Summary: Jesus climbs in the boat with us; he steps into our lives, our homes, our workplaces, and he says, “I want you to come with me." We can try and run from it and throw out all the excuses we want, but that doesn’t change God’s call.
You know, summer is a great time to go fishing. In fact, a couple of weeks ago when I was at my sister’s house for my nephew’s baptism, we saw two boys walk by the house two or three times with fishing poles slung over their shoulders and tackle boxes in their hands. They were headed over to the nearby creek to fish, they told us, for “small mouth bass.” It was the picture of summer. So, beginning this week and throughout the month of August, I will be doing a special sermon series, “Gone Fishin’!” During the next four weeks, we are going to look together at the fishing stories of the gospels. With it being summertime and us being near the lake, I figured this would be a great opportunity for us to be reminded together of what fishing is all about. And maybe we will all learn something here together that we can take out and put into practice in our everyday lives, whether that’s fishing on the dock, or hanging out with family and friends, or working on the job.
We begin this morning with a story from Luke’s gospel that is known by two names, “the calling of the first disciples,” and “the miraculous catch of fish.” Either way you look at it, thought, fishing stands at the heart of this story, so that is where we will focus today. But first, a bit of background; Jesus has just finished reading from the scrolls of the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue. He has also been busy already up to this point healing people and casting out demons, so the word is getting out about this man, and the crowds following Jesus as he heads to the lake are really beginning to grow quite large. As we pick up with Jesus this morning, the crowds are pressing in, trying to hear him. Now, as it turns out, along the lakeshore close to Capernaum where Jesus was, there is a sequence of steep inlets, a sort of zigzagging shoreline with each inlet forming a sort of natural ampitheater. Jesus knows that if he can get in a boat and push out from shore just a bit, he will be able to talk in a regular, normal voice, and everyone will be able to hear him much better.
As luck would have it, there were a few fisherman with a couple of boats nearby. They had been out fishing all night and they were busy cleaning their nets and putting away their gear, so Jesus calls to one and asks him to take him out a little ways so he can continue teaching the people. And so the fishing begins...After Jesus was done teaching the crowds, he looks over to Simon and says, “Go out a little further, to the deep water, and cast your nets.”
Now, even the most novice of fishermen know that fishing in broad daylight is pretty pointless. The best times to fish are late into the night, or very early in the morning, which, as it turns out, is exactly what Simon and his companions have been doing all night...with no luck. So you can imagine Simon’s hesitation when Jesus tells him to row out and cast the nets again. He’s just come off a long night on the water, the nets have been cleaned and put away, and now Jesus (a carpenter of all things) is trying to tell Simon, the master fisherman, that he needs to cast the nets out and begin fishing again. It’s so easy to imagine Simon’s frustration, and the excuses must’ve flowed so easily. “Really? I haven’t caught anything all night, I’ve just put my nets away, and you want me to start fishing now? I really don’t want to go through all this again! Why me? You know, James and John are just over there, why don’t you ask them?” But then in the end, Simon complies, “Well alright....because you say so, I will drop the nets.”
And look what happened the moment Simon dropped his nets into the water. They were filled so full they began to tear, and when he called to his companions for help, their boats were piled so full of fish that they were riding terribly low in the water, and even on the verge of sinking. But here’s what we need to know, Jesus wants to bless us. Sure, he asks to use our stuff, he calls on us to offer our resources, to put our things at his disposal, but ultimately it is so that he can bless us with a great catch. Yet, how many times when Jesus has called on us have we made excuses like Simon? We do it all the time, don’t we? There’s some reason that we can’t tithe. There’s something else going on that keeps us from going to feed the homeless. We rationalize that we are serving God in other ways or that someone else is taking care of it, and so we don’t need to do this, that, or the other. In fact, it’s probably kind of comforting to see that even the disciples made excuses when Christ called upon them.