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Luke 5: 1-11 - Patristic Commentary

OVERVIEW; The technical vocabulary of fishing is scattered throughout this passage, suggesting that the hearer take seriously the image of fishing as a metaphor for the work of Jesus and a picture of the church in the present time (AUGUSTINE). Because Christ is present in the boat, it becomes a symbol of the church (MAXIMUS OF TURIN). The miracle is about "catching men alive"-through the ministry of the means of grace, which establishes the church and keeps the church growing even today as Jesus draws people into his church through the preaching of the gospel (CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA). This church is called out into the deep as was Noah (MAXIMUS OF TURIN).

As the prophets toiled all night, so did the apostles. One boat represents the Jews and the other overloaded boat the Gentiles (EPHREM THE SYRIAN). Peter, like the demons, recognizes that Jesus is "the holy One of God," and his fear comes from being in the presence of this holiness as a sinner (CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA). To capture people alive is to declare to them the kingdom of God in Jesus and bring them into that kingdom through the sacraments of the church (MAXIMUS OF TURIN).

5:1-3 Teaching the Crowds

FIRST CATCH OF FISH THE CHURCH IN THE PRESENT TIME. AUGUSTINE: So let me recall with you those two catches offish made by the disciples at the command of the Lord Jesus Christ: one before his passion, the other after his resurrection. These two catches of fish stand for the whole church, both as it is now and as it will be at the resurrection of the dead. Now, as you can see, it contains countless numbers, both good and bad. After the resurrection it will contain only the good, and a definite number of them.

So call to mind that first catch, where we may see the church as it is in this present time. The Lord Jesus found his disciples fishing, when he first called them to follow him. They had caught nothing all night. But when they saw him, they heard him telling them, "Let down your nets." "Master," they said, "we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." They cast them at the command of the Almighty. What else could happen, but that which he intended? But all the same, he was pleased, as I said, to indicate something to us that he knew would be to our advantage.

The nets were cast. The Lord had not yet suffered, not yet risen again. The nets were cast. They caught so many fish that two boats were filled, and the very nets were torn by that vast quantity of fish. Then he said to them/'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." They received from him the nets of the Word of God, they cast them into the world as into a deep sea, and they caught the vast multitude of Christians that we can see and marvel at. Those two boats, though, stood for the two peoples, Jews and Gentiles, synagogue and church, those circumcised and those uncircumcised. SERMON 248.2.

5:4-7 The Miraculous Catch of Fish

JESUS CHOOSES PETER'S BOAT INSTEAD OF MOSES'. MAXIMUS OF TURIN: He chooses Peter's boat and forsakes Moses'-that is to say, he spurns the faithless synagogue and takes the faithful church. For God appointed the two as boats, so to speak, which would fish for the salvation of humankind in this world as in a sea. As the Lord says to the apostles, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."...

The church is called out into the deep, delving, as it were, into the profound mysteries of the heavens, into that depth concerning which the apostle says, "O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!" For this reason he says to Peter, "Put out into the deep, "that is to say, into the depths of reflection upon the divine generation. For what is more profound than what Peter says to the Lord, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God?...

This boat sails upon the deeps of this world, so that, when the earth is destroyed, it will pre-serve unharmed all those it has taken in. Its foreshadowing can be seen already in the Old Testament. For as Noah's ark preserved alive everyone whom it had taken in when the world was going under, so also Peter's church will bring back unhurt everyone whom it embraces when the world goes up in flames, And as a dove brought the sign of peace to Noah's ark when the flood was over, so also Christ will bring the joy of peace to Peter's church when the judgment is over. SERMON 49.1-3.

CHRIST CONTINUES TO CATCH PEOPLE IN THE NETS OF PREACHING. CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA: He told Simon and his companions to sail off a little from the land and to let down the net for a draught. But they replied that they had been toiling the whole night and had caught nothing. However, in the name of Christ, they let down the net, and immediately it was full of fish. By a visible sign and by a miraculous type and representation, they were fully convinced that their labor would be rewarded, and the zeal displayed in spreading out the net of the gospel teaching would be fruitful. Within this net they should most certainly catch the shoals of the heathen. But note that neither Simon nor his companions could draw the net to land. Speechless from fright and astonishment for their wonder had made them mute-they beckoned to their partners, to those who shared their labors in fishing, to come and help them in securing their prey. For many have taken part with the holy apostles in their labors, and still do so, especially those who inquire into the meaning of what is written in the holy Gospels. Yet besides them there are also others: the pastors and teachers and rulers of the people, who are skilled in the doctrines of truth. For the net is still being drawn, while Christ fills it, and calls to conversion those who, according to the Scripture phrase, are in the depths of the sea, that is to say, those who live in the surge and waves of worldly things. COMMENTARY ON LUKE, HOMILY 12.


That you may understand that the Lord was speaking of spiritual fishing, however, Peter says, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." It is as if he were saying, "Through the whole night our fishing has brought us nothing, and we have been laboring in vain. Now I will not fish with fishing gear but with grace, not with diligence acquired by skill but with the perseverance acquired by devotion." When Peter lets down the nets at the word, therefore, he is in fact letting down the teachings in Christ. When he unfolds the tightly woven and well-ordered nets at the command of the Master, he is really laying out words in the name of the Savior in a fitting and clear fashion. By these words he is able to save not creatures sue souls. "We toiled all night," he says, "and took nothing." Peter, who beforehand was unable to see in order to make a catch, enduring darkness without Christ, had indeed toiled through the whole night. But when the Savior's light shone Upon him the darkness scattered, and by faith he began to discern in the deep what he could not see with his eyes. SERMON no.2.11

THE TWO BOATS REPRESENT THE JEWS AND GENTILES. EPHREM THE SYRIAN: We have been toiling all night. This refers symbolically to the prophets. His teaching came down from on high m the world, which stands by way of parable for the sea. The two boats represent the circumcised and the uncircumcised. They made a sign to their companions. This refers symbolically to the seventy-two, for these disciples were too few in number for the catch and the harvest. COMMENTARY ON TATIAN'S DIATESSARON 5.18.

5:8-11 Peter's Confession and Jesus' Absolution

PETER'S FEAR COMBS FROM THE PRESENCE OF HOLINESS: CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA; For this reason also Peter, carried back to the memory of his former sins, trembles and is afraid. As an impure man, he does not dare to receive the one who is pure. His fear was praiseworthy, because he had been taught by the law to distinguish between the holy and the profane. COMMENTARY ON LUKE, HOMILY 12.

THIS BOAT Is THE CHURCH THAT GIVES LIFE. MAXIMUS OF TURIN: Ordinarily people are not given life on a boat but transported. Nor are they comforted on a vessel but anxious about its journey. Notice also that this boat is not a boat that is given to Peter to be piloted-rather, it is the church, which is committed to the apostle to be governed. For this is the vessel that does not kill but gives life to those borne along by the storms of this world as if by waves. Just as a little boat holds the dying fish that have been brought up from the deep, so also the vessel of the church gives life to human beings who have been freed from turmoil. Within itself, I say, the church gives life to those who are half-dead, as it were. SERMON 110.


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