SERMON TEXT BELOW
Epiphany 5, 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
February 6, 2022
Isaiah 6:1-8, 1 Corinthians 14:12b-20, Luke 5:1-11
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It has been a long night. Simon Peter sits in his boat as the sun starts peeking over hills east of the Sea of Galilee. The seven disciples have worked hard all night trying to catch fish off the shore of Capernaum and now they are finished and getting ready to head in. It has been a crazy time. A couple of weeks back, the men’s teacher, leader, and friend was arrested in Jerusalem and executed the next day. They laid him in a tomb that Friday afternoon, but He did not stay dead. Their teacher, leader, and friend, rose from the dead on Sunday morning, just like He said He would. Turns out that Jesus of Nazareth is certainly not only their teacher, leader and friend, but He is also their savior from sin. Jesus appeared to the men that night He rose from the dead and then again a week later. After that He sent His disciples to Galilee to wait for him there.
Back in Galilee, Peter and six other of the disciples decide to go fishing. Peter was a fisherman before He followed Jesus, and fishing is something he knows how to do, and doing something familiar right now might be really good. A night on the water catching fish together might be just the thing to try to get their heads wrapped around everything that has happened and ponder what comes next.
Fishing that night is terrible. They work hard and catch nothing. As the sun rises, Peter sits in the gently rocking boat with no fish on board and he gets a bit of a sense of déjà vu. This all seems familiar.
One hundred yards away, a figure appears on shore and yells to them, John 21:5–6 (ESV) 5 … “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.
Now the déjà vu makes the hair stand up on the back of Peter’s neck. Peter has been in this situation before, a few years ago, in this very spot. Simon Peter and his brother Andrew and James and John were fishing all night and catch nothing and now they are back on shore cleaning up. There is a huge crowd just up the way and moving towards them. This new teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, seems to be leading the crowd and he walks right up to Peter’s boat and climbs in and asks Peter to put out a little from land. Peter and Andrew row the boat out a little, anchor and sit as Jesus teaches the crowds from the boat. Afterwards Jesus tells Peter, Luke 5:4 (ESV) 4 … “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Luke 5:5 (ESV) 5 And Simon [Peter] answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”
Peter’s mother-in-law was recently healed by Jesus and Jesus teaches with authority, and so Peter does what Jesus says. What has he got to lose? Who is this Jesus anyway? Peter and Andrew let down the net and they catch so many fish that their nets cannot handle it. They call for James and John to come out in their boat to help. They get the fish on board both boats but there are so many fish that the gunwales are barely above water as they get ready to row to shore. At this moment Peter has an epiphany. Peter understands who Jesus is. Jesus is the Holy One of God. Jesus is Lord. The Lord God is sitting in his boat and Peter falls at Jesus’ knees, Luke 5:8 (ESV) 8 … “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
Jesus is righteous, Peter is unrighteous. Jesus is holy, Peter is unholy. Jesus is Lord, Peter is a sinful outcast. If Jesus knows who Peter is then Jesus’ punishment will be swift and severe.
Peter is on his knees before Jesus as the other three fishermen look on. Jesus comforts them, Luke 5:10 (ESV) 10 …“Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” Peter and the others row to shore and leave their best catch ever in the boats and follow Jesus. Do not be afraid. From now on you will be catching men.
It all floods back to Peter as the seven men struggle to pull in the net overflowing with fish. John declares, “It is the Lord!” How does Peter react?
Peter is still a sinner, but what has changed is that Peter now knows who Jesus is. Peter knows Jesus died on the cross. Peter knows Jesus rose from the dead. Peter knows that Jesus shed His blood to forgive sins. And so Peter does not want Jesus to go away, Peter wants to go to Jesus.
The first time this happened Peter begged Jesus to leave. Peter wanted to get as far away from Jesus as possible. This time Peter wants to get as close as he can to Jesus. Peter cannot even wait until they row the boat to shore. He dives in the water and swims the 100 yards to the beach.
What changed? Has Peter ceased to be sinful? No. Peter is still a sinner in need of forgiveness. Peter denied Jesus three times on the night of His arrest. Peter is still a sinner, but what has changed is that Peter now knows who Jesus is. Peter knows Jesus died on the cross. Peter knows Jesus rose from the dead. Peter knows that Jesus shed His blood to forgive sins. And so Peter does not want Jesus to go away, Peter wants to go to Jesus. Peter knows Jesus is God. Peter knows Jesus is a God of mercy. Peter knows Jesus is a God of love. Peter does not flee from Jesus; he flees to Jesus without hesitation.
There are people that tell me they cannot come to church because the roof would fall in on them; I guess like the Philistines in the pagan temple when Samson pushed over the pillars. Now, I think this is just an excuse for not coming to church, but underlying this may be a true fear of a God of judgement. They know they are not worthy and worry God will punish them, and so they stay away from God. They are afraid of God because of their sin and flee from God. Now God is a God of judgment, but He is also a God of mercy. God’s judgment was taken by Jesus on the cross. Many people are in terror of Jesus because they do not know the real Jesus.
Who is Jesus? This is the essential essence of the season of Epiphany. Who is Jesus? The devil and the world do not want you to know the true Jesus and have always tried to obscure Him. If they keep you ignorant of Jesus they can keep you in your sins and on the path to destruction. If they keep you afraid of Jesus they keep you away from the solution to your problem with sin. If they keep you distracted by the busyness of life they can keep you far away from Jesus. If they can get you to follow a counterfeit Jesus they can rob you of true hope. The devil and the world are very effective and so many people do not know the real Jesus.
You know the real Jesus. You don’t want Jesus to stay far away, instead you came here this morning to be close to the Lord. You are a sinner, but you know who Jesus is. You know Jesus is a God of mercy. You know Jesus is a God of love. So again and again you repent of your sins and return to Jesus. You know Jesus comes to give you forgiveness of your sins and so you flee to Jesus. You flee to the altar of the Lord to receive Jesus. You come to Jesus because you know, as Peter knows, Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
The big question of Epiphany is, “Who is Jesus?” This is the most important question. You know the answer. You have had your Epiphany through the Holy Spirit. You have been baptized into Christ and the Holy Spirit dwells in you. So you know the answer. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is God in flesh. He died for you and rose for you and conquered death for you. Jesus is your savior. Jesus pays the price for all your sin. Jesus covers your sin with His white robe of righteousness. Jesus gives you eternal life. Today and every day, flee to Jesus. Amen.