Peter had a bad night fishing. He and his partners, James and John, had fished all night, casting their nets from one side of the boat to the other until they were exhausted. They’d caught nothing. The sun came up, and the crew headed to shore with empty vessels and bad dispositions.
They lugged the nets from the boat and began to clean them on the rocks by the lake. As they cleaned, they also watched a crowd gathering along the shoreline at a distance.
“I wonder what’s going on over there?” Peter said as he pointed in the direction of the growing throng.
“Isn’t that the new preacher, Jesus?” John asked.
“I think it might be,” James answered.
While the crowd inched toward them, the three continued to watch. Jesus seemed to be ankle deep in water, but the people continued to press in on him from all sides. When the group got close, Jesus turned and looked at Peter. “Would you mind if I climb into your boat so I can teach from there?”
Peter nodded no. Jesus climbed into the boat.
He and his business partners finished cleaning and repairing nets as Jesus concluded his teaching.
Abruptly, Jesus turned to Peter. “Take the boat back out and cast the nets into deep water for a catch,” he said.
Peter, who was never speechless, struggled to find polite words. Was the man crazy? He didn’t want to tell him no, but going back out into the lake made no sense, and he’d just finished cleaning the nets. Besides, he needed to go to bed. He was exhausted.
“But we’ve been fishing all night,” he replied as he turned to look at Jesus. But there was something in Jesus’ face that challenged him. He sighed heavily and rolled his eyes. “Okay, I’ll do it.”
Out they went. Jesus held onto a mast, and Peter directed the crew.
They hadn’t gone far from shore when Jesus said, “Cast your nets.”
Peter sighed again. This man knows nothing about fishing. Who does he think he is, anyway? I’m the fisherman, he thought to himself as he moved toward the nets to do as Jesus asked.
The small crew gathered beside him, took the heavy nets, and threw them overboard. It’s going to be a long day, Peter thought, as the nets dropped beneath the murky waters. Peter watched them disappear, and he looked back at Jesus.
Jesus smiled at him and raised his eyebrows as if waiting for a retort. Peter scowled, and Jesus threw back his head and laughed. Peter turned to look into the water to avoid Jesus’ gaze and his own anger.
Suddenly, the net snapped taught. The waters began to ripple silver as the sun reflected on the scales of thousands of wiggling fish. Peter’s eyes widened. The nets bulged. The vessel began to tip to one side. Water sloshed onto the deck. Chaos erupted as the men struggled to keep standing on the listing boat. The weight of the net and fish continued to pull at its side. It was too heavy for them.
Peter yelled at partners in a nearby vessel, “Come help us! We’re about to sink!”
They came quickly to their aid. Nets snapped and broke as the fish pulled against their restraints. The boats were gorged with fish. The ships’ waterlines dropped deeper into the water. From shore, the masses watched anxiously, as the boats appeared to be struggling to stay afloat, listing one way, then the other.
Maneuvering together, the two vessels lugged the massive catch to land, dumping thousands of flopping fish ashore. The crowd went wild. “It’s a miracle! It’s a miracle!” they kept shouting. Never had there been such a catch. Everyone laughed and shouted, cried and danced.
Everyone, that is, except Peter. As Peter gaped at what was happening around him, he was stricken. What manner of man can do such a thing? Why has he done this? HOW has he done it? What does he have to do with me? I’m a sinner. O, God. I’m a sinner. I am standing beside someone who is altogether, OTHER. Who are you? He wondered as his heart thudded wildly in his chest.
He placed his hands on his head, ran his fingers through the thick dark mane, and tugged slightly as he stood there with awe and deep confusion etched on his face. O God! What ARE you doing?
He turned sharply to stare at Jesus who was laughing with delight at the scene on the shoreline. Suddenly, Jesus stopped and returned Peter’s gaze with a look of tenderness.
In an instant Peter was at Jesus feet, falling on the ground in front of him. “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man,” he said as he worshiped and repented. He trembled with trepidation and awe. Life would never be the same. He knew it. Right then. Boats and business didn’t matter. He would miss fishing, for sure; he’d been doing it all his life, but this encounter changed it all. Everything faded as he bowed before Christ. Following Jesus was his only option. He’d seen an unfathomable miracle and listened to and watched the man. He couldn’t imagine a life that didn’t include HIM.
Later that day, as three fishermen and the Son of God walked away from the empty tethered boats, their business, and their profession, Jesus made a strange statement to Peter, “Don’t be afraid. From now on, you will be catching men.”
And Peter knew it was going to be better than he could imagine.
Story from Luke 5