A God who fishes?
Jesus showed up in Simon Peter’s life (and he would show up in our lives) not to be merely a preacher or teacher, but to be a life-changer.
Here is the first piece of evidence: One morning, Jesus showed up beside the lake of Gennesaret to teach a crowd that was “pressing in on him to hear the word of God” (Luke 5:1). It just so happened that Simon Peter and his fishing partners were on the same beach, washing their nets after fishing throughout the night but catching nothing. Apparently Jesus’ teaching on this occasion is dynamic, for he captures and holds the attention of a crowd large enough to pack the beach. Indeed, the crowd becomes so large that Jesus asks Simon to put his boat out a little ways onto the lake and to let him use the boat as a platform from which to speak to the crowd. But as good as Jesus’ teaching was that day, and as committed as Luke is to record many other lessons that Jesus taught, no mention is made is made about what Jesus taught this day. Luke determines that something far more important than a great sermon takes place on Simon’s boat that morning, so Luke leaves out any report on Jesus’ sermon and records only the interaction between Jesus and Simon Peter.
The interaction begins with a request that Jesus makes of Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon is not too happy with the request. He complains, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing.” But Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law the previous evening, so Simon figures that he owes Jesus a favor. He says to Jesus, “Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Notice the contrast between the words of Jesus’ request and the words of Simon’s reply. Jesus said to him, “Let down your nets for a catch.” But Simon says merely, “Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”
It seems that Simon makes some quick calculations in his mind: Jesus may be a nice guy. He may be a good teacher. He may even be able to heal people. But fishing? Clearly Jesus knows nothing about fishing. After catching nothing during the night, the prospects now are dim.
Fishing: That’s the skill in which Simon feels that he is tops. It’s the area of life where Simon feels that he is doing well on his own. Let Jesus stick to his religious activities, his fine public speaking, and his wonderful healings, but stay out of Simon’s fishing business. That’s where Simon shines!
But holy mackerel! When Simon lets down his nets they fill with such a great catch of fish that Simon has to call in reinforcements. Even then, the catch is so large that both boats almost sink.
Suddenly Simon realizes what Jesus has been up to on the boat. He didn’t ask Simon to “put out into the deep water” because he wanted to watch a real-life fisherman at work. He wasn’t even out there to catch a fish. He was out there to catch Simon. Jesus went out on that boat to teach a lesson—not to the crowd on the shore but to the fisherman on board. The lesson is that Jesus knows Simon through and through, and he wants to be at the heart of everything in Simon’s life—not just the religious parts.
Simon is shocked and embarrassed. He is shocked by what has taken place. He is embarrassed to discover that Jesus has seen right through him—right into his doubts, presuppositions, and arrogance. He says to Jesus, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”
But Jesus doesn’t leave. Jesus invites Simon into a new and greater adventure in life. He says to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”
The lessons we find here are that Jesus knows us through and through, that he wants to be God over the whole of our lives (not just the religious parts), and that submitting the whole of our lives to him is a good thing, for Jesus is committed to doing great good in and through our lives.