Living with Luke (13): Luke 5:1-11

            Luke the Evangelist
 is traditionally symbolized by a winged ox or bull –
             a figure of sacrifice, service and strength.                                                                                                        The ox signifies that Christians should be prepared to sacrifice themselves in following Christ.

Luke 5:1-11: Calling of the First Disciples
5 One day Jesus was standing beside Lake Gennesaret when the crowd pressed in around him to hear God’s word. Jesus saw two boats sitting by the lake. The fishermen had gone ashore and were washing their nets. Jesus boarded one of the boats, the one that belonged to Simon, then asked him to row out a little distance from the shore. Jesus sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he finished speaking to the crowds, he said to Simon, “Row out farther, into the deep water, and drop your nets for a catch.”
Simon replied, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing. But because you say so, I’ll drop the nets.”
So they dropped the nets and their catch was so huge that their nets were splitting. They signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They filled both boats so full that they were about to sink. When Simon Peter saw the catch, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Leave me, Lord, for I’m a sinner!” Peter and those with him were overcome with amazement because of the number of fish they caught. 10 James and John, Zebedee’s sons, were Simon’s partners and they were amazed too.
Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid. From now on, you will be fishing for people.” 11 As soon as they brought the boats to the shore, they left everything and followed Jesus.

Luke’s account of Jesus’ calling of his first disciples follows on his announcement of Jubilee in his astonishing sermon in that Nazareth synagogue.  This Jubilean proclamation involved freedom for all sorts of troubled and downtrodden folks and carried with it a troubling of the lives of those invested in and benefitting from keeping things the way they were.  Remember, the opposition of Jesus’ homefolk in Nazareth, when they realized the implications of his Jubilee junket!

Jesus illustrates this concretely when he calls these first followers.  He borrows their boat and uses it as his chancel to preach to the people gathered beside Lake Gennesaret.  When he finished, Jesus asks the tired and frustrated fishers to row out again and cast their nets.  With little hope because of their own failure earlier in the day, they grumpily did as he asked.  Casting their nets again, they found themselves overwhelmed by the catch they gathered.  This abundance almost sank both of their boats!

This abundance is Jubilee for them.  Stunned, these veteran fishers cannot even imagine what has happened to them.  Such is the wonder and power of Jubilee.

Like a good teacher, Jesus uses this incident to frame his call to discipleship.  “Fishing for people” is a loaded metaphor.  Jesus obviously intends a positive resonance with it, given the abundant catch that prompted it.  Yet it has a darker side as well.  In the Old Testament this ”fishing for people” imagery is negative, connoting judgment (Jer.16:16; Ez.29:4-6; Am.4:2; Hab.1:14-17).

Jesus wants his followers to be aware of the import of the mission to which he calls them.  No one can remain neutral to this news.  Jubilee means great freedom and joy, on the one hand, and grievous upset and turmoil, on the other.  God has put this great Jubilee in motion through Jesus and there is no middle ground.  Jesus invites these Galilean fishers to share in this great moment of salvation history.

And to this great moment we too belong!  The mantle of sharing with Jesus in this great Jubilee movement.  What we call, and all too often easily dismiss, evangelism is nothing less than Jesus’ Jubilee Junket!  Great import attaches to this junket, for us and for those who hear us and experience our witness.  We do not judge, to be sure.  We announce the gracious welcome of God, the reversal of unjust conditions, and the arrival of the long-promised new creation to any and all who will hear.  They will hear it as either good news or bad news and respond accordingly.   The ultimate judgment belongs to God.  The privilege – and the peril! – of bearing this news is ours!


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