Rarely do Bob and I have to concern ourselves with the catch limit if we go fishing. Even in Minnesota, where you can use a paperclip to pull a lunker bass out of a mud puddle, posting a catch limit for us was unnecessary. Such is our fishing prowess. Good thing we don’t have to fish to eat.
Unlike Peter. A professional fisherman, his life depended on it. In Peter’s first encounter with Jesus, they had fished all night and caught nothing. (Not dissimilar to some of my husband’s angling adventures, I might add.) Jesus tells them to cast on the other side of the boat, to which Peter makes some disparaging remark, but does it anyway. And the nets become so full that they rip apart.
And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking. When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.”
Toward the end of John’s gospel, however, the resurrected Jesus has been making His appearances to His disciples, but they are still in a bit of a holding pattern. Peter and company decide to go fishing again, and like last time, they catch nothing. Jesus appears on the scene and tells them where to cast again, and lo and behold, they once again become overloaded.
Only this time, the net doesn’t break.
On top of that, when they hastily arrive on shore, Jesus already has some fish cooking! Did He need them to provide the fish? No.
So what is God really after?
Does God need the gifts and talents I have? Again, no. This is humbling thought, and one that I need to be reminded of frequently. Sure, Christ brought the fish into the net using the skill and expertise of the disciples, but He already had some cooking when they arrived. The end result of Peter’s involvement was intimacy; he didn’t wait to row the boat to shore, but jumped in to get to Jesus. God wants our participation in His process.
In other words, He doesn’t need me, He wants me. Important distinction.
Two outings with one message.
Then there’s a point to be made concerning the two fishing outings and their outcomes. No accident that in the first scene, the net was full but torn. In act two, the net was full but intact, a fact that was significant enough for the writer to include in the narrative, in the sense that it was unusual, i.e., the net should have torn.
In terms of chronological timelines, the first event happened prior to the full redemptive work of Christ’s cross and resurrection. The writer is making theological statement, a demarcation between the old and new covenant. God’s holiness and His offering of relationship with us in the Old Testament were uncontainable. By contrast, after Jesus’ mission was completed, we now have the capacity to be in dwelt by God Himself.
In terms of my life, prior to Christ, I cannot manage His blessings very well on my own. My nets break, and things get wasted. After His coming to dwell in me, working in His power, authority, and strength, His will is actually accomplished. Nothing is wasted. Things that are beyond my ability no longer have to “tear my nets”, so to speak, when I’m listening and doing what He says.
It’s not a matter of being in the right place at the right time, but being in His place in His time.
And, of course, getting enough help to pull in the nets!
Luke 5:6-8 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.