Once when [Jesus] was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, the crowd was pushing in on him to better hear the Word of God. He noticed two boats tied up. The fishermen had just left them and were out scrubbing their nets. He climbed into the boat that was Simon's and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Sitting there, using the boat for a pulpit, he taught the crowd.
When he finished teaching, he said to Simon, "Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch."
Simon said, "Master, we've been fishing hard all night and haven't caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I'll let out the nets." It was no sooner said than done--a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch.
Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell to his knees before Jesus. "Master, leave. I'm a sinner and can't handle this holiness. Leave me to myself." When they pulled in that catch of fish, awe overwhelmed Simon and everyone with him. It was the same with James and John, Zebedee's sons, coworkers with Simon.
Jesus said to Simon, "There is nothing to fear. From now on you'll be fishing for men and women." They pulled their boats up on the beach, left them, nets and all, and followed him.
1. In Are you running with me, Jesus? prayers by Malcolm Boyd, might be retitled today, Are you fishing with me, Jesus? Here is a prayer from that book which gives some insight on this passage.
I'm scared, Jesus. You've asked me to do something I don't think I can do
*I'm sure I wouldn't want to do it except that you asked me.
*But I don't feel strong enough, and you know that I lack the courage I'd need. Why did you ask me to do this? It seems to me that John could do this much, much more easily, Lord. Remember, I told you I'm afraid to stand up and be criticized, Jesus. I feel naked in front of everybody, and I can't hide any part of myself.
*Why can't I be quiet and have peace and be left alone? I don't see what good it will do for me to be dragged out in front of everybody and do this for you. Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying I won't do it. I'm just saying I don't want to do it. I mean, how in hell can I do it?
*You know me better than anybody does, but then you go and ask me to do something crazy like this. I can't figure you out. I wish you'd just leave me alone today, but if this is what you think is best, I'll try. I'll try. But I don't want to. Pray for me, Jesus.
2. How do you imagine Jesus spoke his word of commission? One image of style of speaking comes from John Greenleaf Whitter's hymn, Dear Lord and Father of Mankind (#358 in The United Methodist Hymnal and taking into account the language of his day). John connected this Jesus/Simon event with GOD/Elijah, "Breathe through the heats of our desire/ Thy coolness and thy balm;/ Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire:/ Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire/ O still small voice of calm!"
What similarities and differences do you find with these two commissionings?
3. Where does the first word of "be not afraid" fit into your life. When we finally catch on to the presence of GOD it is a scary thing--where will I be led? what will I have to put away? what will I have to learn? What Mary heard at the Annunciation Jesus passes on to Simon and you and me -- be not afraid. In today's consumer oriented society we need to hear, again and again, this word to encourage us to change our orientation from fishing for resources and more goodies to fishing for people and new community.
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