Luke 5:1-1 Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." Simon answered, "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets." When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!" For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people." When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
Reflection On Monday morning when I read Jesus’ words, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people,”I burst into tears. It turns out tears are my way of falling down at Jesus’ knees because for weeks I had been fretting. The church leadership and I have been fishing for months and years now, still our church does not grow. We have studied church growth and development manuals, we have refined our practices and repaired our nets. And at the end of the day we still have the same number of people standing on the shore. Like Simon I am tired and wonder, what is the point of fishing.
But Jesus shows up, in our text and in our lives. He is right next to us, in our little boat and he has promised. “Do not be afraid. From now on you will be catching people.”
It is time for us to leave our fear as well as our favorite fishing strategies behind and follow Jesus. Casting our nets into deep water is a metaphor for making a radical decision to set aside our dependence on our social cultural context to define who we are. Rather than having our identity affirmed by our loyalty and conformity to particular social cultural groups or networks (pun intended), it means, we find our identity with Jesus, in our “with God” life. Finding our identity in our “with God” life gives us the courage to venture into the deep waters; it gives us the strength to cast our nets into the dark depths; it gives us hope for the ‘big catch.’
Walking through Luke’s parable we watch as Simon Peter gradually moves into deeper relationship with Jesus; first noticing Jesus in the distance, then watching as Jesus draws near, letting Jesus onto his boat, sitting next to Jesus and taking in his words, pushing back against Jesus (we have already fished these waters) before submitting to Jesus’ invitation to cast his nets into deeper waters, witnessing the unbelievable catch of fish which moves Simon Peter to awe and humility, “Go away from me Jesus…. this is too big, I am not worthy of this,” until, fortified by Jesus’s pronouncement,"Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people,” Simon Peter is able to leave his old way of being and follow Jesus.
Where do you find yourself in this parable? Are you fishing and pulling up empty nets? Are you standing on the shore and listening to Jesus from a safe distance? Are you wrestling with Jesus, not sure you want to let go of the way things have always been and venture into deeper waters? Are you terrified by Jesus’ promise of unspeakable abundance for all? Are you horrified by your failure to believe Jesus’ promise of overflowing hope? Are you willing to put down your old ways and find your identity in your “with God” life? Are you willing to follow Jesus and fish for people?
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