Matins Devotion: April 19, 2023
In this morning’s reading from Luke, Jesus demonstrates the power and authority of his Word to Peter, James, and John by providing them with a miraculous catch of fish. And then Jesus demonstrates the nature of his mission by calling sinful men to follow after him as disciples.
There were three types of nets that fishermen used on the Sea of Galilee. The oldest type of net was the dragnet. It was a net that was about the length of a football field that the fishermen would lower into the water and then drag to the shore where they would sort whatever fish they happened to capture. This is the type of net described in Matthew’s gospel in the parable about the kingdom. Another type of net was called the cast-net. It was small and circular and had weights tied at intervals along the perimeter. The fisherman would cast it onto the surface of the water and the weights would cause it to sink to the bottom—capturing any fish that happened to be under the net when it was thrown. The cast-net was only used in shallow water, because it often required the fishermen to wade into the water in order to retrieve both the net and the fish. Mark describes this type of net in the first chapter of his gospel. But the third type of net is the one that Luke describes for us this morning. It’s called a trammel net and it continues to be used by fishermen on the Sea of Galilee today. The trammel net is actually a set of three nets that are loosely stacked together. The two outside nets have wide openings that allow fish to swim in and the middle net has very small openings that capture them once they do. It’s a very effective way to catch fish—but it only works well in deep water and at night, when the fish are unable to see the net. During the day, the trammel net is practically worthless.
Understanding this helps us to appreciate what Peter, James, and John immediately apprehend about Jesus after he commands them to let out their trammel nets in broad daylight and the nets fill up with so many fish that they nearly break. In the midst of their astonishment over the miraculous catch, it was Peter especially who perceived that he had come into contact with the divine. And, as both Isaiah and Ezekiel had done when confronted by the manifestation of God’s holy presence, Peter is overcome by the shame and guilt of his own sinful heart and he falls down at Jesus’ knees begging him to depart. Under the bright light of Jesus’ gaze, Peter perceived his own righteousness to be like the trammel net in daylight—worthless.
But Jesus doesn’t abandon sinners. For this purpose he has come. Not to condemn. But to seek and to save the lost. And so Jesus speaks those words of comfort to Peter, “Do not be afraid.” Jesus calls sinners like Peter to follow after him. To live and walk in the light of his Word. The Word that can take a worthless net and fill it with a great catch of fish. The Word that can take worthless men and fill them with hope and life.