Jesus Calls Us to Draw the Net

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : Luke 5:5:8-11

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

Luke 5:8-11 rsv

Jesus calls us to draw the net. That needs to be clear from the beginning. If we haven’t seen it, we haven’t yet understood what it means to follow Him. Discipleship always leads to witness. Coming to Jesus issues in going forth in His name. To be touched by Him means to reach out to others. The followers of Jesus are always on a mission to seek and to save. In the wide waters of this world, they’re like fisherfolk. They want to catch people for God’s kingdom. They draw the net. C. S. Lewis observes that “the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men (and women) into Christ . . . .”

Early in His ministry, Jesus made that clear to a band of young would-be disciples who were fishermen by trade. Listen. I’m reading from Luke, chapter 5:

While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, [Jesus] was standing by the lake of Gennesaret. And he saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him (vv. 1-11).

THE CHARGE

Jesus had been using Simon’s fishing boat as a pulpit, preaching to the crowds along the Galilean shore. When His message was over, He turned to Peter with a puzzling request, “Go out into the deep water and let down your nets. You’re going to have a catch.” I say this word was puzzling because Simon and his friends had just completed a long grind of fishing without success. They had fished all night. They had cast their nets in the most favorable places but had come up empty each time. Now they had been washing the nets to put them away. They were through for the day. Jesus, can You be wanting us to try again? It didn’t seem like the right time. Anyone knew that the morning hours were poor for fishing. The designated place seemed even more unpromising. Fish in deep water under a blazing sun? Lots of luck!

This was a stretch for Peter’s faith. He believed in Jesus, loved Him, wanted to follow Him, no doubt about that. But fishing! What did the Master know about that? His trade was carpentry, wasn’t it? Peter, on the other hand, was a professional fisherman. He knew the waters of this lake like the terrain of his back yard. If anyone could find fish on a given night, Peter could. He had been somewhat baffled by his recent failures, and was scarcely in the mood to try again. He and all the others were frustrated, famished and bone-weary. They had just gotten their nets ready to put away. Jesus’ idea didn’t make much sense.

It’s hard for us to accept the fact that the Lord’s way is wise and good when it touches an area we know something about. Our experience, our expertise, sometimes get in the way of our listening to Him. But Peter, bless him, was willing to give it a try because it was Jesus who gave the charge. Simon said, “All right, Lord, if You say so, I’ll drop the nets out where the water’s deep.” It doesn’t sound like his expectations are high. But he’s enough of a disciple to do what his master says, even when it seems to him useless and a little bit crazy.

THE CONFESSION

That half-hearted, somewhat patronizing mood of Simon’s didn’t last long. The nets were scarcely down when an avalanche of fish struck them. The catch was so heavy that Peter feared the nets would give way. He appealed for help. His partners in the other boat got there as quickly as they could. They began to pull in the nets. Soon both boats were full of fish, lying so low in the water that it seemed they might go down. But Simon Peter was so stunned by what had happened, he didn’t even think about safety. There in a swamped boat, surrounded by slippery, squirming fish, he fell down before Jesus and cried, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

That’s a strange response to a fantastic haul of fish. You might expect amazement, celebration, gratitude. But what is this confession of sin all about? This “depart from me”?

Simon had seen Jesus’ miracles before. He had marveled along with the rest when Jesus opened blind eyes, touched lepers and made them clean, put paralytics on their feet. But this event struck closer to home. Fishing was Simon’s trade. He knew how impossible a catch like this was, under any circumstances. He was overwhelmed by what he had witnessed.

Along with his astonishment came awe. This was something no human being could possibly have managed. To make a lake which had only the night before seemed empty of marine life, to suddenly yield up hundreds of fish, that had to be a miracle. Jesus had to be speaking with God’s authority. For Simon, this was a moment of shattering revelation. He suddenly knew that he was in the presence of God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Holy Lord of heaven and earth was there beside him in his boat. Peter was afraid.

Remember young Isaiah when in the temple he saw the Lord, high and lifted up? It broke him. He said, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, . . . for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:5). Simon was going through something like that. The presence of the Lord awakened in him a sense of unworthiness, of holy dread. Who can see God and survive? And here he was. “O Lord, depart from me. I’m a sinful man.”

Have you ever felt anything akin to that? The Lord seemed so majestic, mighty and holy that you almost needed to hide? Something about Jesus does that to people when they realize who He is. It’s what the apostles are hinting at when they say that our God is a consuming fire.

