This year could be scarey...
'Don't be afraid!'
In reading the early chapters of Luke's gospel over Christmas, I found these words spoken three times by an angel - to Zechariah, father-to-be of John the Baptist, to Mary and to the shepherds outside Bethlehem. Understandably, the sudden supernatural manifestation of a heavenly being might well cause alarm. But each time the message itself is perhaps even more disturbing. The world of those who hear it will never be the same again.
A couple of chapters later, Jesus is preaching in the synagogues. Firstly in Nazareth, Jesus announces his manifesto in the passage from Isaiah. Initially, the audience is amazed by his gracious words, but the door immediately closes once familiarity takes over: we know this man, Joseph's son, and we're not going to take this message on board, especially when he starts challenging the way we see ourselves as God's only favoured people. And they look to throw him over a cliff.
It's a different story in Capernaum. For them, the message has authority - especially when backed with a powerful demonstration of deliverance. News quickly spreads; their world is changed.
Again, we hear these words in the next chapter, this time spoken by Jesus to Simon the tired fisherman, exhausted after a fruitless night's toil and not a little condescending in his agreement to lower the empty nets one more time. Of course, he would be in awe of the miraculous catch. But there is more. 'Depart from me, Lord; I am a sinful man.' Simon in the depth of his being suddenly recognises that his world has forever changed. The feisty, headstrong, self-assured fisherman experiences a seismic shift at his core - enough to scare any man. And it is this fear that Jesus addresses, and in the same breath points to Simon's new world: 'From now on you will catch men.'
This encounter proved to be just the first movement of those tectonic plates as Simon walked with Jesus. Even much later, after all of these experiences, after the death and resurrection, after Pentecost, on the rooftop overlooking the sea, yet another shift takes place as the large sheet is lowered from heaven and the Spirit prepares Simon to open the door to the Gentiles.
Who knows how far God may want to shift our perspective this year, challenging our preconceived ideas and limited vision, expanding our calling and preparing us for yet greater things?
Don't be afraid...
Over the holidays we came across the exciting new presentation of the life of Jesus called 'The Chosen' which we would wholeheartedly commend to you. You can find out more details here:
We close with a wonderful clip from this series which dramatically portrays the miraculous catch of fish. We hope it whets your appetite.
Happy New Year!