Summary: When Peter and his friends left their nets to follow Jesus, it wasn’t just nets they left. It was the hardest thing of all.
THE HARDEST THING OF ALL
Luke 5:1-11 (NIV)
1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, 2 he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch."
5 Simon answered, "Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men." 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
It started off as a simple request. The kind of thing you might hear if you’re in a crowded restaurant, sitting at a table with an empty chair. Someone at the next table is one chair short, and they approach you. “May I borrow this chair?”
“Sure,” you say. No skin off your teeth. You have no need for the chair. And they’re not asking you to sit with them. It’s minimal involvement; hardly any inconvenience at all. Just the way you like it.
That’s about what it was like for Peter. He was washing his nets by the water’s edge. There were people all around; it was somewhat crowded. But no bother. He was busy, he and his partners. The crowd didn’t bother him; he didn’t bother them.
Then someone says, “I need a pulpit. May I use your boat? You know, just to sit in while I teach.”
A teacher, Peter thought. This should be good. What could it hurt? “Sure,” he said -- just like you did when a stranger asked to borrow your chair. “Sure.”
The teacher climbed into the boat. He looked at Peter. “Something wrong?” Peter asked. He was beginning to feel somewhat inconvenienced. But not much.
“Could you put out a little from the shore?” the teacher asked. And he didn’t seem to mind asking.
“Put out? Did you say ‘put out’?” Peter was now feeling a little put out himself. But he had gone this far to accommodate the man. A little more wouldn’t hurt. So, he shoved the boat out from the shore a little. Then Jesus sat down and taught the people.
I’m not sure what Jesus taught on that day. It may have been the parable of the soils. You know, the one where the farmer scatters seed and some of it falls on the path, some of it on the rocks, and some among thorns. Of course, some seed does fall on good soil. Luke doesn’t place that parable here at the shore (Luke 8:4ff.), but Matthew and Mark do (Matt. 13:1ff.; Mk. 4:1ff.). So, maybe Peter overheard that story. Maybe not -- at least not at this point.
If he did happen to listen, he must have heard something. But he never expected to hear what Jesus said next. After the teacher was finished teaching, he turned to Peter and said, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
Now, listen here, Peter thought. This has gone too far. You ask whether you can use my boat for a pulpit; that’s one thing. Then you ask me to put out a little from the shore; that’s something else again. But now you’re telling me to take my boat out to the deep? And fish?
It’s now a battle of the wills. Peter, the fisherman, against Jesus, the teacher. And Peter has good sense on his side. He’s an experienced professional, and, because he is, he knows that you don’t fish during the day. Not on the Sea of Galilee. Not with nets. Peter has grown up on this sea. He’s been fishing since the day he could walk. He knows his business, and, with all due respect, Rabbi, this is a dumb idea.