Sunday, February 7, 2010

From Night to Day

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 7, 2010
Luke 5:1-11

Until a specific point in time that would come soon enough, no one was able to point to Jesus and comprehend who He was as He was to be known. But there was something. There was something that brought those people to press in on Him. So that He had no breathing room. So that He had to go out on the lake in order to continue on with His preaching and teaching. They had come through the night in order to get from Him something they needed. Something unattainable through the long dark night of their lives.

They had seen the miracles, heard the preaching, listened to His Word that was authoritative. The word that spoke of something that they couldn’t get in any other way. They were darkened in their minds and hearts. The Holy Spirit accompanies the Word of Christ wherever it goes. Wherever it is proclaimed. Whenever it brings demons out of men, brings people from their sickness, gives comfort to the afflicted.

In this case the Word of Christ is Christ Himself. Jesus walking from town to town proclaiming the Good News, giving Himself to people who are in the darkness of sin and a fallen world. The night that turned into day on that particular day found them crowding Jesus to the point where He made use of boats that were for fisherman but were now to be used for the Man who created all things in the sea and on land.

The dawn that came over the lake of Gennesaret saw another light, a Light that shines in the darkness of people with darkened minds, who hear but never listen, who see but never understand. The Light that is Christ is more powerful than that darkness. And that Word—the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ Himself, the Son of the Living God, God Himself, very God of very God—now spoke. The Word proclaimed the Word. Jesus delivered Himself to the people who had overtaken Him.

Peter and his companions listened on. Weary from the night. Perhaps enjoying a break from the usual silence while they cleaned the nets in the hours after dawn. They were tired, but they could hear the words Jesus spoke. They were hearing of things that were more important than fish and their livelihood. It was a difficult job, cleaning those nets. They were big, they were wet, they were filthy. And they were tired. Exhausted from a long night of toiling on the sea. Of trying every trick they knew to bring in a haul. Even if it was a few fish. Something for their hard work. But they would go back home and go to bed awaiting the next night shift in which they’d try again.

Perhaps they were just finishing up cleaning the nets when they found that Jesus had one more thing to say: “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” They were the professional fisherman who hadn’t caught a thing. Even more, they had just gotten done with the grueling work of cleaning the nets. But now the preacher was telling them to try again. They had worked the night shift because that’s when the fish bite, not in the daylight, as Jesus was suggesting. Peter let Jesus know what he thought of Jesus’ request but acquiesced to it. Because You have said it I will do it. Jesus was in the process of bringing these people, and now Peter and his fellow apostles, into the day of the Light of salvation.

In bringing Peter from night to day Peter was seized with astonishment. Fear. Conviction. Peter was face to face with his Creator. He stood before the Holy God and saw in the multitude of fish that was brought in an awareness of the multitude of sins that darkened his heart. Isaiah stood before God Almighty in a vision, crying out, “Woe is me, I am undone, I am a man of unclean lips!” Peter stood face to face with the very same God, but in no vision. In broad daylight. What hope did he have? “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” One cannot stand in the presence of the Lord and live. There is no hope, you are done for.

This was Peter. Exhausted. Spent. Wretched. Mind and heart filled with greed and lust and envy and pride. A man of unclean lips and mind and heart. As unable to assuage his guilt as he was in his toil and labor to bring in fish that night in his vocation as a fisherman. What would Jesus say to him now? Was all the preaching and teaching, and for that matter the healings and miracles, all to show him that Jesus was the Lord Almighty and how Peter was weighed in the balance and found wanting? Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.

What would you say to your Lord if you stood before Him? Would you attempt to rationalize your sin and guilt? Would you strain for hope? Peter fell at Jesus’ knees. Jesus spoke volumes to Peter in His action of bringing in more fish than the fishermen could handle. But now Jesus spoke one more word. This was a word that brought home to Peter who he was as he prostrated himself before the God of Creation. It was the word of Absolution. The word of Forgiveness. The word of the Gospel. The word that does away with the effects of the word that convicts and condemns.

But this was not a mere word. It was not simply speech communication that came from the mouth of Christ. The word Jesus gave to Peter was the Word that has always been, the Word made flesh. The Word that is Jesus Christ Himself. He did not say to Peter, “I forgive you.” He simply forgave him by giving him Himself: “Do not be afraid.” The Word made flesh—Jesus Christ, the Son of God—is the Word of God that does not return to Him empty but accomplishes the purpose for which it is intended. That’s why Jesus doesn’t say, “I forgive you.” By saying, “Do not be afraid,” Jesus is speaking Himself into the heart and mind of Peter, delivering Himself into the life of Peter in which in that very act Peter is forgiven by his Lord, the darkness of sin banished by the presence and speaking of Christ.

There was nothing wrong with Peter working the night shift. That’s what he did. That was his calling, his vocation. That’s how he served his Lord, by serving his fellow man in catching fish so that others may eat. Everything was right about that. Peter worked hard. He worked hard to do his job well. What Jesus needed Peter to see is that without Him, that is, Jesus, all our toil is for naught. For this life it’s all well and good, maybe even great. But ultimately it leaves you standing before the Holy Lord of Creation with a sinking feeling that your best falls short and isn’t good enough, rationalize though you might. You are a sinful man and are done for.

What Jesus needed him to see is that the prayer of the man who stands before Him, instead of “Depart from me a sinner,” should be “Be merciful to me a sinner.” And you know who you stand before? The very same God. And you see that that very same God is the God of Jesus. The God of mercy. The God who brings about more abundant mercy and forgiveness than a multitude of sins. The God who breaks into the darkness of your life, your sin, your guilt, your fear, with the Day of His forgiveness.

Go from here in the joy that you are called by God to serve where you’re at. Whatever your vocation, you are serving the Lord Almighty. Don’t fear that you haven’t done enough. Be at peace in knowing that your Lord’s vocation was to become as you are, a man. To go into the heart of darkness and conquer there in the solitude of the cross the grip Satan has on creation, that your sinful flesh clings to. Jesus broke through the darkness of Good Friday with the Light of forgiveness and salvation. It was on Calvary that He accomplished a miracle that makes the catch of fish look like a child’s game.

It was at your Baptism that He called you to new life. He has come into your life to bring you from night to day. It is in His Holy Supper that He produces the miracle of giving His Body and Blood to you in bread and wine—a multitude of mercy to wipe out the myriad sins you have committed. You stand before Him in the light. His eternal word to you is Himself, His forgiveness of all of your sins. He brings you out of the darkness of your sin and guilt. He stands before you as your Lord, in mercy and peace. Amen.


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