Signpost for Sunday 7 Feb., 2016: Isa 6:1-8,(9-13); Ps 138 ;1 Cor 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11
This week the lectionary gives us a reading from Isaiah that echoes Peter telling Jesus to go away because he is a sinful man. The reading from Corinthians mentions Peter too, so that Paul can say he was even more of a sinful man before he ‘met’ Jesus on the road to Damascus. Then it’s the Gospel reading where Peter plays the starring role. From the story’s point of view, it’s a bit like that thing they put on movie titles and credits “Introducing Anna Paquin” say, when there’s new actor with a great future ahead of them. Peter is going to play a very important role in the whole story and he has a very big future ahead of him (as Cor 15 1-11 confirms).
But this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Peter. Before now, Jesus has been to Simon’s house and healed his mother-in-law (Luke 4:38-39). And it looks as if, later in the evening when Jesus healed the sick and demon-possessed who were brought to him, he was still at Simon’s house (Luke 4:40-41).
So when Peter in particular sees his fishing nets bulging with fish and breaking (verse 6) open, it’s the third time he’s witnessed Jesus do something amazing. It’s almost as if this is the moment the penny drops for Peter, and he realises he is in the presence of someone incredibly special.
Now look at verse 8. Peter is called Simon Peter for the first time in this gospel, although Jesus himself doesn’t actually call him that until Luke 6:14. Why does the author of Luke suddenly call him Simon Peter, I wondered? One scholar (John Petty) suggests it could be that he wanted to show the radical change that is taking place in Peter’s life at this moment. The old Simon becomes the new Peter.
Luke’s version of the story is different from the other two versions: Mark 1:16-20 and Matthew 4:18-22. All three are usually thought of as the calling of the disciples. But look closely, Jesus never calls any of them. He never says “follow me” here as he does in the other accounts of calling the very same fishermen.
At first Jesus and Simon go out just “a little way from the shore”. We may think that’s so he can teach the people from the boat, if Peter is the star of this part of the story, some scholars suggest we should notice that later Jesus asks Simon to go out to the deep water. One way to read this passage is to see these as images of different levels of trust in Jesus – the safety of the land, the slightly more dangers position of being just a little way from shore, and the quite dangerous position of being out in deep water?
Once Peter gets in deep with Jesus is he himself caught? Or should we use another word and say he’s captivated? You would only leave everything on the spot to go off into the unknown if you’d just learned to trust someone implicitly. ‘Trust in the Lord.’ Perhaps that’s the point the author of Luke is trying to make to his friend, Theophilus.