Elijah: “I’ve been faithful; your people have not. I’m the only one left around these parts worshipping You, and I’m so done. I am through. Take me home. It’s over.”
God: “You’re so not done. Here’s what I have for you to do next. Give Syria a new king; give Israel a new king; and train up the prophet who will replace you. You’re not done till I say you’re done. And by the way, your math is off. I’ve still got 7,000 left even in this idolatrous land of Israel who have not been faithless to me. Let me take care of the results, you just do what I tell you. Now, get moving. Vacation over.”
God’s ways just don’t seem to make a whole lot of sense to us so much of the time. Especially His delight in working through weakness, through what certainly appears to be failure and foolishness. But such is His way. He delights in forking over salvation through the word of the cross, rescuing people by the proclamation of a crucified Christ as God’s power and God’s wisdom - at work mightily saving those who believe.
So there’s Simon Peter, whose boat that Christ (who is both the power and wisdom of God) had absconded with for a pulpit. As Peter and the others listen to Jesus, they are busy at work: washing nets, mending them, putting them away. A long night of work out on the lake had netted them zero. They’d come up empty and they couldn’t even go home to their rest because of the man who had taken over the boat. And now that He’s finished speaking, He’s got a bright idea. “Put out in the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
Can you see Peter give Andrew the look; James and John giving Peter the “oh no” sign. Peter looks up from the nets, nicely stowed away, and sighs: “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!” A not unusual experience for those who toil under the burden the curse: “thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you.” How many are the times YOU’VE poured effort and toil into something only to have it come up empty or worse? You know something of Peter’s frustration then.
Like Elijah, Peter was trying to say: “I’m through. We’re done. We want to go home. It’s over.” His sheepish look added a “please.” Like Yahweh speaking to Elijah, Jesus gives Peter an answer with a look that says: “No, sir. It’s not over till I say it’s over. Didn’t I tell you what to do?”
Peter meets that look and lowers his eyes, admitting defeat: “At your Word, then, I will let down the nets.” With a groan, knowing how foolish, how pointless it was to drop nets in broad daylight in the sight of the fish. With perhaps more than a tad of resentment over a land-loving Rabbi giving fishermen marching orders. With certainly zero expectation of a catch.
And then it happened. The Lord of the sea commands his fish and they swarm the nets. Not one or two, not three or four, schools upon schools swimming into the nets till the the nets are snapping and tearing. James and John in the other boat swamped too. Fish flip flopping every which way, glistening in the sun. And joy turns to terror.
Simon Peter realizes that there’s more here than can be possibly explained by the smarts of man or the power of humanity. In Jesus, he’s come face to face with a wisdom and a power at work that can only belong to God Himself. And he had so doubted what he’d been told to do. So he’s shamed and terrified, and in the presence of that awful holiness he drops to his knees and bends his head and mutters: “Go away. Go away, Lord. Leave me. I’m a sinful man. You don’t want to be hanging around the likes of me.”
How right and how wrong. Peter was a sinful man. Just like you. Just like me. Always thinking he knew better than God, wiser than God, stronger than God; doubting the power of God’s Word to deliver what it promises. How foolish! And when he’s brought face to face with his own folly, he thinks God can’t want anything to do with the likes of a doubter like him. He hasn’t a clue. You or me either. For that’s not true. Not true at all.
And so Jesus says to Simon, to James and John and those with them, to you and to me: “Don’t be afraid." Which is to say: Don’t be afraid, I didn’t come into the flesh to destroy you. I came to save you - to save you in a way that you might think foolish, but it will do the job! I came save you and keep you in company with Me, the One who will walk the way of weakness and powerlessness even to death on a cross and then you’ll see that my foolish weakness is the greatest power that ever existed! All your wisdom and power will crumble before the might of My cross as I bear your sins to death - all of them, including your doubts about me and how I work in this world. I’ll cover them all with my own blood so that you will live with Me forever in My unending life - for dead I shall not remain. After I die and make my life an offering for sin, I shall live again in a life that is forever beyond the grip of the grave and that life I will share with you, I will put into you. And then I’ve got some work for you to do. No more fish to catch. It will be people you’ll be netting instead - netting with the word of the triumph of my cross, netting with the water that gives new birth and the bread and wine that hide and are my own body and blood giving out forgiveness. Oh, they look so weak and so foolish, like a man hanging dead on a tree, but that’s how I will make you share in my victory over sin, death, and Satan! Don’t be afraid. Come, live with me.
And off they went, then, just as Elisha followed Elijah burning his bridges (that is, his oxen!), so Peter, James and John walked away that day from their livelihood and found in the presence of Jesus the wisdom and the power of God.
So when you’re fed up, discouraged and ready to throw in the towel, and you say to God: “I’m done. I’m through. It’s over” - don’t freak out when he says to you: “No, it’s not over till I say it’s over. You do the task I've bidden and leave the results to Me. I’ve got more work for you to do. Come, live with me and I’ll show you. Don’t be afraid. I’ve got you and you’re mine - and I love you. Here: grab hold the net, my story, my Gospel. You toss it in right there where you live and work, and don’t make the mistake of thinking it weak. It will bring up a pile of men for my kingdom. You’ll see. Let’s get going. We’ve got some boats to fill.” Amen.
Let us pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs. Brief Silence.
O God of our salvation, hear our prayers for Your Church, that faithfully casting the Gospel net of the Crucified and Risen Lord, she may toil with zeal to catch multitudes for the Kingdom. Lord, in Your mercy, R.
God of our hope, remember all Church workers who struggle with depression and anxiety when they see little or no fruit from their labors. Grant them steadfast trust in Your Word and encouragement through Your unfailing promises. Lord, in Your mercy, R.
O Lord God of hosts, remember our nation and its leaders. Strengthen and uphold them in every good deed; and surround with Your compassion on all who serve in our armed forces, especially Aaron and Dan. Lord, in Your mercy, R.
Give ear, O God of Jacob, to our prayers for those who cry out to You in difficult circumstances: the lonely and frightened, the unemployed and homeless, the sick and the dying, and especially those who have asked our prayers: Alice, Chloe, Janet, Aaron, Yvonne, Julie, Kaylee, Ryton, Betty, Glenn, Jerry, Rick, Ray, Elizabeth, Ruth, Rolene, Alfred, Florene, Susie, Al, Mary, Lois, Kari, John, Beth, Eldon, Lynn, Debbie, Joanne, Pat, Sophia, Bill, Don, Donald, Sam, and Ray. Give to each the comfort and joy that come from You alone. Lord, in Your mercy, R.
O Lord, You are our light and our salvation, and You set a feast before us that we might know Your forgiveness, taste Your kindness, and live in You forevermore. Grant us repentant faith to welcome the gift of the Savior’s body and blood to our salvation and abundant blessing. Lord, in Your mercy, R.
Join our prayers and praises with those of Your faithful people of every time and place and unite them in the ceaseless petitions of our great High Priest until He comes in power and great glory as victorious Lord of all. Through Him, with Him and in Him in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all power and glory are Yours, almighty Father, forever and ever.