Simon’s brother Andrew had been a disciple of John the Baptist, but John had pointed Andrew to Jesus, saying, ‘Behold the lamb of God!’ (John 1:35). Andrew, telling Simon he had found the Messiah, introduced him to Jesus. At that introduction Jesus gave Simon a new name, ‘Peter,’ which means ‘rock’.
After this, Peter, Andrew and others had begun intermittently to follow Jesus, listening to Him teach and watching Him heal the sick. One Sabbath day, in a synagogue in Peter’s hometown, Jesus, with authority and power, healed a demon possessed man! Afterwards, when Peter invited Jesus into his home where his mother-in-law was sick with a fever, Jesus healed her as well as many others. Peter possibly pondered, ‘Is this man really the Messiah?’
One morning, Peter, who had toiled all night fishing with his partners on Lake Gennesaret, was washing and repairing his nets. For all their effort, they had caught nothing and thus had nothing to sell at the fish market. Their boats were close to shore and Jesus asked Peter to push his boat out a little into the lake. So many people crowded around listening to Jesus that Peter’s boat made an excellent preaching pulpit. Peter may have listened with some interest as he continued washing his nets, but an unsuccessful night of fishing was tiring and difficult to forget.
When Jesus finished speaking to the crowds, He turned to Peter and said, ‘Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch’ (Luke 5:4). I wonder what would have gone through Peter’s mind. ‘You may be a great man, a healer, and an expert in God’s word – but I’m the expert in this field! I’ve fished this lake my entire life, and when there’s no fish, there’s no fish!’ Simon’s actual response was more diplomatic: ‘Master, we’ve toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net’ (Luke 5:5).
Peter’s motive for fishing had always been practical: to provide a living and food for his family. This time his motive was obedience to Jesus’s word and a desire to please Him. How many times have we obeyed the Lord Jesus purely out of obedience to His word and to please Him?
Peter set sail in his fishing boat with Jesus at his side. As they arrived in the deep water, Peter and his crew begin lowering the nets, a slow process that would take some time as the nets were carefully unraveled. How long they waited to retrieve the nets we don’t know, but when they did start pulling, the nets felt different from the previous night. As the nets got closer to the surface, Peter could see fish, lots of fish! They began loading fish into their boat until they realized their boat wasn’t going to hold them all. Signaling for help from their partners back at shore, they begin loading both boats until they were so full that both boats began to sink!
Peter was astonished. All this time, his view of Jesus had been shallow and dim, but now, what a difference! He had met and was fishing with the Holy One of God, the Lord of fish and fishermen, the Lord of nature, the Lord of his daily work. And to think that Peter, the supposed ‘expert’, thought the Lord misguided when He said to let down the nets! This made Peter painfully aware of his own sinfulness. Suddenly he felt unworthy to be in the presence of the Lord Jesus and, falling down before Him, said, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’ (Luke 5:8)
Have you, like Peter, realized your own sinfulness and unworthiness to stand in the presence of a Holy God? If you haven’t, maybe it’s because, like Peter, you have the wrong view of who Jesus really is. He is the Holy One of God, the Lord of nature, Lord of all and ‘ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead’ (Acts 10:42).
The Lord Jesus didn’t depart at Peter’s request but rather raised his daily work to a higher level. ‘Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men’ (Luke 5:10). Peter was to apply his fishing skills in spiritual service. The Lord of daily work, having taught Peter to go about his labours with the right motive, now called him to the highest of endeavours – to catch people for God! As believers, we can no longer be content to pursue anything less than serving our Lord Jesus and His cause in all areas of life. As He said, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation’ (Mark 16:15, HCSB).