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, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 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. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 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. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 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." — Lk 5:1-10
When I was 7, I spent a few days alone with my grandparents at their ranch in West Texas. It's a magical place for a child (and an adult, to be honest). Miles and miles of untouched terrain, hills to climb, animals to see and feed, horses to ride, cattle to watch, and my favorite-- a stocked pond to fish. Each night after dinner, my grandfather and I would get in the old Bronco and drive down to the pond with our rods in the back and a cup of corn for bait. Today, that pond is just an empty arroyo mainly, but 21 years ago, it was stocked with gullible, hungry catfish. Truth be told-- I didn't do much if anything to aid our adventures. My grandfather strung the line, hooked my bait, and set me up. He even reeled in the fish for me; my only role was really those 15-20 seconds where I held the pole relatively still. (Not to mention, he stocked the pond!) We were on a strict catch-and-release policy, which was fine by me, because it just meant that the dumber the fish, the more likely I was to feel victorious in my fishing abilities. After 45 minutes out there, I would run in and tell my grandmother just how many fish I had caught that night-- 7, 8, 9 fish! I felt such success in my talent for fishing, even if my grandfather's pond stocking and
Jesus has invaded Peter's work space, and told him how to do his job. I'd imagine Peter's tired-- after all, they "toiled all night and took nothing!" in terms of fish. But he heeds the call of Jesus, puts his net into the water, and Jesus shows his power in an undeniable way. The catch is so big that the nets are breaking, and two boats aren't enough to hold it all. It had to have been the biggest boon of their entire fishing lives! And yet, in the same way that my grandfather set up everything for me, from stocking the pond to the logistics around everything, Jesus made the entire event possible for Simon Peter and the others in order to demonstrate his power, and Simon Peter knows it. Unlike my naivety as a child, Peter realizes that nothing he could do as a fisherman made this possible, but that Jesus is truly greater and more powerful than Peter can ever imagine. I took pride in my false accomplishment; Peter is astonished.
Peter's reaction is a great insight into who he is. He immediately falls to his knees, still on the boat (which I'm guessing is still on the verge of sinking from the fish catch), and confesses his sin to Jesus. Peter recognizes his unworthiness to be in the presence of someone as powerful as Jesus. What does it say about his faith? I can't know this for sure, but part of me wonders if he immediately admits his sinfulness because the sin in his heart was doubt in Jesus' power.
Just typing that was painful, because how often is that the sin in MY heart. I doubt that Jesus is big enough, powerful enough, good enough to change my situation or give me the desires of my heart or impact my life in any significant, life-altering way. Or I think I'm better off taking something into my own power, trying to feebly cobble together a future or a plan that I think is more of a "sure" thing than Jesus. If I were Jesus, I would just push me right off the boat for my lack of faith.
But in his graciousness, He doesn't.
In fact, he encourages them, "do not be afraid," so aware of their current state, and of His own power. He is gentle even when He is so powerful. And He is so kind-- He not only encourages, but also gives them a new future: "from now on you will be catching men". Jesus has demanded some things of Peter today: his boat, his time, his resources, his livelihood, his trust. But what he has given him in return is far greater than anything Peter ever imagined. In one afternoon, Jesus has given him faith that he never could have had on his own accord. "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17) I can't think of a better illustration of faith coming from hearing, and heeding, the word of Christ. He didn't know what he was in for, but he already had a pretty strong example of what happens when you turn over your life to Jesus and let Him have his way.
Dear God, I confess that too often I have an unbelieving heart that does not trust in Your power or might. God, give me the heart of Peter, willing to turn over the things of greatest value in my life to You, to let You have your way and will in my life. May I decrease, so that You can increase in life. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Dig Deeper: Do you need to confess some sin of unbelief in the power of Jesus? Are you willing to trust that Jesus is more powerful than you imagine Him to be?