Context: Luke is the only gospel writer who was not Jewish. He was a Greek, perhaps a physician, who likely traveled with Paul. Luke takes pains, therefore, to make it clear that Jesus came first for the Jews, but then for the Gentiles. In Luke, Gentiles often display amazing faith. Luke’s gospel is a very demanding gospel with discipleship as a major theme. Luke is also often thought of as the Gospel of the Marginalized—the poor, the lost, least and left out—who sometimes receive Jesus with greater joy and commitment than the wealthy, found, great and “in” people. In chapter 3, Jesus is baptized, and in chapter 4, Jesus is tempted, and begins his ministry in Nazareth (where he finds a poor reception for his teaching and healing ministries). Jesus moves down to the Sea of Galilee and Capernaum, where he begins casting out demons and healing the sick and injured. As yet, he has no disciples. Nevertheless, Jesus and Simon have met before today’s passage: Jesus stayed with Simon and even healed Simon’s mother-in-law!
1 Lake of Gennesaret. Another name for the Sea of Galilee. people crowding around him. Jesus has had a ministry in Capernaum for some time before this passage. His reputation as a powerful teacher and healer is a big draw for people in the region.
2 two boats. These boats were approx. 20 feet in length with a single, squarish sail. washing their nets. The nets caught more than fish—trash, weeds, etc. These would have to be cleaned every day so these non-fish catches would not interfere with their livelihood.
3 one belonging to Simon. It seems Simon and Andrew were in partnership with the sons of Zebedee. Simon. According to one source, Simon means “sinking sand.” taught the people from the boat. Sound carries wonderfully over the water.
4–5 Jesus finishes teaching the crowd and turns to Peter, the one he wants to become a disciple. Jesus, the carpenter, tells Peter, the fisherman, how to fish. Peter is confused or even non-plussed by the command, yet he complies.
6–7 Jesus offers Peter, Andrew, James and John a “Wow” experience that totally hooks them—a carpenter directs them to the catch of a lifetime. The boats are so full they begin to experience catastrophic success!
8–9 Peter recognizes the outrageousness of what he has seen and experienced, and he recognizes that Jesus somehow knew or planned what happened. He believes he is in danger—a sinful man in a holy presence.
10 Don’t be afraid. These are almost always the first words out of the mouth of angels when they come to a mortal. you will catch men. Lit., you will catch men alive. The people will not come out of the net dead…and it is “catch and release” right?
11 They left behind family and business to follow Jesus.
In every area of life, there are key things to know. If you want to be a good sailor, you have to know about wind and water and navigation. If you want to be a good basketball player you have to know about shooting, passing and teamwork. And if you want to be a good follower of Jesus, there are some key things you have to know to be a healthy, growing person, so you can make a healthy growing church. These values help us think about what God might want us to be, and what it means to follow Jesus Christ. One of the greatest of these qualities is the state of being out of control, partly because it flies in the face of everything we are taught. We are taught to stay in control, to keep everything under control. So this one is a shocker: wonderful things happen when we move beyond what we can control.
What could be healthy about being out of control? When we are going our comfortable way according to plan, we think we are the ones making it happen. Now if we stop to think about it, we realize nothing much is in our control, that God is the one who is really in charge, but because our efforts seem to be working, we think we are in control. When I was in college, one semester I did something really silly and overloaded on my classes and extra-curriculars. I was playing on the volleyball team, had a very challenging class load, was tutoring, and had the opportunity to co-lead our college’s new student week. I got to the end of the semester and I literally had nothing left. I had no energy. I couldn’t stay awake. I had no idea what to study. I remember two days before the final exams sitting down in the coffee shop, putting my head in my hands and weeping. Somewhere my weeping turned to praying: “God I have done everything I know how to do. I have been trying my hardest to do everything you want me to. But I’m done.” I remember having a sense almost of someone tapping me on the shoulder, and a sense of God saying to me, “I was wondering when you were going to let me lend a hand. Why don’t you leave the rest to me?” And I did. To this day, I cannot tell you how I finished that semester, but I can tell you that I don’t deserve any of the credit for it. I was in deep water well over my head, and God used it to teach me a lesson in trust that I have never forgotten. One reason being out of control is healthy is that helps us see more clearly that God really is in charge.
Surprisingly, the real problem comes if we are always in our comfort zone. If we never take risks, if we only stay in easy, familiar territory, we will never have the chance to see what God can really do. We are limiting God’s dreams for us. In our passage for today, Jesus asks Simon Peter, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Think about this for a moment: Jesus was trained as a carpenter. So Peter is being rather gentle when he answers, “Master we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” What he probably wanted to say was something like, “Hello?! Like swinging a hammer really qualifies you for fishing! I tell you what, next time, you fish all night and see if you do better.” And if Peter had stopped there, he would never have known what Jesus planned, but to his credit, Peter said, “…but because you say so, I will let down the nets.” And Peter caught more fish than he had dreamed he could catch, so many he had to call another boat!
If we always live in easy, familiar territory, then we will only have human-sized dreams. But God has bigger plans. In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes:
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself…
Giving up our dreams for being “a decent little cottage” hurts. But unless we put all we are and all we dream before God, unless we realize we cannot “outdream” or “outachieve” God, unless we can come to the edge of what we know and trust God for the rest, we can never realize the God-sized dreams that can make our hearts hammer and give our lives enormous power and purpose.
One of the hallmarks of the Pilgrims, for example, is that they looked for God-sized dreams. They looked for the edge of what they could handle and then stepped out again. They dreamed of living in the wilderness with God, of learning how to trust God for their health and their food, for their worship and their safety. They had no idea what coming to the New World would mean except that they were following God and they believed they could change the world in that wilderness with God. So they landed where it looked good to them, and found the one place for hundreds of miles where they could land safely because the locals had been wiped out by smallpox. They desperately needed help and advice, but lived in fear of the local Native Americans. Who should they meet walking up the beach, but a Native American, named Squanto, who greeted them in English he learned when he was held captive in Europe. When the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgivings, it was because they realized how much God had blessed, guided and provided for them when they lived on the “deep waters.” Where God guides, God will provide.
Today, this fellowship stands on the edge of some exciting times. Today, Jesus invites us to put out into deep water to make a catch. Some of us are not sure God really knows what He’s talking about. Some of us are looking at the deep waters and thinking they look a little dark, a little rough and a little scary. But unless we seek the God-sized dreams that will take us into areas where only God can help us, we will never experience the full abundance, the heart-racing excitement and the deepest fulfillment that God has in mind for us. When we live right on the edge of what we know, staring out into what lies beyond, and say, like Peter, “But if you say so, we will let down our nets,” we put ourselves entirely into God’s hands. We will be out of control, but we will also be supremely safe for they are God’s hands. And we will be exactly where God wants us to be…in deep waters where the deep learning, spiritual growth and greatest abundance are. The best fishing is in deep waters.