Rev. Misa Furumoto
5th Sunday after the Epiphany, February 6, 2022
What a beautiful scenery today’s Gospel brings to us… It is surely one of my most favorite episodes of Jesus. It does not require any explanation. Just sit back and relax, close your eyes, and listen to this Word of the Lord once again. This time, I will read it from a different translation, New International Version. Feel the breeze coming from the lake, smell fish, and hear the babble of the crowd.
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Simon Peter and his partners all left everything like boats, nets, wallets, jackets, and an enormous amount of fish they had just caught which could have been changed into so much money, and followed Jesus. Why? Because they were called by Him. “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” They were caught by Jesus instantly.
This seems like a miracle just happened to Jesus’ disciples. But at the same time, it is something happening to each one of us like every day. Let us go back and follow the story one more time and find out what is really happening.
When Jesus appeared on the shore of Gennesaret and people gathered crazily to have a glimpse of Him and listen to Him speak, what was Peter, then called Simon, doing? He was showing his back to Jesus, washing his nets. It was as if he had no interest in listening to the word of God. There was a reason for it: the night before that day, he and his partners had worked all night long and caught not one fish. He was surely so tired and so sleepy, and of course extremely sad and hopeless. He was washing the nets in despair.
Jesus found Peter out of hundreds or thousands of people, and knew him instantly. He approached Peter and said “Can you put out this boat a little? I want to sit on it.” Peter reluctantly accepted His request, and they sat down in the boat together. Jesus began to speak to the people left on the shore with a surprisingly loud voice. Peter, listening to Him from the best seat available, wondered, “Wow, what is this man? Can’t understand a thing what He is saying but I feel my heart burning. What is this!?”
As Jesus finishes his speech, He makes another strange request to Peter. He now tells him to put out into the deep water and let down his nets for a catch. Peter goes, “Oh boy, what is this guy saying now… You can’t catch anything in this middle of the day, and what’s more, we caught nothing all night long yesterday.” But looking into His serious eyes, Peter had no choice but say “Well, if you say so…”
You know the result. Peter and his partners caught too many fish that their nets were breaking and the boats were nearly sinking. Then Peter suddenly realized that this man was the Lord and he himself was someone totally unworthy for this man. He got scared and shouted “Go away from me, Lord, I am a sinful man!” Jesus then gently said to him and his companions, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they came back to the shore, they left everything and followed Jesus.
Can you remember how this miracle happened to you? How did you come to know Jesus? Of course, if there were ten people, there would be ten different ways. But we should know that Jesus always calls us first, not us. Remember Jesus once said to the disciples, “You didn’t choose me. I chose you.” (John 15:16) You are now here in this church listening to the word of God not because you wanted to, but because you were called.
And we are not called because of our qualifications, character, or potential. God’s call is unpredictable, and it is unmerited.
Do you remember where you were called first? Did you hear God’s calling in a holy place like a church or cathedral? Maybe not. Like Peter who was found by Jesus while he was just washing his nets, most of us are called amid our daily life. See the shepherds on Christmas Eve, they heard the voice of angels while watching over their flocks at night. It is a sign of the work of God’s kingdom reaching into the arena of human life.
And lastly, do you remember at what point of your life God called you. What was your condition like then? Was it the happiest time of your life? Again, maybe not. When God found Peter, he was trapped in despair with his life, so were the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem. The suffering of their lives was so big that they had no room in their hearts to turn to God. Yes, when Jesus appeared, Peter was washing his nets turning his back on Jesus. But Jesus spoke to him over his shoulder. Do you remember that this happened also to you?
Peter who was once showing his back to Jesus is now looking the back of Jesus and following him, leaving everything behind. This is called repentance, or metanoia, meaning “turning yourself toward God”.
You are now called again and again by Jesus throughout your life, called to “catch people” which means to bring others in despair to the Lord. What action will you make?
In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.