I am officially certified to pick up a 50-pound bag. (Honestly!) An instructor who specialized in the art of ‘Lifting’ came to the factory I worked at and demonstrated proper techniques for picking up a bag. Now, before this training, I had handled about 500 bags every day, five days a week for over a year. That amounts to roughly 112,000 bags each year. So, needless to say, I am capable of lifting heavy objects. Specialized instruction seemed pretty unnecessary.
Think about the seemingly unnecessary instructions you get. If you are over the age of seven, you probably understand how a zipper works. You grasp the concept that connecting two pieces of fabric across your chest will trap heat closer to your body and trapping heat keeps you warm. Yet, regardless of age, your high school teacher still nags, “Zip up your coat!” Do you really need that reminder? You fully comprehend that if you want heat, then you will close your jacket. If not, then leave it open! That harping seems so unnecessary.
It does— but those instructions offer so much more than simple advice. Look past the plain instruction and grasp the reason for that instruction. Improving bag-lifting skills ensures a pain-free back. Zipping up a coat keeps you healthy. Yes, on the surface, you hear seemingly-unnecessary instructions, but dig deeper and you discover a treasure trove of care.
Sometimes that is exactly what you need to hear. Jesus instructs us to fish for people, but the results can be exhausting, frustrating, depressing, and fruitless. Dig deeper. Go further than the simple instruction and hear him say, Do Not Fear, Weary Fisherman! Cling to the Master’s Word and Reap the results of that Word.
Looking at our reading provides that encouragement. You watch an enormous crowd swarm Jesus. They lean in closer and closer and eventually corral him to water’s edge. So, Jesus steps into a boat, shoves off about 10-feet from shore, and preaches. He can see more people and more people can see him.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” There’s a problem with that order: these fishermen had already let down their nets and caught nothing. That is why they stand on shore washing their nets, stitching up holes, and folding away the nets for tomorrow. Completing maintenance is a far better use of time than fishing.
Peter even nudges Jesus to that reality. “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything…” Peter is an experienced fisherman. He runs a business. If the fish were biting, then these men would still be out on the water. After all, more fish caught means more money made. He knows the work it takes to successfully fish. They row over there, heave the nets out, throw nets, drag nets, pull up nets. Then they row there, heave the nets out, throw nets, drag nets, pull up nets. Then they row over here, heave the nets out, throw nets, drag nets, pull up nets. This goes on. for. hours. They ache. They are tired. They are a little irritated. Not to mention, Peter knows this is not really the ideal time to fish. You fish at night; the evening bugs creep out and fish get active. During the hot noontime sun fish tend to rest. Peter could easily silence Jesus with: “Well, we tried. Nothing happened. It does not make sense going out.”
Instead, it is Peter who says the unreasonable. [B]ecause you say so, I will let down the nets. You see the fishing conditions. You heard the fishing results. You have seen the effort. You expect nothing to change. So, why does Peter shove off again? Because [Jesus] said so. Peter sets aside his reason [what makes sense to him] and embraces Jesus’ word. One little word in verse 5 captures that trust: “Master.” That word is a title used for military officers. Just like cadets follow the orders of a commander, Peter says, “Alright, captain!”
They let down their nets and they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. That sight absolutely crushes Peter. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken… With one powerfully awesome act, Jesus reveals the power he has as God. That power accomplishes the unthinkable and the unreasonable. It might be noontime, but fish move because Jesus makes it happen. The disciples may have rowed around the Sea of Galilee, but fish flood the nets here because Jesus makes it happen. They might have caught nothing hours earlier, but fish rip the nets because Jesus makes it happen. Jesus blasts away what makes logical sense with a mere word. The power of this miraculous catch is in his Word.
That’s why Jesus can say, [F]rom now on you will catch people. He hands you (and me) that same powerful Word—a Word capable of changing hearts and minds (Romans 10:17). A Word which reminds us Jesus controls all things (Matthew 28:18). It is not our responsibility to change our hearts. It is not in our power to make people flood into our church building. Do you agree with that? If so, then why do we get so down when the results are not what we expect?
