Summary: The real miracle was greater than the catch of fish; Jesus had captured Peter’s heart.
Hats off to Luke for bringing his readers exclusive coverage of this great story. Jesus had attracted a crowd eager to hear a Word from God. When the Word of God is spoken with clarity, passion and conviction, it always draws a crowd. Gennesaret, the Sea of Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee are three names used for one of the most famous bodies of water in the world. Situated 680 feet below sea level, it is called Lake Kinneret by the Israelis today.
Gennesaret actually refers to a fertile plain adjacent to the northwest corner of the lake. Today this region is under the supervision of Kibbutz Nof Ginnosar. During the mid-eighties a severe drought drained the lake to its lowest level ever. During that time a boat dating back to the first century was discovered. After years of careful restoration, the boat is now on display at the Kibbutz. It is dubbed “the Jesus boat” because it dates to the time period of His ministry. Jesus could very well have sailed in a boat of similar size to the one pictured above.
Jesus noticed two boats along the seashore. Luke used the word ploiarion, meaning “a little boat.” The fishermen were washing their nets to remove debris, lake grass and an odd sandal or two that they had drug up! I wonder if the boat was named. If you were Peter, what would you have named your boat? Did Jesus pick the boat nearest Him or did He particularly choose Peter’s boat for His floating platform? As soon as Jesus sat down, a hush came over the crowd because that was the sign given by all rabbis before they began to teach. Jesus always had a compelling story to tell and the crowd pressed in to listen to Him.
When the sermon was over, Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Let’s go fishing!” What He actually said was, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch!” Notice with me that Jesus fished in the same clothes in which He preached. There is a powerful lesson in His example. He did not have one look for work or sports and another look for church. Peter had no problem with Jesus using his boat for a pulpit but, when Jesus wanted to use his boat for fishing, Peter had a problem. “Jesus, you stick with preaching and let us handle the fishing.” Jesus wanted Peter to see that his means of earning a living could also be a means of sharing the gospel. By using the same clothes and the same boat, Jesus showed Peter that fishing and preaching are not as far apart as Peter thought. That’s a lesson Jesus is still teaching. He wants our conduct to be the same at work, at sports, at home and at church. Jesus wants people to see His life in us, wherever we are and whatever we are doing.
God touched my heart as I listened to Peter’s response. He said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” Peter had indeed worked hard. Luke used the word kopiao, “to grow weary.” Peter had worked all night. Luke used the word holos, meaning “whole or complete.” Peter had worked to the point of exhaustion all night long and had come up empty-handed. Have you ever felt that way? After your best efforts, you have come up empty-handed. Not just after one day but after years of trying, you have still come up short, with not much to show for all the effort you have invested. Jesus knows and is issuing the same call to you and me as He did to Peter. Get back out there to the deep water, get in over your head and lower your nets one more time. Even though you appear to have failed, try again, risk again, believe again, and work again. What an encouraging word this is to us.
Peter said, “At Your Word, I will try again.” Luke used the word rhema. Rhema is a fresh, powerful, anointed word from God to help us meet a specific challenge that we are facing. It is a statement of command to propel us over the obstacles that we are facing. God spoke a word into my spirit through Peter’s response. He said keep trying, keep believing, keep hoping, because He will bring to pass the things about which He has spoken to me in the past. How about you? What dream are you about to let go of? God wants you to try one more time. For too many people, the tragedy of their lives is that they gave up one effort to soon.
A great catch of fish was enclosed and the second boat was needed to bring the fish ashore. But before the boats make it back, Peter had a life-changing experience. He uttered an amazing sentence, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” Have you ever said anything like that to Jesus? Why would Peter talk to Jesus that way? Most of us are so preoccupied with how valuable we are to Jesus that it would never cross our minds to make a statement like Peter’s. Up until this point Peter has been focusing on what he could do for Jesus. He had offered Jesus his boat, his time, his nets, but now he realized that he had nothing to offer Jesus. The tables have turned; the question is not “What do I have to offer Jesus?” but “Why would Jesus even want me around Him?” Jesus wanted Peter to come to grips with his need for Jesus rather than Jesus’ need for Peter. Making this great discovery is the entry point for becoming a disciple of Jesus. Peter was awestruck by the holiness of Jesus and the sinfulness of himself. When that happens, we are ready to follow Jesus as our Lord and Savior.