Summary: Jesus Christ invades the normal world and brings about healing, foregiveness and acceptance to the outcasts of society. When does He become real to you?
Do you ever have those moments when the Bible just comes alive to you? I had such a moment standing on the shores of the Sea of Galilee (also known as Sea of Gennesaret). It’s been many years now, but I remember being there near Kibbutz Ginossar, standing on the small pebbles that made up the shore along with mud - hearing the soft waves lapping up against the rocks and thinking - Jesus could have heard these same sounds, and watched Peter, James, and John fish from boats off this very place.
I think what struck me was the idea of God invading our everyday human space. We think of God as a cloud over the Children of Israel, or the glory over the Ark of the Covenant or coming down on Mt Sinai. But to think of him walking the beach, hearing the waves, then teaching and healing and touching - it makes the humanity of Jesus so much more real. Today we’ll see the worldview of those people that Jesus touched, how Jesus becomes real to them, then how they respond.
Chapter 5 of Luke - our on-the-scene reporter portrays Jesus once again in His humanity. We see Him reach out and gather men to be His representatives - though at the time I’m sure they had few clues as to what that really meant. And we see Him heal the outcasts and challenge those in authority - creating a whole new idea of what is His new reality.
Verses 1 - 11
Fishing on the Sea of Galilee was very important. I remember visiting a fishing village when we were there some years ago not far from the shore I just described. Peter, James, and John had a fishing business - the family business. And they were good at it.
Jesus by this time is attracting crowds. As people tried to get closer and closer you can imagine Jesus getting pushed more and more towards the water - where there was no where to go. By getting in Simon’s boat, Jesus can actually use the water as a natural amplification system and be heard by a larger group of people - who also could come no closer.
This wasn’t Peter’s first encounter with Jesus - remember, He had already healed his mother in law - so when Jesus asks him to let down his nets, he takes Him seriously - but - Jesus wasn’t a fisherman, and Peter knew that fishing happened at night, when the fish were active, not during the day. So you can hear a little bit of a condescending tone in his voice - typical fisherman!
None the less, Peter complies. Galilee fishermen used three different kinds of nets - drag nets, cast nets, and trammel nets. Some scholars suggest they were dragging nets, which you did by pulling a net like a big wall and weighted at the bottom between two boats. Other suggest it was a cast net that was like a big circle with weights all around and could be cast from shore or from a boat.
Whichever it is - Peter is totally shocked by the catch and calls to James and John to help him out - and they fill both boats.
So look at Peter’s response: "depart from me, for I am a sinful man (verse 8)" It reminds us of what Isaiah the prophet said when facing a vision of God - "woe is me for I am a man of unclean lips." Peter recognized this man was not just the Master but the Lord - and he immediately saw his own weakness in comparison with this incredible person. Peter did have a tendency towards hyperbole - as evidenced here and many other places.
Jesus doesn’t disagree with Peter’s assessment, but He goes right on to tell Peter that with Him the possibilities are both different and so much more than he ever knew.
Peter’s Worldview: You trust what you know and can control.
What Jesus did: Declared Himself in charge of what Peter thought he knew, and then called Peter to something similar but so much more important.
Peter’s reaction: Seeing Jesus’ power makes him realize his lack and that only by following this man was there real success and completeness.
Verses 12 - 16
Peter realized his uncleanness on the inside - but here comes a man who bears the marks of uncleanness all over him: leprosy. It’s a term for all manner of skin diseases, not just what we know as Hansen’s disease. The Jewish Law directed that anyone with leprosy was excluded from religious participation and secluded from social interaction. According to Josephus, this was the practice of the Jews at the time of Jesus - they were not allowed to even live under same roof as a "clean" person.