Getting back into Luke, continuing to follow and attempting to understand Jesus more fully, to be more fully aware of who he was and the purposes for which he saw his own life and ministry. We are coming to the point in Luke’s gospel where Jesus is launching his movement. We’ve dealt with his birth and infancy narratives. We’ve seen Jesus baptized by John and tempted by the devil. We’ve seen Jesus beginning to preach, and the sometimes hostile reactions that might come about when you challenge people’s assumptions that those mostly like themselves are “good” and that those not like themselves are mostly “bad”.
Now we get to see Jesus launch his movement. We get to read and respond to Jesus announcing and enacting the new government, the new social order from God. We get to see up close the new way God wants to arrange human living. It’s called the kingdom of heaven. But don’t get this twisted. The Kingdom of Heaven proclaimed by Jesus Christ is not a kingdom in heaven, but a Kingdom from heaven right here on earth. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven… It is this kingdom Jesus is announcing and enacting.
As he’s doing this, announcing by preaching, enacting by miracle, he’s inviting people to join his movement. And it is a movement. It is a movement of people who will live their lives under the Kingdom of God. But it’s scandalous how he’s doing this, who he’s inviting into his movement. Jesus invites into his movement not the insiders but the outsiders. He calls not the righteous but sinners.I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.
Rewind just a bit. In his hometown, Jesus had been well received until he began to challenge their paradigm of us vs them, the nucleus of their unity, the very glue which held them together, and they become willing to throw him off a cliff.
Having been rejected in his hometown Jesus relocates 40 miles away to Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee. He is enacting the Kingdom of God, preaching and healing. Because of his powers of healing, people were often anxious to touch him. Hoping to be able to teach without being rushed by people trying to touch him, he asks Simon to use his boat. On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and 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, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.
Simon (Peter) had been fishing all night, caught nothing, and is just trying to clean his nets so he can go home a get some rest. Jesus commandeers his boat for the purposes of preaching without getting bum rushed by crowds just wanting to touch him so that they might receive healing from whatever it was they needed healing from. When he’s finished teaching, he tells Simon to put his boats out and his nets down. And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”I don’t know if this is a sign of great faith on Simon’s part or not, but he does do as Jesus tells him. Maybe he’s just worn out from a long nights work. Maybe, like the crowds onshore, he’s heard of Jesus’s miracles already. Clearly Jesus has caused quite a stir and gained some notoriety. Either way, he does as Jesus tells him and let’s down his nets one more time, if only to humor this nascent rabbi, even if the guy doesn’t know a thing about fishing!
And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.Apparently this Jesus fellow does know something about fishing! Simon knows enough about fishing to know that he’s just witnessed a miracle from God. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”Simon immediately sees himself as unworthy of the presence of the man who had nearly sank two boats with the haul of fish. He falls to his knees and tells Jesus, “You don’t want to hang around me, I’m a bad guy…”
In calling his followers, Jesus didn’t pay much attention to the categories of good and bad. We pay much attention to this, but Jesus, not so much. We consider ourselves very good at categorizing some people as good and other people as bad. Usually the way it works is that people who are like ourselves we call good, people not like ourselves we call bad. But as we look at Jesus, he’s not much interested in our categories. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. Simon tells Jesus that he’s a bad dude, Jesus just says Do not be afraid. Yeah, don’t worry about that Simon…from now on you will be catching men.
The categories Jesus is worried about are proud and humble. Peter humbled himself and saw himself, not all those other people (remember something about a log in your own eye?), as being sinful. Jesus tells him, don’t you worry about that,from now on you will be catching men. And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
All four, Simon, Andrew, James and John, gave up their fishing trade and became followers of Jesus. At the moment, maybe it doesn’t seem so important, but as it turned out, this is a BIG DEAL. This is the beginning of the world being changed. This little movement, begun with a miraculous haul of fish after a failed night of fishing for four young fisherman, would continue to grow. We continue to honor these first four disciples by all the things we name after them – churches, schools, hospitals, towns, cities. St. Andrews, St Peter’s, St. John, St. James. How many different things can we think of which bear these names. How many sons have born these names? How about San Diego (Spanish for James), St. Petersburg, Johannesburg.
Four simple fishermen, just trying to make a living. Not the right group of people to start a movement with. Just a bunch of sinners who couldn’t even catch fish on their own. Seems they turned out to be much better at catching men than fish…