1 As the crowd was pressing in on Jesus to hear God’s word, he was standing by Lake Gennesaret. 2 He saw two boats at the edge of the lake; the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, which belonged to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from the land. Then he sat down and was teaching the crowds from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 “Master,” Simon replied, “we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I’ll let down the nets.” 6 When they did this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets began to tear. 7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them; they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’s knees and said, “Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord! ” 9 For he and all those with him were amazed at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, Zebedee’s sons, who were Simon’s partners. “Don’t be afraid,” Jesus told Simon. “From now on you will be catching people.” 11 Then they brought the boats to land, left everything, and followed him.
My Daddy took me fishing for the first time when I was about six years old. I stood on the bank of Mr. Luther’s pond (a neighbor) with my cane pole, hook and line, and a can of worms. It was a “big deal” for me. I caught a fish about the size of my hand, and I was thrilled! It remains one of my favorite memories. I still like to stand on the banks of a body of water and cast, over and over. I graduated from the cane pole to a rod and reel. The serenity, stillness, and quietness sooths my soul.
Jesus was always concerned about individuals. He drew great crowds, eager to hear Him speak. But His message has always been for the individual. His purpose is always to transform lives and send them out to share His message of forgiveness with others. Luke gives us a clear picture of this in today’s passage, a fishing story that is familiar and powerful in its message to all of us.
We must remember that this is not Jesus’ first encounter with these fishermen: Peter, Andrew, James and John. They had all been called to follow Jesus as disciples and had traveled with Him throughout Capernaum and Galilee. Jesus had been to Simon Peter’s house in Capernaum and had healed His mother-in-law. They already had a connection.
Jesus is at the Sea of Galilee talking to a crowd. The fishermen are cleaning their nets following a long night of fishing with no results. Jesus steps into Peter’s boat which becomes a “pulpit” for His teaching. Peter is listening. Then Jesus tells Him to put out a little way from shore. Peter did as Jesus asked. Then Jesus tells Peter to put out into the deep water and let down His nets for a catch. Peter responds, “Master, we have worked all night but have caught nothing.” But then he continues, “Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” (5:5)
We all know what happens next in the story—nets and boats full of fish! Simon is filled with both “fear and wonder, sensing that he is in the presence of divine power.” He responds by falling down at Jesus’ knees and exclaims, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (5:8) Have you ever been so caught by surprise, moved by such awe and wonder and awareness of your own unworthiness, that you can only respond by falling on your knees before God?
Jesus’ response to Simon is, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” Jesus places His divine call on Simon Peter and his partners’ lives to a new vocation of catching people—a life-giving vocation of being caught up in God’s mission of salvation for all. Although they had just brought in the greatest catch of their fishing careers, Simon Peter, James, and John leave everything behind and follow Jesus. (5:11) Their encounter with Jesus completely reoriented their lives!
While my memory often takes me back to the excitement of catching my first fish, my greatest JOY through the years comes from “catching people” for Jesus! I trust God’s Word and the confidence that comes from Matthew 10:19-20, “Do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Nothing, absolutely nothing, compares to hearing someone say YES to Jesus!
Questions to Ask Yourself
- God calls ordinary people to discipleship and mission.
- God calls us as we are and then shapes us into faithful servants.
- Jesus’ word to Simon Peter is a word to us: “Do not be afraid!”
- Is your response, “If You say so, I will”?
Pray for Rob, a global worker in our church family serving Eastern Europe. Pray for gospel conversations, for community, endurance, and intimacy with Christ.