“Jesus – More Than A Teacher”
St. Luke 5.1-11
01 July 2018
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor
+ In the Name of Jesus +
And it came to pass that the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the Word of God, while He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret… And He sat down and taught the people from the boat. (Lk. 5.1,3)
The crowd has some urgency. Not to see miracles. Not to receive bread to fill their bellies. But to hear the Word of God. Moses once told Israel that God had humbled his people in their forty years in the wilderness and fed them manna from heaven to teach them that “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Dt. 8.3) These children of Israel by the sea shore, unlike other crowds that press in on Jesus elsewhere in the Gospel accounts, seemed to have gotten that point. Teach us they say.
So they are blessed. “Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it.” (Lk. 11.28) This chancel may have had those words painted in German over this arch at one point. Blessed are they who show some urgency to hear the Word of God. There is life there, in that Word of God. Man lives by it, truly lives, life created and sustained and made holy.
Of course Jesus wants people to have life and have it abundantly. He is the Word of God incarnate. He cannot help but speak. So He borrows Simon’s boat, puts out a bit and uses the water and surrounding hillsides of the shores of the Sea of Galilee (called in this passage the “lake of Gennesaret”) as a natural amphitheater, speaking to this crowd, a boat for a pulpit, teaching them the Word of God.
But that’s all we hear about it. He sits down in the boat, teaches. But we hear no content. What did He say? What rhetoric did He employ? Did He say something pithy, memorable? Did He speak special wisdom, some insight to help the people along in life? Luke is silent. It was the Word of God. Maybe that’s enough to know.
And when Jesus had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Teacher, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” (Lk 5:4–5)
“Master” Peter calls Jesus, a master teacher, an authoritative teacher. In ancient Greek literature, the title is used of some teachers of famous figures in Greek history, of Aristaeus the tutor of Dionysus; of Olympus the tutor of the god Zeus; and of Pherecydes the teacher of Pythagoras. For you math majors out there, that’s the tutor of the person who came up with the Pythagorean Theorem, to find out the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle.
So Simon Peter has Jesus pegged as a great teacher. After all, it’s what we’ve all witnessed alongside of him, so to speak, up to this point. The crowd pressed in urgently upon Jesus to hear the Word of God. Jesus taught them the Word of God. Peter respects that.
And despite nothing to show for a night of toil in that boat, and despite going to the work of cleaning the nets, “Nevertheless,” says Peter, “at Your Word I will let down the nets.” At some level, Peter is a fisherman. It’s who he is. He wants to fish, he wants to catch fish, he wants to sell fish. He wants to make his living. So he’ll give it a try. Let down the nets like the “teacher” says.
But St. Peter soon discovers that Jesus is more than a rabbinical teacher, more than a tutor who has profound things to say, or who leads his students to be more brilliant and knowledgeable than they had been before.
The fish come forth from the lake like a fisherman’s dream come true. Enough fish to break the nets, to fill two boats, and cause them to sink, and they shatter Peter’s world. This man is no ordinary man, not just a great teacher, He is more than a teacher. Peter trembles at Jesus’ knees. For Jesus is changing Peter’s reality and his vocation, and that of James and John too.
“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. (Lk. 5.8-11)
No more fishing with nets. No more fishing for fish. From now on you will be catching men alive. Like Jesus. Like Moses and the prophets. Man does not live by bread or fish alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Blessed are they who hear that Word. Jesus is going to send men out to speak His Word to many people.
“Do not be afraid,” Jesus says. “You caught the fish you thought you wanted, Peter. But you will not keep them. You will not sell them. You are coming with Me. Your life, as you knew it, is over. Now you will catch others. You will put them to death and raise them to life, even as you have been caught.” Peter, along with James, John, and the crowd by the seashore, have been caught by the net of God’s Word, the Gospel, through which the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.
