“Be ye all of one mind.” (1 Peter 3.8)
This morning’s Gospel reading from St. Luke recounts the story of the
miraculous draught of fish, which Jesus brings about on the lake of Gennesaret.
Now it is easy enough to miss the point of this story, as we tend to concentrate
on its miraculous element, rather than its teaching. Jesus, it should
be remembered, resisted the temptation of performing miracles, when he
was led “by the Spirit into the wilderness.” (Matthew 4.1) Also,
Jesus frequently instructed his disciples and those whom he cured that
they should tell no one of his miraculous deeds. (e.g., Mark 5.43;
Matthew 8.4) He doesn’t want people to believe in him for the wrong reason,
as if he were simply some kind of magician with miraculous powers.
Jesus, then, is concerned that men believe in him for what he is and
what he teaches. He knows that if our faith depends only on the continuous
performance of miracles, our faith is without substance and will cease
simultaneously with the miracles themselves. However, in this case,
he himself initiates the performance of the miracle by telling Simon Peter
to let down his net once more. Inasmuch as he initiates this action,
we can be fairly certain that Jesus wishes to teach us something.
Indeed, he wishes to teach us about the “blessing” we are to “inherit,”
to use the words of St. Peter from this morning’s Epistle.
Now there are three things he wishes to teach us through this miraculous
draught of fish. First, God’s blessing does not depend on our effort.
He is not in any way restricted to what we can imagine or fulfil.
Simon Peter has toiled the entire night and has caught nothing. If
we followed the limits of our human reason and possibility, we would not
send the boats out again. Our efforts have not produced anything
until now, why should the next trip have any better result? But as
the story teaches us, God is not restricted to what we can conceive or
imagine. His kingdom exceeds our powers and achievements as much
as heaven is higher than the earth.
The second point that the story brings to our attention is that the
gift of God appears where there is faith. As Simon Peter says, “we
have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing; nevertheless, at thy
word I will let down the net.” Faith is the sign that we have moved
beyond what is conceivable and possible for human reason, that we have
moved towards a love which never fails, never ceases to show mercy, never
refuses to forgive. In faith, our human possibilities are left behind
so that we may grasp the possibility of an infinite Majesty, untarnished
by all weakness and smallness of spirit. Of course, this possibility
is only incompletely realized in this life, and so our blessing is held
in faith, hope, and charity. But that divine blessing which was evident
to Simon Peter on the lake of Gennesaret is already a reality in our lives:
through our prayers, through our baptism, in our marriages, indeed at this
very Eucharist here today, where in faith we receive the very body and
blood of Jesus Christ. Christ’s flesh and blood are not present here
at this eucharistic banquet for common sense, but only for faith.
Hence the priest will exhort you to feed on Christ’s body “in thy heart
by faith with thanksgiving” (BCP, p. 84)
The third point the story brings before us is that the blessing we shall
inherit bursts our nets and causes our ships to sink. This blessing
will be more than we imagined, more than we hoped for, more than we could
ever use. It represents an inexhaustible richness, against which
the riches and wealth of this world can be no more than the grass which
withers. The story tells us that to receive this richness without
sinking under the incomprehensible fullness of the divine love, our nature
will have to be transformed.
Thus God promises that we will be the inheritors of the divine “blessing.”
The gift that God will bestow will not be something external, under which
our nature sinks, but will belong to us as a birthright. This is
an amazing transformation! A gift which we cannot conceive of according
to our own human possibilities will, through the divine love, become our
right by nature. This new nature itself is part of the gift, because
it will ensure that we receive the gift as inheritors, as sons and daughters
of God, who receive the gift by right of redeemed nature. As Jesus
so aptly expresses it, no one puts new wine in old skins, lest they burst.
(Matthew 9.17). God’s blessing for us will include the new skin for
the new wine, so that his gift will not overwhelm us (as it did Peter),
but will belong to us as our birthright.
In the story, Peter is overcome by the size of the catch, and says to
Jesus: “Depart from me, for l am a sinful man, O Lord.” But, of course,
Jesus has no intention whatsoever of departing from him. Peter does
not yet know, as we know, that Jesus will give Peter the strength and endurance,
not only to receive his gift, but also to do his work. This sinful
nature will, through the grace of God, become the rock on which Jesus will
build his church.
So the Lord says to both St. Peter and to us “Fear not.” For he
shall, as he has promised, send us “another Comforter... even the Spirit
of truth” (John 14.16-17). It shall be part of God’s saving mercy
that he shall make us strong enough to receive the abundance of his blessing,
so that we may indeed be his sons and daughters.
On this Sunday then, at this Eucharist, let us pray that God may grant
us that faith for which his blessing appears. Let us recollect that
it is not what we do that matters, but what he does in us, not what we
are by nature that matters, but what he will make us by his grace.
Further, let us recall that in this story of the draught of fish, we have
the assurance that despite the disappointments of the night, he shall respond
with riches we cannot as yet imagine. Let us therefore again launch
our boats and let down our nets in faith! “Be ye all of one mind!”