Jesus filled the fishermen's nets with fish. In the second and greater miracle, Jesus filled their lives with forgiveness, grace, and temporal and eternal meaning -- filled their lives with those blessings in such quantity that the blessings truly spilled over into the lives of others.
Jesus said, "Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men." The word here translated "catching" is actually the Greek word, "??????", which means “to catch alive” — an obvious contrast to “catching fish” which are removed from the water to die and be eaten. The blessings of The Gospel catch people alive and keep us truly alive now and eternally.
Jesus doesn't merely say to Simon Peter and the others, "I forgive you all your past and present sins; go and try to do better." No, Jesus actually invites the sinful Simon Peter and the others to be so filled with Jesus’ love that they themselves become agents of Jesus' forgiveness and reconciliation -- helping to bring others to a loving and faithful relationship with God as Simon Peter and the other original disciples have received those gifts.
So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him. So enlightened and empowered were they by all they saw Jesus do and heard Him say that those prosperous fishing industry people left everything and followed Him.
Therein lies the real miracle on the lake -- in the lives of those imperfect fishermen who, by the Grace of God, became evangelical fishers of human beings – in the lives of imperfect human beings like us who, by the Grace of God, are committed to answering Jesus’ call to lovingly and faithfully proclaim The Word of God as revealed incarnately in Jesus Christ and inerrantly in The Holy Bible.
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS … OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR WHO GIVES US TRUE EVANGELICAL LIFE ON THE SEA OF LIFE NOW AND ETERNALLY. AMEN.
5th Sunday After The Epiphany
February 17, 2019
Dr. Kurt Borows
Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Ohio