Sunday, February 10, 2019

Sermon -- 5th Sunday after Epiphany (February 10, 2019)

LUKE 5:1-11

JESUS CATCHES A SINNER TO CATCH MORE SINNERS.

In the name + of Jesus.

     When Simon Peter got what he wanted, it almost killed him.  When Simon Peter did not get what he asked for, it saved him.  This is typical of sinners.  We are convinced that we know better than our Lord what we need and what makes life worth while.  And so our prayers are often focused on what serves us.  We pray for what will make us happy, prosperous, and comfortable in this world.  Because if we have these things, we believe, then we will have everything we really need.  That, we think, is the highest good.  And that is what Simon Peter and his business partners were laboring for as well.
     But it had not been a good night.  They labored all night for fish.  It was not a leisurely fishing trip with the guys, drinking beers and watching a bobber go up and down.  It was business.  It was their livelihood.  Whatever they caught was to be taken to market and sold so that they could support their families.  But at the end of a long night, they did not come home happy, prosperous, or comfortable.  They came home tired and disappointed, and perhaps even worried because they came to shore empty-handed. 
     Peter and his friends cleaned up their nets and prepped them for the next night out on the Sea of Galilee.  Meanwhile, the crowds had gathered around Jesus at the shore, and he wanted to preach to them.  So, he got into Peter's boat, drifted out a bit, and from the boat taught the crowds on the shore about the kingdom of God.  Peter listened as he tended to his nets.  And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4)  Jesus was not a fisherman.  Peter and the sons of Zebedee were.  They knew when to fish and where to find them—at night, in the shallow waters where the nets can be dragged.  So, you can almost imagine the condescension in Peter's voice as he replied to Jesus: “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!  But at your word I will let down the nets.”  And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.  They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them.  And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. (Luke 5:5-7)
     Simon Peter had gotten what he wanted, and it almost killed him.  At Jesus' word, Peter pulled in the catch he had been dreaming of.  He hauled in a catch that would be legendary in the fishing industry.  This would be a banner day at the market.  Simon Peter got his prosperous catch.  Prosperity meant comfort, and comfort meant that he and his family would be happy!  But it was too much.  His partners came over to help.  They filled both boats, and both boats were so weighed down that they began to sink.  When Peter got what he wanted it almost killed him. 
     Peter and his companions were suddenly close to dying.  Actually, that isn't quite true.  They were always close to dying.  It is just that the boats sinking because of the great catch of fish had made it obvious how close to death they were.  Jesus had exposed the reality that death is imminent and unavoidable; and they were panicked.  It is no different for you and me.  We are all close to death.  We don't think much of it.  We go about our business, we make our plans, and we assume that we will not face any problems.  We usually don't.  So, we devote our time and energy to making ourselves at home in this world.  We pursue happiness, prosperity, and comfort.  We long to make this world our home, failing to recognize that our time in this world is temporary and that death can come at any moment.  It is always just a heartbeat away.  And after death comes eternity. 
     It has never been the goal of the Christian faith that people are to be prosperous, comfortable, and happy in this world.  That is what our sinful flesh craves, but it is not what God promises.  And it is not where God focuses your attention.  This world and all its wealth and glory is passing away because it has been corrupted by sin.  If you devote yourself to this world and its glory, you will perish with it.  Repent.
     Peter was in a full blown panic on the Sea of Galilee.  In part, it was because the boats were beginning to sink in the deep waters.  Another reason is because of the catch of fish.  It was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it was given according to Jesus' word.  Peter recognized that God was in his boat.  Overcome with the fear of death, with the burden of sin, with the reality of judgment, and with his Judge standing before him, Peter uttered an urgent prayer.  Simon Peter … fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:8)  Peter dealt with sin and death the way most sinners do—he wanted to ignore it.  He wanted God to go away so that he did not have to face sin, death, and judgment.  Not even his prosperous catch or comfortable paycheck made a difference.
     When Simon Peter got what he wanted, it almost killed him.  When Simon Peter did not get what he asked for, it saved him.  Jesus loved him too much to let him deal with sin and death on his own.  Jesus instead stayed with Peter and then summoned him, “Follow me.”  Peter followed Jesus all the way to Calvary where Jesus dealt with sin and death for him.  Jesus does not ignore our sins.  He has taken them up from us in order to suffer the curse we have earned.  He went to the cross to give himself into death as the sacrifice which pays for the sins of the world.  He went into death for us so that could put an end to death for us.  His resurrection means that death has been put to death and that heaven is open.  So, Jesus saves you.  He takes your sin away.  He delivers you from the grave.  Jesus has snatched you up out of the depths of sin, death, despair, and damnation, and he has brought you into the nave—to the safety of the Holy Christian Church.  He also remains with you the strengthen and keep you in his Church until he returns to raise you up from the grave to live with him in glory forever.
     Nowhere does God promise that you will be prosperous, comfortable, and happy in this life.  If God chooses to bless you that way, thank him for it.  But his promises are for you to receive forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation.  It does not matter if you are stinking rich or dirt poor, if your life is filled with laughter or tears, whether your day is marked with ease or hardship, whether you are strong or frail, whether you are healthy or dying.  What does matter is that you have a Savior who loves you, who takes away your sins, who marks you for a glorious resurrection, and who assures you of an eternity where the glories do not fade, where God's people are continually comforted, and where the joys do not end.
     The Lord Jesus called Peter and his partners, James and John, to a new vocation.  Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”  And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:10-11)  Jesus called sinners to follow him and told them that they were going to catch men, pulling them out of the depths of sin and death into the nave—that is, into the kingdom of God.  It is a message so significant and special that we might expect God to entrust that to angels.  He does not.  He called sinners like Simon Peter, James, and John to do this.  He also calls you to proclaim the good news. 
     Why you?  Why sinners?  Because you know what it is to be bothered and burdened by sin and guilt.  You know what it is to fear death and to dread God's judgment.  You know what other sinners are enduring in their sins.  But more than that, you know what it is to be shown mercy.  You know that the answer is not to beg God to go away, but to flee to him and cling to him.  For, you know what it is to have a God who will not abandon you, but who loves you no matter what you've done.  You know what it is to have your sins washed away, to have God's favor proclaimed upon you, and to have the confidence that you will be welcomed into God's heavenly kingdom.  And since you know these things, who better than you to declare them to sinners who also need them?
     And now we finally get to the theme of the sermon: The Lord Jesus calls sinners to catch other sinners.  He calls his saved to proclaim salvation to others.  Your Savior has delivered you and has even taught you to change your prayers so that he does, indeed, give you what you want—forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation.  Your prayer is also that God will also deliver these things to your loved ones.  Good news: You get to deliver them because you have them.  The Lord Jesus calls sinners to catch other sinners.  He saves us from the depths.  He brings us to the safety of the nave of his Church.  And he will finally bring us to the heights of heaven.  There, we will prosper.  We will be comforted.  And we will be happy in our Savior's presence forevermore.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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