We seize opportunities to share Jesus with our community, our friends, our extended families, and our immediate family. We work hard all night and day and catch nothing. Jesus still says, “Put down your nets again,” and the heart just groans. “What’s the use, Jesus? I’ve already invited my children to worship. None of them care.” “What’s the use, Jesus? We flood the area with invitations. No one comes.” “What’s the use, Jesus? No one wants to hear about sin anymore. They just want a place of entertainment for their kids.” Where is the emphasis on each of those statements? Your expectations!
The reason we so often struggle living out our calling as fishermen is that the we set sail as ‘Master.’ We want God to produce the results we want. If we do not see what we want, then we gripe and complain, mope around and throw up our hands in despair. This is insubordination. You (and I) are not the ‘Master’ – and Jesus dazzles a glimpse of his power in order to remind us of that fact. The Son of God gives the commands, not us. The Son of God expects obedience, not conditions. He will not run away from those who disobey him.
Instead, he stands in front of Peter. He remains present before you (and me). His eyes penetrate our very hearts and pinpoints every insubordinate scar— and he only sighs out, Do not be afraid.
That is a powerful Word. You see, we can say things, but they do not necessarily happen. I can say, “Be 75-degrees outside!” and the temperature does not swing. My words lack power and authority. When Jesus says, Do not be afraid, that is a Word that actually removes fear. Jesus did not fail in his task of removing the penalty for sin. Instead, he cried out the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). That word told the devil that you will not spend eternity in hell with him. That word ripped the curtain separating you from God. That word made you a friend of God, a friend who knows God smiles at you. Fear Not, Weary Fisherman! God forgives the times you (and I) do not want to fish for people. God forgives the times you (and I) deliberately refuse to carry out our calling. God forgives the times you (and I) complain.
You may feel as though your efforts in sharing the Word are worthless. You may feel as though Jesus burdened you with the most unfavorable task ever. Yet, Jesus stands us up with Peter, waves his arm across his miracle, and says, Fear Not, Weary Fisherman. Cling to the Master’s Word. God’s powerful Word works powerful results. Reap the results of that Word.
That is our job: to reap, to bring in what God gathers. You see, God says, “Here’s my Word. Go, let down your nets.” You do. Last December, you ran a Christmas invitation in the Clare County Review and The Clare Cleaver. That net swept through thousands of homes and let many see the worship opportunities here. In a few weeks, we will mail postcards to 3,000 area homes. People will hold our Easter invitation in their hands. We stretch out road-side banners and bulletinboard flyers with an invitation to Vacation Bible School, Easter for Kids, and Christmas Eve. These ‘nets’ catch the attentions of those on the road or in the store. We even spread those events on our website and Facebook pages. You use so many various outlets to spread wide the net of God’s Word. You pray that the Word catches hearts so that people do not perish in hell, but have eternal life (John 3:16).
This is you fishing for people. Pay attention to that. That is the job Jesus hands you (and me). Many times we put the pressure on ourselves to create faith. We think it is our job to “grow” our church. We think it is only us who can change hearts. We think that by our words and actions people will come to faith. But it is not. Peter does not corral fish into the nets. Jesus says, “Let down the nets.” Peter does. Jesus fills the nets. Peter pulls the nets in. Jesus vividly demonstrates the power of his Word. He does not demand results; he demands faithfulness. God does not demand that your church grow big. He does not demand that your congregation last for another 100-years. He simply says: “Be faithful.” Use the best of your financial resources to reach people. Make the most of your opportunities to reach the lost. Make the best of your conversations to invite and encourage your friends and loved ones. God uses you to reach people, but he uses his Word to produce results.
Do Not Fear, Weary Fishermen! The results belong to God and we hold the privilege of reaping in those results. Sometimes we rejoice that another individual sees the goodness of God. At other times, the result is that our reliance on God’s work increases.
This miracle appears somewhat unnecessary. A lot of fish in some nets— but look past the plain action and grasp the reason for the action. Jesus reminds us all who is in charge when it comes to creating faith. Fishing for people can be exhausting, frustrating, depressing, and fruitless. Yet, with one powerful act, he restores our strength, fills us with courage, and sends us out again. We spread the Word as best as we are able and reap the results he brings. Do Not Fear, Weary Fishermen! Cling to the Master’s Word and Reap the results of that Word.