In last week’s lesson, Jesus made it clear that rejecting him as a prophet from God was a bad life choice. He traveled from Capernaum to Nazareth and returned to Capernaum to continue his ministry. The town along the shore of Lake Gennesaret (modern Yam Kinneret) is the hub of the ministry of Jesus.
In Luke 4:38, Jesus enters the home of Simon. He did not pick the house at random; it was already his headquarters. Mark 1:29 tells us that Andrew shared ownership of the house. Their mother lived with them, and Jesus cured her.
Simon and Andrew, in the American tradition, were upper middle class. They owned a sizable fishing operation with two or more boats, probably employees, and partners (James and John, who may have been relatives). They could afford a house large enough to hold at least two large families as well as numerous guests (Jesus and his followers). This picture is based on very few clues, but we know the Lake has always been generous with its catches.
In today’s reading, the boys have had a bad day, the kind of day every fisherman knows all too well. While they were striking out, other crews were hauling in the fish. It’s just part of the business. The crews quit early and took to repairing their nets, a constant chore.
We are given a beautiful picture of Jesus teaching the crowd from the boat with his voice reflection off the water like an amplifier.
But, back up a bit. He got into one of the boats. NIV Simon is sitting on the shore working on the nets, and he sees his house guest climb into the boat. He does not fuss in any way. He gets up when Jesus asks him to row a few yards from the shore, and then sits there while Jesus teaches—and his partners continue to work on the nets.
After a tough day of work—unfinished work; unproductive work—Simon willingly takes Jesus out on the lake and works the ore to maintain position while he talks. I believe this is the image of a man who already knows Jesus pretty well. He is probably a follower.
He only gets grumpy when Jesus tells Simon to row out farther. Master, we’ve worked hard all night. NIV But, he puts the nets out as requested and we move into the main point of this reading.
The key sentence is, Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man! NIV Simon calls Jesus Lord, a term used of God, but also of a superior. In the mind of Peter at this point, it is likely a mixture of both. The Apostles always knew Jesus was their Lord and master but could not get their heads around the idea of him being God.
I am a sinful man! This is the key statement. Peter saw Jesus as a man of God, if not God. He may have believed he was Elijah returned. Whatever went through his mind, Peter knew he was unworthy to be near Jesus.
Many American churches have forgotten that Jesus chose sinners to be his Apostles. Jesus wanted sinners to come to him. He spent his ministry surrounded by sinners. We in the church too often reject people we consider to be sinners. We want to sit with properly washed and clothed folks who are just like us—sin free.
We give lip service to being sinners, but as we look at the great unwashed that superior feeling takes over our better natures. When Jesus was first born, shepherds came to visit. They were some of the lowest humans in Jewish thinking, slightly above lepers. Yet, they were the first to visit and were welcome to do so.
Fishermen were slightly above shepherds, but Luke tells us that Simon the fisherman was the first to be chosen by Jesus to be an Apostle.
We all sin in so many ways that are unrecognized by us. Even something we say that should not cause pain may cause it in someone who is going through a difficulty. “How is your mother?” That is not good if I don’t know that his mother died a month ago. Sometimes my tone of voice is heard as a negative by the other person. Deep in thought, I walk past a person who needs to hear a friendly voice.
Jesus always knew what the other needed because he was always in God. Strangers were open books to him.
God does not me love because I am a sinner. He loves me because He does not want me to continue to be a sinner. Jesus has shown us a better way to live, and he has given us the Holy Spirit to help us live that better way. Now we must share with our fellow sinners.
Be righteous and do good.