There is a lot of imagery in the Scriptures and there is always a danger of taking the literal view of the message and missing the “real message.” This study looks at one example of why we should take time to reflect on what we read and to look for what is hidden between the lines.
(Luke 5:1-11)1NIV New International Version Translations – “‘One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.’ So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”
The first four apostles were fishermen. They owned their own boats. As fishermen, they were like middle-class business owners of today. They had no specific religious credentials to qualify them to join Jesus. The four fishermen were living in the age of Roman oppression. Their lives included high taxes and military enforcement of Roman law. There were other forms of social conflict and economic distress in their land. The world that these fishermen lived in was a mess. Many of us today can identify with the world that the apostles lived in. It was like our own world is today, a mess.
Jesus directed Simon (soon to be Peter) to put down their nets in the “deep water.” Simon’s response begins with an age-old point of view. The men had fished all night and had nothing to show for their efforts. Their response was first to say, why bother? Why should they expect a different outcome? Yet they do what Jesus says to do. This specific response is what we all will model in the future Christian Church, to do what Jesus says to do. During an unpromising situation, the future apostles let down their nets again. When they do so, they catch a super-abundance of fish. Their old nets cannot handle the catch and begin to break.
Many people read and take a visual view of these verses. Jesus, Son of God Himself, knows all things. He even knows where the fish are. From this story, we are told that the future apostles fill their boat. They are amazed at how much Jesus knows about fishing, He must have special powers, calling Him Master and Lord. He must be God! However, is there another message between the lines?
There is a more subtle message in this Scripture that we should not miss, its connection to the “deep water” (Greek: bathos). This idea of “deep water” occurs several other times in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Torah, Prophets, and Writings) in connection with the primordial sea, the sea that was created by God Himself that had existed from the very beginnings of time. The sea is a powerful Jewish symbol of chaos. Luke, the Gospel writer, sees his world as a chaotic and hostile place, stuck between traditional Judaism and the followers of Jesus, the repressive behavior of the Roman Empire, and conflicts within the church itself. The apostle Paul says it best when speaking of Jesus using the same Greek word, bathos. He says that nothing, not the deepest ocean, not all the world’s chaos can separate us from Christ! In other words, not even the chaotic world, Satan’s world can keep us from Christ!
(Romans 8:39) – “neither height nor depth [bathos], nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our LORD.”
Luke also uses the fishing imagery to spell out the mission for the apostles in a way well-known to them: “from now on you will be catching people.” They were familiar with “catching.” “Catching” is a very different word today. It is typically associated with disease (Webster – communicable, contagious, pestilent, transmissible, transmittable). Luke’s imagery is better because as fishermen, the future disciples could relate to the work they were being asked to do. They could understand the risks involved and the satisfaction involved in catching fish. Jesus thinks the same will be true of the mission of His Church. “Catching people from the depths of chaos within our world” will be a good thing. A lot of work, yes. Risks, yes. But the satisfaction of serving Jesus cannot be compared to any worldly pleasure. From this fishing trip, the ministry of the apostles becomes the model for the disciples and the Church itself. As the apostles pulled their nets from the sea teeming with fish in Luke 5:1-11, so the Church spreads its nets to create a new community for God.
It becomes clearer to us that Jesus is not trying to trick the fisherman into just working for Him. In this early encounter with Jesus, He is visually sharing with them the mission that they will be asked to undertake. Luke is saying that Jesus’ command to change the side of the boat that the nets were on was nothing more than a command to change His Church from an internal focus on itself (shallow water) to an external focus on the chaos within our world (deep water). Jesus is encouraging His Church to drop its nets into the chaos of life, not just fish in the shallow waters. Jesus is asking us to be witnesses to the impact that God can have on lives. He is asking His disciples take on the job of inviting people into the movement towards God’s Kingdom. We see the threat of chaos in our world today in national politics, relationships among races and ethnic communities, international relationships, and many other places. According to Luke, the Church is to continue it’s focus on the same mission established by Jesus Himself . We are share the Gospel to individuals, households, and communities as an alternative way of living.
(Revelation 2:24) – “Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you,”
Here, the apostle John is praising the ministry and people of Thyatira2Thyatira – A city in the north of Lydia, on the river Lycus. The Bible mentions Thyatira and also that the Church at Thyatira is one of the seven Churches of the Book of Revelation and is also mentioned in Acts 16:14 because they have been living and acting by principles established by Christ. Because of their living by Christ’s principles, they grew wiser and better. The same should be the goal of all Christians, to desire to grow in faith and that our last works of life should be our best works. Yet Thyatira was also being impacted by wicked people. John warns those who are trying to snuff out the good living and good works of Christ’s Church. John reminds us that God knows the hearts of men, their principles, designs, frame, and temperament. He will take care of those who are interfering. The apostle encourages the church in Thyatira to keep themselves pure and undefiled and not give up on the mission. Why, because to let your guard down, is dangerous. God’s mysteries are as dangerous as the mysteries of Satan and Satan will go to unfathomable depths of deceit to disrupt the mission of the Church. When you are living (catching or fishing) in the “bathos,” the deep water, it is easy to get tired and give up.
To encourage Christ’s believers, we are reminded of how tender Christ is to His faithful servants! He lays nothing on his servants accept what is good for them. Remember, Christ loves us! There is Christ’s personal promise that an ample reward awaits those who persevere, who are victorious in the end. There is even the promise of the gift of knowledge and wisdom that can be used to survive in this chaotic world today.
- How do you read the Word of God?
- Items to Explore: Do you just read the Bible? How regularly? Do you use a study guide? Is there a difference between reading God’s Word and knowing God’s Word?
- Do you ever seek the Hebrew and Greek words and their definitions to help you with clarity?
- Items to Explore: Language in itself is dynamic. Words are added, and meaning changes. Going back to the original source has value. How would you apply this logic to everyday life? Do you think the changing definitions of familiar words are part of the Generation Gap?
- Do you participate in discussion groups?
- Ideas to Explore: Are you being taught the meaning of Scripture? How do you validate what you hear? Do you discuss, internalize, and compare Scripture’s messages to your life today?
- In what ways have you found the Bible to still be relevant in society today?
- Ideas to Explore: When you read passages in the Bible, do you try to find comparisons in our world today? Do you use discussion groups to expand your interpretations and ideas? What are your concerns with discussion groups?
- What discourages you from the mission of the Church?
- Ideas to Explore: Where is the Church winning? Losing? Do you have ideas on how to improve the Church, so it is successfully completing Christ’s mission?
- Where does the discouragement come from, the discouragement that would cause you to lose hope?
- Ideas to Explore: What parts of society support Christ’s mission for His Church? What parts discourage His mission? How do you keep yourself positive on track in support of Christ’s Church?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations
- 2Thyatira – A city in the north of Lydia, on the river Lycus. The Bible mentions Thyatira and also that the Church at Thyatira is one of the seven Churches of the Book of Revelation and is also mentioned in Acts 16:14