Do Not Be Afraid
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Pastor Deb Kielsmeier
Simon Peter had met Jesus before this. He had been teaching in their synagogue. And afterwards, Jesus came to his house and healed his mother-in-law from a fever. So, Peter knew he was exceptional. Perhaps that is why he has no qualms about taking Jesus out on his boat when the crowd on the shore got so large the Jesus had nowhere to stand.
On Lake Galilee near Capernaum there are a series of steep inlets that zigzag the shoreline. When you push a boat a bit offshore, the inlet becomes a natural amphitheater. You can speak from the boat in a normal voice, and those upon the banks of the inlet will hear you better than if you were standing on the shore with them.
The crowd hung to Jesus’ every word – including Simon Peter and his fishing buddies. When Jesus finished teaching, he turned to Simon and said, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” “Master, we’ve worked hard the entire night and never caught a thing.
But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Peter addresses Jesus here as “Master.” Master, we have worked all night long… The GK word is ἐπιστάτης is a sign of respect and is also translated as teacher.
By this time, the sun was high in the sky. Peter knew – like any fisherman worth their salt – that fishing at this time of day was a futile venture. Plus, he was exhausted after a frustrating night of toil. But because you say so, Jesus…. I will let down the nets.”
Well, you know what happened… the result was against all odds. The catch was so overwhelming that they filled both the boats until they began to sink under the weight. You can just imagine the frightful excess and chaos of it all! Fish flipping up everywhere in a mountain of silver – and then — looking into the crystal blue water seeing more and more and more fish – straight into the horizon
It hit Simon Peter in a flash of insight. THIS is no ordinary rabbi. This is no ordinary catch. This Jesus has the power to create an abundance from scarcity… to create something out of nothing. He is the One.
Simon did a faceplant, falling headlong across the fish at Jesus’ feet. “Lord, have mercy upon me,” he gasped, “for I am a sinful man.” LORD. Lord, have mercy on me. Peter now addresses Jesus as LORD. Κύριος, pointing to a sovereign, a power, deity… even God.
This was an Epiphany or a “Christological” moment. Simon saw the Presence of God in Jesus; and in that light – he saw himself… not as a strong, capable fisherman, but as an unrighteous sinner, unworthy to stand in the presence of God. It was extremely humbling, even a frightening experience. Don’t be afraid Simon,” from now on you will be catching people.”
The thing is – we know that Simon Peter wasn’t particularly gifted or exceptionally capable – We witness his many screw ups in the gospel accounts, don’t we? Jesus ends up rebuking him, quizzing him, commending him and yes, grieving over his denials. But Jesus doesn’t leave him. When all is said and done, he calls him again. This time to: “Feed my sheep… tend my lambs.”
What I love about this story is the way it highlights how God is in the habit of choosing and calling the most unlikely, ordinary folks – like you and me.
1 Corinthians 1:26-29 says: Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no onemight boast in the presence of God.
The truth is that none of us are ever worthy. And when we encounter the living God. And the Spirit opens our eyes and hearts to the power and holiness in Jesus the Christ, we find ourselves at a loss… and can only confess, as Simon Peter did, “Lord, I am a sinful person.”
YET. Jesus chooses us. God chooses YOU. And God invites You to receive his forgiveness and love and saving grace.
But it doesn’t stop there. No, God is calling you as well. Calling you to follow Jesus into a life for which you were created. God desires to work in and through you and your life by the Spirit’s power…to bring the Kingdom of grace and salvation to this world.
Peter left his nets. He left the miraculous catch of fish, his livelihood, his family – everything… And walked into a whole new life – and a purpose bigger than anything he’d ever imagined. And I, for one, am glad he did. I can’t imagine where we would all be if the disciples had not left it all to follow Jesus… Talk about a ripple of faith! We are blessed by ripples – not only from the faith of the original disciples, like Simon Peter, but from the generations upon generations of believers who answered God’s call upon their lives. Ordinary folks – like you and me.
God calls us, like Peter, to follow him. It is a tall order. This call to discipleship. It requires us to drop our nets… and give our whole selves, our future, and all we have – to follow. But here is the thing. The One who calls you? The One we follow? He has already given you everything–even his very life. Don’t be afraid… He can provide the fish… and everything else you need.