Peter was an experienced fisherman, which is how he made his living on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus came along the shore and climbed into Peter’s boat. At first “he sat down and taught the people from the boat” (Luke 5:3). “When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch’. And Simon answered, ‘Master we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets’” (verses 4,5).
We may know this story well, but imagine yourself to be Simon. He had used all his experience through the night to try and catch fish; he would have wondered at his Lord’s command to let down the nets. What happened? “…they enclosed a large number of fish and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help … they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink” (verses 6,7). What would you be thinking at that moment?
We read “when Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’”. Naturally, “all who were with him were astonished”. Peter in particular saw himself as unworthy of association with Christ. This had far greater impact than earlier when Jesus was “entering Simon’s house” when his “mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them” (4:38,39).
Peter was now in awe of Jesus, he was acutely aware of his own unworthiness and we should reflect on our own unworthiness before Christ. James makes this point in his letter, “Listen my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have …” (2:5,6).
What is the nature of that love? My love? Your love? Our love? After the miracle of the fish Simon and the others were afraid, but Jesus said, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10). This caused a final thought – “catching” the hearts and minds of people today is now proving to be very hard – at least in the “western” world it is. But there was an occasion when Jesus said to “cast the net on the right side of the boat” (John 21:6) to catch fish – and they did. And there are places today where spiritual fishing is successful. Sadly the labourers are few – what about you?