Summary: We put a high premium on our experience in life. This limits us and also prevents us from the greater experience and reality which Jesus calls us to enter. Peter was "experienced" in fishing. But Jesus would take him beyond his experience. Us too.
You are talking to someone about something, something that you know is true with all of your heart. And right in the middle, of making your most convincing point, they stop you and they say those words that bring a sudden end to all discussion. “ That has not been my experience!” They say. And it’s over. You have been submarined. For experience is a most powerful trump card in almost any circumstance or conversation.
And that’s understandable. The majority of our learning, comes from experience. We touch, we see, we taste, we feel, we hear, we try this and that and we learn the truth about so many things from our experiences.
Experience is a great teacher. But it is, by no means, the only teacher. Experience, though often a good source of truth is not the source to which all other sources must bow. To make one’s own experience the trump card in truth leads to a closed mind that is incapable seeing beyond itself . Reality is, by no means limited to our experiences. Simon Peter would learn this as Jesus the Son of God began to lead him beyond his experience.
The big crowds were starting to gather around Jesus as news of his teaching and his miracles spread around the region of Galilee. Jesus was near the Lake of Gennesaret, which is another name for the Sea of Galilee, which was really not a sea, but a lake because it is fresh water.
So Jesus was standing there, by the shore of this big lake; the people, captivated by his presence and the gracious words which he spoke, felt the need to get closer to him. His words were like a cool spring of water in the middle of a desert and they were wanting to drink as deeply as they could. And so they were pressing and pushing and backing Jesus up against the the lake. So Jesus, very cleverly climbed into one of the boats that was there, and asked the owner of the boat to put out a little from shore. The owner of the boat was Simon Peter.
Taking a seat in Peter’s boat, Jesus began to teach the people. The physical situation was as natural auditorium of sorts....The shoreline, sloping down toward the lake, would make the classic amphitheater. Everyone could see. Everyone could hear. The Morning Sun, the fresh smell of the Lake, and the words of the Lord. It must have been cool.
After Jesus had finished speaking, he turned to Simon Peter and said something that seemed rather odd. He says “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Now the reason this seemed so odd is because it stood in deep opposition to Peter’s own experience! For Peter was a professional fisherman. Fishing was not merely a pastime, but how he made his living! He didn’t merely dabble in understanding the ways and means of fish, his very livelihood depended on it! And from what I’ve read, the type of fishing that is done in that lake, does not happen in deep water, but rather nearer to the land and to the shoals. Add to that his most recent experience of working all night and catching nothing, and you’ve got a pretty strong argument against putting the nets out anywhere, much less into deep water.. As any fisherman knows, when the fish aren’t active, the fish aren’t active. Everything from Peter’s experience was adding up against the Lord’s command.
But there was something about Jesus, something about his teaching, that caused this rough and tumble fisherman to relent, albeit with some rather serious reservations. “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Personal experience versus the obedience of faith: The inner struggle of inner struggles. You know it well, don’t you? For, like Peter, you have quite a bit of experience in living. You have learned to depend on your experiences to direct your life and to help you make decisions. But wait, the Lord Jesus has entered your “boat.” In one way or another: through your baptism or through the Word of God, he has placed himself right smack in the middle of your life. He is your Savior and Lord. But he is also the doorway into a reality that is much bigger and much more amazing than your experience!
Through his atoning sacrifice for your sins; by his death on the cross he has put you into a forgiven relationship with your father in heaven. In so doing, he has introduced you to the reality of God! And now, he urges you onward. Urges you to live your life in full view of the fact that there is a reality beyond yourself; a reality that is beyond your own experience.