1 On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
God gives better than you ask, and His promises exceed everything that you desire.
Peter was tired. He had spent the whole night fishing. Well, ‘fishing’ is too strong of a word. He caught nothing. If he had been using a pole and hook, he would have been up all night drowning worms, but Peter and his partners used nets to catch fish. Through the dark hours of the night, they cast their nets again and again and again only to bring them up empty each and every time.
You can imagine their frustration as they pulled the boats to shore while the sun broke on the horizon. They probably talked with each other about what went wrong. Maybe, they wondered how they would provide for their families and where their money would come from the next week. Now, they simply wanted to clean their nets, go home, and sleep.
But while they clean their nets, Jesus is there on the shore teaching God’s Word to a massive crowd. Everyone is trying to get close to hear Him. So, Jesus says, “Hey Peter, why don’t you row Me out a bit so I can keep preaching?”Peter obliges, and the boat becomes a pulpit.
Jesus’ sermon ends. Unlike me, Jesus doesn’t, apparently, slip into what I call a ‘post-liturgical coma.’ Instead, Jesus has an idea. “Hey Peter, why don’t we row out a bit further and catch some fish?”
Now, Peter knew fishing. There was a reason he and his partners had been out all night and not during the day – that’s when you catch fish. He had just finished cleaning his nets so they would be ready for their next excursion. Peter just wanted to go home and find his pillow.
Peter could have said, “Listen here, Jesus. Sure, You can teach the Scriptures like nobody else. But listen, Mr. Carpenter, fishing is my game. Why don’t You stick to teaching and woodworking?” But he doesn’t. Peter responds, “At Your word, I will let down the nets.” This statement is as good as faith gets on this side of eternity.
Now, imagine this. Peter and Andrew put down the nets and sail around a bit, knowing this isn’t the time to do this. They reach down to draw the net into the boat. That night, they had gotten used to lifting nothing but the weight of the net, but this time they feel resistance. They pull and tug and heft. The nets start creaking and breaking because of all the weight. They signal to their partners to come and help. All of them together can’t lift the net into the boat, so they start scooping fish into both boats as fast as they can. They are wet, slimy, and breathless as both boats become so full of fish that they begin to sink.
Pause here for a minute. Peter and his partners, apparently, had quite an operation going for themselves. They weren’t simply recreational fishermen. This was a business – several professionals operating several boats. They had never had a catch like this. You would think the first thing to go through Peter’s mind would be to sign Jesus as their navigator and guide. He could tell them when and where to cast their nets. They could buy a fleet of boats, hire more fishermen, and find a crew to clean and mend the nets. How slick would this be? Peter could retire early and live on easy street. But none of that enters his mind.
Getting a catch like that would be the dream any fisherman. But it is too much of a good thing. This catch is threatening their livelihood, nearly breaking the nets and causing the boats to sink; it is killing them. And these fish – which had been their life and livelihood – could not save them. This fishing expedition is a massive success. Surrounded by what would provide for his life for months if not years, Peter can only see his sin.
Consider your life. What do you do each and every day? Where do you spend your time and effort? What are you focused on? What are your goals and dreams? What do you pray for and ask God to give you? Do you ever get frustrated with God when He does not answer? And when God does give you what you ask, how long are you satisfied?
Repent. Your goals and dreams are not what they should be. God knows what is good for you even better than you do. God is still good when He doesn’t give you what you what you ask for. God was good when He allowed the disciples to catch nothing that night. And Jesus is good by denying Peter’s request to depart.
“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord,” is a stupid prayer. If Jesus answered that prayer, Peter would not only drown, he would go to hell because hell is where God is not present in His mercy for sinners.
Jesus knows how to answer better than Peter knows how to ask. Jesus answers Peter’s prayer in a way that exceeded anything sinful Peter could have desired. Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.”
Two weeks ago, we heard the scribes and Pharisees grumbling about Jesus, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” What they meant as mocking and jest is your faithful and holy confession.
Yes, Jesus does receive sinners. In fact, Jesus has this in mind when He gives Peter his new calling, “From now on, Peter, you will be catching men alive.”Jesus uses a particular word here. It doesn’t simply mean to catch, it means to catch alive.
Jesus does not depart. Instead, He draws closer to Peter so that Peter and the other apostles can have a new calling – to catch men alive with the net of the life-giving Gospel.
Jesus’ will is that you be caught by the net of the Gospel, that you be brought into the boat of the church, and that you have fellowship with Him now and forever. It is Jesus’ will that He not depart from you but that He draw you to Himself.
Jesus says to you, “Fear not. I give to you My Body which was crucified but lives. I give to you My shed Blood which is the source of your life and forgiveness.”Jesus says, “Come and receive what you wouldn’t dare ask for, but I freely and happily give to you.”And you? You say, “At Your word, Lord, I will do as You say.” Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.