Fishing: context

Fishers-of-men-icon1 While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. 2 He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” 9 For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, 10 and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.

For the two previous weeks in the lectionary cycle, Jesus has been in Nazareth engaging the citizens of his own hometown (4:14-30). As Jesus indicated, no prophet is accepted in his own native place (v.24). Leaving Nazareth, Jesus moved on to Capernaum. Again he amazed people while teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath. While present, there was a man with the spirit of an unclean demon (v.33). Jesus casts the demon from the man, again amazing the people: For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.”(v.36) Also while in Capernaum, Jesus cured Simon’s mother-in-law (vv.38-39) and all manner of people sick with various diseases (v.40) and case out other demons (v.41).

42 At daybreak, Jesus left and went to a deserted place. The crowds went looking for him, and when they came to him, they tried to prevent him from leaving them. 43 But he said to them, “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent.” 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

This is the first place in Luke where Jesus mentions proclaiming the Kingdom of God as a compelling necessity – something that will become a hallmark of later sections of Luke’s gospel.

The Capernaum ministry consists of four scenes in which Jesus performs the first healings and exorcisms in the Gospel of Luke. Luke’s account of the healings in Capernaum makes several connections. It connects the healings and exorcisms with Jesus’ teaching so that the power of his words is dramatically demonstrated in his mighty works. By implication, where his words are heard, there the power that was manifested in the miracles continues to be active. As Culpepper notes [112-113], “Running through both the Nazareth and the Capernaum episode, however, is the warning that the power of God cannot be possessed, contained, or limited for our own purposes. It moves on, and it is always reaching across the barriers that separate communities and peoples from one another. The mighty works of Jesus’ ministry, however, are a manifestation of the power of the Spirit. As the Lord’s anointed, Jesus was empowered to extend the work of the prophets and begin the work of the kingdom. What was stated in the reading from Isaiah 61 saw its first small beginnings in the healings in Capernaum. God was moving to free persons from the debilitating and dehumanizing conditions that prevented human beings from living as God willed life to be. In that respect, the text gives up a significant clue when as a result of Jesus’ healings, demons flee from those who have been delivered from their illness or impairment. The healings are theologically significant, therefore, because they convey important insights into God’s intention for human life and God’s unrelenting efforts to free captives and give sight to the blind. Healing and deliverance are manifestations of the work of the kingdom.”

Jesus continues his Galilean ministry near Capernaum and Nazareth in the territory around the Lake, here called Gennesaret after the fertile plain on its northwest shore (also called the Sea of Galilee, Sea of Tiberius). To this point Jesus has acted alone, unaccompanied by disciples – that however is about to change.

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