Because Of Your Word
January 17, 2007
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. Jesus Christ is one who never changes, either yesterday, today, or even in eternity. The Jesus who had once looked upon the suffering of the people is still looking upon our own suffering today. The Jesus who had once entered the lives of individuals one by one is coming as the savior into our own lives as well. In the Bible we can see the figure of Jesus as he came into the lives of persons who were suffering from sickness for years and years. We can see the figure of Jesus as he came into the lives of persons who have had hard encounters with discrimination and oppression. Jesus came into the sorrow of the father who had lost his daughter. Jesus had come into the sorrow of the mother who had lost her son. And Jesus Christ also came into the futile emptiness of a hard labor that produces no fruit. Today's passage of scripture speaks of such a figure of Christ. In this way then, for today, I would like for us to take note of Simon Peter, one of the characters for whom Jesus cared and called to himself; because there we will see our own figures as well.
Row Out To The Sea And Drop [Your] Net
2. Where is Peter in today's gospel narrative? He is in a boat -- in which he has rowed out a bit from the shore. Jesus is in that same boat. Sitting down, Jesus is teaching the crowd which is on the shore. A great crowd was listening. In particular, the text says here that "In trying to hear the word of God, the crowd had pushed in around [him]," (verse one). Amid the crowd listening to the word of God in this manner, the man Peter unexpectedly obtained the grace in which he heard the word of God in the nearest spot to Jesus.
3. Eventually Jesus had finished speaking to the crowds. Then, this time he gave an individual message to Peter who is in the closest spot [to Jesus] on the same boat. "Row out to the sea, drop your net, and fish."
4. Peter and the Lord were in the same boat. In it Peter had heard, whether he wanted to or not, right up to a moment ago Jesus giving out the word of God. But, that was a message which was from start to finish directed to the crowds. As long as Jesus was speaking to the crowds, [his] message would never cause [him] any trouble. Peter was listening on the side. He probably agreed with certain statements and might have been impressed with others. But, the dealings between Jesus and Peter didn't end with all that. Jesus is now talking directly "to Peter." He was speaking to Peter in a certain concrete and particular situation. As it were, Jesus came into the life of Peter carrying the word of God with him.
5. What happens in a place when the word of God directed to the simple crowd comes to a close and when one hears it as a message for oneself? -- It will cause conflict there. Resistance to the words of Jesus will arise because it is not some message out there directed to the people in general, but to nobody else but "me", "I" am come face to face with God, "I" am being called into account over whether or not "I" am trusting and obeying God.
6. Try putting yourself in Peter's place. Even though Peter toiled all through the night working so hard he didn't catch a thing. He had gotten an extremely bitter taste of the futile emptiness that comes from unproductive toil. The Lord had entered into [Peter's] futility. And then what! He made him go into [that] idiotic hard work once more! He told him, "Row out to the sea, drop your net, and fish."
7. Of course, it's not like Jesus didn't have an understanding of what mood Peter would get into through those words. The scripture says, "Jesus saw that there were two boats on the shore. The fishers were gone up from their boats and were washing their nets," (verse two). Jesus was looking closely. Since Jesus was raised Galilean, by having seen in just one glance the situation, he must have understood that "Ooh, they didn't catch anything." Jesus surely hadn't overlooked the faces of the fishers bent by weariness and discouragement, who did not catch one single fish, but just got dirty and were [now] washing their dirty nets.
8. Jesus understands everything. So he says to him, "You worked all through the night but didn't catch a thing, huh? You're probably exhausted from all that hard work for nothing. Well, one more time, let's you and me go out right now, how about it? Let's go into the open sea and fish. With me this time, row out to the sea, where you hadn't caught anything and [let's] try dropping [your] nets one more time." The Lord spoke like that.
Because Of Your Word, I Will Let Down My Net
9. At the Lord's message to him, Peter gave the following reply, "Master, we toiled through the night and didn't catch a thing," (verse five, first half). This was the cry of his heart, which popped out of him spontaneously. What he meant was clear. He meant there was no sense in going through all that hard work again. He meant he had enough of toiling so hard already. When you can see real results coming forth, a person [can] put up with hard work for that, even though [the labor for it] might be so huge. When you expect fruit for your labors, a person will undergo hard work because of his or her expectation. Nobody can endure hard labor that seems senseless. Sorry, but no way man am I gonna work hard and not be able to expect anything for it, like this fishing in broad day light. That's way bad. But, that's where Peter's heart is at as his words show in "I haven't caught a thing."
10. Still though, Peter's words didn't stop there. He goes on to say, "However, because of your word, I will try lowering my net," (verse five, second half). If the first half of verse five is the cry of his heart, the second half is his actual actions. He rowed out to the open sea, anyhow. He didn't row out to the sea because he felt like it. [He did it] because of what Jesus said, he obeyed his word just because of that.
