Beyond Good Sense

By David Baumann

A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 5:1-11

1 Once while Jesus was standing beside the Lake of Gennesaret and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to burst. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’s knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all who were with him were astounded at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.


Things happen, and there are various ways that people react. They draw conclusions, and then they make decisions about how to respond. And way down deep, just about every decision about everything is a particular expression of what one has decided about God. Will you take up smoking? Or quit smoking? Will you finally go to Alcoholics Anonymous? Will you take just one more piece of cake? Human decisions are about more than good sense.

The “crowd was pressing in on [Jesus] to hear the word of God.” Some listeners would be good soil, but others would be rocky, thorny, or without depth. Surely those in the boats were listening along with those on the shore.

As Jesus taught, he must have been aware that the fishermen were washing their nets as the last task of their night’s work before going home. Yet when the time was right, he told Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” It would have been good sense if Simon had said, “You are a fine preacher, but I am a professional fisherman. I think I know when the fish are not biting. Thank you, but we’re done for the night.”

But he didn’t. He did explain the situation, but then added, “If you say so, I will let down the nets.” And when the great haul of fish came in, he could have cried out, “Hey, partners! This is a great haul! This will get us a lot of money! Thank you, Jesus!” And that would have made good sense, too.

But all of his decisions arose from who he belived (or was beginning to believe) this man was. So instead of just saying thanks, “he fell down at Jesus’ knees” and said, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” And showing Jesus the right attitude demonstrated something deep-down about Peter: that he was the right one to become a “fisher of people.”

David Baumann served for nearly 50 years as an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Springfield. He has published nonfiction, science fiction, and short stories. Two exuberant small daughters make sure he never gets any rest.

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