One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”
“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.
When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.
Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus. (Luke 5:1-11 NLT)
When we read a text like this, our eyes naturally drift towards what seems to be the extraordinary event in the story; the huge haul of fish. Certainly this massive catch was a display of God’s power through Jesus, meant to grab the attention of the ones Jesus was calling to be his followers… and it worked. Peter was, “awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him.” (v 9) and, “James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.” (v 10). They were overwhelmed and in awe of the moment, and rightfully so. It was a lot of fish. But they quickly realized that the fish were not the point and, “as soon as they landed, they left everything (even the fish) and followed Jesus.”
It’s interesting to me that they left everything and followed, “as soon as they landed.” The text doesn’t say they did so after first cleaning and selling the fish to fund the ministry. It doesn’t say that they first established a ritual or a liturgy that would draw them back to the miracle of this great catch. They left everything, “as soon as they landed.”Peter and James and John realized in that moment that the catch was notthe point. JESUS was the point. He was then, he is now, and he always will be the point. Father Richard Rohr says this,
“Almost all religion begins with a specific encounter with something that feels “holy” or transcendent: a place, an emotion, an image, music, a liturgy, an idea that suddenly gives you access to God’s Bigger World. The natural and universal response is to “idolize” and idealize that event. It becomes sacred for you, and it surely is. The only mistake is that too many then conclude that this is the only way, the best way, the superior way, the special way that I myself just happen to have discovered. Then, they must both protect their idol and spread this exclusive way to others. (They normally have no concrete evidence whatsoever that other people have not also encountered the holy.)
The false leap of logic is that other places, images, liturgies, scriptures, or ideas can not give you access.”
The disciples could have very easily missed the point that day. Who could have blamed them. This was a big miracle. Had they idolized this event, however, they would have ultimately been left with nothing more than a big pile of smelly, rotting fish. More importantly, they would have missed the opportunity to follow Jesus which led them to even greater things.
Events and rituals and traditions aren’t bad things… they just aren’t the point. But they canpoint us to the one who is the point. Jesus.
Are there events or rituals or traditions that we cling to so tightly that maybe we have squeezed the point right out of it? What would it take to do as Peter and James and John did that day? What would it take to leave everything and follow Jesus?