Rev. Katherine Todd
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.
What a fantastic Gospel story we read today. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus has begun teaching in the synagogues and word is spreading about him, but he’s not yet chosen disciples. This is that moment in Luke, when the first disciples follow Jesus.
Since this story differs from the story of Jesus calling his first disciples in Matthew and Mark, this raises the obvious questions of which story accurately reflects what happened, and that is an answer I don’t have. Both Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts are almost identical. That suggests that perhaps their accounts are more factual, but it can also simply mean they had the same source or that one of them used the other one of them as their source. So ultimately, we do not have an answer to question of what actually happened.
But as is the case with much of scripture, I suspect the questions of substance are less about what transpired exactly in that moment and more about the truths communicated by each story. As we’ve discussed before, Hebrew Rabbinic tradition cared less about facts, as we would define them in our modern world. And as in all of life, every witness experiences things from differing points of view, even focusing on entirely different elements of the same shared moment. They didn’t have i-phones, camcorders, or tape players. So necessarily over time, stories – just like our memories – shift. Perspectives would change from storyteller to storyteller. What remained was truth. And that is what we are called to listen for in these stories.
So here we have Jesus calling his first disciples. It isn’t even so much an ask as a telling. Jesus doesn’t say, “Come and follow me.” Jesus simply states that from that moment forward, they would no longer catching fish but catching people. And they leave everything and follow him.
Would you do it?
Would you leave everything and follow Jesus?
If you had been there, witnessing this life and love and hope never-before-seen, would you have left everything to follow him?
I honestly don’t know. We have responsibilities. We have rents. We have mortgages. We have aging parents. We have children. We have jobs. We have obligations…
And so did they.
What made them so willing to step out with abandon into unknown territory following Jesus?
They have just witnessed Jesus teaching the people. They have just witnessed the multitude in awe at his words. Their own work wasn’t going so swell. They’d fished the whole night, catching nothing. And here, this traveling new preacher goes and tells them how to do their job? Where does he get off?!? I imagine they may have thought him naïve, arrogant, or out of place. Couldn’t he just stick to teaching? Why’d he have to meddle in their business.
Simon (Peter) protests, but says that because Jesus has asked, he will do what Jesus has said. We don’t know if he did it grudgingly. But it does seem clear he’s not keen. After all, this was the END of their workday. They’d been cleaning their nets in order to put them away. They were done – hungry, sleepy, beat. And here this teacher goes and starts telling them how to do their jobs.
How do you feel when someone purports to know how to do your job better than you do?
Have you ever been at the end of yourself and had someone say, “Oh, well all you have to do is do it this way.”
How have these moments made you feel?
What have they risen within you?
I can say that these moments have not risen kind and happy thoughts within me. So while it is possible Simon and his fellow fishermen were eager to get back out and try again, I suspect they were anything but eager. I suspect they were anything but optimistic. I suspect the only thing they had going for them here was their obedience to Jesus.
And that is something.
That is something God can work with. Obedience is a surrendering of sorts. It places another person’s will ahead of our own. It requires setting down our own intention and taking on someone else’s.
Obedience is hard.
But the hardest part of obedience is trusting that the one telling us what to do really knows what their talking about,…trusting that they know what is best,…trusting that they have our best interest at heart. And this is why it’s so hard to trust one another in this world – because so rarely do others have our best interest at heart. We tend to get caught up in our own needs too much to be truly concerned and aware of what others need. Our own needs most often trump the needs of others in our lives. And even when we do want to do what’s best for another, we rarely truly know what IS best for them. This is why telling others what to do gets so sticky and dicey.
But this is also why God alone is worthy of our full obedience.
God alone truly KNOWS what is right and good and true. God alone truly KNOWS what is best, what will work, what will lead to a future of hope. God alone can see how one moment will connect to another. God alone can foresee how everything fits together and all that is coming.
God ALONE is in a position to rightly guide us.
And in Jesus Christ, we have witnessed God pouring Godself out for our sakes! Christ put his life on the line, laying his life down, all for our sakes.
In God alone, we meet the One able to lead us well.
If we trust anyone in this world, may it be God.
I realize that for many of us God seems trustworthy for the big eternal stuff but perhaps not for the issues we face everyday. Does God really even care about the stuff we are having to make decisions about every day?!?
I would say yes, God does care about all the decisions of our lives because God cares for us. A God who knows the number of hairs on our head and the number of tears we’ve ever cried, surely cares for all of us, not just the “holy” parts of our lives. Last I checked, hair and tears aren’t usually considered all that holy, and yet they matter to God.
That also means our finances, our jobs, our businesses, our decisions…
Our families, our households, our relationships…
Our everything matters to God.
AND God alone can rightly guide us.
Not only that, but God alone has our best interest at heart.
So we can be confident that wherever God leads, it is the very best for us.
Do you believe it?
Here Jesus steps into these young Galilean fishermen’s business and shows them that there is far more going on below the surface of the water than they can even begin to know. Here Jesus shows them that he can indeed provide for all they need. Here Jesus faces up against their livelihoods and blesses them with more abundance than they dreamed possible – blessing OVERFLOWING! Here Jesus shows them that he is God and they are not.
And something clicks.
Life is so much better with him.
How could they ever go back to the way things were before?
May we meet the Living God in ways that bowl us over.
May we be obedient to God – following the Spirit’s lead in our lives – and SEE the Living God provide, blessings overflowing!
May we be so changed that going back to life as usual just isn’t an option
For we have met with the LIVING GOD, and our lives will never be the same.
Christ meet us, and may we never be the same.