“Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.
But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” - Luke 5:5
The story goes that when President Grover Cleveland’s second child was born, no scales could be found to weigh the baby. Finally, someone went down to the cellar and found the scales that President Cleveland used to weigh the fish he caught on his trips. And to everyone’s surprise, Grover Cleveland was the father of a 25-pound baby.
Evidently, President Cleveland liked to rig his scales a little bit in order to make his fishing stories more exciting. But Jesus never had that problem, as we discover in the fifth chapter of Luke.
Jesus had boarded Simon Peter’s fishing boat in order to teach a crowd that was filling the beach. This allowed more room for families to spread out across the shoreline, and the offshore breeze and slope of the beach would make the acoustics really good. Jesus asked Simon to “put out a little from the shore,” and Simon obeyed, dropping anchor a few yards from the growing crowd. After Jesus finished teaching from his improvised pulpit, he gave Simon Peter one more simple command: “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4). Simon Peter responded, “Master, we’ve worded hard all night and haven’t caught anything” (vs. 5a).
From what I’ve read, it was common for Galilean fishermen to fish at night, when the fish tended to come up from the depths and swim closer to the surface, making them easier to catch in the fishermen’s nets. But Simon and his buddies had fished all night long, and they hadn’t caught bupkis. Undoubtedly they were frustrated and exhausted. So, when Jesus told the weary fishermen to try one more time, that was definitely NOT what Simon Peter wanted to hear. He must have been thinking, “Jesus, with all due respect, you’re a carpenter and I’m a fisherman. If the fish weren’t biting during the cool of the night, they’re certainly not going to be biting during the heat of the morning. And you want us to sail all the way out to deep water? Do you realize that’s, like, a mile away?”
But before Simon Peter said all that, something changed. He probably realized it was best not to argue with Jesus as he added, “But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (vs. 5b). You know what happened next, right? “They caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 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” (vs. 6-7).
To say that Simon Peter was blown away would be an understatement. He fell to his knees and cried, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (vs. 8). There on his own fishing boat, holding his own fishing nets, Simon Peter experienced a small taste of the power and glory of Jesus Christ. He felt like a sinful wretch, unworthy to be in the presence of his holy Lord and Savior. But Jesus wasn’t about to “go away.” Instead, he said, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men” (vs. 10). And with that, Simon Peter, Andrew and his fishing partners James and John began to follow Jesus full-time. Not a bad day’s fishing, wouldn’t you say?
There are two important lessons we can learn from this life-changing fishing trip:
1) Regardless of how tired, hungry or uninspired we feel, we must obey Christ’s commands … because Jesus said so. Simon Peter’s tired body didn’t WANT to trust and obey Jesus. His tired body didn’t FEEL like trusting and obeying Jesus. But he chose to trust and obey him anyway. Why? Because Jesus said so! So often, we as Christians make Christianity so complicated. We pick and choose when to obey Christ’s commands and when to disobey them. And when we do obey them, we often don’t obey them completely. Or we procrastinate and don’t obey them until later. But in reality, Christianity is not complicated. It’s quite simple. Following Christ boils down to three simple steps: Trust him. Love him. Obey him.
2) Good intentions and hard work are not enough. Only Jesus can make an otherwise ineffective life productive. Never forget that Peter was the professional fisherman, not Jesus. Peter was the man with all the right equipment—the right kind of boat, the right kind of nets, the right kind of sinkers and floats—not Jesus. Peter had all the necessary training and experience—not Jesus. But before Jesus got involved, Simon Peter’s wonderful equipment and expertise and training got him a whole lot of nothing.
The same goes for you and me. At times in life we may have all the right stuff: the right kind of clothes, the right kind of car, the right kind of home, the right kind of job, the right kind of relationships. Then we step back, look at it all, and realize we’re going nowhere fast. We’re hitting a wall, and what’s worked in the past no longer works. We need something else, and that “something” else is “someone” else. That someone is Jesus. Good intentions and hard work are not enough. Only Jesus can make an otherwise ineffective life productive.
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit www.YourVictorvilleChurch.com and join us for church Sundays at 10 a.m.