One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
At our Church we are working our way through the Gospel of Luke, it is wonderful reading again stories we know so well, and spotting new and fresh insights as we read (or re-read)them together.
Verse 4 struck me, the idea of pushing out into the deep water, a friend of mine (also called Simon) felt this verse was for him prophetic, a call to ‘go where the water is deeper’ (New Living Translation).
A challenge, are we keep going deeper in our faith, “pushing out from the shore”, yet too often Christians fall into the danger of “splashing around in the shallow end”, or perhaps staying within our comfort zone -maybe even with a foot on the floor.
Perhaps this is Simon might be feeling like this, at the moment Simon seems like a curious bystander, although one warmly disposed towards Jesus, having had him in his home.In the previous chapter, 4, Jesus saved him from public shame by healing his mother-in-law so the hospitality culture could be observed, we see this hospitality continue as he allows Jesus to use his boat to preach from.
Then Jesus turned to Simon, and asked him if he had caught any fish, and he said “no” Jesus told him to try again, and Simon complied. He could have got stroppy and said “what do you know about fishing mate, you’re just a carpenter!”
How often do we think we know best? Too often our pride stops us trying a new thing, or asking for help.
Or perhaps we have tried, tried and tried again and we just haven’t got the energy to try one more time, a challenge maybe God is calling you to try something one more time?
Despite mild protestations, Simon is obedient, and then suddenly he gets the best catch of his career, so much so that others have to come in and help him. In our discussion we pondered about this being a wonderful picture of the Church, called to help one another bring in the harvest together rather than working in isolation, and when the huge catch is brought in we don’t read about them squabbling over the fish!
In fact Simon’s reaction completely ignores the fish! He says to Jesus “Get away from me Lord, I am a sinful man” he realises that Jesus is no ordinary man, and seeing something of God’s power and undeserved generosity towards him causes Simon to be convicted of his sin, he realises that Jesus is Holy and he isn’t.
An encounter with the glory of God often leads people to realise their unworthiness and their sinfulness, Isaiah saw God’s glory in his vision and said “woe is me, I am undone, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live amongst a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King”…and like Isaiah it was this point of realisation of their spiritual health that came the point of commissioning as from Simon’s realisation of his sinful state he is then invited to partner with Christ in his mission of “becoming a fisher for people”.
So, Simon, has this miracle, something personal, an amazing revelation that the God who made the universe cared passionately about his livelihood. What of us? Do we realise that God cares about every aspect of our lives.
Simon has a massive haul of fish, probably enough to keep him financially stable for the medium term, and yet he leaves it all, -leaves it all, all of it, everything- as he responds to Christ’s call as he goes and follows Jesus.
Often I have noticed that God often call us on from something not from the point of failure and desperation when leaving is no sacrifice or challenge, but often from the place of strength, when leaving feels more like a costly sacrifice.
Jesus says in Matthews Gospel “no one who puts his hand to the plough and keeps looking back is worthy of being my follower”.
The call to follow Jesus is an “all in deal” too often we say “yes” to Christ but don’t leave behind our old lives.
Saying “yes” to Christ is a one way ticket and can’t be a foot in both camps, baptism talks of being “dead to our old way of life”, powerfully illustrated earlier in the Bible when Elisha -who earned his living plough fields with a yoke of Oxen- responded to God’s call and took up the Prophet Elijah’s mantle. -and sacrificed the Oxen and used their Yoke as the timber.
A challenge to us all, Are we going to heed the call of Jesus afresh to come and follow him? To keep on following him, follow without looking back, following without a safety net or a contingency plan.
Are we going to heed his call to “push out into the deeper water” -Or do we have one foot on the floor of the shallow end.