July 1, 2018
Peter and the others were cleaning up after fishing all night. The crowd was pressing in on Jesus so He commandeered Peter’s boat. Then He told Peter how to fish.
But Peter knew how to fish. He had brought all of his knowledge, skill, and experience to bear already. He had used the best practices of his day. But Peter has faith. He says, “Master, you don’t know about fishing. This won’t work. But out of respect, at your word, I will suffer it.”
That is really as good as faith gets on this side of glory. We are always of two minds. Part of us, the new man raised up in us by Baptism and through daily repentance and forgiveness, submits to God’s Word. The other disbelieves. It thinks it knows best. It doesn’t expect God to hear our prayers or take our cause. By God’s grace, the Holy Spirit suppresses the part that. He causes us to say the thing that is true, such as, “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty,” even though our hearts and minds are divided.
Peter suppresses his flesh and does, in an outward way, what Jesus says. He lets down his nets. No doubt, Peter had prayed for this sort of catch all night, much the way that we pray to be millionaires. He gets what he thought he wanted and it threatens to kill them. The nets are breaking. The boats are sinking. Peter and his brothers stand accused. Their works can’t save them.
Peter responded to the fish not with faith but with terror. When he prayed for fish, he didn’t quite know what he was asking for. So it is with us when we ask to be rich or to get a popular or to get material gain. But now, when the fish come, Peter asks for something evil. He asks for Jesus to depart. He recognizes that he can’t stand in the presence of God because he is a sinner. Imagine this and shake with fear: Peter would rather drown than have to remain in that holy presence. His reasoning makes sense in the moment, but is fatally flawed. If Jesus departs, Peter drowns and goes to Hell. Asking Jesus to depart is asking to be in Hell, to be away from Him. That is not what Peter needs or really wants.
Jesus knows better than Peter what he needs and what will satisfy him, not fish and certainly not His departure. He does not depart. He does not give Peter what he asked for. He abides – but in abiding He makes a change in Peter by grace so that Peter can abide in His presence and not be destroyed.
“Do not be afraid” is pure Gospel. With that sentence He proclaims Himself to be not Peter’s destruction but his salvation. He has not come for retribution or vengeance. He has not come to be Peter’s judge or to provide temporary material wealth. He has come in peace, to be Peter’s friend and to set Peter to his vocation.
Thus does Peter forget about the fish he once lusted for. He leaves the dirty nets and his boat. He also leaves the fish that are probably worth something like $10,000 in modern commerce. He leaves everything and follows Jesus. He loses nothing and gains everything but that is only evident to those with eyes of faith.