by Father Mike Stubbs
How would you describe Jesus? If you were limited to only one sentence, what would you say? What concerning him especially stands out in your mind?
On the first Easter Sunday, two of Jesus’ disciples describe him as “a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (Lk 24:19).
Sunday’s Gospel reading, Lk 5:1-11, offers us an example of how Jesus had lived up to that two-fold description. It narrates two important events early in Jesus’ ministry that are connected to each other. First, Jesus works a miracle: the miraculous catch of fish. Then, Jesus calls Simon Peter to follow him as his disciple.
In the course of Jesus’ conversation with Simon Peter, he makes two prophetic utterances concerning the future. First, he directs Simon Peter to put out his fishing boat into deeper water and lower his nets.
Jesus makes this request even though Simon Peter has spent all night trying to catch fish without any success. This instruction of Jesus looks forward to the tremendous catch of fish that Peter will make, so great that it risks breaking the net. That in itself testifies to Jesus’ prophetic nature. Jesus knows what will happen.
Secondly, Jesus calls Simon Peter to join him in spreading the good news about the kingdom of God: “From now on you will be catching men.” This statement anticipates the large number of converts that Peter will make as Jesus’ disciple. For example, the Acts of the Apostles recounts how Peter preaches to the crowd on the day of Pentecost and converts a huge number: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day” (Acts 2:41). Jesus’ prophecy is fulfilled.
Beyond the statement that Jesus makes, the abundance of fish that Simon Peter catches prefigures the abundance of converts that Peter will make. Jesus’ miracle serves as a nonverbal prophecy.
While Jesus is “a prophet mighty in deed and word,” he is much more than that. He is also the Son of God, the savior of the world. That becomes clear at the end of his life, when he dies on the cross and then rises from the dead.
But earlier, during the course of his ministry, he travels through Galilee to preach the good news and to work miracles of healing. He would look like a prophet of old.
That reputation would pave the way for his even greater work of salvation.