Trinity 5: Peter is Called to Be a Fisher of Men

Teaching from a Boat and Fishing
Jesus teaches a crowd from the boat and enables Peter and his companions to catch a large number of fish (Luke 5:1-11). From Martin Luther’s Church Postils (sermons), published in 1563.

Lessons: 1 Kings 19:11-21, 1 Peter 3:8-15, Luke 5:1-11
Hymns: LSB 869, 688, 750, 696, 826

Listen to the entire service here (the sermon alone is above).

      Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

      Have you ever heard people talk about a loved one who has gone astray—perhaps that person is living in immorality, or doesn’t ever come to church or maybe says he rejects the faith altogether? What do they say about that person? Often you’ll hear, “Well I know what he is doing (or saying) isn’t right, but deep down I just know he still believes in Jesus!” You see, deep down, Christians want to believe for that other person. They are often trying to convince themselves that the person living outside of grace still has the grace of God.

      But do you know what is really deep down in every person? Sin! Corruption! Wickedness of every sort! Even unbelief. Jesus says, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23). That’s what’s deep down!

      It’s hard to accept it when a loved one has rejected important Christian teachings, doesn’t come to church, lives a sinful lifestyle, or has rejected the faith altogether. It is painful. We know what it means. It means that if that person dies tonight without turning from his sin in repentance and faith, he would be condemned. But rather than acknowledging this reality and doing the right thing, we sometimes try to comfort ourselves by thinking, “Deep down I know he believes.”

      Let’s not lie to ourselves. It does no good. If others are caught up in sin or false belief, it is our duty and obligation to address them. If we want them to receive the same salvation we enjoy, we need to love them enough to help them turn from their sin and live.

      Two weeks ago, we heard Jesus teach the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin. Right after those two parables in Luke 15 is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. These three parables all show the joy in Heaven and Earth when sinners are received back into Christ’s fold.

      Last week we heard Jesus say, “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye” (Luke 6:42). He’s saying that we are to be merciful. As forgiven Christians, we seek to ensure that our neighbors also have this same forgiveness by faith in Christ.

      In today’s Gospel, the people are pressing about Jesus to hear the Word of God. This is a mark of true Christians. They honor God and uphold the Third Commandment. If we wish to be saved, we need to uphold the Word of God as our dearest treasure, and trust that Christ sets us free from sin, death, and the devil through that Word.

      Now, if these people in today’s Gospel are pressing about Jesus to hear Him preach, He must be saying some pretty nice things, right? Not offensive or creating waves, but delightful, humorous, and entertaining, right? They all know He’s God, so they all are attentive to His every word, right?

      Actually, no. This account takes place very early in His public ministry so most did not yet know who He is. He preaches on serious matters. As St. Matthew records, He preaches, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).

      This shows us additional characteristics of Christians, who already desire to press about to hear the Word of God. Christians keep on listening to the Word even if it may offend their sensibilities. We know that this Word is spirit and truth, and it sets us free as we hear Christ. So, we listen to it, knowing that God’s Word is the best for us.

      Also, Jesus says, “Repent.” As Christians, we live lives of repentance. Martin Luther wrote in the first of the 95 Theses, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent,’ he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.” We don’t just repent for the big sins or the ones that trouble us the most; instead, we plead guilty of all sin. We continually confess our sin and receive from Christ forgiveness of our sin. Repentance isn’t some one-time act. We never grow beyond repentance, for we keep on sinning.

      So, Jesus preached repentance. He also preached forgiveness of sins in His name, for He would pay for the sins of the world on the cross—dying in the place of sinners to grant sinners His righteousness.

      As Jesus preached, the multitude pressed about Him to better hear Him. The only trouble is that as they got closer, then others couldn’t hear Him. So He hopped into Simon Peter’s boat and used the boat as His pulpit to preach the life-saving, life-giving Word.

      Once He was done preaching, He said instructed Peter to let down his net for a catch. At first, Peter objected. Peter used his reason in a way God does not want. Yes, God gives us reason. Reason is good. It helps us survive, grow in understanding, invent things, and be creative. But reason can also get in the way of faith. When a baby is baptized, we believe that it is impossible for him to not believe. He has to believe. Why? God works faith in that baby through Baptism and that baby doesn’t have reason yet to destroy his faith. You see, reason isn’t the cause of faith, but reason can hinder faith.

