Sunday Feb 7, 2016
A Reflection on Luke 5:1-11, N.A.B.
By: Larry T
Galileans ate little meat besides fish. So fishing on Lake Gennesaret, also known as the Sea of Galilee or the Sea of Tiberias, was big business. The shoals just offshore were a fisherman’s paradise. In Jesus’ day, hundreds of fishing boats trawled the lake. Simon, Andrew (Mark 1:16), James, and John had fished the entire night casting umbrella shaped fishing nets from the side of their boats into usually productive waters without catching a single fish. Imagine their weariness and frustration.
This Sunday we read about how these empty-handed fishermen first listened to Jesus teach the crowd about the Kingdom of God, then reluctantly followed his instructions to “Put into deep water” where they caught so many fish that their nets were tearing and their boats were in danger of capsizing from the weight. Aside from being a really great fish story, what is the point of this Gospel reading? What can we learn from it?
1 While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.
2 He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
3 Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
4 After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
5 Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.”
6 When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.
7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
9 For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him,
10 and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”
11 When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.
-Luke 5:1-11, N.A.B.
We can only guess at what Jesus taught the people about the Kingdom of God, but the power of his reputation and teaching was enough to convince these bone weary fishermen to obey his request to “Put out into deep water . . .” Astounded and excited at the size of their catch Simon Peter threw himself at Jesus’ feet and exuberantly blurted out, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” We should understand Simon Peter’s declaration that he was a sinner not primarily in moral terms but as an expression of awe before the power of the Holy One of God. These fishermen abandoned their belongings and family to follow Jesus because they believed him to be the Anointed One. They became part of the foundation on which Jesus was to build the Kingdom of God on earth.
What was the world like in their time? It was a dangerous, brutal, and violent time. Robbery, murder, extortion, assassinations, and public executions were common happenings. Taxes levied by the Romans drove many people into poverty and even slavery. Corrupt politicians and public officials added to the people’s misery. Judaism had divided into four factions: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots. And the militant Zealots were determined to overthrow the Roman Empire and expel it from the Holy Land by force of arms. What did Jesus bring to this world? Did He bring world peace? Did He bring universal prosperity? Did He overthrow the Roman Empire and restore the Davidic Kingdom thereby eliminating oppression? Did He eliminate corruption? If not, what did Jesus bring to the world of his time, to the world of our time?
Concerning what Jesus brought to the world, Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “He has brought God, and now we know his face, now we may call upon him. Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope, and love. It is only because of the hardness of our heart that we think this is too little. Yes, indeed, God’s power works quietly in this world, but it is the true and lasting power. Again and again, God’s cause seems to be in its death throes. Yet over and over again it proves to be the thing that truly endures and saves. The earthy kingdoms that Satan was able to put before the Lord at that time have all passed away. Their glory, beliefs, and common opinions, have proven to be a mere semblance. But the glory of Christ, the humble, self-sacrificing glory of his love, has not passed away, nor will it ever do so.”
On the surface our world might seem to be crumbling. Everywhere we look we see abortion, wars, terrorism, corruption, murder, immorality, drug abuse, and refugees fleeing for their lives in unprecedented numbers, and so on. If we aren’t careful we could easily be convinced that our civilization is circling the drain. That is, unless we remember that “the glory of Christ, the humble, self-sacrificing glory of his love, has not passed away, nor will it ever do so.”