One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, 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. 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, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. – Luke 5:1-11 NIV
Luke provides so much more depth and detail than the other gospels. It is kind of like comparing a wall to wall carpet to an ornate tapestry, or a seven course meal to fast food. The main event of this story was James and John becoming followers of Jesus, but Luke has provided many new layers of meaning to this story. A cliff notes version of this event was provided in Mark when I reflected on Jesus being a window between worlds. I went back to see what the account in Matthew was like and realized that somehow I floated past this water reference (Matthew 4:18-22) without reflecting on it. It turns out it is similar to the account in the book of Mark:
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. – Matthew 4:18-22.
The version in Matthew, like Mark is just the bare facts of the event without the depth and detail of the Luke account. Rather than schlep my boat back upstream to run that bit of water I will just focus on the Luke account here. Luke provides much more information about how people are feeling and what might be motivating them to do what they are doing.
For example, Luke begins with the seemingly innocuous statement “the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God”. The people were listening, which is a key point here and something that we all need to do if we are to hear God’s subtle voice sometimes. Jesus begins to teach in a not so subtle way from a fishing boat he has borrowed from Simon. Perhaps in payment Jesus directs Simon to put out into the lake and cast his nets. Simon is skeptical because he is after all the expert on fishing and they have not been having much luck after fishing all night.
Fortunately for Simon Jesus knows where and how to fish even better than this “fisherman” and they catch so many fish that they are in danger of sinking. Simon has to seek help from his friends to deal with the bounty provided by Jesus. At this point Luke adds the name Peter to Simon’s name and describes his response to this miracle of the fish: “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” I find it interesting that the first response of the Simon (Peter) is to look inward and see his own sin. I assume this was because he realized that only God good provide a miraculous catch like he just witnessed. Instead of reaching out and hugging the God of the universe he was ready to jump overboard. I feel like God would have preferred a hug.
Then toward the end Jesus tips his hand as the real reason for this miraculous mound of mackerel in the boat, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” Jesus was trying channel the hearts of these fisherman in a way that they could relate to and remember. He wanted their hearts to know and understand this new thing that he was enlisting them to share. Hopefully the reason they chose to follow Him was not the magic and miracle of the event, but the profound of Godly precipitate in their midst for the first time in human history.
Prayer: God you show up in our lives in many different ways. Help us to see You and Your presence in everything we see and do.