This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary, 5th Sunday of Epiphany (which doesn't necessarily happen every Epiphany). Most recently, February 6, 2022
Summary: This is a great metaphor for the Christian life: Jesus interrupts our life. Asks us to do something small for the Kingdom. We agree. Jesus then pushes us beyond our comfort zone, to go deep. We balk. We do it. We discover the riches of God's love. This works something deep in our soul where we are brought to our knees. We rise, ready to serve.
2022 insight: I also reading Scripture with more of an eye on the community. In this story, the work of ministry is too big for Peter alone; he needs his friends, even though Jesus is speaking directly to him. After all of the ministry, family and church changes in the past two years -- who are your partners?
εμβας (from εμβαινω, meaning "embark", 5:3) Let's be clear: The movement here begins with Jesus. Not us. Jesus gets in the boat, even uninvited!
επαναγαγε (meaning "put out to see", 5:3,4) Jesus commands Peter and the others twice to put out their boats.
- The first putting out is: ολιγον (meaning "few" or little", 5:3).
- The second time Jesus calls them to set their boats into the βαθος (meaning "deep," 5:1)
At first Jesus only asks for a bit of favor - a little movement! The second time he asks them to take a risk. The first time Jesus asks them to use what they have, in comfortable ways, for Jesus' purpose. The second time, Jesus asks them to go a bit deeper -- less comfortable. The word βαθος in Greek, like English, can refer simply to a physical measurement (something is deep), but also connotes a more mystical deepness, of something unknown and perhaps even unknowable (Psalm 69:2; Michah 7:19, 1 Cor 2;10 and Ephesians 3:18). This seems a fitting metaphor for our life in Christ. At first, we are asked to do something we know how to do, something we like to do, and then boom, we find ourselves pushed beyond our comfort zone, into the deep end of the pool!
ἐπιστάτα (vocative form of word meaning "master", 5:5) It is only in Luke's Gospel that the disciples calls Jesus by this title. In parallel stories in the other synoptics, Jesus is referred to as teacher. While Luke indicates that Jesus is teaching (εδιδασκεν, 5:3), Jesus keeps with επιστατα. Luke here seems to be suggesting a higher level of respect and admiration. If I were translating this word, I would use "guru." In ancient Greek επιστατα can mean "one who is set over, a commander, of a tutelary god, a president, steward of the games, a training-master." (Liddell Scott) BDAG also suggests this word is used as one would lead the student/mentee into virtue. In short, this word might include teaching, but it is more of a moralistic if not wholistic teaching. It describes one who is entrusted with the responsibility of a project, and that project might be our moral formation. In short, when Peter calls Jesus this name, he is demonstrating great faith. It is also worth noting that the confession that Jesus is κύριε (Lord), begins with Master. Following Jesus may not begin with an all out acknowledgement of his divinity; this can happen as a later development.
It is also worth noting that Peter's confession of sin follows his witness of Jesus power and even after his obedience to Jesus. Evangelism that begins with proclamation of wrath may not be the only way to bring a potential follower of Christ to his or her knees!
τα δικτυα (plural of "δικτυον" meaning "nets", 5:2, 4, 5, 6) They are not cashing a fishing line; they are casting a net! So, go fish! Use your fishing metaphors, but don't use a fishing line.
χαλασατε (from χαλαω, meaning "drop nets", 5:4) The word for "drop nets" means to "loosen." In order to catch fish, they have to "loosen" their grip. What ministry area are you holding on to too tightly?
μετοχοις (μετοχος, 5.7) and κοινωνοι (κοινωνος, 5.10) Both of these words mean partner. μετοχος comes from the Greek for "with-have"; the other, κοινωνος, comes up in other places in the New Testament in terms of fellowship.
- Peter cannot do his work of fishing or ministry-fishing alone. He needs others. After this time of pandemic, who are your partners?
- Fellowship in Christian communities is also economic (Paul picks up on κοινωνος in his letters to the Corinthians)
ζωγρων (meaning "capture alive", 5:10) It seems really strange here that would capture humans like fish. Isn't Jesus about freedom and life?! Jesus uses a different word than "fish"; he uses a word that means capture alive, as opposed to kill In fact, in Ancient Greek, this word had two meanings:
1) to take alive, take captive instead of killing
2) to restore to life, revive
Jesus is interested in a live harvest!