30AD – A Fish Odyssey -part 1

30AD – A Fish Odyssey -part 1

When I was much younger I remember hearing the soaring reverberations from Richard Strauss’ opus from “2001: A Space Odyssey”. When I was younger, I knew nothing of what that opening music title was supposed to mean or its origin in the mind of the composer. I only knew it had a grand sound. And, as I watched the movie, I was fascinated by the space scenes – that’s all I really wanted to see. I had no real understanding of the evolutionary contexts being advanced. I wanted to see stars and space ships and neat special effects.

I could see concepts of fantasy, science fiction. And, that is how I attributed it. I saw no doctrine as was intended for older audiences. The intended context was Evolution. But, as I said, I was not interested in trying to disprove the existence of God. I wanted to see space.

And, whether the authors of “2001” knew it or not, one principle they used was very biblical – growth from immaturity to maturity. I don’t intend to write an article about why that is the case or what they might mean by it. I would beg your indulgence in accepting that it is biblical for a moment.

I would point to a story that holds its significance in the abundant use of this principle. In the narrative account of Luke, we see a story of growth, of maturing, of faith.

In Luke 5:1-11, the narrative picks up after a long night of fishing.

1 Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; 2 and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. 3 And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. 4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; 7 so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” 11 When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.

Luke 5:1–11 (NASB95)

This is the first time we see Peter, who would later become one of the Lord’s Apostles. In Luke’s account, Jesus was already known to the populous and His fame was spreading and His notoriety was evidently known to Peter (v.8). The Lord comes into the scene at the end of a night of fishing.

From the context we can see that Peter and his companions were professional fishermen. They fished at the right time. Night was the preferred time of day for fishing in ancient times. Fish that were caught during the night could be sold fresh in the morning. They fished at the right spot. The shallow water was the best place to fish.

I grew up in Florida where the fishing is easy. We fished for speckled Perch – to eat. And, when I and my dad and uncle went out fish, we caught a bunch. The fish practically jumped in the boat when they saw the line go into the water. There was really nothing to it. I had a practice casting weight on my spinning reel. What you practiced in Florida was not how and where to find the fish, it was how accurately you could place the bait. Everything else was academic.

So, fishing, such as I understood it, held no intrigue for me. And, when we moved to North Georgia when I was a teenager, I assumed it would be the same. But, as it held no particular interest for me and we had no boat – my uncle did, and he was still in Florida – I did not pursue it. But, several years later, when I had children of my own, their grandfather took the boys fishing. And, I learned that I knew nothing about fishing. It is different in Georgia. And, up here they fish for sport – for bass. To catch a bass requires a bit of study – knowing where they will be during the parts of the day, how the water temperature affects their movements, how the color of the water, and the visibility in the water affects their movements, and what types of bait are best and how to use them, how to work them.

Peter was a pro and knew where the fish would be. And that is where they cast their nets. The right time, the right place, the right everything. So, when Jesus tells Peter to cast in the deep in the morning, the professional knew the fish would not be there. According to Richards in The Teacher’s Commentary – By all odds this would be a futile action. The fishermen of Palestine worked at night, when the schools of fish worked in toward shore to feed on the swarms of minnows in the shallower, warmer waters.

But, there was something else going on this day. Notice the framework of the passage. In v.1 there was listening; in v. 3 there was teaching; in v. 4 there was speaking. Note the position of the Lord. In v.1 He is standing; in v. 3 He sat down.

The focus is interestingly not on the content of the teaching. It is not the doctrine that is recorded. The record simply states that the crowd was listening to the word of God. The phrase, “listening to the word of God” is a Septuagint idiom. It only appears in Luke in the NT. Luke was a Gentile writing to Gentiles. A crowd was listening to the Lord.

But, the occasion allowed for more… We’ll pick that up next time.

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