As I was pondering this episode in which Jesus points Peter to a bumper shoal of fish, I suddenly had a profound sensation of drawn into the action beside the lake rather, as the Pevensey children found themselves being drawn “onto” the Dawn Treader, at the start of the one of the Narnian chronicles. I could almost hear the creaking of the rowlocks, feel the breath of the wind, and the rocking of the boat! The effect this miracle had on Peter and those who witnessed it was so remarkable that it changed their lives and priorities forever.
Enjoy part 2 in our four part series ‘Put out into the Deep,’ based on the story of Jesus calling the first disciples in Luke 5:1-11.
The effect this miracle had on Peter and those who witnessed it was so remarkable that it changed their lives and priorities forever . . . .
The improvisation that accompanies this piece is a great treat; it is based on an incredibly pretty theme by Vivaldi, which is followed by a “starter” theme I wrote and which reflects the deep work the Lord Jesus was doing in Peter’s heart.
It is lovely to imagine the cry of relief and wonder when the shoal of fish is located and the nets begin to fill. This was no ordinary catch: the nets were filling at such an alarming pace that the disciples wondered if they would stand the strain. Their net began to break and they had to signal for help back to the shore for the other boat to come out to help them. It took every ounce of strength for them to haul the boats back to shore. These were men who were used to working together, and this surely stood them in good stead as Jesus set out to shape and train His first recruits into a mighty fighting force, just as He does with His people today.
These men had plied these waters for years, but they had never had a catch like this before. They knew it was a miracle. Those who struggle with the miraculous elements in the gospels are forced to come up with implausible suggestions to get round this. Soe, for instance, claim that Jesus must have had such excellent eyesight that He could see the shoal from the shore. I find that as unsatisfactory as to assume that Jesus was walking on a sand bank when He set out across the lake on the water sometime later—or that He had previously squirrelled away store of food in a larder cave on the hillside to feed the 5000.
I wonder how far out onto the lake they had to go before they met the shoal? I suspect it wasn’t that far. Sometimes when we have already been through a lot and have had to wait a long time for something, the Lord is mercifully swift the second time round.
The Lord is no man’s debtor; Peter had loaned him his boat and Jesus gave Him the abundance of the lake. The disciples may originally have been concerned for the pounds, shillings or denarii of a night’s catch, but that was the last thing on their minds as they hauled their overfull boat back to the shore; they had made the still greater discovery that the One who had told them to launch out into the deep knew everything about their life and circumstances. And that knowledge galvanised them to be willing to part with all earthly security in order to follow Him. At the very time when relative riches beckoned, they were prepared to part with all to follow Jesus. What a testimony!
Peter and the others were amazed at this catch — and when some years later the resurrected Jesus called out to them from the shore to let down their nets on the other side of their boat, and they caught another huge catch of fish which they were unable to haul back to shore, this episode must have come straight back to their minds. That’s when they knew that the person calling to them was the Lord, even though He often appeared to them after the resurrection in a different form. (Mark. 16:12)
When the nets began to fill did Peter just whoop with joy? No, he actually felt completely undone, Coming face to face with the workings of a holy God leads us either to feeling profoundly welcomed and deeply embraced in His tenderness, or it can make us deeply aware of our smallness and our shortcomings, so acutely that we grieve and lament as we realise just how far we have been from his heart, and the cry rises up in us in one form or another as it did in Peter, as he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” This is what happened to Isaiah when he suddenly came face to face with the reality of God’s holiness. That great and mighty prophet suddenly recognised himself as an unclean man living in the midst of an unclean people (Is. 6).
Jesus intended all along to make Peter and his brother, along with James and John His instruments of sowing and planting the gospel in the world, but those whom He draws into the most intimate relationship with Him he first makes aware that they deserve to be, as Matthew Henry tellingly puts it, “set at the greatest distance from Him.” This is delicate soul work, but it provided to pave the way for that great day of Pentecost, on which Peter’s words would bring a great crowd of people to faith in Jesus.
So God finds ways to reach down behind our barriers, not to condemn us but to convict us. However intense this process may be, it is nothing but His kindness in action – and as it was for Peter, so for us it may well be the vital prelude to being able to go deeper in the power of the Spirit – and for the Lord Jesus to be able to entrust us with greater spiritual riches.
On the wider stage, just think of the intense keening there will be when the vision of Zechariah 12:10-14 is fulfilled, and the people of Israel look on the One they have slain with bitter weeping and mourning.
I wonder what the images in this powerful episode bring to mind for you? Praise God that He hears our cries and is already going ahead into the deep to prepare whatever catch He knows we need.