A Fisherman’s Story

Jesus helps Peter the fisherman to discover himself.

Miracles are extraordinary events in our lives. They are so startling, unusual and unexpected that they call attention to themselves. They are occurrences which we can recognize as acts of God. There was a time when Jesus borrowed Simon Peter’s boat so he could speak to a crowd of people who had gathered on the shore of the lake. After Jesus finished speaking, he asked Simon to put out into the lake and to go fishing. It must have been morning, because Simon protested that he had been fishing all night, and had been unsuccessful. “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” Yet, despite being tired and discouraged, out of respect for Jesus, whom he acknowledged as ‘Master’ he did as he was directed. Away from shore, he let down his nets from the boat. The result was amazing! They caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. They called their friends in the other boat to help them. The quantity of fish was so great that they filled both boats to overflowing and put them in danger of sinking. It was startling, unusual, and totally unexpected in the light of their efforts a few hours earlier. What did Simon Peter do? Still in the boat, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man.” Why do you think he responded this way? Did he feel a failure? He could have been thankful. If Jesus could go with him every day, Peter could be a wealthy man in only a few weeks! He was supposed to be a successful fisherman, but he had nothing to show for his labors all night. Yet, this carpenter and teacher from Nazareth, who knew nothing about fish, had directed him to a great catch.

“Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man.”

Simon Peter recognized that the miraculous catch of fish showed something powerful about the spiritual identity of Jesus. He was overcome with awe at Jesus. In contrast, he saw his own inadequacy. There was also something impure about himself. Simon Peter spoke not only for himself, but also for his partners, James and John, and probably his brother Andrew as well. They all were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and in awe of Jesus who arranged it. Jesus hastened to reassure them by calming their fear of him, their fear of the unexpected, their fear of being in the presence of something out of their control, of something beyond their experience. “Do not be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” In response, they gave up their business, left everything, and followed Jesus into something new. They put their trust in a man who knew more about them than they knew themselves. What is the miracle here? The catch of fish of course. But there is another miracle at work here. It is the miracle that God would enter the lives of these men. They were supposed to be experts at catching fish, but despite having worked hard all night, they had caught nothing. It is only when Jesus came into their lives that they were successful.

How do you measure success?

How do you know if you have succeeded at what you set yourself to do? We can work hard all our lives, think we have been successful, and yet catch nothing. We can try every trick, every new idea, ask all our friends; we can try to succeed in life, yet come up empty handed. We may even have good things, and then find that they disappear. It is only when we reach the end of our efforts, that we are willing to listen to what Jesus says to us. We may find our world very different from before.

Jesus offers you more.

Jesus may call us to do something that we think is a waste of time. He may call us to trust him. He may call us to believe in him, to act on his word, to follow his direction. If we do not listen to Jesus, we accept our frustration and our failure. We settle for less rather than the possibility of more. We need to be willing to try new things, to venture beyond our knowledge into the unknown. Can we trust in the knowledge of God as revealed in Jesus? We see ourselves clearly when we meet Jesus. We might be reluctant, even resistant to Jesus, like Peter was, but when we surrender to his will, the action begins! There were lots of fish! But the real action is not on the outside, it is on the inside. We discover our inadequacy before God. The point of the story is about the call of Peter to follow Jesus. It is about the power and glory of Christ. Jesus offers all the fish, he offers great wealth — as a gesture, as something easy. When all the best efforts of an expert fisherman are nothing, then the offhand effort of Jesus is amazing! Peter gets it right. He discovered that when he acted in obedience, he was suddenly the very man through whom God performed miracles.

What does God want from you?

What is happening in your life that shows that you have come to the end of yourself? What is it that frustrates you? Peter realized that he was a sinner. He was afraid of Jesus, knowing him as Lord. Perhaps Jesus wanted that fear – the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom – but Jesus told him not to fear, almost like forgiving him. Jesus gave him a new task, to catch people into life, not to catch fish that will die. Jesus wants you to call him Lord. Jesus wants to give you a role in building his Kingdom. He wants you to come to him, all you who labor and are heavy laden, for he will give you his yoke, and he will teach you. Jesus says, “I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” We need to listen for the voice of Jesus, and act in obedience to what we know. As we walk with Him under His forgiveness, we can share in his work of helping people discover redemption, and new life.