The biggest fish I ever caught got away before I could prove it with a picture. It’s a typical fish story, but it’s true! My dad and I landed our biggest catfish ever – upwards of 30 pounds. But before we could weigh it, Dad lifted up the stringer to show it off and to our utter horror, the fish fell from the stringer into the water, never to be seen again. Our blunder? We made the poor decision to run the stringer through the fish’s lip instead of its gills and the weight of the fish was enough to cause the stringer to tear all the way through its lip, freeing the fish from our possession. We never made that mistake again!
But the greatest fishing story ever told was when four fishermen fished all night and didn’t catch anything. That was until they followed instructions to let their nets down one more time. They caught so many fish that their nets began to break and their boats began to sink (Luke 4:6-7). It’s a great story, no doubt; but why did Jesus perform this miracle, and what did He want Peter, Andrew, James, and John to learn? Jesus wanted these fishermen to follow Him…
…even when it may not make sense to them (Luke 5:4-5). These weren’t just recreational fishermen, but fishermen by trade! It sustained and provided for their families. If anyone knew how to catch fish in the region, it wasn’t a man who was a carpenter by trade, but those who fished day in and day out for a living. Or so they would’ve thought. They’d already begun to clean their nets because they knew when to call it a day, but Jesus invited them to try once more and they had the biggest catch of their life. He didn’t just prove to them that He was knowledgeable in some obscure walk of life, but showed them that He was more capable and knowledgeable than them, even in the very trade to which they had dedicated their entire lives. There were going to be times in their Apostleship when they might think differently than Jesus – but this unprecedented catch would remind them they were following the true Master.
…even when they might not feel worthy or capable (Luke 5:8-10). When you catch a big fish (or, so many that your boat begins to sink) the typical reaction is usually “hootin’ and hollerin’ and jumping for joy.” Instead, we see Peter falling to his knees, declaring his sinfulness (vs 8). Peter had probably never felt so inadequate in all his life. Certainly, he felt inadequate as a fisherman, but even more so as a man before the “Master of ocean, and earth, and skies.” As an apostle, there were going to be days ahead that Peter was likely going to feel inadequate and embarrassed, once again. But Peter could look back on this day, when Jesus said, “do not be afraid” and still beckoned him to follow, despite his inadequacy (vs 10-11).
…even when it might mean hardship (Luke 5:10-11). Perhaps the most astounding part of the story is that it seems these fishermen had amnesia about the biggest catch of their lives. This catch could have provided for them for weeks, maybe months! But as soon as their boat hits land, instead of rushing the fish to market, they leave their entire livelihood behind – fish, nets, boats, and all. Jesus told them that from that point forward, His purpose for them was to be fishers of men. There were going to be times in their Apostleship that they were going to have to sacrifice and endure hardship, but they could look back on this event to remind them of why they were following Him. And aside from their bodies, there wasn’t much more that they could physically sacrifice for Jesus than what they had already forsaken on that day.
Likewise, do we follow Jesus – even when something doesn’t make sense to us; even when we feel unworthy; even when it means enduring hardship?