Glory to Jesus Christ! Today we start the first Sunday of Luke as the “Lukan Jump” comes the first Monday after the feast of the Elevation of the Cross” for those of you who are interested in Lexicon order. Today’s reading starts at the beginning of Christ’s ministry. He has been baptized, confronted the devil directly while fasting for 40 days in the wilderness and announced to those in His home synagogue in Nazareth that He was the awaited for Messiah that Isiah had prophesied was coming. (Isa. 61:1,2) He stood up and read “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” He then sat down and said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” What a wonderful description of Christ’s purpose in coming to us. As (John 3:17) says “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Christ then goes on to actively fulfill all of these signs of the Messiah, casting away the oppression of the demons and freeing those held captive by them, healing the sick and restoring both physical and spiritual sight to the blind and bringing the good news that He had come to be the Saviour of the world to all without exception.
Christ is teaching in the synagogues, attracting large crowds already but His disciples have not yet been selected. He has encountered the Apostle Peter and healed Peter’s wife’s mother from a fever and then healed many others who found out Christ was at Peter’s house. As we start with today’s gospel, we know that Peter has already seen the miraculous healing power of Christ, so when Christ asks him to put out a little in his boat so that He could speak to the crowds, Peter did not hesitate. Once again, the soon to be Apostle Peter is given a front row seat to hear what Jesus has to say. This is God speaking the completely God bearing word of God.
No doubt, Peter and his fishing companions Andrew, James and John were pretty much spent before Jesus appeared. They had finished a full and discouraging night working the nets and toiling with no results. They had given up as the day had come and fishing was known to be unfruitful now until later in the day and they had just spent the last of their energy cleaning out their nets so they would be ready to try again that coming evening. No sane fisherman would be found fishing during the heat of the day. Christ finishes addressing the crowd and tells Peter to “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Peter protests a little, I mean he was a very seasoned fisherman and this request flew in the face of everything he knew to be sensible. But to his credit, he quickly recovers and realizes that this man Jesus was someone who did not seem to operate along normal worldly principles. After Peter’s initial protest – his telling Jesus why His request just made no sense – he quickly adds, “nevertheless, at Your word I will let down the net.” Remember, ultimately it is not so much what we say, but what we do that matters. It is not our words that will convince anyone of much of anything for very long, it is our life, and our actions, how we live, that they will see and consider.
Remember the parable of the Son who immediately said he would go work in the vineyard but never showed up and the other Son who said he had no intention of working in the hot sun but then went anyway? Words alone really don’t cut it. So Peter even at this early stage is shown to be a man of action, even when those actions are based only on simple obedience to what Christ asks, and go against everything Peter believes he knows, based upon his life experience. We would do well to pay attention to this demonstration of faith by Peter. He doesn’t agree with God’s word, it makes no sense to him and he doesn’t understand what possible good can come out of it, yet he DOES exactly what God asks. He puts out and lowers the nets. And what happens?
They bring in a catch such as they could never imagine. This is a complete and in your face miracle of the highest proportion for these fishermen. These are fishermen. They know fishing and know what a good catch looks like. Their main pursuit in life has been a good catch and this is the mother load of all catches. They have never seen anything like this. Their nets are breaking and then their boats are sinking from the weight of the fish. Upon seeing this great miracle and recognizing the author of the miracle as Christ, Peter realizes his sinfulness and unworthiness, as the pure light of Christ that illuminates all shines upon him. He has an awakening, a reality check and falls down at Christ’s knees saying; “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” This is true wisdom, this is the fear of God, this is the only sane response when coming face to face with the living God and realizing how far removed we are from the purity of God. This awakening and understanding is always the prerequisite to truly following Christ. Christ’s reaction to Peter’s confession of his unworthiness is immediate, “Do not be afraid, come and follow me. From now on you will catch men.” He accepts Peter completely and lovingly and eternally and sends him out to be a fisher of men, to feed His sheep. He does the same for each of us as we come to Him.
Peter’s response reminds us of that of the prophet Isaiah when he found himself in the presence of the Lord on His throne in His glory, surrounded by seraphim singing holy, holy, holy and with the incense smoke of our prayers. He says (Isaiah 6:5-8) “Woe is me, because I am pierced to the heart, for being a man and having unclean lips, I dwell in the midst of a people with unclean lips; for I saw the King, the Lord of hosts, with my eyes! Then one of the seraphim was sent to me. He had a live coal in his hand which he took with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth, and said, ‘Behold this has touched your lips. Your lawlessness is taken away, and your sin is cleansed.’ I also heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go to this people?’ Then I said, ‘Behold here am I, send me.”
So we see the pattern. An awakening to our unworthiness to even be in the presence of God. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Then we encounter God’s grace-filled response to take away all of our iniquities, and cleanse us of all our sins. Our awareness of God’s love causes us to learn to trust and love God as St. Anthony the great said, “I no longer fear God but love Him.” BTW, the Fathers teach the coal that touched Isiah’s unclean lips and removed all of his sin represents the Eucharist; the precious and holy Body and Blood of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ which we are about to receive for the remission of sins and unto life everlasting. The priest repeats this passage from Isaiah after receiving and giving communion to the deacon’s in the Altar (Isaiah 6.7) “…Behold this has touched your lips, and shall take away all your iniquities and cleanse your sins.” Finally, God then sends us out as His servants like Peter and Isaiah to share His great love and forgiveness to all of our brothers and sisters of the race of Adam.
St. Peter gets it. He sees his broken and sinful human nature and because he understands and does not try to hide or excuse it, he is now truly ready to follow Christ. As Christ says a little later in this chapter (Luke 5:32) “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” In following Christ and becoming the chief apostle, Peter does not so much bring his gifts and talents to his Lord as his weakness and brokenness. The apostle Paul says (2 Cor. 12:9) “…My grace is sufficient for you for My strength is made perfect in weakness” as we see on our icon of Christ.
It is only Christ’s reality living in us that allows us to accomplish anything that will be of value when the final assessment is made. When all things are brought to the light, and the fire of the purity of God burns up all that is worthless, the hay and stubble and our frantic busyness, to reveal the gold, we will all suffer loss. We all, to some extent, concentrate on building our kingdom, rather than choosing to live in the kingdom of God, bringing His kingdom “here on earth as it is in heaven.” The entire point of our little journey here on planet earth, is to learn over and over as did our dear apostle Peter, how to follow Christ. Coming to Him in repentance and re-committing ourselves; forcing ourselves to retreat from our busy all-consuming pace of life and come to Him in silence, waiting quietly to hear His voice and know His loving presence in our hearts; denying ourselves and taking up our cross and following Him. May His grace be sufficient for each of us, and may the fishing be good! Glory to Jesus Christ!