Now if we only had an ounce of the urgency to press Jesus to hear more of His Word and keep it and take it to heart. Now if we only had an ounce of the fear and trembling before Jesus that Peter had, to realize that what Jesus gives at His Word is a new life, at the expense of killing you off to the old sinful life, a change from the old way of working and living for one’s self, the way the devil would have us live, and see that Jesus is not just some teacher of one of the great systems of moral living that exist in the world, some set of teachings and principles that one can choose or not choose in the smorgasbord of life decisions. Instead, God grant us clear hearts and minds to see Jesus as more than just a teacher. He makes you clean and holy by His Gospel, taking you up into His Kingdom, given faith in Him to receive His blessings and to extend His blessings to your family, friends, neighbors who need His saving Word.
Sometimes in the Church we’re tempted to make Jesus just a good teacher of people, like He and His Word are something we have to sell, that we have to convince people that it is to their benefit to believe in Jesus. Sometimes there is even talk about what kind of bait to use to catch the unchurched, such as good education programs, or coffee shops, or a good youth program, or a sermon series about some relevant topic that gets your attention, and all too often, appeals to the sinful flesh. You can see those on some of the electronic signs outside of other churches you might drive by, or on their websites.
Our Lord is no bait fisherman. Our Lord fishes with nets. There was no soft sell, no hard sell, no luring or befriending, nor were there any clever speeches or marketing devices. The fish were scooped up alive out of the water. They caught good and bad fish, clean and unclean. Everything in the path of the nets came up. Notice too that our Lord did not stand in the boat and explain to Peter how He could be a better husband, how he could raise his children to be honorable men and women, how he could find peace and comfort and certainty in this broken world. Jesus is not just a teacher. He just started sinking the boats. He’s going to kill the old and bring in the new for Peter, James, and John.
That is how disciples are made. They are killed and made alive. They are exposed. They are caught in unexpected places. The net of His Word and Gospel is thrown in, at Jesus’ Word and command, by His apostles and preachers, as the Word is preached publicly in the Church, His Word and Sacraments are given in His name by the Office of the Holy Ministry. And you are called to show forth the fruit of your faith, to confess your faith to your neighbors in your vocations, to support the Ministry of the Gospel, to invite those around you to come be a little urgent and have a little fear of God and hear His Word with you and so be blessed along with you – with the clean conscience and clean heart that comes with the proclamation of forgiveness on account of Jesus.
For Jesus is more than a teacher. He is the Lord of Life, who allowed Himself to be pulled under by the weight of the fish He caught. He was pulled under by the weight of Peter, James, John, you and me and all men. We are caught alive, unharmed, rescued from those dark waters of sin, death, and the devil’s power, not to return there ever again, but to stay safely in the boat. But Jesus goes down to the depths of the grave to pay the ransom for your liberty, for your new life in Him.
Jesus is also the Giver of Life. Death could not hold Him. His Word is true. The Father is well-pleased with His sacrifice. Death has no more to demand. The sea had to give up her dead. The debt of sin is paid in full. Jesus lives. He rises from the dead, order arises out of chaos. He rises that He might be with those He loves, with those He rescued, children of God, a Bride immaculate and beautiful, the beloved of the Lord.
The fishing here is quite simple. In holy Baptism, men and women, boys and girls, drown the sinful flesh and are raised with Jesus out of the sea to new life in Him. The preaching of the Gospel and the confessing of God’s Word in the world does catch men alive, no tricks, no gimmicks necessary. The Lord provides. You are His, and you are His hands in this world. Your good works beat back the darkness, restore order and beauty to creation. Your good works support and encourage and enable the Office of the Holy Ministry, the preaching of the Gospel, the giving of the Lord’s Body and Blood to His Children, the pronouncement of the Holy Absolution upon the penitent and the like.
Thanks be to God. He teaches. But He is more than that and has done more than that. The Lord has provided for you and blessed you through Ministry of St. Peter and those who follow in that Office, and thus along with Peter, you died to this old life of sin and its consequences, and received a new life in Christ, and are saved.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +