Sixth Day of Lent

Luke 5:1-11
5 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 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.

4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

5 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.”

6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 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.

8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 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.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

Having preached his first sermon in all the solemnity of the synagogue and narrowly escaping death on the back of it (Luke 4), Jesus now changes location and preaches outdoors in the ordinary circumstances of a person's everyday working life.

I like the fact that Jesus doesn’t confine his ministry only to those ‘religious’ aspects of a person’s life, the places where he, Jesus, has a measure of control and power because he is the expert. Jesus is fully prepared to mix it in the work-a-day lives of people. Not only that but he is prepared to make himself vulnerable and dependent.

We’ve no idea from the reading why Jesus asks Simon to put out a little from shore  (Luke 5:3). He may have done it because the crowd was large and was pressing in to hear and he was running out of space as he was moved down the shoreline.

But, intriguingly, it may simply be that he wanted to enlist Simon’s help.

Whatever the reason, we are presented with the lovely picture of Jesus, sitting in a  boat a little way out from shore and teaching the crowd gathered on the beach. And who is it keeping the boat steady in the tide and the wind, keeping Jesus facing his audience? Why, it’s Simon of course. Jesus is here dependent on the skills and experience of Simon.

This is another aspect of the question of authority which we considered yesterday. Jesus was a carpenter’s son, not the offspring of a fisherman, so we may reasonably assume that whatever practical skills he has gathered at this point in his life they extend to reading the grain in a length of wood, or the measuring of a cut or the wielding of a mallet. But not to deciphering the movement of water. And so, knowing the gaps in his knowledge, he makes himself dependent on one who is the acknowledged expert.

Authority and authenticity can be proven in our capacity to ask for help in areas where we are not so skilled and the refusal to act like we know everything. It can grow out of our willingness to be with people in the reality of their lives, on their terms, and not on those that we’re comfortable with ourselves because we have set them. And that kind of authority then permits us to ask people to do extraordinary things. Things that may seem foolish to an expert. Or things that call them to go beyond the weariness of their everyday responsibilities, just like Simon, who after a whole night’s fishing and a morning spent cleaning nets, now faces cleaning those nets all over again.

True discipleship bids us enter into the truth of the real lives of people before calling them on to something more.

It’s a lesson that we can often learn only through weakness and that is that people are often more willing to help than we are to ask, particularly if what we are asking lies within their area of experience, passion or expertise. Is there something you’ve been avoiding doing, or doing badly, because to do otherwise would require you revealing a lack of ability or make you vulnerable in requiring someone else’s help? Why not turn to someone better equipped for it than you, and ask for help?

I think I’ve got this.
I think I have it all together.
I think I have the measure of it.
This thing called life.

I don’t need help.
I won’t reach out for assistance.
I can’t reveal how difficult I find
This thing called life.

And then I meet you Jesus,
The One who called it all into being
The One who spoke a word and it was so.
The one who asked for help
Merely to speak to a crowd.

Be with those who are too proud,
Too scared, too hurt, too isolated,
Too wedded to their own power
To seek the help of others.

Make me one of those
Who knows the limits of my ability.
Make me one of those 
Who in humility seeks help.
Make me one of those
Willing to do again
What I had already done before
If by doing it I can lift someone’s burden

Make me like Simon

And like Jesus