From Now On …
Then Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people." When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
February 4, 2022, Words By: Rev. Sarah Wiles, Image By: unknown
Jesus says, “Do not be afraid,” but there was nothing not frightening about this passage when I was growing up. Jesus issues this bizarre commission, and Peter says yes immediately. Who does that? I was brought up in the age of “stranger danger.” You should never leave everything and follow some weird guy. Every sermon I heard on this passage asked, “Would you follow?” And every time I thought, “Nope.”
I think the part that most bothered me about this (besides catching people like fish—do you gut them after you catch them?) was that it was all up to me. Would I let Jesus in my boat? Would I follow? Would I fish for people? My salvation depended on my choice alone.
It’s no accident that this interpretation mirrors the deeply individualistic American culture in which I grew up. Secular salvation in the U.S. is all about personal choice, personal responsibility. So, of course, Christian salvation in America would be the same. Each of us decides. Each of us has a personal walk. We’re saved on our own because of our personal decision.
We should always be wary when our theology matches the dominant culture.
Could there be a different read?
Jesus asks Simon to row out into deep water. There’s something hidden there in most English translations. When Jesus says, “Row out,” that’s in the second person plural. He’s saying, “Simon, could y’all row out?” Meaning: Simon’s not alone. There are other people in the boat. From the very beginning it’s not about just one person. There’s a whole crew here. Jesus calls all of them.
So, they row Jesus out, and suddenly Peter and his friends are utterly overwhelmed by fish; they have to call their partners James and John to come help. And here’s the thing: the Greek word for partner is the root word for koinonia, which means fellowship—the folks who show up when your boat’s sinking.
Peter’s with his partners, his community, his koinonia, when he decides he wants to follow Jesus. He doesn’t decide on his own—he decides it with these partners. They find Jesus—together. They follow Jesus—in community.
Then Jesus tells them, “You’re going to go do the same thing with other people. You’re going to fish for people.” Jesus always has people around. Whether he’s teaching or healing or feeding, he’s always got folks around. He draws people together.
What if he’s commissioning them to go do the same thing—to gather people, to draw them together? What if Jesus is saying you’re going to be gathering people the way I do—not recruiting individual souls for salvation but sharing life with other folks—eating with them, walking with them, partying with them, weeping with them? You’re going to live in community.
What if it’s not about individual salvation? What if it’s all communal—from the moment Jesus gets in the boat with Simon and the others. If Jesus is Life, this would mean that we find Life with others.
This is what church, Christian community, koinonia is about. It’s a place where we come together without rivalry, set down our isolation, and become a community.
We do that in our particular places so that we can do that in the world. We share life together so that we have a model to go and nurture community in our lives. We are connected because each community is just one small corner of God’s intricate ecosystem. We share life here because our liberation, our healing, our salvation is bound up with others. We’re all in the same boat.
Dwelling Among Us
This week consider how your spirituality and salvation are intimately bound up with others. How can you live more deeply into the koinonia to which Jesus calls us?