11. If somebody can obey by saying, "Because of your word" a person can also not obey by saying, "Even though it is your word, yet ..." Whichever the thoughts may be that one holds in one's heart, either or are decisively different.
12. Some how or other Peter obeyed the word of the Lord and rowed out to sea. As a result, what happened? The gospel narrative continues as follows. "Then when the fishers did as he said, they netted innumerable fish, the net was ready to break. Then they gave a signal to friends in another boat, and after the came they asked them to lend a hand. After they came, the boats were about to sink as it filled the two boats with fish," (verses six and seven).
13. When he had obeyed the word of the Lord, then a miracle took place. It was a big catch. The toil he did in rowing out to the sea and lowering his net was not in vain. Because Jesus was with him, his labor was rewarded. He wound up getting a lot of fruit [for his labors]. It was wonderful, a happy ending. We have a tendency to only focus our eyes on the results of the big catch as [a happy ending]. But, what this narrative is truly wanting to relate to us doesn't seem by any means to be this matter of his getting a miraculous huge catch of fish when he had obeyed his word. Peter doesn't seem to ever ask Jesus to ride with him in the boat again so that he [could] get another great catch. The fact is for Peter something bigger than getting a great catch of fish took place here.
14. What does Peter go and do? He bows himself [before Jesus]. The scripture says, "When Simon Peter had seen this, he bowed himself before the feet of Jesus and said, 'Oh Lord, please depart from me. I am a sinful man.' For, both Simon and all those who were with him were astonished at the fish caught," (verse eight and nine). This is what really happened in Peter's life and what was of turning point significance.
15. To begin with, Simon Peter was not seeing a miracle of Jesus here for the first time. When Simon Peter's mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, the Lord healed her. At that time Simon had seen Jesus heal his mother-in-law in an amazing manner by "standing at her pillow and rebuking the fever," (4:39). Then that evening he eye-witnessed Jesus healing the many sick brought to him by laying his hand [on them]. However, even with all that Peter never bowed himself before the Lord. Nor did he confess, "I am a sinful person."
16. Why then did he feel compelled here to bow down and say, "Oh Lord, depart from me. I am a sinful man?" It was because he had obeyed the words of Jesus and went out to the open sea. In following his word and in actually rowing out to the sea, he first began to be touched by the reality of the word of God. At that point he came face to face in a real sense with the God who requires faith, with the living God who requires trust and obedience.
17. Then, it is quite paradoxical but, when Peter obeyed the Lord's word, he began to confront his own lack of faith and lack of obedience. That's why he trembled with fear and fell prostrate. He said, "Oh Lord, depart from me. I am a sinful man," and could not help but bow himself down before the Lord.
[You] Will Become A Fisher Who Catches Humans
18. But, Peter heard some amazing words there. I think it was perhaps a message from the Lord which he could never in his life forget.
19. The Lord said to the prostrate Peter, "You are not to be afraid," (verse ten, first half [of Jesus' message to Peter]). "You are not to be afraid." That is the declaration from God spoken through the Christ. When the message of "You are not to be afraid" is spoken from God's direction of things, a persons will come to have no need to say, "Oh Lord, depart from me." When the words of "You are not to be afraid" are given, a sinful person who might not be able to keep from trembling with fear before the reality of God can raise his or her head again.
20. Indeed now, Peter was not only permitted to raise his head. Jesus went on to say to Peter that "From now on, you will be a fisher who catches human beings," (verse ten, second half [of Jesus' message to Peter]). If we say it precisely, then "a fisher who catches human beings" will be "a fisher who catches people alive." The capturing is not for killing [the people]. It is for granting them true life. Peter would know the meaning of that before too long; because Peter himself was a person who had been captured alive by the Lord. Into his life where he was groaning in the futility of fruitless labor, Jesus had entered bringing the word of God with him. Then, upon catching him, he turned him into a person who was truly alive. Furthermore, Peter was called anew to the similar work of Jesus. The man who was caught became a man who catches with the Lord, the man who was made alive was made into a man who with the Lord makes others alive.
21. Peter soon became the main leader in the primitive church. He became a man who did a great work for the Lord. But, he never could have forgotten [this one thing]: that it all started at that Galilean seaside. "At that time, the Lord spoke directly to 'me.' 'I' heard a message which the Lord spoke directly to 'me.' And though fighting in [my] heart, though grumbling all the while, I some how obeyed him. I obeyed saying, 'Because of your word,' but I was truly sinful and insolent, my lack of faith was extensive, my lack of obedience was massive. Then the loyal Lord forgave me, he made me a fisher who captures humans alive." Peter must have kept giving that testimony.
22. I'm sure he did, and it is also the same for us. When we receive the word of the Lord as "a word for me" and we say "Because of your word," then we will begin [as fishers] from where we obey.