5th Sunday after Epiphany – C LSB #’s 609:1-4, 833, 411
Text – Luke 5:7
They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come & help them. And they came & filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN SUNK?
This goes back to my days as an electrical contractor – the 11 years before I began my studies at seminary. I was working in the attic of my cousin’s garage, cutting a hole in the ceiling to install an electrical outlet for a garage door opener. About half of the hole was cut when I had this very distinct feeling that is best described with the words, “Aw oh!”
The next thing I knew I landed solidly on the cement floor 9 feet below. I was looking up at a hole in the ceiling about 6 feet in diameter. It was now plenty large enough to install the metal box for the electrical outlet. The board I had been standing on, in the attic, was not nearly as solid as I had thought. By God’s grace I did not break a single bone.
Have those words “Aw oh!” Ever crossed your mind? Then you know what it’s like to be sunk! An uncle of mine was going ice fishing, riding his snowmobile onto the frozen expanse of the Saginaw Bay. He came upon a stretch of thin ice & before he knew it he was sunk. He lived, but had to pay for removing the snowmobile from the water.
Have you ever been sunk? Have the words, “Aw oh!” crossed your lips once or twice? The time of our lives is mostly filled with the normal routines, waking & sleeping, doing the 9 to 5, raising the children, just trying to get by. However, every now & then something very unusual occurs – like falling through a ceiling or driving a snowmobile into the lake.
At those times God is seriously trying to get our attention. By nature, we are terribly indifferent when it comes to God. The 1st disciples exemplify this, & how easily we could play their role. We too, go busily about the tasks of each day, our working or playing, shopping or studying, never once giving a thought to God, or to His plans for us. We even come to church & do not notice Jesus speaking to us through His very words. We sit & stand & sing & pray while in our mind we are washing the nets of our lives. “[Jesus] saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them & were washing their nets.” (Luke 5:2 ESV)
You & I are indifferent to the heavenly Father, but thank God He is not indifferent to us. At Lake Gennesaret the crowd was pressing in on Jesus to hear the word of God, but Peter, James & John are busy washing their nets. So Jesus takes the initiative by getting into Peter’s boat & asking him to put it into the water. Jesus wanted to teach the pressing crowd from there.
Jesus also had another motive. He wanted to get the attention of those three fishermen. The Son of God took the initiative & barged into the daily routine of their lives. And just like this event in the Gospel reading there are times when God barges into our lives to disrupt our daily routine. For your benefit He strives to gain your attention.
When Peter saw the abundance of fish, it was clear to him this was not a normal fishing event & he falls at Jesus’ knees in fear. He knew it wasn’t just the boats that were sunk. He was finished as well. God’s power always gives sinners cause for fear.
As the boats are sinking under the weight of the fish, Peter realizes that his sinful being is in the presence of something holy & almighty. He hasn’t a leg to stand on. Fear overwhelms him. In the face of God’s effortless power, both our sinful & saintly nature tell us, we can never feel free & easy trying to rule our roost. We are certainly not #1.
In sports, to succeed at the top levels, you have to experience the crippling fear of possible failure. The moment you feel that fear you have to embrace it & take on the challenge. Then you can move to a higher level. In a similar way, to grow in faith often involves experiencing the crippling fear that on our own we too are doomed to fail. When it sinks in that, of our own power & wisdom, we are sunk, at that moment there’s every reason to embrace Jesus as Savior. If we reject our Lord we end up like the people to whom Isaiah was sent, & we will hear words like these from the OT reading:
The voice of the Lord said, “Go, & say to this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’” (Isaiah 6:9 ESV) Then Isaiah said, “How long, O Lord?” And He said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, & houses without people, & the land is a desolate waste.” (Isaiah 6:11 ESV)
That’s what people choose when they refuse to surrender to Yahweh’s mercy. He chooses us for a perfect life in the hereafter, but if we refuse that choosing, the fact is we are refusing eternal life & we are choosing eternal death in its place.
The Gospel reading illustrates that, in a small way, by the difference between the disciples fishing all night on their own, & their fishing at Jesus’ request the next morning:
“Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night & took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.’ And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, & their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come & help them. And they came & filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.” (Luke 5:5-7 ESV)
They caught no fish on their own. At Jesus’ word they almost sunk, but in this case, the sinking did not come from their sins. It came from God’s blessing. In heaven, which God freely offers to us, our lives will be so blessed that we will figuratively drown in His gifts. Yet, apart from God we will receive nothing.
God’s power always gives sinners cause for fear, yet, our Lord doesn’t go away from His world, retreating to a far-off corner of the universe. If He did, our planet would disintegrate, but its continued existence means that God is still here. The most important message in this text is not that God can cause a miraculous catch of fish. When the fisherman got to shore, they left all that miraculous catch behind to follow Jesus. The most important message in this text is that, when Peter tells Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinner,” Jesus did not. In fact, the Son of God gives Peter good news, “Do not be afraid…”
Whenever the words, “Aw oh!” cross your mind you do not have to respond in fear, because Jesus came to save the world, not to condemn it. The holy, sinless, almighty God does not withdraw from sinful, hesitant, rebellious people. Jesus does not abandon sinners, or even those who are sunk. Rather, He calls out to them, “Do not be afraid.”
Sinners by nature run short of faith & act in fear. You & I are not able to manufacture trust in our Creator. We cannot even, on our own, rely on Jesus or commit ourselves to Him. Yet, in His power, the Creator has interrupted our lives & called us to Jesus. He has called sinners to find life, not in the things of this world, but in His mercy.
There alone we find rest from the brokenness of sin – sin in our own lives & sin in the life of our neighbor. Our indifference to Jesus can only be healed by the Holy Spirit. Recognizing that, without God, we are sunk is the first step on the path to that healing, but God is faithful, & He will even barge into our lives if necessary in order to rescue us.
May there be many such “Aw oh” moments in your life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Jesus gave His mandate: Share the good news that He came to save us & set us free. Let none be forgotten throughout the world. In the triune name of God go & baptize. Help us to be faithful, standing steadfast, walking in Your precepts, led by Your Word. Listen, listen, God is calling through the Word inviting, offering forgiveness, comfort & joy. Amen. LSB 833.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet