“Nevertheless, at Your word, I will let down the net” Trinity 5 2024

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30. June 2024
Trinity 5
Luke 5:1-11

Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

Jesus has been healing the sick, casting out demons, and preaching. That’s the Jesus job. But what have Peter and the other disciples been given to do? Follow Him, to be sure. That’s the common calling of all disciples, Christ-followers. To follow the Way of Jesus is to listen and do what He says. But as you have experienced, that’s easier said than done. As Jesus says, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24). The life of the Christian is simple, but it is not easy. We are being conformed to the image of Jesus through pain, suffering, toil, and crosses. 

Every difficulty of being a Christian is a consequence of our rebellion against God’s Word. Sometimes, our suffering is due to the rejection of the Word by others, what we call “the world.” The world hates Jesus and wants nothing to do with Him. They will reject everything from the created order of male and female to the primacy of Jesus’s Word over reason and intellect, and finally, the bestowal of the righteousness of Christ in the forgiveness of sins. We are justified freely as a gift in Christ, resulting in a free conscience, a fully lived life, and the promise of resurrection and its new heaven and earth. 

Instead, the world tempts us to reject the lordship of Jesus and make ourselves lord. The world wants serpentine wisdom to rule our thoughts, words, and behavior. The world thinks that eternity is yours to grasp, with its utopian visions of a world with Christ. The world is guided by the lust for power, the greed for more, the control of the weak, the tyranny of the strong, and the illusion of human progress. The world’s works and ways would not be such a tempting force for us if it did not have an ally in the sinful heart. We agree and apply worldly “wisdom” to our lives, governance, and institutions. And the church is not immune. 

From the history of the kings of Scripture to Israel in exile to the early Church to the medieval and finally, modern day, there is a constant push-pull within the Church between what Jesus says and what our heart wants. This is why the Reformers coined”semper reformanda,” the ecclesiastical equivalent of the Humanist phrase “ad fontes.” Pardon me for teaching you a little Latin. You already know “semper fidelis,” so I know you can learn it. The Reformers reminded us constantly to reform but did so from the font of godly wisdom, the Holy Scriptures. Coupled with the three solas, you relearn every Reformation Day you get it. We’re always looking to slough off anything and everything that gets in the way of Jesus. We set aside any Word but the Scriptures. We forsake any hope but that received by grace. We don’t receive Jesus in any way except through faith given by the Holy Spirit through the Word alone.

Jesus, in today’s Gospel, anticipates the temptation to import worldly strategies, techniques, and methods into His Church. His focus is on Simon Peter first. “When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’” Simon has only followed Jesus for a few days since Jesus healed his mother-in-law from the fever. He’s heard Jesus teach extraordinary things. But now Jesus is encroaching on Simon’s wheelhouse. What could Jesus possibly know about fishing? In another account, Simon reminds Jesus that they had toiled all night and received nothing. Letting down the nets in the heat of the day makes no sense. However, either seeking to prove Jesus wrong or having faith in Jesus’s Word compels Simon to do what He says. “But Simon answered and said to Him, ‘Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless, at Your word, I will let down the net.’”

And Jesus gives them an overwhelming catch of fish, overwhelming even their friend’s boat. We learn that Jesus’s Word is not simply spiritual instruction but has earthly authority. As He will say to the disciples as He makes them Apostles before ascending, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Or, as you will sing in a few minutes, “His glory fills the heaven and the earth.” His Word commanded all creation into being. His Word sustains the cosmos day by day. And His Word will recreate the heavens and the earth and raise you on the last day. “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path” (Ps 119:105). 

Thus, we confess not only that Holy Scripture is powerful and efficacious but also that it is “the only judge, rule, and norm according to which, as the only touchstone, all teachings should and must be understood, and judged as good or evil, right or wrong.” (FC, Ep, Rule and Norm). Or, if you prefer, our congregation’s constitution states, “The Word of God demands that a Christian congregation not only conform to the Word of God in doctrine and practice (Ps. 119:105; Gal. 6:6-9; II Tim. 4:1-5).” What this means is precisely what Jesus was teaching Simon. We follow Jesus’s Word even when it contradicts worldly wisdom, knowledge, wants, and desires. And you might be surprised when Jesus accomplishes fantastic things beyond what you could imagine.

“When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’ For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken.” You see? Jesus’ Word is powerful and does what it says. Or as Isaiah proclaimed, “[My Word] shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” 

How does Jesus give Simon, James, John, and the rest of the Apostles to gather Christ’s little fishes? The Gospel is cast like a net to draw in a great load of fish. The fishermen are the preachers of the Gospel, and the fish are those who hear. The two boats remind us of the Old and New Testament Church, which is united in Christ and filled to overflowing with those who have believed in the Gospel. Simon lets down the nets according to the Word of Jesus and catches the fish according to His Word. Like Simon, all those called to proclaim the Gospel are joined in the confession that they are sinful men, but Christ’s Word accomplishes the drawing in of many fish through such weak flesh. 

Today that Word is given to both gather His Apostles and teach them how Jesus will catch countless hosts in His Church through that Word. And His Word is given to guide the Church, every member of the body, in the way you should go in every station and vocation of your life. God’s Word is the sole rule and norm for family, church, and civil estates. God’s Word, Jesus, is the governing Lord for everything in heaven and on earth and left- and right-hand kingdoms. The Word is the gift that conforms you, your marriage and family, this congregation, His Church, and even this world to the image of the Father’s Son. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin