“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.” — Luke 5:1-11 (ESV)
What strikes me first about this scene is that the men who were about to become disciples of Jesus had been fishing. all. night. long. Verse 5 says, “we toiled all night and took nothing!” These guys had seen failure. Failing for them meant no food on the table; everything relied on them pulling in some fish during the night. And here comes Jesus, some famous teacher that crowds kept following around. This carpenter’s son tells the professional fisherman to cast their nets again. Simon, either out of desperation or having somewhat of a clue as to who Jesus really was (probably the latter), replied, “But at your word, I will let down the nets.” This is similar to Jesus telling Ryan Howard to swing the baseball bat without a pitcher on the mound and the promise of a home run resounding in his voice. There was no. way. that they would yield any catch. But at Jesus’ word, Simon and others were radically obedient.
Could I be that radically obedient after a night of failure? Pulling empty net in after empty net? Swing after swing? Simon Peter, James and John did. And their yield almost sunk the boats. Do I have the faith that my yield will sink boats? Can I really cast in my net after a day of failure?
What hits me the hardest in this scene is the fishermen’s reactions. After recognizing who Jesus was and how vulnerable, bare and imperfect they were before Him, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And verse 11: “And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”
They fished all. night. long. And caught nothing. They encounter Jesus and now they have tons and tons of fish. Food for the table. Profit for savings. Abundance to be generous with. A little extra to buy something frivolous for the family. What would you do?
They left it all to follow Him. They were staring at the Treasure of Heaven and recognized it.
Can I, staring at a day’s labor and a bunch of empty nets, cast them in again? Can I be obedient to the point of irrational fishing? Then, when God Himself provides, can I stare at Him and recognize Him as more valuable then what I have been striving after all this time?
Will I leave everything (successes and failures) to follow Him?
“The gospel serves as the means by which God daily constructs me into what He wants me to be and also serves every day of my Christian life. Hence, it could be said that the gospel contains all that I need “for life and godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3). It is for this reason that God tells me to be steadfastly entrenched in the gospel at all times and never to allow myself to be moved from there (Colossians 1:23). The mere fact that God tells me to stay inside the gospel at all times must mean that He intends to supply all of my needs as long as I am abiding in that place of luxury (Colossians 2:8-10).” — Milton Vincent* in The Gospel Primer