Fifth Sunday of the Year

Posted on Feb 12, 2019

  10 February 2019

It was a gift, maybe payment for using the boat from which he preached. Jesus had seen a large school of fish not far from where they were moored– not at all uncommon in the sea of Galilee. And so he tells Peter–who had not caught anything all night,  the best time for fishing during that season to lower the nets.

We read this story and think, oh, what great faith Peter must have had in Jesus –to do that since he knew they wouldn’t catch anything.

But there is another way to read this story. While Jesus had been preaching, Luke tells us, he had gathered a large crowd, many were still milling around, perhaps waiting for Jesus to come to shore.

Peter, who was the fisherman, had seen enough men like Jesus come and go in his life. Itinerant preachers who used flowery words to stir up the people and then rob them, raise their hopes and then take off.

He knows there are no fish.  Lower the nets to expose this faker, sure he would, and so he does. But the joke is on Peter. His plan backfires and he is the one who is exposed.

And so his reply when he comes to shore makes all the sense in the world: “Leave me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” In other words: I’m sorry.  I wanted you to be wrong, I wanted to expose you, to have a little laugh at your expense. It was wrong of me.

Jesus could have used the experience to further embarrass Peter. He could have played the crowd, and won an even greater following. But he doesn’t.

As quietly as possible he tells Peter to get up, not to be afraid,and he makes a friend that day of the man who wanted to expose him.

God does not rejoice in our failures, in our embarrassment, in our tricks which backfire.

God only asks that we learn from our meanness; to treat others as we would want to be treated, and to believe in the even greater miracle that those who set out to hurt us can become our friends.