“…And when [Jesus] had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking…But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken…And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”
On my way back from a recent trip to the Philippines, my father told me to read that passage. As we spoke over the phone, he said, “It’s time to cast out.”
Since then, it hasn’t stopped following me in my heart or my mind. There’s something in the simplicity of Jesus’ command, and the reluctant-yet-hopeful way Peter obeyed. There was such a weight in the power of Jesus’s words; a stark contrast to the mystery in the abundance that followed the timid faith of a fisherman.
The first truth I observed from this story is that Peter had been taking actions by casting the net, but it was only after the word of Jesus did he catch any fish. Peter’s action alone was not enough to change the circumstances; the change ultimately hinged on the word of Jesus.
A second truth I began to see concerned Peter. He believed Jesus at his word, and, immediately, cast out his net. Even if he did not fully believe in the moment, he still cast out his net in obedience. Note that Jesus didn’t fish for him; the act of faith was required of Peter. The choice was ultimately his.
Jesus didn’t even promise huge returns. He only told Peter to let down his net for a catch. The word was spoken, but required a response, an act of faith.
After reflecting on this narrative, we should be challenged to examine our hearts and ask ourselves some difficult questions. Isn’t it true that the word and promise of God is all we need to act — to “cast out” as Peter did, as my father had told me — in obedience?
Isn’t it true that Jesus has given us everything we need to do so? So often, instead of casting out in faith, we wait for him to cast out for us. We have been given everything we need to produce fruit — even more than enough. Peter’s reward was an abundance. An abundance awaits those who are willing to cast out their nets at his word.
I see a third truth found in this story, one of a rabbi and a fisherman. Looking again at Peter, I realize he was gripped with wonder, awe and amazement at his bountiful catch. He was not prepared for the reward Jesus would bestow upon him for his obedience. He recognized Jesus as no ordinary man; this was someone great.
Peter knew he did not deserve any of it. He hadn’t really earned this overwhelming catch. He knew there was something greater, even divine, at work. And it was in this state of infatuation — even fear, knowing he was a sinner — he left everything he had. The end result of Peter’s catch was not simply the abundance, but that it led him to Jesus. It caused Peter to follow him immediately, no questions asked.
Ultimately, this encounter with God-in-the-flesh caused Peter to bring an abundance unto Jesus as a fisher of men, not just blessing unto himself. Peter saw Jesus in such a riveting way, that it caused him to leave the very abundance and blessing that Jesus had just miraculously provided to follow after him.
Through Peter’s life we see Jesus was worth living for, and finally worth dying for. For Peter, it was not about the catch as much as it was about Jesus. He immediately recognized and responded to Jesus. Peter must have understood something we sometimes do not: Jesus was the reward; Jesus was worth following; Jesus was worth leaving everything behind for.