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Luke 5:1-11 - Aye Aye, Captain!

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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.


This is the Gospel reading that will be read aloud by a priest on the fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. It will follow a reading from Isaiah, when Isaiah volunteered, “Here I am. Send me,” leading Isaiah to ask, “How long Yahweh?” to which Yahweh said, “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate.” That will be followed by a singing of Psalm 138, where David sang: “Though the Lord be high, he cares for the lowly; he perceives the haughty from afar.” That pair will precede the Epistle reading from First Corinthians, where Paul wrote: “For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”

It is important to keep in mind the Gospel of Luke acts as the story of Mother Mary, relative to her eyewitness accounts [divinely inspired to recall] of Jesus. In this regard, Luke is the one Gospel that I see which seems to follow a different order of events in Jesus’ life, differing from the accounts of the other Gospel writers. None of that acts to weaken any of the others, as everything must be taken as the truth being told. Still, from having just read Luke’s forth chapter, when Jesus was tested in the wilderness, before appearing in Nazareth to be rejected, and now picking three of his disciples [who would have been with him in Nazareth], this should be seen as a mother’s emotionally driven memory of divine events in Jesus’ life, of which she was not present to witness everything.

Relative to this seeming disorder of events, much of the detail offered in this account in Luke is very similar to the details stated in John’s Gospel. In John’s Gospel, however, Peter and his partners catching a load of fish so heavy it began to sink the boat is told in his last chapter, which seems to me to be a dream sequence, rather than a real event witnessed. In a dream, John could have been shown a much earlier event, which is the one detailed by Luke, where the central element that connects to John’s dream is the sincerity of Peter. Here, Peter is said to tell Jesus, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” In John’s dream, Peter sees an old man on the shore that looks nothing like Jesus, but he knows it is him, going to meet him. What follows is Jesus questioning the love Simon Peter had for Jesus, where the word “philos” becomes a view of love that leads to sins.

Where this account of an event differs is when the scene of Luke’s fourth chapter has moved to the Sea of Galilee, called the lake of Gennesaret. Not far to the south of Capernaum is the ancient place called Gennesaret. I was the place that lent its name to the western plain along the northwestern shore of the sea. By using this name, it is likely that the docks where Jesus was standing, where “the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God,” means two things. First, Jesus had other negative experiences in synagogues [especially those around Capernaum, where Jesus had moved before beginning his ministry], so he was making a large flatland area be where he preached in the ‘open air,’ no longer welcomed in the synagogues. Second, it says his fishermen disciples [Simon, James and John of Zebedee] still had their ‘day jobs,’ where their fishing boats were moored at a place where large wharfs had been build. So, Jesus was there [as stated in Matthew and Mark] to get those three to follow him full-time, while he already had people drawn to hear him speak and teach.

In this reading that tells of “two boats,” it is vital to grasp that these boats were not small row boats. They were boats with sails that were fishing boats, built to accommodate fishermen. It would be these boats that were owned by Simon, James and John [along with their families – fathers, sons, and daughters] that would be used in the crossing of the Sea of Galilee to the docks on the eastern shore, where Jesus would regularly preach to the multitudes [the sermons on the mount and the feedings of five and four thousand]. It should also be noted that Jesus himself was not a trained boatman. Thus, when on one of the boats during a storm, Jesus was asleep, not manning a position. The boats became one mode of transportation, which is first shown as being used here, when Jesus asked Peter to let him preach from his boat; so, he asked him to position the boat off the shoreline, anchor it, so Jesus could speak to those crowing the docks. That would help those who were fishermen and were trying to clean nets after having worked all night long. It was because Peter did this to help Jesus that Jesus then helped Peter by telling him to drop his nets.

In the exchange between Peter and Jesus, where Peter initially rejected the idea of reloading the nets, after having fished all night long and then taken the nets off the boat to clean them, he reflects the natural way of human beings, when it comes to Scripture. It is natural to read these verses about Jesus and think, “Yeah, that worked for them then, but nothing like that ever happens to me.” Following a reading about Jesus being rejected in Nazareth, we are finding him being politely rejected by his own disciple. Peter identifies himself as a disciple by calling Jesus “Master” [“Epistata”].

