This Fifth Sunday after Trinity usually comes quite close to St Peter's Day which is an “immovable feast” set on June 29. By a happy coincidence (probably not intended) today's Epistle and Gospel feature St Peter in a special way.
The Gospel relates an incident which occurred early in the acquaintance of Jesus and Peter. Jesus had first met Peter in Capernaum, a fishing town on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had been a guest in Peter's home and had healed Peter's wife's mother. Then Jesus left for a preaching mission in Judaea (an episode of which we know only a little).
What happens in the passage from Luke 5 which we read today is that Peter's relationship to Jesus, already a positive and strong friendship, is deepened and established. Surely Peter considered it a great honor to have Jesus in his home or to lend his fishing boat to Jesus as a place to preach. The picture of Jesus preaching from the boat to a multitude on the shore deserves to be one of our most beloved images of the Saviour. But Peter needed to learn more about Jesus.
When Jesus was a guest in Peter's house or in Peter's boat, Peter was surely tempted to feel that he himself was in charge of Jesus, saying, “Sit here,” or “Sit there.” Peter probably felt annoyed or possibly even outraged by the command of Jesus, “Put out into the deep.” It was the wrong time of day for fishing, and the men were surely weary from laboring all night. This was their appointed “quitting time,” the moment when workers cannot be detained without grumbling.
Peter addresses Jesus twice in this passage, the first time to argue and the second time to confess his sins. In the first address Peter uses the term “Master,” a polite but unremarkable term for a teacher or rabbi. But in his second speech, Peter addressed Jesus as “Lord.” Peter has suddenly perceived that Jesus is no ordinary teacher or healer, but is none other than the Lord Himself. In that one word “Lord” is the germ of the Great Confession which is read as the Gospel on St Peter's Day.
But let us be quick to say, merely addressing Jesus by the correct title is not enough. As He Himself said, “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Jesus still commands His disciples to take great risks, to do things which defy common sense, to continue our laboring even when we are tired. “Launch out into the deep!” LKW