Once when he was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, the crowd was pushing in on him to better hear the Word of God. He noticed two boats tied up. The fishermen had just left them and were out scrubbing their nets. He climbed into the boat that was Simon’s and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Sitting there, using the boat for a pulpit, he taught the crowd. When he finished teaching, he said to Simon, “Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.” Simon said, “Master, we’ve been fishing hard all night and haven’t caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I’ll let out the nets.” It was no sooner said than done—a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity.
They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch. Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell to his knees before Jesus. “Master, leave. I’m a sinner and can’t handle this holiness. Leave me to myself.” When they pulled in that catch of fish, awe overwhelmed Simon and everyone with him. It was the same with James and John, Zebedee’s sons, coworkers with Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “There is nothing to fear. From now on you’ll be fishing for men and women.” They pulled their boats up on the beach, left them, nets and all, and followed him.
For anyone that’s a fisherman, they know that the best time to fish is at night, because all of the fish are near the top of the water because it is the coolest time of day. When the sun it out, the fish swim to deeper water to stay cool.
Simon Peter was a fisherman through and through. It was his specialty. He knew everything there was to know about fishing. Therefore, he knew that the best time to catch fish was at night, which is why he tells Jesus that they had been fishing all night. They were in the process of cleaning their nets, which was a time consuming process, especially when you are tired and frustrated from catching nothing all night, when Jesus approached Simon Peter.
After Jesus taught the crowd that was following Him, he asks Peter to get in the boat with him and cast his nets one more time. I can imagine what Peter’s thoughts might have been: “Jesus, that doesn’t make sense at all. The sun is out now, and the fish have gone deep into the water. We won’t catch anything. Plus, if I throw the nets out there again, I have to start all over and clean them again. I’m too tired and too frustrated to deal with that right now. Even more, you are a carpenter. What does a carpenter know more about fishing than me? Fishing is my specialty. Again, this doesn’t make sense Jesus, but I’ll do it because you said so.”
We all know what happens next in the story. Simon Peter has to call for help because the nets become so full with fish, that the nets begin to break and the boat begins to sink. They fill the boats with so many fish that they both are almost sinking. Peter can’t believe what just happened. None of it makes sense to him, and all he knows to do is to tell Jesus to get away from him because he is a sinful man. When they get to the shore, they leave everything to follow Jesus.
I think all of us have that one thing that is our specialty, just like fishing is Peter’s specialty. We know a lot about that topic or occupation, and no one else can tell us anything we don’t already know. We are fine with God coming into our lives and working on other things inside of us, but we don’t need God to help us in that area of our life, because we got it covered — it’s our specialty. However, that’s usually the one thing God wants to put His finger on and say, “I want to deal with THAT.” It’s uncomfortable. It doesn’t make sense. But the moment we let Him deal with that thing in our lives, we begin to realize that our identity was found in that specialty, instead of our identity being found in Him. And once that is brought to the light, we then can truly leave our former identity behind, and step into our true identity in God and follow Him without any distractions.
Remember all those fish that they caught — enough to almost sink two boats? That was probably the most money that Simon Peter had even seen in his life, laying right in front of him. In doesn’t make sense for Peter to leave behind the biggest catch of his life that would bring him and his family more money than they have ever had. But I think it’s important that scripture points out that they left everything behind. They could have just left their boats and nets, but taken the fish. Instead, they left it all, including the fish. I think it beckons us to ask the question, “How badly do we want to follow Jesus?”. Because following Jesus, at times, is not going to make sense. It’s going to cost us something. For Peter, it was his identity as a fisherman, and the most money he had ever seen laying in front him. Ultimately, you could say it cost him his life.
Just like Simon Peter, it will also cost us our lives as well. If we truly want to follow Jesus, we have to leave everything behind, not just the boats and the nets (our identity/specialty), but the fish too (our well-being and entire lives). Matthew 16:25 doesn’t make sense: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” But we have to learn to follow Jesus even when it doesn’t make sense. How badly do you want to follow Him?
(This blog was inspired by Pastor Billy Water’s message: “Following Jesus When It Doesn’t Make Sense” [Wellspring Anglican Church])