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Fear Not (St. Luke 5.1-11)

Fifth Sunday after Trinity


“Fear Not”
Paul Norris, Seminarian    

1 Kings 19.11-21; 1 Corinthians 1.18-25; St. Luke 5.1-11

17 July 2022


Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The disciples of Jesus are an unlikely bunch. They are the kind of people we would least expect God to call to preach his Gospel and shepherd his Church. Jesus didn’t call disciples from the religious schools in Jerusalem, but from the shores of Galilee. They were common men from various vocations “Average Joes”. Jesus did not want his words to be spoken in a corner (Acts 26:26), so he called witnesses who would make his works and words known to the world. As we hear about Jesus calling his apostles, we are tempted to think, “Jesus also calls us to gather people into his Church.” While there is truth in this thought,  it is better to consider that Jesus called Peter for you, his Church.

Jesus preaches boldly. He does not do his works in secret. He knows that his words are Words of life. He knows that his works, especially his death upon the cross and resurrection from the grave, are the salvation of the world. Jesus not only went to the cross for your salvation, but he also called apostles, and after them pastors, to preach Christ crucified (1Cor 1:23), so the message of the cross and the Gospel of Christ would go out into all the world.

In the Large Catechism, Martin Luther says, “For neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe on Him, and obtain Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the Gospel. The work is done and accomplished; for Christ has acquired and gained the treasure for us by His suffering, death, resurrection, etc. But if the work remained concealed so that no one knew of it, then it would be in vain and lost. That this treasure, therefore, might not lie buried, but be appropriated and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to go forth and be proclaimed, in which He gives the Holy Ghost to bring this treasure home and appropriate it to us. Therefore sanctifying is nothing else than bringing us to Christ to receive this good, to which we could not attain of ourselves.” (LC II 38,39).

Jesus wants to get his Gospel of forgiveness and salvation to us. As we hear how Jesus called Peter, we are reminded Jesus provides the means for us to hear the preaching of the Gospel, that we know about his death and resurrection, and have everlasting life believing this Word.
But first, before Jesus makes Peter a pastor, he’s got some unfinished business. That morning on the Sea of Galilee, Peter, James, John, and their crew had fished all night. They had worked extra hours trying to find a few fish, but they came up empty handed. Now, the only thing left to do is pack up the fishing gear and head home for some rest so they can try again the next night. But then they see Jesus coming along with a crowd. Peter knows Jesus. His brother Andrew had introduced them a year or so ago. Peter had been with Jesus at the wedding at Cana. Peter has heard Jesus and seen his miracles, and he believes in him.

But in this reading for some reason, Peter is back in his boat fishing. Perhaps Jesus had sent him home for a while. Perhaps Peter had thought the weeks he’d spent with Jesus were all there would be; we don’t know. But now that familiar and blessed face is back. Jesus comes to Peter this morning, followed by a crowd, and asks Peter to take him out onto the water a little way. Peter does, and Peter listens as Jesus preaches. But then Jesus turns to Peter and astonishingly says, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (v 4).

Now Peter could have protested. “Jesus, we didn’t catch squat all night! You can’t catch fish in the daytime! You can’t catch fish in the deep water, we only catch fish in the shallows. You stick to preaching. I’ll do the fishing.” This would be a very human thing to do. Today it might sound something like this, “You do you, and I’ll do me.” That would be the usual way that human reason reacts to God’s commands. We all would like to think we are smarter than the next guy, even God.

Old Adam likes to think that he is smarter than God, and does not trust his Word. Man’s arrogance before God manifests itself among those who do not trust or believe the Word of Jesus in the Holy Supper. They disregard the Word of Jesus who says “This is my body and blood.” Instead they lean on their own human reason which tells them that Jesus cannot be sitting at the right hand of God and also be present at the altar at the same time.
Many heresies have arisen in the history of the Church as men tried to use their philosophical understanding and human reason to work out the mysteries of the faith as it pertains to the nature of God in the Holy Trinity. They can’t do it by faith alone. But God does not call us to understand the how in the mysteries, that’s why they are mysteries. We are to simply trust and believe God at his Word, even when we don’t understand how.

