One day some fishermen were hard at work cleaning their nets. They had been working all night with nothing to show for their efforts. Tired and frustrated they were ready to give in for the day. All of a sudden there is a commotion as a teacher is followed by a crowd. It is Jesus. He asks to borrow a boat and uses it as a platform to preach. The fishermen know him as a teacher and a miracle worker and probably feel privileged at this point. However, when he’s finally said enough, he challenges them in a way they don’t expect and certainly don’t want; ‘Go out again and throw your nets down on the other side.’
A group of tired and frustrated fishermen, having just listened to an interesting, yet extensive, sermon, don’t want to have to go back to their source of frustration. However, they already know enough about Jesus to know that it is worth taking him at his word. Maybe he knew something they didn’t. Maybe they would catch a bite to eat. The next few minutes astonished them. Fish came from everywhere to offer themselves up into their nets. Their nets almost rip apart from the strain and their boats sink lower and lower into the water until they start to fill.
The sudden realisation of who Jesus is comes to the group, especially Simon Peter, the natural leader. They are not just in the presence of a charismatic teacher and anointed prophet, he is the one their religious leaders have told them to expect, he is the Messiah. The sudden awareness of who Jesus was, and is, immediately led to the realisation that he had stepped into their mundane existence and placed the spot light upon them. Their lives could never be the same again. They felt completely unworthy for this intrusion of power into their lives.
Simon expresses his mixture of shock and awe when he cried out “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8) Jesus tells him not to be afraid and, for the first time, speaks out the calling that the disciples have over their lives. The response of these men is to leave everything and start to follow Jesus.
The disciples were ordinary people doing ordinary jobs which makes them very easy to relate to, even now, 2000 years on. They faced the same monotony, frustration, disappointment and lack of direction that most of us can relate to as we face our day to day challenges. This meeting with Jesus, on an ordinary day, would change their lives forever. When Jesus steps into our lives, the results can be just as dramatic. Jesus reveals the same two things to us as he did to them.
Jesus, first of all, through this miracle, revealed who he was to the disciples. They recognise him as the person they have been taught about and looking out for. They knew he was from God, even if they didn’t yet fully understand what that meant. More astonishingly for them, he also revealed that he had an interest in their lives. God was interested in them. This blew Peter’s mind. His response is to realise, and exclaim, his own inadequateness to be in God’s presence. This is the correct response. An encounter with an awesome God should humble us and reveal our need to change.
Secondly, Jesus reveals the fact that they are accepted. Jesus isn’t denying that Peter was sinful, but, rather, that he accepted Peter and the others anyway. Not only that, but he also reveals to them that they have great purpose. “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” (Luke 5:10) The response of these men, to leave everything and follow Jesus, is the same great challenge that we face today. It may not mean walking away from a location, or a profession, but it certainly means leaving our own ambitions behind and submitting to God’s plans for our lives.
This encounter between Jesus and the disciples is a great picture of what happens when we first become Christians. However, that challenge, doesn’t go away. As we push for a closer relationship with God, the awareness of our own imperfection should only increase. At the same time, comforted by his acceptance, we are challenged to lay down even more of our own will and to search for his.
This is the journey with God that we are pursuing. It is a journey that often brings sacrifice. However, it is also a journey that brings incredibly great fulfilment as we leave the monotony of trying to do things in our own strength, and discover the power of doing things God’s way.