A funny thing happened in Darlington, Maryland, several years ago. Edith, a mother of eight, was coming home from a neighbour’s house one Saturday afternoon. Things seemed too quiet as she walked across her front garden. Curious, she peered through the door and saw five of her youngest children huddled together, concentrating on something. As she crept closer to them, trying to discover the centre of attention, she could not believe her eyes. Smack dab in the middle of the circle were five baby skunks.
Edith screamed at the top of her voice, “Quick children . . . run!” Each kid grabbed a skunk and ran.
Some days are like that, aren’t they? You just think you’ve got problems until you try to deal with them. When you do, they multiply.
Jesus was not preserved from such pressure when He was walking among us. On one particular occasion things happened at such a rapid rate, He could scarcely get His breath. I’m thinking of those events recorded in Luke 4:31–44. He was teaching on a regular basis in the synagogue. He was answering people’s questions, facing their criticisms, dodging the Pharisees’ and Sadducees’ bullets, casting out demons, living with all the complications that accompany increased popularity, healing the sick, confronting the forces of evil . . . it’s all there. Check for yourself.
He attempted to find a quiet place only to be found by “crowds . . . searching for Him” who “tried to keep Him from going away from them” (Luke 4:42). No escape possible. The relentless public kept right on siphoning away His energy.
Ultimately, according to the fifth chapter of Luke, He found a place to be alone—at least somewhat alone. He stepped into a boat and took a seat. Once He caught His breath, He “began teaching the people from the boat” (5:3). What a man! Though His emotions were spent and His body was weary, He stayed at it. At last, He was able to draw things to a close, at least with the crowd of people. But there was a bit of unfinished business Jesus needed to take care of. Let’s let Luke describe it.
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 and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” (5:4–5)
No one can criticise Peter for being reluctant. Old Simon knew those waters. Furthermore, he’d been at it all night and caught zilch. Hard work, no catch. Naturally, the guy would frown and resist. But he wisely surrendered. What happened was nothing short of miraculous.
When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signalled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. (5:6–7)
Because I love to fish, I find that scene terribly inviting. I mean, so many fish were caught that both boats began to sink. My first thought? “What a way to go!” If you’re gonna die, can anything be more satisfying to a fisherman than dying waist deep in fish? I have caught 60, big speckled trout off Matagorda Island in less than 30 minutes. I’ve caught more than 30 prize-winning salmon in Alaska in a little more than an hour. I caught my limit of walleye and northern pike early one morning in central Canada, an enormous ugly hammerhead shark off the coast of Miami, a yellowfin tuna off the north shore of Kauai . . . but never have I ever been in a boat so heavy with fish that the thing began to sink!
That’s because I have never fished with Jesus. When the Master of heaven, earth, sea, and sky calls the shots, things happen . . . which explains Peter’s explosive reaction:
But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. (5:8–10)
Notice anything unusual? Earlier, Peter called Jesus “Master.” After the miracle: “Lord.” Gripped with the realisation that he was in the boat with the living God, Peter sounded like Isaiah of old, “Woe is me!” I find Jesus’s words a little surprising.
And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” (5:10)
There the two of them stood, hip deep in fish, and Jesus talked about “catching fish”? No. Fish meant little to Him, they were merely an illustration to teach a deeper message by analogy. On His heart was “catching” human beings. His real message was deep-water faith. Did the fishermen get the message?
When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him. (5:11)
Amazing, huh? Once they heard His invitation, they literally dropped everything and ran. Ponder everything. Their lifelong occupation. Their familiar surroundings. Their own goals. Their nets, boats, and business. Everything. To be candid with you, I am impressed with their response. I’ve been thinking a lot about why.
I’m ready to suggest six reasons people are willing to drop everything and follow Jesus Christ. Each reason could be stated in a principle.
1. Jesus chooses not to minister to others all alone. He could minister alone, you realise. But He deliberately chose not to. He could’ve rowed that boat Himself. He didn’t (5:3). He could’ve dropped those nets over the side. He didn’t (5:4). He certainly could’ve pulled up the nets choked with fish. Instead, they did (5:6–7). And did you notice? He specifically stated, “From now on you will be catching men” (5:10, emphasis added).
2. Jesus uses the familiar to do the incredible. He came to their turf (lake). He got into their place of work (boats) and had them use their skills (fishing with nets). In such a familiar setting, He made them aware of incredible possibilities.
3. Jesus moves us from the safety of the seen to the risks of the unseen. Nothing significant occurred in shallow water. He specifically led them “out into the deep water” (5:4) where nobody could touch bottom. It was not until they got out there that He commanded them to “Let down your nets” (5:4). The deep is always full of uncertainties.
4. Jesus proves the potential by breaking our nets and by filling our boats. Not one of those salty, weary fishermen would’ve bet one denarius that there were so many fish in that lake. Certainly not where they had just fished! When God’s hand is on a situation, nets break, eyes bulge, deck planks groan, and boats almost sink. It’s His way of putting the potential on display.
5. Jesus conceals His surprises until we follow His leading. Everything was business as usual on the surface. Boats didn’t have a halo, nets didn’t tingle at their touch, the lake water didn’t glow. No. The divinely arranged surprise came only after they dropped the nets. Remember, it wasn’t until he followed Jesus’s instructions that Peter changed “Master” to “Lord” (5:5, 8).
6. Jesus reveals His objective to those who release their security. He could read their willingness in their faces. Then (and only then) did He tell them they’d be engaged in “catching men” (5:10). And guess what—they jumped at the chance!
Is your life full of appointments, activities, hassles, and hurry? Trying to find all your security in your work . . . in your own achievements? Maybe it’s time for a mental boat trip out into the deep. Maybe it’s time to listen, lest you intensify your problem. And when Jesus says, “Follow Me,” do it. Unlike Edith’s kids, drop everything and run.
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