My pastor preached an insightful sermon from the fifth chapter of Luke a while back. I was reading and pondering that same chapter later, mulling over my pastor’s words. It was as if I could not get this story out of my heart.
In this passage, Jesus was teaching the crowds from Simon Peter’s empty fishing boat. Perhaps one of Peter’s first encounters with Jesus, Luke’s account of the story lets us know that Peter and his fellow fisherman were done fishing for the day. In fact, they were cleaning their nets as Jesus approached and asked to borrow one of their two boats as a spot from which to sit and teach.
Keep in mind that the fishermen had fished the entire night with no catch to show for their toil. So when Jesus finished His teaching, they probably thought their long night’s work was finally finished; it was time for a rest. Then Jesus instructed them to launch deeper and let down their nets for a catch.
Peter could not resist explaining to Jesus about their previous long (and lacking) night on the water. He probably wanted to also explain that he and his comrades had been fishing those waters their entire life. They knew when it was time to give up and fish another day. And after all, Jesus was a carpenter, not a fisherman. Yet, Peter said, “Nevertheless at thy word (Jesus) I will let down the net” (Luke 5:5, KJV).
Nevertheless – what a word! Yes, that one little word changed everything for Peter. And not only for Peter, it changed everything for his fellow fishermen in the other boat as well. Those other fishermen also had to launch out into the deep and help Peter haul the two overloaded, sinking boats full of fish onto the shore.
I read somewhere that commentators and scholars believe that one load of fish was so valuable that it sustained Peter’s family for quite some time, maybe even enabling Peter to go and follow Jesus with no worry or regard for income. I am not so sure of that, but it was a tremendous catch of fish for both groups of fishermen, or as we would say in Mississippi—a big ol’ mess of fish.
What I took away from this story and sermon was to never quit. Just when things we do seem meaningless and totally unproductive, God is nudging us to try one more time. And just when our dreams seem impossible to achieve, when we have been knocked down too many times to count, God is still saying to us as He did to Peter, “Nevertheless, get back up, my child. Cast your net one more time.”
I concur! Let us do exactly what God has called us to do, over and over and over again, until He steps into our boat and helps us make the biggest catch of our lives. Because here is the other thing I see in this passage: Fishing is just a metaphor for life, but catching is not. Let me say that again: Fishing is just a metaphor for life, but catching is not. Catching is a metaphor for eternity.
It is our job – our mandate – as Christians to catch as many of our brothers and sisters as possible from falling into the enemy’s trap. Jude 1:23 instructs us to literally snatch or pull others from the fires of hell, if need be. For yes, the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but Jesus came once and for all to give life everlasting. And spreading the message of that everlasting life is our simple, but powerful part in the salvation plan.
Perhaps that was exactly why Jesus finished this fishing scene in Luke 5:10 with these words to Peter, “Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.”
That final statement tells me that wherever we are fishing today, in whichever job, task, or trial we find ourselves, we must keep on keeping on. We must disregard all the previous, futile, fruitless, seemingly wasted attempts. And nevertheless, launch out into the deep and try one more time.
So, today, demonstrate the gospel one more time to a lost family member. Speak kindness one more time to that grumpy neighbor. Complete that assigned task with joy one more time in front of the boss and coworkers. Forgive one more time. Share one more time. Volunteer. Help. Give. Love. One more time. Who knows? This time we may just catch a big ol’ mess of … souls.