1-3 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.
Jesus was just beginning His ministry. He had, only recently, been baptized by John, in the Jordan River (Luke 3:21, 22). He had not long come through His ordeal with Satan in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13). He was laying the foundation for a great work. Crowds were beginning to follow Him wherever He went. And early one morning, as He was preparing to teach, the crowd was so large that He commandeered Simon’s fishing boat and crew. He climbed in, without invitation, and told Simon to push away from the shore. And there, on the water, Jesus taught the people.
If we want to grow spiritually, then we’ve got to put some space between us and the crowd. Crowd mentality weakens the Church. Many Churches are only interested in doing those things that they think will draw a crowd. But we must not compromise spiritual integrity or dilute the Gospel Message to draw a crowd. To get closer to Jesus, we must be abandon a crowd mentality.
4 When He finished teaching, He said to Simon, “Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.” 5-7 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 had never seen Jesus before, so we may assume that he felt imposed upon. Simon was a fisherman by trade. He didn’t fish for recreation or relaxation, but he made his living by what he was able to bring out of the water. Simon was a businessman, and he had expenses to consider. Every time he launched out with a crew, it cost him money, and the only way that he could recover his loss was to catch fish. The kind of fishing that Simon did was physically demanding work. It wasn’t done with a pole and a line, but he had to handle heavy fishing nets; he had to manually row a heavy boat filled with people out into the water, often against the incoming current.
Moreover, Simon had just come into shore after being out all night, and he had not caught anything. He was physically drained, mentally fatigued, and emotionally frustrated. But Simon’s credit, recognized something special in the call of Jesus that made him forget everything else and do what Jesus said.
*We may be tired and emotionally distraught; we may be at the end of our rope, feeling like all hope is gone. But there is hope for us if we let Jesus take control of our boat.
*Disciples of Jesus must make spiritual growth a high priority. We should be immersed in prayer and disciplined in our study of God’s Word. We should be deeply involved in the ministries of our Church, where we can interact with fellow believers and exercise the gifts and talents that God has entrusted into our care for His glory and honor. But we can do all those things and still not grow spiritually if aren’t obedient to divine authority (I Samuel 15:22; James 1:22).
“What did Simon lay aside?”
• His intellect and his experience. Simon was an intelligent fisherman; he knew his craft; he knew the best fishing spots; he knew the best times to cast out his nets. And he had used all his intellect and his experience the previous night. But it had not produced a catch. Despite that, he moved past those things and decided, “If the Master says do it, then I’m going to do it His way instead of my way.”
*We must not let intellect and experience hinder our faith-walk. Too many today think that, because they are experts in their chosen field, their intellect and their experience in those areas puts them on par with Jesus. But unless we’re willing to lay aside our intellect and experience aside, we’re going to miss out on what Jesus has for us.
• His feelings. Simon was tired; he’d been out all night long. He was frustrated because he hadn’t caught anything. And he was probably at the end of his patience with Jesus. But Simon laid his feelings aside and did what the Lord said do.
*We must be careful of our feelings. Feelings can get us into trouble. Feelings will tell us that we’ve done enough, that we need to look out for ourselves. But if we lay our feelings aside and decide to do what the Master said do, something wonderful will happen.
When Simon obeyed Jesus, Jesus changed his situation. Simon caught so many fish that his nets began to break. He caught so many fish that there wasn’t room enough to receive it all.
8-10 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. 10-11 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.
Simon’s response was a profound humility. He felt unworthy to be in the presence of One so powerful and holy. It was a feeling shared by the others who witnessed the event first-hand, James and John. But Jesus does not revel in their sense of awe. Rather, He calls them to ministry…and they quickly and positively respond.
*When we have a genuine experience with God, a common response is a sense of unworthiness (consider Moses, Gideon, Isaiah, Paul, etc.). But more than a sense of unworthiness, God’s desire is that we become willing partners in His ministry.