July 10, 2013

The Angling Carpenter & A Carpenter's Angle

Luke 5:1-11 ~ On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

Having read this passage I see quite a few ironies, paradoxes and interesting quirks that should be mentioned to enlighten a reader. It should first be noted that Jesus, the carpenter is telling the professional fisherman that He needs to use his boat to preach to the people on the shore. Jesus, a carpenter therefore becomes a fisher of men in the fisherman’s boat by preaching the Gospel. Please note Jesus doesn’t ask here, He tells. Jesus fishes from the fisherman’s boat but catches no real fish but catches something worth infinitely more…men’s souls. In the Sea of Galilee, had not Peter held the boat still it would’ve surely drifted away from shore. It is necessary that Jesus anchor his teaching in His disciples since after He is gone it will be they (with Him) that carry on His teaching, just as the boat now carries Jesus and His message.

When the preaching of the Gospel is completed we would think that Jesus would ask Peter to take the boat back to shore but Jesus always the Master of the unexpected tells them to put out for the deep and drop their nets. The problem with this is that, in view of the world, it is a carpenter telling professional fishermen how to fish. What is even more shocking is that Jesus has picked the absolute worst time of day to drop a net into the water. It is the middle of the day and water is warm. The oxygen content in the water near the surface is low. The fish would surely have dropped into much deeper waters and under rocks…out of range of the nets. This is further exacerbated by the fact that these professional fishermen know for a fact that they should fish at night for the best catch and the previous night was a horrible night’s catch. They must be absolutely exhausted. We should expect these professional fishermen to tell Jesus He’s nuts and forget about the whole deal. They do not. They actually signal to the other boats (probably subtlety so not to clue in other groups of fishermen) and they do as they’re told.

As it turns out the carpenter is dead-on. They take in the haul of a lifetime. The boats literally began to sink. It is through Christ's work here that the catch of a lifetime comes to fruition. What we see from Peter and the other fisherman is a willingness to put away their pride and temptation to debate and fight Jesus over what appears to be an obvious fool’s errand. It turns out it wasn’t foolish to do what they did but made perfect sense. Peter then reacts exactly as a man should when he has been schooled in his own profession. He see’s Jesus as Lord.

It is therefore ironic that Jesus will take some of these very same men and make them the exact fishers of men that Jesus had just demonstrated personally previous to this monstrous catch. Just like the shadows and the types of the Old Testament that will one day point to Jesus, we see here a New Testament typology for the disciples who will follow in the footsteps of their Master. Jesus, a carpenter by trade but God in being and Savior in purpose…thee Fisher of men.

In this scenario Jesus had approached Peter in a situation where Peter had his strongest hand. Jesus is trying to bolster and build up Peter here, not tear him down by schooling him on how to fish. Jesus does this to build Peter up showing how his profession (fishing) will play such a strong hand in what Jesus will want Peter to do as a disciple. What’s more is that Jesus seems to do some of His most effective bolstering and building work on Peter when? When Jesus and Peter are alone in close quarters…these conversations between Jesus and Peter are personal and in many cases one-on-one. It is only when Peter divulges the information Jesus gave him to others that Jesus’ information becomes more public. Jesus is purposeful in is tact with Peter. It is similar to the way God still does work with individual believers. God reveals certain personal tidbits and information to believers that will move them towards His will. God approaches Peter and us often in isolation (private prayer time) far from the prying eyes of the world. The very same judgmental eyes that will often instigate us through sin and temptation to make poor decisions that God would rather not have us make.

Jesus came to Peter in private trying to truly reach him. Jesus wants Peter to focus with a single-minded intensity on what he is being talked to about. This I believe is because Jesus knows His creation well and knows that no man can focus on multiple tasks without dividing their attention therefore diminishing the effectiveness of their work. God doesn’t believe people can truly multi-task. He said as much in Mark 9

Mark 9:62 ~ Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”.

In dealing with Peter the way that he did Jesus puts Himself at Peter’s mercy too. He is adrift in a boat controlled by someone else. This is the way true ministry often looks. It is not the premeditated business model that supposedly guarantees certain amounts of return for effort expended (i.e.: purpose driven). It is a minister or shepherd that is willing to put Himself in the mercy and grace of the very one’s he leads. By doing it this way it behooves Jesus (or a pastor/minster) to properly train them to produce the desired holy outcome. A true leader is exactly this. A person that is willing to put Himself/himself at the whims of the ones He teaches as it instills a sense of responsibility and accountability. True leadership gets under those that they lead to supply them with the things they need to lead others. It is servant leadership from the suffering servant. In so doing Jesus starts as Peter’s επιστάτα / teacher or leader (v.5) but ends as Peter’s κύριε / Lord (v.8). By putting Himself at Peter’s mercies (therefore God’s), we see Jesus being rightfully recognized and exalted by God through Peter (and probably others in the immediate vicinity). It is in faith that Peter will recognize this fact also. I suppose it is no surprise then that it will be Jesus who pucks Peter from the water like a fish when Peter's faith falters (Matthew 14).

We see Jesus going in at the perfect angle for the best effect with Peter. Just as Jesus learned that it is better to measure twice and cut once as a carpenter, it is also smart to size up your catch before attempting to reel it in. It is also highly probable that being a carpenter, Jesus would’ve most certainly used a carpenter’s angle to make perfect squared edges with which to mate to other perfectly crafted edges. This is just like when we try to make perfect relations in Christ when we become disciples and followers of the Carpenter from Galilee.

When you know the tendencies of your intended catch, you bait your line so best to catch it. Just as a carpenter knows the tendencies of the wood he works, he wishes to work along the known grain so not to cut against it. Jesus had an angle and it was to make fishers of men just like Himself. He literally constructed and crafted them just as He had worked and coaxed the wood in His youth into beautiful creations. They would be all new and all unique. To make these men he had to lead by example. He had to stoop, flex and hone them one step at a time. Sometimes, going with the grain is better than cutting against it. Sometimes rolling with the tide is better than rocking the boat.

Jesus purposely put Himself at the mercies of others. Nowhere did we see this more than at the Cross. In so doing He supplied Peter with the exact thing he would need to catch others as a fisher of men. Jesus made Himself the bait for the fishermen. He made Himself the Gospel. Jesus made Himself the very thing that He preached from Peter’s boat just off shore at Gennesaret. That is God’s angle: The Gospel.

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