When your tooth aches, do you call a plumber?
As much as we respect plumbers for their ability to unstop sinks or fix leaky toilets, they won’t be much help with a cavity that flares up. Everyone understands that for a dental emergency, you need a dentist.
Luke 5 is one of those scenarios. Swap out “teacher and fisherman” for “plumber and dentist” and the picture comes into focus. Peter, James, and John – fishermen by trade – know their stuff. They’ve fished on lake Gennesarat for years. On this day, to better project his voice to the crowds, Jesus climbs into Peter’s boat and puts out a ways from the shore. Now the teaching is done, and the story takes a twist. Jesus the teacher turns to Simon the fisherman: “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4).
The teacher is giving orders to the fisherman? That’s odd. Like a plumber doing dental work, is Jesus working outside of his expertise? It seems so on the surface. You can hear the exasperation in Simon’s voice when he replies: “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets” (v.5).
Though at first hesitant, Peter complies. When they cast their nets, they are instantly so laden with fish that they nearly submerge the boat! James and John come to the rescue, filling both of the boats with fish.
Peter is overcome with fear and amazement; he falls at Jesus’s knees, and exclaims: “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (v.8). The Lord replies: “Do not fear; from now on you will be catching people” (v.10) Peter, James, and John leave everything, and follow Jesus.
Lessons for us
We can see ourselves reflected in Simon Peter, a down-to-earth and likable character. If he’d insisted, “Jesus, I’m the expert here” or “Been there, done that,” he would have missed out on a life-changing experience. He had to humble himself and obey. How difficult this can be for us, too. “Lord, I’ve got this” we’re likely to say. What adventures have we missed because we insisted on calling the shots instead of letting God?
Further, it’s no accident that Jesus directs Peter to put out into deeper waters. That’s where the fish were. Spiritually, how many of us trawl only the shallows? Jesus commands us: “Go deep!” The hymn by Oswald J. Smith captures the idea:
Into the love of Jesus, deeper and deeper I go.
Praising the One who brought me out of my sin and woe.
The blessings of God await those who spiritually go deep. This is the takeaway from the big catch in Luke 5. In humility and obedience, are we willing to trust the Lord and launch into deeper waters?
All Scripture quotations are from The New American Standard Bible (Lockman, 2020).