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September 24, 2017

Gospel Commentary for the First Sunday of Luke (St. Theophylact of Ochrid)

First Sunday of Luke
The Miraculous Catch of Fish and the First Disciples

Luke 5:1-11

From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. Luke

By Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria

1-11. And it came to pass, that, as the multitude pressed against Him to hear the word of God, He stood by the lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake, but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And He entered into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And He sat down, and taught the people out of the boat. Now when He had left speaking, He said unto Simon, "Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch." And Simon answering said unto Him, "Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at Thy word I will let down the net." And when they had done this, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes, and their net broke. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other boat, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 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 was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of the fishes which they had taken; and so were also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, "Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men." And when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all, and followed Him.

The Lord flees glory, which all the more pursues Him. When the crowd pressed against Him, He entered the boat, so that from the boat He could teach those standing on the shore, and everyone would be in front of Him, rather than some coming towards Him from behind. And when He had finished teaching the people, He did not leave the owner of the boat without payment, but gave him a two-fold benefit: He bestowed on him an abundance of fish, and He made him His disciple. Marvel at how wisely the Lord arranges our salvation, drawing to Himself each one by means of the things that are his own and with which he is familiar. As He had attracted the Magi with a star, so now He draws the fishermen by means of fish. Behold the gentleness of Christ, how He does not command, but requests, that Peter put out from land. Behold also the obedience of Peter, how he welcomes into his boat a man whom he did not know, and obeys Him in everything. When the Lord tells him to launch out into the deep, Peter does not become exasperated and leave Him, nor does he reply, "I have toiled the whole night and gained nothing, and now I should obey you and do it all again?" Peter said nothing like this, but instead, "At Thy word I will let down the net." Such was the warmth of his trust even before he had faith. And he caught so great a number of fish that he was not able to haul them in, and he beckoned to his companions in the other boat. He calls them with a signal, because his astonishment at the catch was so great that he could not even speak. Out of great reverence for Jesus, Peter begs Him not to remain in the boat, and calls himself a sinner who is not worthy to be with Him.

You may also understand these things in a spiritual sense. The boat is the synagogue of the Jews. Peter represents the teachers of the law. For the teachers of the law also toiled the whole night before Christ came (the time before Christ's sojourning on earth was indeed night) and took in nothing. But when Christ came, and it became day, the teachers of the law were replaced by the Apostles who, at His word, that is, at His command, let down the net of the Gospel in which they caught so great a number of men that the Apostles could not haul in the catch by themselves. And so they beckon to their partners and companions and together pull in the net. These are the pastors and teachers of the Church in every generation who teach and interpret the words of the Apostles, laboring with the Apostles to catch mankind. Consider also the words, "Let down the net." The net is the Gospel: like the fisherman's net, which is a lowly and commonplace thing, the Gospel is composed of humble, everyday words which reach down and condescend to the simplicity of the people. This is why it is said that the net is let down. If any one should say that letting down the net also indicates the depth of meaning of the Gospel, neither would he be off the mark. Therefore the words of the prophet have also been fulfilled, "Behold, I will send many fishermen, saith the Lord, and they shall fish for them; and afterward I will send many hunters, and they shall hunt for them" (Jer. 16:16). The fishermen are the holy Apostles, and the hunters are the leaders and teachers of the Church in each generation.