Luke 5 – “They began to sink”

We were looking at the Luke 5:1-11 last Wednesday in our frosh bible study. I’ve studied this passage a few times, and I wasn’t expecting to find anything new. But as with studying Scripture in a group, others often see things you don’t. One frosh was intrigued by verse 7 which reads, “They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.” She wondered what the significance of the boats sinking was.

As I was looking at the passage for some clues, I saw something change in Peter in the following verse, “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.'” Peter was in a moment of crisis. Peter recognizes that he is in the presence of someone greater than he and immediately acknowledges his sin and his unworthiness to be in Jesus’ presence. Peter calls Jesus “Lord,” which is significant because it reveals that Peter is beginning to understand something more of Jesus’ identity. What I found interesting was that during this time of internal crisis for Peter, he and the other fishermen were simultaneously experiencing a physical crisis: the boats were starting to sink.

These two crises inform each other. On the one hand, the revelation of Jesus’ identity seizes Peter, and his response shows, at least to Peter, that the spiritual reality is of more pressing concern than the physical danger he and his partners are in. On the other hand, the physical condition shows the weightiness and overflowing of God’s presence. Like the boats, mortals are unable to withstand the fullness of God. It threatens to overwhelm us and capsize us.

What I found to be exciting about this portion of the passage is the intrinsically linked nature of the physical realm and the spiritual realm. It affirms the physicality of our existence as God himself took on flesh and uses the physical world to point us to a deeper spiritual reality. It gives us a glimpse at the dynamic interaction of the seen and unseen, and hints at the fact that actions in the physical affect the spiritual and vice versa.

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