“A Rabbi Goes Fishing”
Luke 5:1-11 (Message)
Today we focus on the time when Jesus, the carpenter, went fishing, which reminds me of a fishing story.
A game warden catches a person fishing out of season without a license.
“You know what you are doing is illegal” he scolds the man whose bucket is full of fish.
“I’m not fishing” the guy counters. These are my pet fish I always bring for a swim in the lake. I let them swim around and when its time to go I just tap the bucket and they all jump back in and we go home.
“Is that so?” the warden says.
“Here, I’ll show you,” the fisherman offers as he lets all the fish that he caught slip into the lake.
After a while the warden looks at him and says; “Well?”
“Well what?” asks the fishermen.
“When are you going to call them back?”
The first disciples where fishermen eking out a living fishing the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Gennesaret. This was actually not a sea in the true sense of the word. It was a lake.
Historians point out that during Herod the Great had turned his attention to the resources of this lake to finance his ambitious building program. To placate the people, he rebuilt the Temple. To placate Rome he had built a port city and named it after Caesar, calling it Caesar Martima.
So, it is thought that by the time Jesus came along, the people who had depended on the Lake as a source of income for their simple way of life, would have been under great pressure from the authorities who simply saw the Lake as another commercial venture.
What we know for a fact was that this is where Jesus’ ministry began and where he centered his ministry. No wonder the Gospels are full of fish-related stories.
In today’s story, Jesus had been sitting on the Lakeshore, watching Simon mending his fishnets. It is also obvious that Jesus had already made a name for himself as the gathering crowd began to swamp him. He called to Simon to bring his boat and row out a little distance from the shore. From there he preached to the crowd.
When he had dismissed the crowd he asked Simon to row a little distance into the deeper waters and, to Simon’s consternation, asked him to drop his nets.
Simon began protesting, the fruitless night’s fishing still fresh in his memory, but then he agreed; “If you say so”.
The rest we know. The net comes up, overflowing with fish and it in that moment that Simon recognizes that he is in the presence of a holy man. His response; “Sir, leave. I’m a sinner and can’t handle this holiness.”
In the other Gospels we are told that Jesus later renamed Simon, calling him Peter, which in Greek means, ROCK. Jesus declared him the Rock upon whom the church would be built.
Today we know him as the Apostle Peter.
The author of this story is establishing two things. Firstly he is telling us something about who Jesus and secondly, he demonstrates how God calls ordinary people to fulfill God’s mission.
What can we learn from this story?
Have you ever thought to yourself what it might be that God is calling you to do with the rest of your life?
Yes, you may think that you have served as a farmer or a teacher or you are so busy keeping everything balanced in your life that, like Simon Peter, you just want to be left alone to manage what’s on your plate already.
Or maybe you feel like Simon Peter who begs Jesus to leave his presence because of Peter’s sense of unworthiness in the presence of such holiness.
God does not just call people to become prophets and Rabbis and ministers. God calls all of us to represent God in the life we are living.
We have such a gifted group of people in this church. Some have lived full lives and now enjoy retirement. Others are in the midst of a challenging career and others are caring for their young families, barely surviving the challenges they face. To imagine being called by God might be asking too much.
But God is not calling all of us to start a new career or become ministers or to become missionaries in far-off countries. We are simply called by God to be fishers of men and women and children.
How do we do that?
By always working on ways to let the holiness of Jesus shine through the way we speak, the way we go about our daily life, the way we treat the stranger in our midst, the way we practice compassion.
The bait Rabbi Jesus used when fishing for people was his love expressed in deeds of healing and of restoring broken lives.
We too can do that in our everyday life when we focus on our call to be fishers of men and women. Your encounter with another person will determine whether that person senses the love of God in you or a hostility or a prejudice. People have a sixth sense when it comes to sincerity.
It’s a tough task, as Peter found out, but it is also the most uplifting experience and life we will ever be able to live.
We are healers when we reach out to those who suffer loss or who need some caring in their lives. We are prophets when we speak truth in love, even when it hurts. We become fishers when others sense in us a compassion which overrides our prejudices and our politics.
If Jesus was a fisher, then so are we. Let’s remember it in every deed and every word we share with others and may the God of great catches guide our boats to the deeper waters. Amen.