Home > Trinity 1-5 > Christ’s Word Catches us Out of the Depths. Trinity 5, July 20, 2014.

Christ’s Word Catches us Out of the Depths. Trinity 5, July 20, 2014.

depart-from-me-lord5th Sunday after Trinity

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 5:1-11

July 20, 2014

“Christ’s Word Catches us Out of the Deep”


Iesu Iuva!


Listen to Elijah’s distress as he talks with God.  “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of armies.”  But the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, killed your prophets.  Now I am the only one left and they’re trying to kill me, too.


What good had all of Elijah’s jealousy for the Lord done?  It hadn’t done anything to turn the tide of God’s people abandoning God.  All Elijah could see was that the true public worship of God had been wiped out and the preachers of God’s Word had been killed.


Even though Elijah’s zeal and strength didn’t seem to win any battles, the mighty word of God Elijah preached was working—unseen by him.  It had preserved a little remnant within Israel that had refrained from making sacrifices to false gods, giving worship to demons.  And it was about to raise up kings and prophets who would destroy the powerful people who had taught the Israelites to worship Baal.


We are sunk in the depths of futility and death, but Christ’s word brings us up from the deep.


This is even more clear in the Gospel reading.  The deliverance God promised Elijah was only temporary—that God would keep Israel and the public worship of the Lord until the Messiah came.  But the deliverance and rescue our Lord pictures in the miraculous catch of fish—and the miraculous catch of Simon—is everlasting.


Elijah was in near despair about the future of Israel.  And in the Gospel reading Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John, are essentially in despair about that night’s work.  They are calling it a night, washing their nets and then going home.  Bringing home no paycheck because they haven’t caught any fish all night.


If you’re a contractor or a farmer or maybe even a waitress or waiter, you have some idea of what this is like.  If you don’t get many bids, or have a bad harvest, or the restaurant is dead, it’s not like you punch in and get your paycheck anyway.  No customers or bad harvest means the money you depend on is not coming in.


If this happens once or twice, you just count it a loss and move on.  But if it happens too often, you’re probably going to start worrying.


That’s where the fishermen are on that morning when Jesus asks Simon to take him out a little way from the shore, so he can use Simon’s boat as a temporary pulpit from which to teach the crowd.


Elijah and Peter both seem to exhibit a fruit of our fallen nature inherited from Adam, which is a wrong attitude toward work.


Make no mistake, God wants us to work.  He gave Adam work in the beginning.  And since the fall, work is not supposed to be easy.  ‘By the sweat of your face you will eat your bread…’  And for the woman, “I will greatly increase your pain in childbearing…”


And Scripture speaks very clearly about those who refuse to labor.  “If a man will not work, neither shall he eat,” it says in one place; in another, that if anyone does not provide for his relatives when they are in need or sick or old, that person has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.  Christians are to work diligently and those who refuse to show that they are not Christians.


But working hard, working a lot, is not necessarily pleasing to God.  God wants us to work at what His Word gives us to do.  And that work must come from faith in His Word and love for our neighbor or it is not acceptable in His sight.


So when a person works hard but does it only for the rewards he thinks it will get him, it is abominable sin in His sight.


For instance, if I work hard to be a good father out of fear that my children will resent me if I don’t, it may be a blessing to my children, but it is still sin against God.  He wants me to be a father to my children because He has commanded it.  He wants me to do it out of fear and love of Him and for love of my children as myself.


So God commands me to work at my calling in life because it pleases Him and out of love for my neighbor.  But when it comes to the result of my work—whether I am prosperous, whether I succeed—God commands me to leave that to Him.  When it comes to whether or not I will make enough money to eat or put on clothes, God commands me not to put my trust in my work but in His Word that promises my daily bread.


But that’s not what we do, is it?  We work with all our strength to provide what we think we need.  If we get what we want we credit it to our hard work, talent, etc.  If we don’t get what we want or think we need after having done our all, we worry or despair.


That’s why the Scripture says that we are sunk in the depths of futility and death.  For the creation was subjected to futility…says Romans 8:20.  What futility?  Worse than that I tried to catch fish all night and didn’t get any.  The futility we have is that our strongest efforts to get right with God or to have eternal life do not actually make us right with God or free us from death and judgment.  Our best efforts are really fighting with God.  Peter is an example of this.  Need I remind you of how Peter’s best thinking and intentions in the flesh ended in worse than failure?


