Summary: When Jesus shows up at Peter's work, Jesus destroys the artificial divide between sacred and secular. Wherever the Lord is, is ripe for a miracle. And if our life belongs to the Lord, he is welcome to any and all of it.
All or Nothing Faith
We have this artificial divide in our world between “sacred” and “secular,” between things that are of God and everything else. And so often we fall into the trap of holding God aloof from most of our life. He can have the Sunday morning church service, and perhaps a few words before a meal, and even a short devotional reading, and an occasional Bible study or TV preacher thrown in for good measure. The rest of my time? It’s mine! Whether reading a good book, or doing some household chores, maybe playing pool, forwarding internet jokes, taking a walk, or watching a TV show: we consider all these things more of the secular part of life. There’s nothing wrong with them. They’re just not “sacred.”
But what if we’re wrong? What if everything is sacred? If God created all that is created (and he did), then doesn’t that make everything holy? And if the Holy Spirit lives inside each believer, doesn’t that mean that God goes with us wherever we go?
The false dichotomy of sacred and secular breaks down in today’s story. Here’s the setting: Jesus is hanging out with Peter and his brother Andrew, along with brothers James and John, fellow partners in a fishing business. Jesus asks Peter to position his boat in such a way that Jesus can use it as a podium. Then Jesus sits—the usual posture of a rabbi who is going to start teaching—and speaks to the people gathered on the shore. The boat keeps them from pressing against him.
Now Peter might feel a little embarrassed here. It’s like, “Take your rabbi to work day.” Or maybe he is proud to know a man of such spiritual caliber as Jesus. We don’t really know, as the two of them are just getting to know each other.
What really pushes Peter’s professional limits is when Jesus gives him some fishing advice! Jesus says, in verse 4, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” You can almost hear the irritation in Simon Peter’s voice, in verse 5 when he replies, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” I imagine him thinking, “Deep water is for night fishing; shallow water is for day fishing. Any good fisherman knows this. So why is Jesus doubting me? And why in the world is he giving me advice on my own profession anyway? Why doesn’t he just concentrate on the teaching and leave the fishing to me?” Yes, probably something like that. And that leads me to the first of three questions you ought to ask yourself every now and then. Peter asked himself these three. The first is,
1. Can I believe that Jesus knows more about my _________ than I do?
The blank is for you to fill in. For Peter, it was fishing. “Can I believe that Jesus knows more about fishing than I do?” It might be your work life. But for this crowd, probably not. It might be your home life, it might be your hobby, or your girlfriend or boyfriend, or husband or wife. Does God know more about my marriage than I do? Does Jesus understand my retirement plan more than I do? Does Jesus know more about my health than I do? It could be anything. In Peter’s case, it was his profession.
To Peter’s credit, he doesn’t shrug Jesus off. Maybe he sees a look on Jesus’ face, a look that says, “Why don’t you try trusting me here? Maybe I know what I’m talking about. Maybe I’ll surprise you.” And Peter does what Jesus suggests, which leads us to the second question we can ask ourselves:
2. Will I take Jesus at his word?
The NIV, which I use most of the time, quotes Peter beautifully in the last part of verse 5, “BUT BECAUSE YOU SAY SO, I will let down the nets.” “But because you say so.” That little word “but” says I’m going to put aside all that I know about my profession, all that I’ve studied under my mentors, all that I’ve practiced through the years, and I’m going to proceed only because you say so, Jesus. The King James and other translations capture the nuance of Peter’s words here. The more literal translation is, “But at your word I’ll let down the nets...” Peter decides to take Jesus “at his word.”
And the question becomes, will we? Will we take Jesus at his word? Will we obey him just because he said it, even though we may not always understand it? Will we take him at his word, because he said so? That’s a rich question, isn’t it? This Jesus, who should be relegated to teaching and preaching, is now giving me fishing advice. And I, as a fisherman challenged in my own profession—which hasn’t been going very well lately, by the way—will I lay aside my pride and consider that the Lord of my soul is also the Lord of my store? Will I realize that the One who brings me eternal life also brings me life to the full every day, not just someday?