The word “epistata” is rooted in “epistates,” which means, “superintendence, attention,” (Strong’s Definition) while implying, “master, teacher, chief, commander.” (Strong’s Usage) The capitalization elevates this word to a divine level of meaning, where Peter called Jesus a “Commander,” which should be seen in nautical rankings as the Owner of the fleet. This identification can now be seen as an investment issue, where Joseph [the ‘adoptive’ father of Jesus] had wealth, which was used by the sons of Mary to purchase boats, for the purpose of using them to fish, thereby providing both food and income to the family. As such, HELPS Word-studies says this about the word: “properly, the legal standing of ownership referring to the master-in-charge, i.e. the one fully authorized (aptly acknowledged as the leader).” By seeing this as Jesus being the ‘boss’ of the “two boat” fleet’s sailors [most likely relatives employed in the fishing business], Jesus acted like the first pope making a decree, which Peter begrudgingly complied with. Peter was probably thinking, “What does this land lover know about fishing?”

The result of the suggestion [seen as an order] says Jesus was indeed the “Master,” as not just the son of Joseph, but the Son of God [Yahweh]. Jesus was not speaking from any fishing expertise, but speaking as the Son who only spoke the Word of the Father. Yahweh was going to lead every fish in the Sea of Galilee – as their “Master” – to the nets of Peter, so the catch would be more than “two boats” could safely take on board. Because Peter’s soul immediately knew Jesus was much smarter than he was, so Peter’s soul knew Jesus knew his heart, when he was thinking Jesus was just some guy trying to act big, when he had no knowledge about fishing [most likely, that time of day was when nobody ever caught fish]. So, it was with great guilt that Peter prostrated himself before Jesus, begging him to “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”

This admission of Peter [as divinely inspired as it was] needs to be seen as the power of confession. Without Peter having done nothing wrong outwardly, other than mildly protest that casting their nets was just what they finished doing … all night lone [with no luck], it was his inward guilt that was his sin. Peter then reflects those who easily and naturally reject the voice that says, “Give it one more shot,” from a perspective that thinks, “You have no clue what I do and what my failures are.” Peter’s confession before Jesus was from his knowing Jesus was the hand of Yahweh on earth, who knows more than he will ever know. Unlike the Nazarenes who attempted to throw Jesus off a cliff, because they naturally thought they knew what it was they were doing [when they did not], Peter admitted his sins and submitted his body to Jesus and his soul to Yahweh.

More than the catch of a lifetime meaning lots of money in their pockets, where Peter, James and John gave out a shout, “Thank you Jesus!” [like so many who think worshiping Jesus will bring them material windfalls], the catch of fish became meaningless. It meant more to the three disciples to see that Jesus was a guidance that had come into their lives, where his lead was from a much higher power than any the three had ever known. From that day onward, they put their complete faith and trust in what Jesus told them to do. This is what submitting one’s soul to Yahweh means, as this is the first step in an eternal love affair. Jesus stand in everyone’s ‘boat’ as the Word of the Gospels. Jesus is speaking to every reader through the words of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Every reader is just like Peter, as all see Jesus as the Commander who says, “Do this” and “Do that,” when in the hearts of the readers are whispers, “You don’t know the half ….” Everything Jesus says comes from Yahweh, and Yahweh knows ALL.

When Jesus then told the three, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people,” that says two things. First is says complete trust in what Jesus says must happen. It is the trust that leads to divine marriage of a soul to Yahweh – one receives the Spirit. When that Spirit has penetrated one’s soul, then the soul of Jesus will be resurrected within – twin souls in one body of flesh. That divine possession will make Jesus the “Master” of one’s ‘boat’ [body of flesh]. As such, the second thing is – once one has become reborn as Jesus – then he will lead your body of flesh [like a disciple that is an Apostle-Saint] into ministry. There one will fish for souls, to repeat the whole process.

As the Gospel reading to be read aloud on the fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, the dawning must be that having Jesus within one’s soul will bring insight that must be trusted. As novices learning to enter ministry, the temptation is to overthink everything. One tries to figure out, “What would Jesus do?” That is too much self-importance and not enough faith and trust. When one’s soul has indeed married Yahweh and one’s soul now has a ‘brother’ in Jesus, with his soul now leading one’s flesh, the tendency is to do as one has always done – figure things out. The period after the Epiphany is to begins leaving the decisions up to a much higher power. It might lead to some embarrassments and it might lead to some failures; but this is when one needs to learn how to just the power of the Spirit, so one learns how a Saint really works.

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