of the Springs
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|July 4, 2010 -- 5th Sunday after Trinity
-- Service Guide
And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” (Vs. 5)
Put yourself into Simon Peter’s place. You are a fisherman by trade. It is one of the few things in life that you know and can do well. After all of your expertise has been expended in your labors, you come up empty netted. You fish during the night in the shallows just as any intelligent fisherman would do, but draw a blank. But then, this Jesus of Nazareth, a carpenter by previous work experience, not a fisherman, tells you to go out into the deep - where the fish are not supposed to be - in the middle of the day - which is not the time to fish - with the proposition that you will get a big haul. And to make matters more uncomfortable, he puts this seemingly silly proposition to you in front of all your associates who are just dying to see if you are going to make a fool out of yourself. If you were Peter, what would you do?
Notice that Peter reflects a kind of pre-understanding about Jesus, probably from his teaching earlier in the day. He had spent some time expounding on the Scriptures using a boat and the amplification of the water to enable the crowd that had gathered to hear Him. Peter calls Him Master, and defers to his authority even on matters of professional fishing. Master . . . at your word I will let down my nets . . . is his response to Jesus’ request. And then upon letting his nets down in the middle of the day, in the middle of the deep . . . he catches enough fish that cause the nets to break and almost swamp both his boat and that of James and John, the sons of Zebedee. It is an incredible drama that creates a career change. The three of them leave their nets right then and there to follow Jesus as He alludes to their future apostolic office. They now will be catching the souls of men. What are we to make of this?
Here at the beginning of His ministry, Jesus sets some precedents that He continues to be about even to this day. He loves to make seemingly outlandish requests or commands of people with the promise that incredibly wonderful things will result. Or, he just accomplishes amazing result from simple, almost silly means. His first miracle at the marriage feast at Cana promised that if the stewards would just draw some water into some great jars the problem of a shortage of wine would be over. A little spit in the eyes would cure blindness and a finger stuck in the ear would bring back hearing. If the people will just sit down quietly and a few loaves and fishes be distributed, thousands of people will get fed with leftovers. If you just check on the dead child again, you will notice that he is just sleeping. Regardless of how often Jesus would do such things in front of his disciples in their time together over the next three years, they were always just as startled and amazed as here with the great catch of fish at noon day. They never see these things coming in advance it seems. And we ought not to be very hard on them about that. We live in the same world as they did, do we not? These things are just not common occurrences either then or now are they? The God we believe in cursed the ground upon the Fall of Adam, and this has made our life on this planet difficult. There are shortages of the things we need, health problems develop that cannot be removed, and in the end we simply are going to succumb to the curse and our bodies are going to return to the ground - ashes to ashes, as they say, and dust to dust. We expect these outcomes because of the problem of sin and evil in the world that has us in its grasp from its forces from within and without. These are part of the wages of sin from the God Who has created us. When abundance comes to us from strange unlikely or unexpected means, it is startling and it sets us back. We wonder, how did that happen? And when God is behind such things as He is with Jesus and the great catch of fish, the question is an important one. The question of who is doing these things, and better yet, the question of to what end or purpose is exactly what Jesus wants us to ponder.
Such events do two things. First they are intended to reveal the presence of the God who creates and preserves, the God to gives life and takes it as He will. And secondly they intend to signal that this God is about to do something more decisive concerning the curse of sin, and He is going to use even stranger means to accomplish it. Great hauls of fish at noon in the deep, wine out of water, sight from spit are just signaling the most outrageous and unlikely assault upon the forces of evil by means of a cross. This God-with-us will soon take on all the forces of sin, death, and the Devil and gain a victory over them by dying a horrible criminals death. If fishing in the deep at noon seems an unlikely approach to successful fishing, dying a common criminal’s death, seems - even more so - an unlikely approach to getting the upper hand over the forces of darkness. But so it was, and so it is with Jesus. Out of his innocent sacrificial death, we the guilty ones are acquitted and set free. From his wounds we are healed. From his death, we obtain life. From his grave, our graves are overcome. With Jesus the innocent receive punishment and the guilty go free.
The results, as with all that went before with the miracles of Jesus, show us a God who accomplishes his purposes with strange, unlikely, and paradoxical means. He blows off our sense and expectation that a rational appraisal of causes should produce predictable results. From the means that Jesus uses, common sense would always conclude the opposite results, or better yet . . . no results at all. If you fish in the deep during the day, reason would have it, you catch nothing. If you put water into the jar, water is what you would pour out. And only a few are going to eat if you distribute a few loaves of bread and a few fish. Most are going to go hungry. And, goodness me, if you put spit into a blind person’s eye . . . well, you just make an embarrassing mess. But not with Jesus. Not with Jesus. He does the seemingly impossible. He takes common, mundane, even outrageously silly means to accomplish incredibly wonderful things for us. Out of small things, we get big results. And out of fallen means, we get holy results. And out of death we get life. Out of the atoning sacrifice of the innocent One, we the guilty are acquitted and set free. With the God who reveals himself in His creation and Law, everybody gets what would be both expected and deserved. Sinners get punished, the cursed get a cursed existence. But, the God who has so loved the world, the God who is with us in Jesus, Immanuel . . . this God comes to save us from all our ills and to gain for us relief and removal from the curse of sin.
So this morning, this same Jesus has shown up to be with us, His Church. And He tells you more outlandish things, just like He did with Peter, James, and John at the lake. If you will humble yourself . . . you will be exalted. If you loose your life for His sake . . . you will find it. If you will die to sin you can live a new life with Him. If you will confess your sins, He who is faithful and just . . . will not bring you punishment . . . but will forgive your sins and cleanse you of all unrighteousness. And in a few minutes, He will tell you that if you will just come forward for some pretty ordinary bread and wine, He will give you His very own body and blood. And when you physically eat and drink them, he promises to nourish your soul with the forgiveness of your sins. But then, as he will forgive your sins, this is not to imply that you were not already forgiven in the first place. He did that already when he splashed that forgiveness on your forehead when you were baptized. You have had it all, but you always need more. Make sense? Only when you embrace the foolishness of the Gospel does any of this make sense. But then, incredible as it may seem . . . they did haul in a great catch of fish, the water turned into great wine, and with spit sight was restored to a blind man.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. A-men.