Luke 5:1-11 God’s word…dare to believe
(Begin by rolling a dice) “The dice is cast and the number…has been rolled.’ There is nothing that can be done to change the fact that the number…has been rolled. Call it fate, call it destiny, call it predestined, call it (number); once the die has been cast, nothing can change the reality of what is before us.
A group of despondent fishermen sat on the shore cleaning their nets near a crowd with Jesus, perhaps listening to him speak, perhaps not. Fate was such that they had caught nothing, even though they had fished all night. Reality stared them in the face as they folded their empty nets and left their empty boats…there were no fish: no fish to take to market, not fish to take to the family, no fish to show for their hard work. Nothing could change this fact. For them, the die had been cast and it didn’t go their way…perhaps tomorrow night…perhaps not.
Jesus, standing near by, was teaching the word of God to the crowd gathered around him. Teaching that the kingdom of God is at hand, announcing that the time of God’s favour is now, and that the Son of man, the Messiah, as foretold in the scriptures, is now dwelling among them and they are to turn and believe this word of God. Seeing the fishing boats resting on the shore, with no fish, together with a group of despondent fishermen, Jesus takes this as an opportunity to challenge the people; to demonstrate his word by his actions.
Casting off, just a short distance from the land, Jesus gave the fishermen and those in earshot on the shore, a challenge, a duel if you like, between his word and destiny. The dice had been cast last night and the result was clear for all to see…no fish. Jesus, the word of God in flesh, the same very word that created the fish saying: “Let the water teem with living creatures’, now commands Simon to ‘let down the nets for a catch.’ Jesus is challenging Simon, and those who heard the word of God, to have faith that his word has the power and authority to change destiny; to change the role of the dice; to do the very thing it says…catch fish.
Jesus’ command to Simon is a challenge of faith. In other words, ‘do you believe I can do this, or don’t you? Do you believe that my promise to ‘bring life to the full’ has the power to save from your destiny of death? Do you believe that the word of God I have been speaking is true?
Simon responds ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.’
Let’s freeze time for a moment, and reflect on what is happening. Simon’s questioning of Jesus’ word, is another way of saying ‘did God really say.’ We last heard these words come from the devil’s mouth in the Garden of Eden. The serpent tricked Adam and Eve into sinning and eating the forbidden fruit, by questioning God’s word saying, ‘Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?‘
The essence of sin, that brought death, is not that Adam and Eve did the wrong thing by eating the fruit. The essence of our sinfulness, is not that we do the wrong things; not that you or I hurt, harbor anger, gossip, lie, cheat or are selfish. Sin is unbelief. Sin is to believe that ‘God is a liar and cannot do what he says.’ Sin is to attribute truth to us and falsehood to God; to think we are reliable and God is unreliable. The results of Adam and Eve’s decision are plain for all to see, death reigns…just as God said it would. The die is cast – death is our destiny and we can do nothing to change it.
But Jesus is proclaiming a new word. The word the fishermen and the crowds around Jesus heard; a word that promises life; a word of good news that proclaims ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.’; Jesus is the word of God, that challenges, defies and transforms our destiny from death, into a promise of life. God’s word in flesh, Jesus, died to pay our dept to sin, so that we didn’t have to. Yes, the die has been cast, and death is our destiny, but we can dare to believe God’s promise is true.
(play video: Indiana Jones and the last crusade)
Indiana Jones, standing on the edge of a cliff, in faith steps out into the chasm, because the book tells him so, and he receives what is promised. Simon, on the boat with Jesus, net in hand, knowing the fact that there are no fish, casts his net…because, ‘Jesus said so’ and he receives what is promised. Luke records, ‘When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.’
Jesus was true to his word, fish where caught where there were none. He did this to demonstrate to us his faithfulness. He did this to demonstrate that he is the ‘way, the truth and the life’ where there is none. Yet he did something even greater than to demonstrate that we can dare believe on him; that we can dare to cast our net of hope upon him and step out in faith, because he said so and receive what is promised…life after death. Romans 5:8 ‘God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’
Sin is unbelief. Righteousness is to believe. St Paul says ‘the righteous will live by faith.’ Jesus calls us to faith in him so that we might receive his gift of life eternal. He also calls us and challenges us to proclaim his faithfulness to the world; to dare others to believe on him also; to come and follow him.
You have the word of God, you have already believed and so received…go in peace, Jesus says ‘your faith has made your well.’ Amen