We often think of miracles as singular events. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Jesus heals the ten lepers. Jesus casts out demons from the man wandering among the tomb... and it is true. Many miracles are once-in-a-lifetime events for people.
But, sometimes, miracles come in pairs. They happen more than once. And when miracles come in pairs, it is helpful to consider how they interact with one another. For example, the feeding of five thousand among the Jews is paralleled by the feeding of four thousand among the Gentiles. From this, we see the expanding ministry of Jesus who has come to save not only Israel but all nations.
The reason I point this out is because in our text we have a miracle that, when read in light of the life of Peter, is part of a pair. The miraculous catch of fish happens not just once in the ministry of Jesus but twice. And, interestingly, unlike the feeding of the five and the four thousand, this miracle happens twice to the same person: Simon Peter.
In the first occurrence, Peter is washing his nets after a long night of fishing. They have caught nothing. Jesus uses the boat to speak to the crowds, and Peter does not mind. After all, it might as well be used for something, since last night was not a good night for fishing. After Jesus finishes teaching the crowds, He turns to talk to Peter and teaches him in a very different way. Jesus will explode Peter's conception of Him as figure of high status (e.g., “master” in verse 5) and reveal Himself to Peter as Lord (verse 8).
Jesus does this by asking Peter to go against his experience, to deny his fruitless night of fishing, to defy his lifetime of knowledge about his vocation, and simply trust in a word from Jesus. When Peter does this, puts out the boat, and drops the nets, a miraculous catch of fish appears. While the fishermen strain to draw in the nets, while others come out to help, Peter turns and looks at Jesus and falls on his knees. He asks Him to go away.
Being in the presence of such a miracle causes Peter to sense his sinfulness and fall on his knees begging not for mercy but rather that this Lord would just walk away.
The second occurrence of this miracle happens at the end of the gospel of John (21:1-8). There, the disciples are out on the shore of the Sea of Galilee fishing. They have spent all night fishing and caught nothing. Suddenly, a figure appears on the shore. He asks them if they have any fish, and they reply they do not. He then instructs them to drop their nets in the water for a catch. Once again, they are engulfed in a miracle. The disciples are overwhelmed and strain to gather the nets because of the large quantity of fish.
This time, however, when Peter recognizes it is Jesus, he does not fall on his knees and beg Him to go away. No, this time, Peter puts on his outer garment to make himself presentable and jumps into the water to get to Jesus as fast as possible. This one who had denied knowing Jesus, who lived with the guilt of that sin, came swimming as fast as he could to Him.
Why? What has happened to make such a difference?
Between these two miracles stands the death and resurrection of Jesus. Between these two miracles is a long three years of following Jesus and watching as heavenly grace breaks forth upon earth. Peter has seen how Jesus cares for those who are in need. To the hungry, He provides food. To the sick, He provides healing. To those who are hiding in shame, He provides a place of honor. To those who have sinned, He promises forgiveness.
Peter has not changed. He is still a sinner in need of forgiveness. But Peter’s knowledge of who Jesus is has changed and, when faced with the choice of living in his sin or entrusting his life to Jesus, Peter rushes to come to Jesus for he trusts Jesus forgives.
Jesus is the One who forgives. He died to pay the penalty of all sin and God raised Him from the dead to live and offer forgiveness to all who come to Him. Because of the love and mercy of Jesus, we can come into the presence of our all-powerful and just God.
So, come today: Come to Jesus. He is here, waiting to receive you. He promises that no sin, nothing you have thought, said, or done, will be held against you. He has risen from the dead and He has come here to forgive. Jesus is here, teaching us today through these memories of miracles, that He has not come to send you away with all sinners but rather to forgive you and receive you and all sinners into the Kingdom of God.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Luke 5:1-11.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Luke 5:1-11.
Lectionary Podcast-Dr. Arthur Just of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Luke 5:1-11.