THE COMMISSION

But Jesus is all compassion in His answer “Don’t be afraid,” He says. His greatness is full of grace. Simon Peter has nothing to fear from the majesty of this loving Lord. His words, “Don’t be afraid” are like a pronouncement of forgiveness: “You’re right, Simon, you’re a sinner. You’re unworthy, but there’s nothing to fear. I’m here for you. That’s why I came, for people like you. I’m not going to leave you. I’m going to be right there with you.” That fellowship between master and disciple would make of Peter what he was meant to be.

Henceforth, Jesus says, you’re going to be catching men. Suddenly the meaning of it all becomes clear. Simon the disciple will still be a fisherman, but now he will be gathering in women and men, boys and girls, to faith in Jesus. He’ll be saving them alive, drawing them in and his labors will never be in vain.

The first Pentecost was about that, wasn’t it? There came a rushing mighty wind and tongues of flame hovered over the awed disciples. All that was a preparation for mission. These followers of Jesus were being empowered to bear witness, to speak of Jesus the risen one, to lead others to repentance and faith in Him. If the shallow waters had represented the neighbors next door, the deep stood for the waiting world, the masses yet to be reached with the good news of salvation. Peter, with all the others, was to go after them, and the catch would be amazing.

Think of this, friends. It’s now almost 2,000 years since that first Pentecost, when a few believers in Jesus were clothed with heavenly power to proclaim Him. According to David Barrett’s Encyclopedia of World Mission, as of mid-1994, the number of human beings in the world who profess faith in this Jesus of Nazareth as Son of God and Savior is approaching two billion. Over a third of the people in this world offer Him, in some way, their trust and worship. That’s quite a catch, isn’t it? And the Lord’s fishermen are not finished yet. There are more deep waters in which the nets need to be cast, more groups and peoples to be gathered in. The promise of the Lord still stands, “You, My disciples, are going to be catching them.”

Jesus’ opening words, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” were filled with promise. They seemed to imply the certainty that there were fish out there. There was a catch to be secured. The preached Word in the wider world would surely bear fruit. That reminds me of what the risen Lord once said to His servant Paul. When the apostle was sore beset by enemies in the city of Corinth, the word came to him one night in a vision: “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man shall attack you to harm you; for I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:10). Striking, isn’t it? These people to whom the Lord refers are not yet believers. They may at the moment of this vision be worshiping in idol temples, disgracing themselves in haunts of shame. But Jesus says that He has them. He knows where they are and looks toward the time when they will be gathered in and name His name. He claims them already and encourages His servant to keep on casting the net.

Perhaps we see how this applies to great apostles like Peter and Paul or to heroic pioneer missionaries, but how does it speak to us? For one thing, it’s a reminder for us that whenever Jesus calls anyone, it’s a summons to mission. But wait. Doesn’t He call me when I’m weary and heavy laden to come to Him for rest? Yes, He does. But in the same call He invites us to take His yoke upon us, to share with Him in service and witness. Doesn’t He come so that we can have life more abundant? Indeed He does, but it’s always a life to be shared with others as well. The concern to catch people for Christ is not only for preachers and professional evangelists. There’s a place for each one of us to “let down the nets.”

I find here also a reminder that my efforts to do so without His blessing amount to nothing at all. Apart from Him, I may toil all night and catch nothing. The task of winning lost people is accomplished not by the skill of genius or the spell of personality. It’s only in fellowship with the living Lord, when guided and empowered by His Holy Spirit, that we can become fishers of men. It all begins with a careful listening to His word.

But most of all, this word of Scripture reminds me that my efforts to reach people, when touched by His miracle-working power, will never be in vain. We don’t have to be perfect people. Simon Peter was a sinful man. We don’t need remarkable abilities. Many of these disciples were ordinary, unlettered men. We simply need availability, readiness to obey the Lord’s word. He does all the rest. He brings the fish. He fills the net. To Him be the praise!

If you are hearing the word of Jesus Christ today calling you, claiming you, if there’s stirring in you a trust in Him as your Lord and Savior, listen to His “henceforth.” He’s saying to you that a new stage begins in your life when you meet Him, when you realize who He is, when you hear His call. Things are different now. Everything’s organized around a new center. He is your Lord and leader. He’s sending you – never forget it – to reach out in loving witness and catch others for Him. So wherever He leads you, remember that you’re to let down the nets and get ready for a catch, sometimes greater than you dared to dream. God bless you!