“We need to get away from what religion in too many cases has become; is a source of division and mistrust. And get back to what religion is really meant to be about, forget complicated theological propositions, stories of incredible or improbable events. Religion isn’t about miracles or rival claims to truth. It’s about giving our lives direction and meaning giving us hope and a sense that life has value.” I wonder what you think about that quotation? Is he right? More importantly what would Jesus say about it?
As this chapter starts Jesus is still on his mission. A mission to (43) “proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also.” As he does so the crowds are listening because he teaches with authority. They are pressing so tightly that Jesus asks some fishermen if he can use their boat as a floating platform. But then in (4) the focus shifts and the crowds melt into the background as Jesus focuses on these fishermen and particularly Peter as their representative.
Jesus mission matters, he has been proclaiming, teaching, telling that he is God’s anointed kingdom inaugurating long promised one come to bring freedom and favour with God. But Luke has also shown us people’s responses, and here we see Peter’s response but we also see that Jesus mission is not limited, it is not a one off, and it must be continued.
As we see Jesus dealing with Peter and the others we see the changes that freedom and faith in him brings:
In Luke 4 Jesus words were the focus backed up by his authority over demons and sickness. Here we see his authority over creation. As he commands Peter to let down his nets it’s a bit like a dinner lady telling the teacher how to teach, or the Doctor telling the mechanic how to fix his car. Here is the carpenter turned roving teacher telling the career fisherman how to fish! That’s odd enough but look at the instructions he gives (4).
You don’t fish in daylight (5) the career fishermen knew that, you fished at night, and you fish in the shallows not in the deep water, yet that is when and where Jesus sends them. How did Peter respond? He wouldn’t have done it for just anyone; “Master…because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Peter already knows something about Jesus, he has met him before. He has just listened to his teaching, Jesus has healed his Mother-in-Law (4:38) and met him in separate incidents as Mark and John record. Peter knows this is a great teacher, someone who has authority and can do amazing things, worthy of respect, that’s why he calls him “Master”. There is a relationship here.
As they follow Jesus instructions the result is astounding, and nearly disastrous as they catch so many fish the boat starts sinking. But Luke’s focus, like Jesus’ is not on the flopping, gasping fish it is on Peter.
How is this miracle different from those in chapter 4? In ch4 the miracles are a direct response to need – the demon possessed man needed to be freed, Peter’s Mother-in-law needed to be healed, the same with those brought to Jesus at sunset – each came with a need. But what is the need here? There doesn’t seem to be one. The need isn’t an obvious one like sickness or demon possession but Jesus has come to deal with Peter’s need. Look at (8) Peter’s perception of Jesus is totally changed by this miracle; he wants Jesus out of the boat right now! “Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man!” The question is why?
Do you notice the change in what Peter calls Jesus? Not master anymore but “Lord”, one who comes with God’s authority, who is God’s agent. The reason that Peter wants him out of the boat is that he now knows his need. “I am a sinful man!” He realises that all his pride, his hard work, everything, Jesus sees right through. If this man can command creation as only God can he is God’s agent, and that means Peter is in danger because of his sin.
It isn’t that Peter lives a wild life in fact he is just like you and me; he runs his own business, he is happily married, he is a home owner, he is just an ordinary guy, and he is religious - he is a Jew, one of God’s chosen people – now that’s even better than being British. He is a nice hardworking family values guy; he’ll be good enough won’t he?
Peter doesn’t think so. Face-to-face with Jesus none of that matters, he doesn’t hold on to his social standing, doesn’t mention religious descent, and doesn’t recite good things he has done, that he is a good husband or whatever. Face-to-face with Jesus Peter knows that he isn’t good enough and he expects only one thing – judgement. His only hope is that Jesus will leave without judging and condemning him.
But Peter’s reaction, his fear just highlights the grace in Jesus words. Words that do not condemn, that don’t denounce him as a rebel, that don’t list his failure and refusal to serve God and decree punishment.
As Peter waits in fearful expectation Jesus says “Don’t be afraid…” That is a phenomenal statement. Peter has just confessed he is a sinner, we know that Jesus is God’s long awaited king come to bring God’s kingdom surely that means judging the sinner and rebel doesn’t it?
How does Jesus describe his mission in chapter 4v18-19? He comes to bring freedom, he describes it in terms of fulfilling Isaiah 61:1-2, but he omits part of the verse “and the day of vengeance of our God…” Because judgement is coming but only after the good news of grace. He will return to judge and if it was his second coming Peter would face justice but now is the time of grace. Now is the time to enter the kingdom, to know favour with God, to trust in him and accept the grace he gives so that he need not fear.
Peter face-to-face with Jesus is convicted of his sin, that he falls short, that he has lived his life without reference to God. He recognises that he deserves judgement and has no hope in himself. But Jesus gives him hope because Jesus shows him grace – he gives him what he does not deserve. Why? Because that is the good news of the kingdom, as Jesus will preach it to the paralysed man and Levi… “I have come to call sinners to repentance.” He comes to die on the cross so that those who should fear God can instead know God’s favour and enter his kingdom.
Our sin, our rebellion is not trivial it matters because it must be judged. But Jesus brings us from fear to favour when we trust in him and follow him. Be amazed again at the love God has for you that he saved you and brought you from fear to follower.