A Reason to Hope
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus does something that goes against all logic. He tells Peter, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Anyone who is even casually familiar with fishing, at least it is true of fresh water fishing, knows that you catch fish in the shallows where the fish congregate and feed. And that is especially true when you’re fishing with nets; you need to go where they nets can actually reach the fish. What Jesus suggests here goes against all that experience teaches. Peter also informs Jesus that they had just been fishing all night without success. They had put to use all of their skills and techniques and knowledge as experienced fishermen, and hadn’t caught a thing. It just wasn’t a good time to fish. And what’s the point now of going out during the heat of the day, which is absolutely the worst time? Jesus is in over His head here; He doesn’t know what He is talking about.
And yet, Peter responds: “But at your word I will let down the nets.” Because you say so, Lord; because it’s your words, I will do it, even though I have my doubts.” And when Peter and his friends did so, they caught such a great amount of fish their nets began to tear, and they ended up filling two boats with fish! And so, even though today’s Gospel might seem to be all about fishing, what it’s really about is the word of Jesus. Nothing happens apart from that word. The word of Jesus may seem foolish to human reason and logic, but in truth it is powerful and effective to do what it says, and to deliver what it promises, and to save those who believe it.
In today’s Epistle, St. Paul wrote: “Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” The world thinks of the Gospel, and all of Scripture for that matter, as a myth for the naive and the gullible and the shallow-minded. No one who has any real intelligence or education would go for that. They regard it as superstition. The Word of God is constantly being mocked in our world as being backward and outdated and even dangerous and hateful. We've seen ample evidence of that these past few weeks. Biblical morality has been called bigotry, and the day is coming when preaching faithfully from the Word of God will be considered a hate crime. If the world needs a god, they’ll find one that’s more logical to them—usually the one they see in the mirror.
And we know well the temptation of wanting to follow such thinking, to walk by sight and not by faith, to have a religion that is based on human wisdom and glory rather than God’s wisdom and the cross. But like Peter, by God’s grace we have been brought to trust in Christ’s Word, even in the midst of our doubts. We have been brought to know that, though the Word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, to us who are being saved it is the power of God. It is written, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.”
In order to humble those who are proud and wise and strong in their own eyes, our Lord chooses to hide His power behind that which seems foolish and weak. In that way His saving wisdom and strength will be perceived only by lowly, penitent believers to whom He reveals Himself. After all, where has human wisdom really gotten us? Technology and science can do wonderful things. But has man’s wisdom eliminated crime and violence? Is there any less loneliness or depression in the world? Have people stopped dying? Man’s wisdom is severely limited. We dare not rest our hope there. Just as Peter had been able to catch those fish solely by the power of the Word, so now Jesus would make him able to draw men solely by preaching Jesus’ powerful Word. In this way, others who were weak and foolish would be made wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
That’s the whole point of this catch of fish; it all happens at the Word of Jesus. Luke tells us that Jesus had been “casting the net,” so to speak, as He preached the Word from Peter’s boat. Jesus had turned that boat into a cathedral. He was not afraid to launch out into the deep and let down His nets. Just as the Spirit of God hovered over the waters at the creation, so our Lord goes to the deep, to the very depths of sin and death, in order to pull up His catch of sinful men and raise us to the light of His resurrection life.
So, let us hear clearly for ourselves the words Jesus spoke to Peter. “Do not be afraid.” And as Peter took our Lord at His Word, let confess the reason for the hope that is in us. At the Lord’s Word, even though all our senses can grasp here are worldly objects—things like water, things like bread and wine—yet because Christ has said so, we believe that Christ is truly present to make us God’s child, to feed us with His body and blood, to proclaim our sins forgiven. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.