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We get a sense of the kind of attention that Jesus was getting, from St. Luke's report of "one occasion" when He was standing by the "lake of Gennesaret." Luke reports, the "crowds were pressing in upon Him to hear the Word of God."
They had it right. If you want to hear the Word of God, you've got to get close to Jesus. Not the stars or the psychics or the god of your choice. You hear the Word of God from Jesus. He is, after all, "the Word of God made flesh." (John 1:1). "This is my Son, My chosen One. Listen to Him!" (Luke 9:36). The writer to the Hebrews puts it like this, "In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and various ways. But now in these last days, God has spoken to us by His Son…" (Hebrews 1:1).
So, "the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God." That's a pretty good picture of the Church right there.
It would have been nice to hear the sermon he preached on this "one occasion" but Luke doesn't tell us. If what follows however is connected at all to what He had just said, then maybe He had spoken to the crowd about the way God rules over His creation, from all the birds in the air to all the fish in the sea. In the beginning, God gave Adam 'dominion' over the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. But after he sinned, Adam had a hard time convincing the fish to swim into the net. But now, Jesus is about to present the 2nd Adam, Himself, who has dominion over creation, even the fish in the sea. God is making everything right again through Jesus Christ.
After the sermon was over, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." This of course was not at all what Peter wanted to do. He and the others were tired. They had been out fishing all night and hadn't caught a thing. And besides, if you know anything about fishing the Sea of Galilee, you know that you don't fish during the daytime. You fish at night when the fish come up to the surface where your nets can reach them. But if you're going to fish during the daytime, then you do so in shallow water where you can see the schools of fish and know where to throw the nets. This is before sonar and fish finders. But Jesus said, "put out into the deep."
Against all reason and will, Peter said, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets."
Peter's a great example for us all right here. How many times have we thought that we knew better than the Lord? "You don't understand things the way the really are Jesus. This is, after all, the 21st century. You can't expect the bible to apply to our modern times. If I tried to do what you're asking me to do, and the way you want me to do it, it would never work."
But Peter works this out much differently. He thinks, "this makes no sense. It's not at all the way things work. But, I've just seen this man cast out demons and heal my mother-in-law of her fever and heal diseases by the touch of His hand." And so Peter says, "But at your word I will let down the nets."
That's the sound of faith talking there. And how pleased Jesus must have been with Peter. He knows the thoughts of our hearts and minds. He knows when our hearts and minds say "no, no, no" and He doesn't condemn us for that. But how pleased He is when we let His Word overrule all of that and we do what He says just because we trust Him.
And of course, no sooner do the nets hit the water than all the fish in the sea jump into them. I've always pictured Jesus with a bit of a smirk on His face as the men struggle to pull the fish into the boats.
But for Peter's not smiling at all. For a professional fisherman, Peter's reaction to this tremendous catch of fish is very strange. Peter suddenly realizes that this whole thing has not been a lesson in how to catch fish at all. Jesus had gotten him into the boat and out into the deep where He would have Peter's undivided attention. No cell phones or text messages or twitters. And there, Jesus opened Peter's eyes to His true identity – both Peter's true identity and Jesus' true identity. This is a crisis on the sea that has nothing to do with the fact the boats were beginning to sink.
What is it that causes this strange reaction to this incredible catch of fish? Peter realizes that if this Jesus can see into the deep blue sea and summon the fish to the surface, then He may also be able to look into the deep black sea of Peter's life and see some of those things that swimming around down under the surface too that Peter always thought were too deep for anyone to see, let alone summon to the surface.
Each of us has carved out a life for ourselves as best we can. And along the way, we've made plenty of mistakes and done some things that we're ashamed of. And we've buried them deep within us so that no one else can see them or expose them. We've got our secrets. Secrets that we don't want anyone else to know. Secrets that we've hidden even from ourselves. But they're as real as those fish in the sea.
