If asked which Gospel is your favorite, I imagine a preacher should respond in much the same way a parent should respond to being asked about their favorite child: “Well, each one has its unique endearments and they are all equally precious.”
Nevertheless, Luke has always been my favorite Gospel. Partly, yes, because it is the only Gospel to mention my namesake, Joanna. Also because it has the best parables—and as a recovering English major I’m a sucker for a good short story. And also because Luke’s writing is so wonderfully and ridiculously extravagant.
While Matthew’s genealogy traces Jesus’ lineage back to Abraham, Luke goes all the way back to Adam—which is, of course, both historically impossible and theologically brilliant. Luke’s is the only gospel with the story of Jesus healing ten people with skin disease. Ten! That seems a bit much, really. And of course Luke’s is the only gospel that includes this week’s story of the miraculous catch of fish.
It’s not enough that Jesus facilitates some people catching some fish—he has to help professional fishers who have been fishing all night without catching a single fish; and Jesus causes them to catch not one or two nets full of fish, but two boats full of fish—so many fish, in fact, that the boats begin to sink!
This is a ridiculous, funny, wonderful story. The disciples are “amazed” (a favorite word of Luke’s, used 14 times to Matthew’s 8) and we should be as well. This miracle is instigated by Jesus, not offered in response to a request. This abundant provision comes before Simon and the others decide to follow Jesus—as pure gift, not reward.
And then . . . then . . . once they have managed to get their almost-sinking-from-too-many-fish boats back to shore . . . “they left everything and followed Jesus.”
We’ve already established that Luke can be a bit over the top. So maybe “everything” is literary hyperbole. But if we take Luke at his word, then “everything” certainly includes all of those fish that the guys just caught and worked so hard to haul to shore. So in addition to the miraculous catch of fish, we have another “feeding the 5000” (or at least a lot of people) situation going on here as the crowds who had gathered to listen to Jesus take some of the fish that have been abandoned by the now-disciples.
I have no idea what I’ll have say about this passage for Sunday’s sermon. Hopefully more than, “I love Luke and this is a great story.” But I do love Luke. And this is a great story.
In a week of spiking COVID cases and threats of domestic terrorism in the US, maybe it is simply a gift to hear a humorous story. Maybe it is enough to appreciate God’s extravagant provision—to remember that we serve a God who is “able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.” (Eph. 3:20)
You can read an earlier post on this scripture here: Getting Back in the Boat