      Peter reasoned, “We fished all night (which is the best time to fish) and didn’t catch a thing. How do you expect us to catch fish now? The fish just aren’t biting, especially at this hour.”

      People frequently use their reason to get in the way of God’s Word. They feel that God must not have meant what He said about immorality or condemnation. Some reason that God’s Word contains errors. Others reason that the creation account is false. Still others reason that it’s all a bunch of fairy tales. Or they try to reason passages of Scripture away, such as “You shall not murder.”

      That’s not how God intends for us to use our God-given reason! Instead, we use reason to come to greater understanding of God’s Word, to be subservient to that Word, and to accept the Word as truth even if it doesn’t always seem so reasonable.

      That’s exactly what Simon Peter did. After saying that they caught nothing all night, Peter adds, “Nevertheless at Your Word I will let down the net for a catch.” Peter realized that Jesus should know more than Peter does. He figured it’s always best to listen to Jesus.

      For those who, deep down, believe in Jesus, that is exactly what they will do. They will listen to Jesus—His entire Word, for God’s Word is a light which no darkness can overcome. God’s Word shows us God’s love, peace, mercy, and grace!

      So Peter goes out, lets down his nets and catches not just one boat-load, but two boat-loads of fish!

      Peter could have begun jumping up and down, saying, “Now I know there is a God! Now I really know He loves me! Look at the fortune I just stumbled upon! I am so blessed!” At first, it looks like he might. He goes up to Jesus and falls down at His knees. But then Peter does something that seems so ungrateful and unreasonable. He says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

      Seriously, Peter? Telling Jesus to go away?

      Yet that’s what many do today. Whenever we replace God’s Word with our opinions, we are telling Jesus to leave. Whenever we refuse

to repent, we tell Jesus and His forgiveness to depart from us.

      But then Peter explains why. It turns out Peter is different than most people who want nothing to do with Jesus. Peter says, “For I am a sinful man, O Lord.” He really doesn’t want Jesus to go away. Instead, Peter knows that he has no right to receive anything good from Jesus. Peter knows his sin and his unworthiness. He knows he has no right to be in the presence God Almighty. He knows that no sinner came come into God’s presence and live. Here, Peter is confessing his sin. After all, Peter heard our Lord’s call to repentance.

      Yes, Peter is mistaken in asking Jesus to depart, but he’s correct in admitting he’s a sinner and does not belong in God’s presence.

      All who are Christian deep down know they do not deserve anything good from God. They know that they deserve God’s wrath and displeasure, temporal death, and eternal punishment.

      But what does Jesus do to this repentant sinner? He tells Peter, “Do not be afraid.” By telling Peter this, Jesus is saying, “You will not die. I have forgiven you. You are a child of God.”

      Every time you hear the absolution, this is what God is saying to you. Do not be afraid. You will not die. You will live. You are forgiven. You are a child of God. Christ shed His blood for you.

      This is why we are Christian. To receive forgiveness, life, and salvation. To learn of a merciful and gracious God. To receive Christ.

      Jesus goes one step further with Peter. He calls him to be a minister of the Gospel. Jesus says to Peter, “From now on, you will catch men.” And Peter followed Jesus. He didn’t first cash in his fortune from all the fish he just caught. He realized that he had a much bigger fortune—forgiveness, life, and salvation. Deep down Peter probably wanted the treasure. But instead, he received a greater Treasure—Christ and His forgiveness.

      Jesus takes this sinner and places him in the Office of the Ministry. Our Lord’s track record has been the same. Only sinners become pastors. Forgiven sinners are sent by Christ to feed His lambs.

      It is a blessing to serve you in this holy office. It is my prayer that you have been edified by faithful preaching. It may not be what you want, but it delivers what you need. So continue to press about to hear the Word and receive the Sacrament. For through these means, God showers you with His love, forgiveness, and salvation.  Amen.

      The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen