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 signalled 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.
Seventy percent of the earth’s surface is covered by oceans which contain 97.5% of the water on the planet.
It is estimated that the oceans formed between 4.6 and 3.8 billion years ago.
Life began in the oceans because of the nutrients that were washed into the oceans and provided the content for primitive unicellular bacteria to develop, so one could say that the oceans are the primordial archetype of God as all life emerged from the oceans
It is probably this archetypical power that explains why the sea holds such a fascination and a sense of deep threat to us all. As Joseph Conrad has it, “The sea has never been friendly to man. At most it has been the accomplice of human restlessness.”
At a psychological level, the ocean with its restless surging has often been a metaphor for the unconscious part of humanity. As Carl Jung said, “Consciousness seems like an island surrounded by the sea in which there is a self-replenishing abundance of living creatures.”
The early Hebrews had a deep respect for, and fear of, the sea.
Possibly because they had their origins as desert nomads in the Sinai Peninsula, when they came eventually to settle in Canaan, the Hebrews never became a seafaring nation, despite the fact that their entire western Border was the Mediterranean ocean. The closest the Jews came to seafaring was to be Lake-farers on the Sea of Galilee.
Today’s Season of Creation Gospel locates Jesus on the Sea of Galilee.
At the literal level (always the lowest level of meaning for literature) this is an account of the call of some Galilean fishermen to follow Jesus. That is what I would call the Sunday School level of interacting with the story. Many of us grew up with that level of interpretation and reading the narrative as adults there is the temptation to revert to only that understanding of a nursery bible story. To do that as adults is, I believe, to shirk our responsibility to seek the symbolic depth of this account of human transformation.
What is most haunting in this account is the instruction of Jesus, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” It is a command for the fishermen to trust him at the point of their impotence
Now we need to be clear that in oceanographic terms the invitation to go deeper was not a huge ask. The Sea of Galilee has a maximum depth 43 metres, which is within the capacity of a level one scuba diver. To put it is perspective the deepest place in the oceans is the Puerto Rico trench which drops to an amazing 8605 metres! However, when you are used to keeping to the shallows, any depth is deeper than where you are.
In order to relevantly access this gospel narrative from the context of 2010, I would like to suggest that this passage has the potential for being a profound map for our own transforming following of Jesus.
Would it be too much to suggest that Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.“; could also mean, “Don’t be afraid to explore the unconscious, for there you will find nourishment.”?
- Is it not true for many of us that our deepening experiences with Jesus happen when we are resting on the shores of our self sufficiency, thinking the work is finished?
- Or at times when, Jesus invites us to explore something new, against our better judgement. We follow simply because a deeper authority invites us?
- Many of us will know that when we have responded to the call of Jesus to go deeper we have discovered a harvest from the depths we have not explored before.
- Sometimes that invitation has meant that we had to encounter and override our fear and resistance
- Just like those fishermen, these depth encounters have been an equipping for new life tasks, and all because we risked some depth.
I am blessed to live at the ocean. I see the mysterious depths from my window where I write this. Oft times when I gaze at this ancient mass of water, and hear the voice of the surf, I glimpse that like the ocean, God is an unfathomable, mysterious presence of life giving love. I pray that I will always have the courage to risk going deeper into that abbysal love.