As a congregation we follow the main Christian festivals, but don’t follow the Lectionary readings. However, each year between Christmas and Easter we retrace the story of Jesus in one of the Gospels (including John). This year we are reflecting on Luke and during Lent I’m using Tom Wright’s book on Luke, ‘Lent for Everyone – Year C.’
So, I’m now rereading some of the material I have already used for Sunday studies and I’m thinking about it again. It’s amazing how having another look at a passage can open us up to the fresh impact of things that we saw before.
The story of the calling of the first disciples in Luke is told quite differently from the other Evangelists, and in Luke 5:1-11 the central character among the disciples is Peter. It was his mother-in-law whom Jesus had just healed; it was his boat that Jesus borrowed from which to speak to the crowds on the shore. One senses from the story that Peter was still very sceptical about Jesus, although a depth of respect for who he was and what he had done meant that he tolerated the advice of Jesus (a carpenter from inland Nazareth) that he, Peter (a born-and-bred fisherman from the fishing town of Capernaum), should trawl the nets again in daytime when they had caught nothing all night at the prime fishing time. ‘OK Boss, but it’s a waste of time.’
The unexpectedly huge catch of fish not only gives Peter a new and startling insight to the nature of Jesus, it also shines a light into his own soul. He sees for himself the kind of sceptical, negative and pretty faithless person he has been and is deeply conscious that he is not worthy to associate with Jesus. ‘Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man,’ is all that he can say. But Jesus has other ideas. It is exactly because Peter has become aware of himself and the gulf between them that Jesus can take him, form him and use him to draw people into the Kingdom of God. Yes, there are plenty of other times when Peter will need sorted out, but this initial turn-around was so important.
As I thought of this afresh I began to wonder if it’s only when we get to the point of saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord,’ that we come to the best place for Jesus to take us into his circle and use us for his Kingdom.