Luke 5:1-11 offers us the compelling narrative of Jesus calling his first disciples. Jesus comes into the story as the place, the person, in whom heaven and earth meet. He perceives the same horizon running through another as he encounters Simon. When Jesus says, “Let’s set out into the deep water and let down the nets for a catch,” he’s not just talking about the deep water of the sea, but more so the human deep. Yes, the human deep is the place where woundedness, resentment, and anger are uncovered, but it is more so the residence of stunning beauty, holiness, divine gift revealed in the particular, seeded inspiration. In this story, deep water will be explored and celebrated relationally.
Simon takes a deep breath and says, “Master, we fished all night and didn’t catch anything! But if you say so, I’ll go. Here I am.” Together they will venture to the locale that has previously been fruitless, empty. How do you imagine the good news of God’s love (heard as it was proclaimed to crowd at the seashore) is touching him? Is he perceiving a new horizon in himself, albeit dimly? Or is it the promise revealed in his human encounter with Jesus that casts new vision for the future, moving him beyond resignation?
The story is brief and the description action-packed. “They caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them.” I am struck by the term “they.” Is this a reference revealing the presence of Andrew, who has not been mentioned prior? I wonder if , until now, Simon’s ego filled the boat in a manner that has left little room for Andrew’s? “And they came, and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.” The abundance is now overwhelming not only Simon but the other three as well! This is becoming a communal experience.
At this point I’m suspecting the story isn’t so much about fish as about those who do the fishing–and those who will.
–In the very next verse, the fellow that Jesus has been talking to is referred to as “Simon Peter” for the first time. In the scriptures a name change is an outward signal of a new internal reality. It is not until Chapter 6 that Jesus tells Simon that he is going to be calling him Peter from now on. Verse 5:8 is alerting us that the transformation has already begun.
–If this were primarily about fish, Simon would be scurrying to develop a business plan and to connect with potential investors as fast as he possibly could, given that following Jesus’ advice has led Simon and Andrew and the Zebedee boys to the best fishing territory they’ve ever found. This would surely be a boon to their finances.
But Simon Peter falls down at Jesus knees and begs him to go away! “Get outta here, away from me . . . for I am a sinful man, one who misses the mark!” Jacopo Bassano’s The Miraculous Draught of Fishes portrays Simon Peter pleading with Jesus even as his partners are “letting it be.”
Heaven and earth are having an awesome encounter right in Simon Peter’s guts! Jesus has led him to a deep and dynamic place where Simon Peter is having a primary experience of God’s realm breaking out, in his spirit and in his boat. He scrambles anxiously to locate the mustard seed of faith within. This is a very good place to be!!!
Jesus joins with him, focusing his vision beyond the anxiety: “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” Note that by this juncture Jesus’ words are not a call but an announcement. ” Don’t be scared. This is what you will be doing. You have everything you will need. And you are already “on the way,” in spite of what your panic is telling you .”
“When they brought their boats to shore they left everything and followed him.” The Greek, aphentes (aphiemi) hapanta, “left everything,” conveys a letting go of the previous shape that life has taken in order to embrace the new shape. But we don’t need to move ahead in the story too quickly.
We have just begun Lent. A good place for us to be is in the boat with Jesus and Peter, the awesome encounter of heaven and earth taking place within our guts, our deepwater horizon awaiting discernment.