5 Epiphany, February 10
“Jesus was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God” (Luke 5:1). Their purpose was clear: “to hear the word of God,” not a word about God. The phrase God’s word is of extraordinary importance, occurring four times in Luke’s gospel, and 14 times in the Acts of the Apostles. In the latter it signifies the Christian message as preached by the apostles, in the former the preaching of Jesus himself (Joseph A. Fitzmyer in the Anchor Bible Commentary). The content of the preaching in this story is unexpressed, drawing attention to the person of Jesus. He is authority, divine being, and commission, the content of all preaching. Jesus proclaims, even in his silence, “I say to you!” We, his disciples, do not. We are witnesses, and as witnesses we preach Jesus Christ.
Two boats were on the shore. The fishermen, having labored all night and having caught nothing, were washing their nets. Jesus stepped into a boat belonging to Peter and asked him to set out a short way from the shore. Jesus sat and taught the crowds from the boat. His breath and voice went out over the face of the waters. Admonished by the esteemed New Testament scholar Fitzmyer not to consider this a commentary on the ancient waters of chaos, not to press the comparison of drawing people from the waters of the world, since it might a “nuance of misfortune,” I rebel. The association is too obvious to leave alone. Jesus is, both in his person and preaching, creating a new world. His voice moves over the face of the waters. Indeed, elsewhere the reader finds him walking on the water, calming the raging seas. Jesus is victory over formlessness, emptiness, and the deep darkness of endless night.
At the end of a long and exhausting day, at the end of fruitless labor, Jesus is the boundless being of divine life. “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4). “They were amazed at the catch of fish they had taken” (Luke 5:9). They caught the generosity of God at the command of God’s Son. From now on, Jesus said, “Catch people.” Pull them out of the miry pit; pull them from Sheol; pull them from their watery graves. Catch people and let them catch the goodness and richness of God in Christ.
Who is Jesus and what has he done for us? He lived with us and for us and still does. He taught and healed and still does. He suffered for us, died for us, rose again for us, and gave us, by his Spirit, the first fruits of eternal life and divine adoption. He is the Word of God. He gives the inexhaustible and boundless riches of divine life poured out upon us and welling up within us. He is all goodness, truth, and beauty, and the imputation of these to us. He is our life. An early creedal statement from St. Paul says so much: “I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Sitting in a boat on the Lake of Gennesaret, Jesus was all the richness of the Paschal Mystery. He gives his life, he is risen, he is about to come.
He is victory over troubled waters, generosity beyond all knowing, our forgiveness and our new life.
Look It Up
Read Luke 5:7.
Think About It
You will never receive all that God gives unless you ask for help.