Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God,he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.
He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”
Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”
When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break.
So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.
But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”
For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken;and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”
When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
My memories of fishermen from my Port Chaplaincy days are of wild men. I recall a chokka (squid) boat captain telling me that before the crew boarded to go out on a run, he had to stand at the quayside with a tray of marijuana “arms” so that the crewmen could sample the quality. It was a deciding factor as to whether they would board. Another ritual amongst the chokka crews in the Southern sea of Africa, is when two boats pass each other the crews hang over the gunwhales asnd hurl abuse at each other. The exchange are colourful in the extreme and often the reference the “mothers” of the other crew. Unfortnately decorum won’t permit me illustrate.
I have a feelin g though that Peter would have understood the language!
This passage is obviously a record of the call of the “Big Fisherman” according to Lloyd C Douglas’ novel titling.
It is also, as are encounters with Jesus, archetypal in its fecundity to bring forth a map of our spiritual journey. It is this map I want to explore a little here.
I marvel at Peter the Big Rough Fisherman, being so obedient to the directives on fishing by an itinerant Rabbi and carpenter! Perhaps Luke, like me in his account of this fishing tradition had edited out some of the more colourful expletives that were muttered by Peter when Jesus told him to set out into the deeper water, and reset the nets after a whole night of fruitless fishing?
I can’t be sure, but “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” sounds just a little edited to what Peter might really have said!
The alternative might be that during the sermon from the prow of his boat, Peter had heard something that gave him enough cause to trust that taking a chance on the Rabbi’s suggestion, was worth a gamble.
Either way, the learning point for me in this moment is that grace and insight, are often experienced in thos moments when our human efforts, skill and strategies have been expended with no reward.
How often to I have to get to the end of my resources and often my reason before I am ready to hear the God option for my life. Challenges and crises confront me and I go at solving them with all my skill and gusto. Prayer, reflection and listening usually come when I am panting and burnt out, and ready for some depth for my trust of Jesus.
It is a bit like the man who as a newly qulified First Aider, came across a terrible road accident on his way home. Jumping from his car, First-Aid case in hand he rushed to the body of a victim lying on the side of the road. Pushin the person aside who was attending to the injured woman, the man announced,”Stand back please, I am a qualified First-Aider!” Following all his newly learnt rules he proceeded to bandage and splint for all he was worth. Many bandages and much iodine later, the person whom he had pushed aside tapped him on the shoulder and whispered in his ear, “When you get the part where your training says, ‘Call the Doctor’, I am here behind you”
I know that I have often pushed God off my crises, only to have to call him back later when my efforts haven’t yielded much.
The other cameo in this story of call is Peter’s response to the abudance of the catch. Falling down in front of Jesus he exclaims, “Go away from me, Lord,for I am a sinful man!”
I wonder why such blessing issued in such “dissing” of himself?
Where did Peter learn that he wasn’t deserving of good things from God?
Again I can’t be sure but I would hazard that some form of religious communication was involed. I have experienced too often, that when people call themselves sinful, it is usually beacause they have been told that this so, verbally or non-verbally, by religious people!
Peter might have been a hardened, ruffian of a man. He probably was not shortlisted for nomination to the synagogue council of ministries. This did not mean that he was unworthy of having full nets of blessing.
Don’t you love the irony in Jesus call? He doesn’t tell Peter to clean up his act, go for vocabulary re-alignment, and then come and become a rabbi, like Jesus. No, is called to bring all he is, and the way he is, and be a rough-neck ruffian fisherman for people. The people Jesus needs for his Kingdom. People, many of whom will be like Peter. Tax collectors, terrorists, prostitutes and other people who the church says should be called sinful.
Thank God that Jesus doesn’t depart from Peter when he asks him to. Thank God Jesus doesn’t depart from me when I have convinced myself I am nothing more than, “a sinful man”
At the end of my tether, with empty nets, I hear a call from Jesus. I don’t feel worthy and I think he best leave me to wallow here in my exhaustion.
He has other ideas. He says, “Don’t fear. Come as you are. I don’t want to change you, I only want to love you unconditionally and share my life with you.”
Sorry folks I have to go.
No chance to explain.
Just sort out all those fish and the boats.
I’m not sure when I’ll be back.