(Condensed from 2007)
At Your Word. Simon Peter’s three simple words carry a lot of comfort. What could be so comforting about something that rolls off his tongue almost as an afterthought? Simon and the other fishermen toiled all night and caught nothing. Now Jesus wants to go fishing in the middle of the day? Is He crazy? That’s the worst time of day to catch fish. The fish are all at the bottom. It will be next to impossible to catch fish.
Not so with our Lord. Perhaps Peter knew it. Maybe that’s why he says at Your Word I will let down the net. Or maybe it is an innocent comment. Or maybe he thinks Jesus is crazy.
Peter sounds a lot like you, doesn’t he? Our Lord promises to give you everything you need to support your body and life. But you won’t take His Word at face value. You suffer so much pain and loss that it seems as if He doesn’t care. Even though you can’t always get what you want, you get what you need…and that’s never enough. You pray give us this day our daily bread more out of habit rather than trust.
That’s the thrust of Peter’s seemingly meaningless remark. Peter thinks, “Lord, you’re crazy to suggest we go fishing at this time of day. We’ve worked hard all night for nothing. Now you’re playing the fishing expert? I’ll go along with it because You said so…but only because You said so.”
Peter’s three little words show a lack of fear, love, and trust in God above all things. Now you see why Peter quotes Psalm 34 in today’s Epistle: He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. Peter learned the hard way to keep the Word of the Lord and not merely listen to it.
Peter’s words are spot on, I am a sinful man. The miraculous catch of fish shows Peter that he is a sinner. He did as the Lord commanded, but the intention of his deed was almost out of spite rather than a joyful response to Christ’s Word.
Then there is Peter’s request, depart from me. Peter’s intentions were good. But he missed the mark. When God’s Word shows you are sinful, the last thing you need is the Savior leaving. How often have you thought about not coming to Divine Service or not reading God’s Word because you are really sinful? The last thing you need is to say something like “I’ve got to get right with God before God can get right with me.” When you are at your lowest, that’s the perfect time to let go of your doubt and let God fill you with the sure and certain hope of forgiveness, life, and salvation.
The pithy saying is true: God is in the small stuff. You visit the doctor when you are ill. You don’t think about the fact that the doctor is God’s Hands helping you get better. You go and see him or her because they know how to help you. Sometimes it takes a lot of prodding and poking to see a doctor. We don’t like waiting. It’s a hassle to deal with insurance. The prescription may or may not help. Because so many people bug you with comments about seeing a doctor, you go to get them off your back. When you feel better, you thank your friends for annoying you like that. You may even apologize for being hard-headed!
We have a Great Physician more powerful than any doctor in the world. When you are sick in sin, you visit the House where the glory of the Lord dwells. Sometimes you go out of pure habit. Sometimes you go because there is no place left to turn. You come to His House because He knows what you need and He is willing to give it to you.
Sometimes it takes a lot of poking and prodding to go to church. Many people are anxious about coming back to church if they’ve been gone a while. We don’t like the fact that church is different from the world. It’s a hassle to dress up for church. The prescription is not what we expect. Yet the Lord gives the antidote to all your burdens in His House. When you make it part of your weekly routine, you don’t even think twice about being here. You come because you know you need more of what the Lord Christ offers here.
Jesus sends men to catch men alive. That’s the thrust of what Jesus means when He tells Peter he will be a fisher of men. Peter, James, John, and the rest will catch men alive and give them life. It’s odd to say that the Twelve will catch men alive and give them life. But that’s what happens when you are caught in the Lord’s net. Outside the net, your life is really death. Inside the net, your life is really life forever with the Lord. It makes no sense to be caught in a net and be free. But you are free from the trap of sin, death, and hell. Holy Baptism brings you through water and makes you captive to Christ. He catches you and cleans you with baptismal water. He feeds you with His True Body and True Blood in His Supper. He keeps you steadfast in the Faith to all eternity.
At Your Word. What comfort those three little words bring! The Lord catches you, keeps you safe in Him, and provides for you. The Lord saves you not out of spite but out of great love and mercy. It’s natural for us to think we’re smarter than our Lord God. Nevertheless, we take Jesus at His Word and cling to His Word now and forever.