But then one day Jesus Christ confronted us. As long as we thought about Jesus as someone who could do stuff for us, we were just fine with Him. But when we realize that He sees us and all of those dirty little secrets we've buried down deeply within us, we're very uncomfortable having Him so close to us.
This is what happened to the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah had his life and career and he had made it to the top of the ladder as far as prophets go. He worked in the King's palace and he was the royal prophet. But even prophets and clergy can go through all the motions and avoid a confrontation with the Lord. But one day the Lord confronted Isaiah and Isaiah saw the Lord, sitting upon a throne, high and mighty. And you would think that for a prophet this would be the ultimate experience. But for Isaiah it was a shattering experience. "Woe is me! For I am lost. (I am undone.) For I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips." Isaiah realizes that the Lord sees his whole life. His secrets are no longer secret. In fact, he realizes that they have never been a secret to God.
Remember how David tried to hide his great sin of murder and adultery and act like everything was just fine, only to be exposed by Nathan the prophet.
Speaking for the Lord, Isaiah writes, "Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are hidden in the dark, and who say, 'who sees us? Who knows us?'" (Is.29:15). The writer to the Hebrews answers Isaiah saying, "No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:13).
Even Moses, the man of God, knows that you can't hide anything from God. "You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence." (Ps.90:8). Jeremiah knows the same. "Can a man hide himself in the secret places so that I cannot see him? Declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? Declares the Lord." (Jer.23:24). St. Paul writes that the day will come, when "God will judge the secrets of men by Christ Jesus." (Rom.2:16).
At his confrontation with the Lord, Isaiah pronounced the divine curse upon himself. "Woe to me. I am lost." What would Peter do? Peter fell down at Jesus' knees and said, "depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man." And isn't that our response to Jesus every time He confronts us? Peter realized that Jesus saw right through him. The light shattered the darkness. And Peter preferred the darkness. "Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man." As if to say, 'I know who I really am and I know that You have come to expose me. But I would prefer that You would depart from me and let me alone in my sin. I don't want to be exposed and I don't want to be changed.'
St. John writes, "And the judgment is this, the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone that does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light lest his works should be exposed." (John 3:19-22).
You want to know why so many people want nothing to do with Christianity and won't come to church when you invite them? I think this is why. It's not that they doubt that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that His Word has authority. It's because they believe that He is and they don't want Him interfering with their lifestyle. They don't want to be exposed. It's not a pleasant thing. The only honest conclusion is, "I am a man of unclean lips." "I am a sinful man."
Like I said, all of this takes place in the deep. In the beginning, the Spirit of God hovered over the deep, and He still does. And wherever the Holy Spirit hovers, there is the power of God ready to create something out of nothing by the Word of God. And ready to recreate something by the blood of Jesus Christ.
In the beginning, the Spirit took what was formless and void and by the living and active Word, gave it shape and filled it with content. And when He was done His work, He saw all that He had made, nothing was hidden from His sight, and the whole thing was very good. No deep, dark secrets, nothing hidden.
By the same power, the same Spirit of God takes what He created, by the redemption that comes through Jesus Christ, makes it very good again. God is making everything right again through Jesus Christ.
Don't be afraid to let Jesus take you out into the deep. That's where the Spirit hovers, and where secrets are revealed, and where sins are exposed and where all is forgiven. Jesus will not depart from you, sinful man that you are. He takes you into the deep so that you may confess your deep dark secrets and hidden sins just like Isaiah and Peter did, that He may tell them to "depart from you" for you are His beloved, His precious, His chosen.
The Spirit carries the authoritative word of Jesus Christ into the deep, into the deep water and it teems with fish, into the deep darkness of our heart and it teems with new life. Empty nets are filled and sinful hearts are emptied and then filled with real meaning and real joy and real life – sometimes, more meaning and joy and life than we know what to do with.
Sound too good to be true? Not at all. It really happened just like it says. The nets were really ripping at the seams and the boats almost sank. And Peter and his partners were really confronted by Jesus Christ. And "when they had brought their boats to land, the left everything and followed Him."