I Went Down the Rabbit Hole about Fishing and Luke 5

Today my pastor did a fan-freaking-tastic message on going deeper with God, using Luke 5’s account of the call of Peter. During the message, as I often do, I started to go down the rabbit hole a little bit.

Today’s blog is just sharing that rabbit hole with you. Oh, yeah. We’re getting THEOLOGICAL. We’re busting out the STRONGS CONCORDANCE, honey. Let’s go.

So before I start, let me tell you, I am always reading the bible BUT ESPECIALLY THE GOSPELS  with a few questions in mind before I even start. Firstly:

  1. Which gospels is this story in & are there any changes between gospels?

  2. What does this particular story mean for the larger context of the book? So, like, what does this story mean for The Gospel of Luke as a narrative? (This is where we identify themes, patterns, etc.)

  3. What is the gospel writer trying to convey about Jesus?

Secondly, I always try to read only what’s on the page, clearing my head a little bit -- not adding in other accounts, theology, that class I took in college, that one great message I heard one time, etc. Sure I add that stuff in later, but it’s always easier to cook a fresh dish in a clean pot, ya know?

Third, I read the passage & I identify words I wanna look up for further explanation. Since I’m not fluent in Greek, I hop on my Blue Letter Bible app, which is literally an amazing FREE resource if you don’t know about it DOWNLOAD IT NOW! I look up the original words to get a clarity of meaning what those words mean.

So Pastor was preaching and his text was Luke 5:

1One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,[a] the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who 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 from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”

And Pastor made a note that in verse 5, Peter refers to Jesus as Master 

But by verse 8, Peter has changed his tune and refers to Jesus as Lord

So of course I pull out my BLB app and look up the words for both Master and Lord:

(vs 5) Master: (epistates: Strong’s G1988: any sort of superintendent or overseer). 

(vs 8) Lord: (kyrios: Strong’s G2962: he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; master, lord).

When I read the definition of Lord, I feel it in my bones -- I’m going deep down the rabbit hole. I stop listening to the sermon. (Sorry, pastor.) 

My first question is, what changed between vs 5 and vs 8? Jesus performed the miracle of the large number of fish. So Peter, trying to control fish overflowing out of his net, must have had the realization, or the thought process, that Jesus guy told the fish to get in my boat, or in fancy terms, he expressed dominion over the fish -- hence the change to kyrios- one who possesses a thing and has dominion over it.

But Jesus, working off of that revelation, doesn’t let Peter stop there. He expands his idea with his answer: “from now on you will fish for people” Saying, not only do I have this kind of dominion over the fish, but I have this kind of dominion over people. And we thought this was just a clever Jesus pun! Ha!

We always read this surface level as though Jesus is empowering and calling his disciples, but I think here Jesus is really making a claim about HIMSELF. And to read the passage this way doesn’t take away that previous reading at all. He’s doing both. Either/or/and. He’s upping Peter’s understanding of who he is, what he came to do, and what kind of power he has. He’s not only Lord over all the earth, He’s Lord over people. He’ll be Lord controlling the harvest.

Notes on Harvesting

And for the leader or pastor among us, please note that in both he is referring to having dominion over things during harvests -- reaffirming the larger idea of Jesus being Lord of the Harvest -- Matt 9:38 (repeated in Luke 10:2) when Jesus instructs the disciples to ask the Lord (kyrios) of the harvest to send workers...we can do ministry resting assured that God is Lord of our harvest.  Paul refers to this idea in 1 Cor 3: 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. 

What do fishermen do? What’s their job? Harvesting fish, essentially. To coax fish into coming into their net. draw, they collect, they process, they sell. It’s a harvest project in which the fisherman alone is responsible. 

Not so with our spiritual work. We don’t worry about every detail of our harvest. It’s not ours, and it’s not by our own power that we do all the work, let alone even our part, as Peter discovers! Peter is realizing the difference between relying on our own efforts and relying on God’s efforts to bring the harvest.

Less Theological but Kind Of A Cool Thought

Another thing that I love -- and this is decidedly less in the theological camp than the first point, is Peter’s response  to the miracle: “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 

Much of what Jesus and Peter must have had said to each other isn’t recorded by Luke. Probably because no one wants to read a conversation that starts with “Hey, sir, can you row me out a ways so I can teach these people.” Super boring.  The dialogue he does record isn’t particularly spiritual. In vs 5 as we discussed earlier, Peter’s use of Master is probably akin to you going to work and saying “you got it, boss.” But all the sudden, this miracle occurs and Peter’s throwing around words like “kyrios” and “sinful” -- things just got super church-y in his speech. 

Let’s not forget that Peter had just finished listening to Jesus giving a sermon. Sure, he didn’t want to be there necessarily. He just did a nice thing for a stranger. And he gets a front row seat to a teaching of Jesus. Now, we don’t know the contents of the sermon. We don’t know if Jesus taught on his authority, or sin, or any of the themes of this story. But even after the sermon, he still refers to Jesus as “Master.” The ideas were still rolling around in his head. I like to think he was pondering the sermon while he was casting out the nets on Jesus’ command. Maybe with his answer he’s referring to what Jesus taught about, but we really don’t know. When Jesus does the miracle, maybe that confirms everything going on in Peter’s head. Now Peter has the referential knowledge about what Jesus taught. Maybe Jesus explained the message during the sermon, and maybe Peter saw the message during the miracle.

So what does this passage mean for Luke?

To be honest, I’m really not too sure yet. My gut is that both the teaching and the miracle serve to prove the authority of Jesus over all men, while detailing the call of Peter. Detailing the differences on this story between the synoptic gospels raises more questions than answers, honestly. I’ll really have to look into it some more (i.e. read people wayyyy smarter than me) and see what distinct differences play into Luke’s larger themes.

Welp, that’s my rabbit hole. See ya!