Donald R. Elly, M. Div.
I’ve most often seen this encounter of Jesus with Simon as a “call” story in which Jesus is calling the disciples to become his pupils and he will be their rabbi. However, there is no call.
Luke describes a scene in which Jesus is standing beside Lake Gennesaret being pressed by the crowd and observing the empty boats left by the occupants who are busy cleaning the nets after a fishing failure. Empty nets still have to be maintained (cleaned of sea weed, algae and other unwanted items and tears in nets need to be repaired). Tired and worn out they are packing up for another day.
Have you ever had that kind of experience? Simon and his partners maybe frustrated, but “that’s the fishing business.” You just get ready to go out again, trusting that if you prepare you will have better results the next time.
When this happens to me I’ve found that what Simon and his partners do to prepare for the future is absolutely necessary. “One is never going to succeed at fishing (or another other line of work) 100% of the time.” The last thing Simon is expecting is to encounter God. Jesus sees the empty boats as a means of getting space to speak to the crowd pressing upon him. He gets into Simon’s boat and asks him to move away from shore so he can carry on a conversation with the crowd. Tired from the effort of fishing the night before Simon is waiting quietly in the boat as the preparations for future fishing is underway.
It seems to me that Peter’s experience is similar to that of Moses who encounters a burning bush while tending his father-in-law’s sheep and God engages him in a way that changes the course of his life. While being a shepherd, Moses ends up on Holy Ground and is forever changed. Jesus, having conversed with the crowd engages Peter.
Were you Peter, the experienced fisherman, would you have obeyed Jesus? Peter does, life changes. For Luke this is how God works–through ordinary people like Mary, Elizabeth and Isaiah. Epiphany opportunities are all around us, are you ready? Simon was. Jesus is waiting for you!
February 10, 2019; Cycle C; 5th Sunday of Epiphany
Isaiah 6:1-8 (9-13); Psalm 138; 1st Cor. 15:1-11; *Luke 5:1-11