17 January 2018Luke 5:1-11
“But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’” (v. 8)
Psalm: Psalm 1
There are two significant moments in today’s passage. Jesus’ call to the first disciples to leave their nets because they would now be catching people is the natural climax to this passage, but Peter’s reaction to the catch of fish has a deeper significance than simply a confession of his sinfulness. Some scholars see a parallel between Peter’s encounter with Jesus in this passage and the encounter of Moses with God in the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-15). Moses encounters the presence of God, but it is an encounter in mystery. Moses’ request for God’s name is, in fact, a demand for knowledge of the divine nature. The reply he receives has been translated from the Hebrew as “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14), but scholars tell us that the ancient Israelites would have heard something more like, ‘You will know me as you journey with me’.
The response of Peter on this occasion doesn’t reveal any clear understanding of who Jesus is. In the preceding chapter, it is the demons who recognise that he is the Messiah, but Jesus “rebuked them and would not allow them to speak” (Luke 4:41). It is only later that Peter bursts out that Jesus is “the Messiah of God” (Luke 9:20). By then Peter had journeyed with Jesus and had begun to grasp something of who he is. Peter, like the demons, does not declare that Jesus is divine. There is more journeying in the New Testament story before that realisation breaks in on the first Christians, although Luke’s Gospel offers a ‘spoiler’ in this passage as we see Peter falling on his knees, and addressing Jesus as Lord.
‘Lord’ was used in 1st-century society in the same way that ‘Sir’ was used to address social superiors in the deferential society of a previous generation. But ‘Lord’ was also substituted for the sacred name of God (inaccurately rendered as Jehovah in the King James translation of the Bible) when Jews read the Hebrew Scriptures. Peter didn’t understand at the time but Luke’s Gospel, in telling the story afterwards, understands the fuller implication of Peter’s words: Peter rightly calls Jesus Lord for Jesus is ‘God with us’.
- It has been said that the faith of the Old Testament people of God begins with Moses taking off his sandals in the presence of God in the burning bush, and the faith of the New Testament people of God begins with Peter throwing himself down at Jesus' feet on the shore of Lake Gennesaret. Where and how did your own faith begin?
- Peter had to journey further with Jesus in order to begin to know more about who he was. What is your own experience of knowing Jesus more in your own journey with him?
- We read that in this incident Peter “and all who were with him were amazed” (v. 9). Where in your experience do you experience amazement?