Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sermon: Trinity 5 – 2017

16 July 2017

Text: Luke 5:1-11

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

In today’s Gospel, we hear the very first prayer St. Peter offers to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Before we knew him as St. Peter, the world knew him as Simon.  Before we knew him as the leader of the apostles and the first bishop of Rome, the world knew him as a common fisherman.

And here, Jesus crosses paths with this Galilean fisherman, borrowing his boat as a sort of portable podium.  It is morning, and Simon has been fishing all night, but caught nothing.  And so he cleaned his nets while the rabbi preached.

After the sermon, the preacher Jesus suddenly tells Simon, “‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’  And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing.  But at your word I will let down the nets.’”  And here is where something extraordinary and miraculous happened: not just the remarkable haul of fish, but the revelation of Jesus and the realization of Simon of just who Jesus is.  Simon has just learned that this rabbi with unusual fishing advice is none other than God. 

And so he kneels before God and prays.  And what is this prayer?  Is it a praise, a thanksgiving, a request for healing, or of some wish for a miracle?  No, Simon the fisherman’s first prayer is completely unexpected.  He makes his petition on His knees before Jesus, saying, “Ἔξελθε.”  The Latin translation of a form of this word is seen on the walls of this church.  It’s not a word that the church placed here, but rather the government.  You’ll see this word over the doors: “EXIT.”

The very first prayer uttered by Simon Peter to the Lord Jesus Christ is: “Exit.”  He prays for Jesus to “Go away.”  He is pushing God away from him.  That’s his prayer.

Now, many people do this very thing today: they push God away.  Some people reject God because they think belief in God is unscientific, that science has disproven God’s existence.  However, the scientific method involves hypotheses and proof through observable experimentation. What experiment in a laboratory disproves God?  To assert this is to miss the entire point about science.  And in fact, modern science was the creation of Christian men.

Other people push God away based on logic and reason.  Belief in God is not rational, they argue.  But it is actually the opposite.  For a painting logically requires a painter; a sculpture logically requires a sculptor; a book logically requires an author, and creation logically requires a Creator.  This kind of critical thinking and use of reason has been a hallmark of Christian wisdom and education for centuries. 

Others push God away because they are angry at Him.  Often it involves a prayer that was not answered the way the petitioner wanted, or a tragic event in life.  This often makes for a curious kind of atheist, not one that simply doesn’t think there is a God, but who rather refuses to believe in Him because the person is angry at Him.  This not only makes no sense, but it blames God for the mess that we poor miserable sinners have made of the world.  And as Scripture clearly teaches, God’s ways are not our ways.  We pray that His will be done, not ours. 

And so we see St. Peter pray for Jesus to leave Him.  This is his prayer, which Jesus answers with a firm “No!”

For St. Peter’s reason to pray to the Lord to “depart from me,” is not based on a belief in science or human reason or in a refusal to let God call the shots.  It’s actually for a good reason: “Depart from me,” says Simon Peter, “for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

Simon realizes that Jesus is God, and that he, Simon, is sinful.  He understands that God is holy, and sinful men are not.  He understands that he is not worthy to be in the presence of God – like Isaiah, who, when he found himself before God, protested, “I am a man of unclean lips.”  For Simon knew the Ten Commandments, that he has not kept them.  He knew his unworthiness to look God in the face.  He knew that according to the righteousness of God, he had no right to be in the Lord’s presence. 

So He asks the Lord to leave.

Jesus answers his prayer, but not in the way Simon expected.  Instead of exiting, the Lord Jesus abides with him, and declares Simon to be worthy to be in the presence of God.  For He tells Simon Peter: “Do not be afraid.”  And he further tells the fisherman that he will be casting a different kind of net, and will be catching men instead of fish.  Thus Jesus does not exit, does not depart from Peter, and moreover, Simon “left everything and followed Him.”

The Lord Jesus would nickname Simon as “Peter,” which means “Rocky.” For Peter was to confess Jesus as Lord, and was to become an apostle, one sent to preach.  Jesus says that he was to build the church upon the rock of Rocky Peter’s confession and apostolic ministry.  This Simon the fisherman was to become Simon Peter the Apostle, Bishop Peter of Rome, and St. Peter the martyr.

And Peter’s life was to be a rocky road.  He was not always the Lord’s rock.  For he would deny Jesus three times as the Lord was led to the cross, only to be forgiven three times and restored to office after the Lord rose again.  And more than thirty years down the road, St. Peter was to be led and nailed to a cross of his own by the government who would demand Peter’s exit from life on this side of the grave. 

And though Peter will make that exit, he will rise again, as will we, even as the Lord Jesus made His own exit at the cross on Good Friday, but entered once more in the empty tomb on Easter Sunday.  Our Lord Jesus has exited this world at the ascension, but He will come again at the end of time, even as He continues to come to us in His Word and Sacraments!

And though we may feel the desire to push Jesus away because of our sin, even beginning our divine services with the acknowledgment that we too are sinful men, our Lord Jesus does not depart, does not exit, but rather absolves us, loves us, and says to us: “Do not be afraid.”  The Lord Jesus abides with us to the very end.

And Jesus calls all of us to follow Him, each in our own way. Our Blessed Lord has taken away our sins at the cross, and delivered this forgiveness to us at the font.  And no matter how rocky our own road, no matter what crosses we must bear, no matter how much our own sins grieve us, the Lord Jesus abides with us, refuses to depart from a sinner who confesses, like Peter, that “I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Our Lord answers the humble sinner’s prayer with these words of comfort: “Do not be afraid.”  The Lord Jesus abides.  Glory be to Jesus, now and evermore!


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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