In chapter five of his gospel, Luke tells the story of a fisherman – two really.
One morning, Jesus was being followed by a crowd near the lake of Gennesaret. He happened to come across two boats by the lake that belonged to some fishermen who were out washing their nets after a long night. The fishermen had been casting nets out all night, but they did not catch any fish. Imagine your most frustrating day at work and not getting paid for it. That was the situation of the fishermen that Jesus met this soon-to-be eventful morning.
Seeing the opportunity to get some space and wishing to teach the crowd, Jesus gets into one of the boats and asks Peter to push him out. Peter obliges Jesus’ request and pushes the boat out so as to allow Jesus to teach the crowd. The sermon content was not preserved, but the story picks up shortly after its conclusion.
Jesus instructs Peter, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (v.4b). Imagine Peter’s thoughts. He must have thought – “I’m the professional; this guy is a great teacher, but he is silly for thinking he can tell me how to do my job. Besides, it is now morning, and the fish are gone!” Peter doesn’t respond how you or I might, but rather he says, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word, I will let down the nets” (v.5). It is unclear if Peter’s response was one from faith or pandering. Regardless, Peter let down the nets pursuant to Jesus’ instruction. To his surprise, the nets became filled with fish!
Something incredible happened. More than breakfast and an unexpected payday, Peter recognized that Jesus was unlike himself. He made the impossible possible. This made Peter realize something about himself too. He says to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (v.8). The confrontation with the power and holiness of Jesus caused Peter to recognize his own sinfulness and unworthiness to be in the presence of Jesus. This is a picture of how we are to respond to God’s word. The Bible reveals the holiness of a loving and powerful God, and we recognize how far short of that standard we fall. We recognize a separation between God and ourselves. The separation is not without an invitation, however.
Look at how Jesus responds to Peter. He says, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men” (v.10). Jesus calls Peter to a mission – to be a fisher or men. Let’s pause for a moment. Think with me.
Jesus illustrated this call to Peter before ever uttering the first word of the invitation. The fish that were still jumping around in the nets were not there by accident. Jesus brought the fish into the nets to be caught by Peter. Peter only had to let down the nets in faith upon hearing Jesus’ word. The instruction to let down the nets was a conditional promise. If Peter let down the nets, Jesus would provide the fish. That doesn’t mean that Peter was ultimately responsible for the catch or even the faith to believe Jesus’ word – Jesus was ultimately responsible for both the faith and the fruit. But by embracing the conditional promise, he unlocked what only Jesus could provide. This is a dual picture of both our personal conversion and mission. Jesus is responsible for producing both the faith and fruit of our salvation (See Romans 8:30) and the faith and fruit of others’ salvation. His instruction to us is a conditional promise that we must embrace – let down the nets, and I will bring the fish!
We are called to preach the gospel and make disciples. Ultimately Jesus is going to bring the fish – the people. He is the great Fisherman. We must hear his word and let down the nets of grace by faithfully proclaiming his gospel!