But Peter doesn’t protest or argue with Jesus. He rightfully obeys the command of Jesus. “At your word I will let down the nets” (v 5). And the One who spoke the creative Word on the fifth day and created the fish in the sea, summons the fish to fill Peter’s net. The catch is so big it threatens to break the nets and sink two boats. Peter, in this miraculous catch of overwhelming fish, has his eyes opened and he sees what Jesus is up to. Jesus is making a claim on Peter. This great catch of fish is not to make Peter a great fisherman but instead to end his earthly fishing career altogether. Jesus is saying to Peter, “Now you are mine,” and Peter is afraid.

In the middle of a huge pile of splashing and flopping fish, and in overloaded boat which is about to be swamped and sink, Peter falls down on his knees at Jesus’ feet and begs him, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (v 8). You would think that at this moment Peter might have other things on his mind, but Peter is not terrified of sinking; he is not even afraid of dying. He is afraid of Jesus, afraid of his holiness and wrath, and afraid of the claim that Jesus is making on him. And Peter is right to be afraid.

Our fears tell us about our idols. “What are you afraid of?” The answer to that question is the same as the answer to the question, “What are your gods?” Are you afraid to die, to hurt, to lose, to be lost? Are you afraid of the past, of the future, of what might happen, or that people would find out what did happen? Are you afraid of your parents, your children, your boss, your neighbor? Are you afraid you will be poor and not have the things you want?  Are you afraid you will lose your job and no longer hold a highly regarded position? Are you afraid of pain, afraid of yourself, afraid of the devil? Whatever it is, that is your god.

The First Commandment teaches us “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” But how many other things are we afraid of? Peter has it right that day, knee deep in stinky, slimy fish in a sinking boat: he is afraid of Jesus. Peter is afraid because of his sin. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”  (v 8) The last thing that sinners want is Jesus to be hanging around, because his coming should terrify us. No matter what trouble we’re in, this is our most profound and pressing concern: Jesus should judge us because of our sins.

But he doesn’t. In the presence of Almighty God Jesus comforts us and provides us with all good things, including himself. Instead of condemning you because of your sin, Jesus took your sin, and bore your sin on the cross. And there, instead of condemning you, Jesus became the curse, afflicted, stricken, forsaken in your place. Jesus suffered for you, and died for you. You are acquitted for Jesus’ sake from all your guilt and punishment; you are justified, and without price the righteousness of Christ is accounted as yours. And by his glorious resurrection, Jesus has defeated sin, death, and the devil forever, giving you eternal life.

Jesus looks at Peter terrified in his sin and says, “Do not be afraid.” (v 10) “Fear not, there is nothing to be afraid of. I am not angry. I did not come to judge you, to condemn you, or to destroy you. I’ll take care of your sin. I will make a way for you to be alive and live with me forever”. To St. Peter and to you, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.” “Trust my Word and come to me confidently and joyfully.” ”I have chosen you.” (John 15:16) When the knowledge of our sin and God’s holiness pushes out every other fear so that we are terrified of God’s wrath, and our only response is “God, I fear you”, God says to you, “I am nothing to be afraid of. Look, here is my Son, crucified and risen for you.”

And then Jesus says to Peter, “…from now on you will be catching men.” (v 10), Jesus is saying to us, “Here is my servant Peter, I sent to preach you the Gospel. Here are my servants John, James, Paul, sent to you as witnesses of my death and resurrection. Here is Moses, Abraham, David, Isaiah, preachers of my name and kindness. And look, here is your pastor, sent in my name to bring the Gospel to you, to forgive your sins, to baptize you, to put the body and blood of Jesus into your mouth.”

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Jesus is not silent. God has given us His Word, Baptism, Absolution and the Sacrament of the Altar. These are his nets by which you are delivered from the world. So great is God’s love for you that he wants to be preached to you. He wants his promises to be heard by you. He wants you to see his goodness and provision in your life as he gives you your daily bread. He wants to be believed by you. He wants his name, his work, and his Word to echo in your ears and in your hearts because he loves you.

Therefore, Rejoice in the calling of St. Peter because in his calling you see that Jesus loves you. Jesus not only died and rose again for you, but he calls Peter, his apostles, and his pastors to preach his Word so that you would know him, believe in him, rejoice in him, and have eternal life in his name.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

The Peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen. 

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