Hard work in your vocation to serve yourself instead of God and your neighbor is just as wicked as laziness, and it becomes worse when we add to it the sin of trusting in our hard work, as we frequently do.


That’s why we are sunk in the depths of futility and death, and nothing we do can get us out.  In fact, we don’t want to come out, anymore than fish want to be hauled by a net out of the depths.


But Christ’s word catches us and drags us out of the depths.  We die and receive new life that comes not from our striving but from His word.


After Jesus finished teaching the crowd, He told Peter, “Push out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”


Peter said, “Master, we toiled all night and caught nothing.  But at Your Word…”


Hear that.  “At Your word.”  What Jesus said to Peter contradicted reason, experience.  But he believed Jesus word and let down his nets not on the basis of trusting himself and his fishing ability but on the basis of the word of Jesus.


All that time Jesus sat in Peter’s boat teaching the crowd, there is no indication that anyone could see its mighty power.


But Jesus’ word is always the power we see it to be when Peter let down his nets.  It is always that powerful, no matter how it appears.  The bible class taught from the floating pulpit and the word that commanded the fish of the sea to fill the nets until they broke and the boats began to sink are the same Word—the Word of the living God.


The Word that came from Peter’s boat and the words that later came from Peter’s mouth in the name and at the command of Jesus were also the same Word—the Word of the living God.


And that word descends into the depths.  It does not just come back up with a lot of fish.  It descends into the depths of sin, hell, futility and catches us and pulls us up.  It pulls us up from utter helplessness in sin.  That’s where Peter was, just as we are by nature.  When Peter said, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man,” he was telling God’s truth about himself.


It was like he was saying, “Leave me, Lord, because You are holy. But I am incapable of anything except sin against you.  From my end, it’s hopeless that I will ever do anything except swim away from You into the darkness.  Or try to drag You down with me, like these fish are about to sink our boats down to the bottom of this flood.


Can you relate with that?  Whether or not you can, that’s how you are, just like Peter.


But Peter was mistaken when he said, “Go away from me, Lord.”  I am a sinful man who can’t make himself clean or pull himself out of the depths.  That is true.  But that Jesus must go away from such people is the complete opposite of the truth.


No, Jesus draws near such sinners as this.  His Word which appears like nothing to our senses, dredges the depths of hell and God’s wrath and brings up the helpless, flopping sinners.  And when they say, “I am hopeless,” Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid.  You will be what I am.”


His word does not merely descend into hell like a net to rescue and bring in a catch.  He Himself has descended into the depths.


He has carried our futility.  He has become the sinful man who is fit only for God’s judgment.  He says in Psalm 22: I am a worm and not a man.  In the garden He endured the despair of our sins. On the cross He descended into our shame.


In His Word He catches us in the depths.  Notice how Jesus doesn’t debate with Peter, doesn’t deny that Peter is a thoroughly sinful man, doesn’t say, “No, there’s something good in you that you don’t know about.”  He simply speaks a new word.  “From now on you will catch men.”  He who would deny Jesus and tempt Jesus, who was thoroughly sinful and unclean, would be the vessel through which Jesus would catch and take to Himself other sinners.  “You will,” not, “If you want to.”  And so Jesus says of us—not, “Your sins can be forgiven,” but, “Your sins are forgiven.”  Not “You can go to heaven,” but “You are sons of God and heirs of heaven.”


He casts these nets not into the shallow water where we are still able to stand upright, but into the depths (Psalm 130) where “our sins have gone over our heads and we cannot see.”  (Psalm 40)


And just as His Word was powerfully moving the fish in the sea of Galilee and preserving a remnant in Elijah’s day, so it moves powerfully in His church and the world today.  It preserves and gathers His Church throughout the world.  It comforts and nourishes us with the body and blood of the Lord who takes away the sins of the world.  It brings us up from the depths of sin and casts us into Christ’s righteousness and preserves us until we are no longer fish out of water but citizens, sons, and heirs of God.


The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.


Soli Deo Gloria

  1. Anonymous
    July 22, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    And for the woman, “I will greatly increase your pain in childbearing…”
    And Scripture speaks very clearly about those who refuse to labor.

    Funny for an instant I read these together in meaning, and thought, was it a sin that I had a C-section?! Didn’t ‘labor’ with Sadie, our second daughter!
    Anyway, a good encouraging word, thanks, Karl.
    Cynthia Marsh

    • July 22, 2014 at 7:18 pm

      Thanks, Cynthia. C-sections count as labor and as pain in childbearing. I can see why you got that from my wording.

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