The Sunday gospel lectionary reading for the fourth Sunday before Lent in Year C is Luke 5.1–11, the story of the miraculous catch of fish, as we jump forward into Jesus’ ministry before returning to the temptations in the desert at the start of Lent. It is a captivating story in its own right, but it also raises questions about the connections with the account in Mark 1 of the call of the disciples and the story in John 21 of a similar miraculous catch after Jesus’ resurrection.
The narrative is both full of what looks like eye-witness detail, but told in Luke’s distinctive style. The opening sentence runs through verses 1 and 2, and is structured with several subordinate clauses (‘hypotaxis’) in contrast with Mark’s typical paratactical style in narratives (‘and…and…’). There is a vivid sense of the crowd pressing in on Jesus; I cannot think of another place in the gospels where this physical sense of crowding in is expressed in quite the same way. They have come to hear ‘the word of God’, which is Luke’s distinctive term for Jesus’ message of the kingdom (in Matt 15.6 = Mark 7.13 and John 10.35 the phrase refers to the Scriptures). Luke uses the phrase in the gospel where it is not present in the parallel accounts (as in Luke 8.11 and Luke 8.21) and in Acts it becomes a term for the message of the gospel (Acts 4.31, 6.2, 8.14, 12.24 and so on) as it often does in Paul (1 Cor 14.36, 1 Thess 2.13 and elsewhere) thus expressing the continuity between the Old Testament, Jesus’ teaching, and the apostolic proclamation.
For a full analysis, see the previous article here. Click below to watch the conversation between James and Ian on the passage, including engaging with some interesting questions that were asked about the passage, its meaning, and its application in reading and preaching.