When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” … “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” Luke 5:4,10 (Read Luke 5:1-11)
When I lived in northern Minnesota, I used to take advantage of every opportunity that came along to drop in a line and fish – even if it was only for a few minutes. After moving away from that fishing paradise, I kind of lost interest, perhaps because the challenge of catching fish was a bit more difficult and I seldom did very well. There were, however, other people catching fish and, had I taken the time to learn their methods and techniques, I might still be an avid fisherman. It’s not always enough to just throw in a line and baited hook; knowing where to fish and the right baits and methods are crucial to success.
Peter, James and John were experienced fishermen and knew where and how to catch fish. Yet, using their proven methods, they had worked all night and caught nothing. Jesus, after teaching the people from Simon Peter’s boat, directs him to launch out into the deep and let down his nets. The request made no sense to Peter. The time and method were all wrong, but at Jesus’ word he did so and his nets were filled. In fact, Peter caught so many fish, he had to summon for his partners’ boat to help bring them to shore.
Peter, James and John were astonished at the catch of fish and recognized Jesus as the Son of God and their fishing success as a miracle of God. They were afraid because of their own sinfulness; but Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” At that, they forsook all and followed Jesus.
Aside from wishing Jesus would so bless our fishing efforts when we drop in a line, what can we learn from this lesson in God’s Word in regard to fishing for men?
First of all, we see that the best efforts of men come up empty, even if they are the proven and accepted methods. We need to use Jesus’ methods and fish when and where He directs us. He commands us to disciple the nations by going out, baptizing in the name of the Triune God and teaching all that Christ taught (Matt. 28:18-20; cf. Mark 16:15-16). We aren’t to call people in with the bait of delightful programs and entertaining worship; we are to call upon all to repent of their sinful ways and receive God’s mercy and forgiveness through faith in Christ Jesus, who died for all sins and rose again (cf. Luke 24:46-47; 1 Cor. 15:3-4).
And who is it who fills the nets? It is not our fishing or evangelism skills. It is Jesus, who calls us to be fishers of men. We are called to let down the nets by preaching the Gospel of forgiveness and life in His name. He, by the Spirit’s working through the Word, is the one who fills them (cf. Rom. 1:16-17; 10:17; 1 Thess. 1:5-10; John 6:63; Acts 2:47b).
We are called to be fishers of men, using God’s methods and going where God directs us, when He directs us. He calls us to forsake our earthly goals and ambitions – to forsake all – and follow Him and be fishers of men. And we don’t need the biggest and best bass boat and the most expensive depth finders. We are called to simply preach His Word, calling upon all to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. We just keep fishing, even if it looks futile, because God, in His time and in His way, will fill the nets.
And, if not here, certainly in heaven, we will see that indeed our fishing efforts have not been in vain. His Word had effect and accomplished His purpose (cf. Isaiah 55:10-11). God grant that we go fishing with Jesus!
O dearest Jesus, You graciously brought us, through Your Word and Sacraments, to know and trust in You for forgiveness and life. Give us willing hearts to be fishers of men and to use Your Word of Law and Gospel to catch men for your kingdom. Amen.
[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]