When the boat overflows


One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:1-11

I look at this piece of Scripture and I see the practicalities of a regular life. There are tools of the trade that are required. Nets and boats are tools that a fisherman cannot live without.

There are the not fun parts of fishing. Net mending must get wearisome and yet it’s an essential part of having a successful fishing enterprise. Holes in the net mean lost income and future losses too. Cleaning the boat would have it’s own stinky properties too.

I love how Jesus borrows the boat. He sees the crowds coming closer and he needs the space and this will solve the problem. In my mind, he’s already knee deep in the water and they just won’t stay on the shore. Perhaps if he gets further out, the crowd will just stay there in the shallows and listen. I’m impressed with how these people pursue Jesus. It’s more than just knowledge, they physically get in His space.

Jesus knows Simon Peter too. This fisherman who’s plied these waters all of his life. He knows the patterns of the weather. He’s watched the fish population grow and shrink. If you had to go out with someone on the lake, you’d pick a knowledgeable guide – you’d pick Simon. He’s also a tired fisherman. It’s been a long night. No sleep, no fish, no income. I can almost hear him begging, “Please let me fade into the background and go home. I’ve got to do this all again in a matter of hours.”

Jesus ignores Simon’s tiredness. He ignores the excuses that are there and the power of His presence and the command of His words produce a level of obedience in Simon that I admire. “But because you say so …” I sometimes use those words. Usually mine are tinged with a hint of sarcasm and disdain. Mine are usually a begrudging reluctant obedience with a resigned fate added in for good measure. Simon goes with an obedient heart. “I will let down the nets.”

The blessing in the obedience is huge. The nets fill to bursting. The previous repairs are now utterly useless. The catch is beyond anything they could have prepared for. The boat needs help and when the friend comes over, both boats are in need of rescue. The level of provision defies the logic and understanding of a seasoned fisherman. The obvious reaction is to fall at Jesus’ knees in awe and reverence. It makes complete sense.

This Advent season, I know the regular-ness of my life and all of its responsibilities will come crashing in. The holidays always bring about more. More to do, more to make, things to finish, more to be ready for, the expected and the unanticipated. Some are mundane. Others are exciting. They all demand time and energy and space. Jesus met Simon in the regular-ness of his life and transformed it beyond anything Simon could have imagined. God has a plan for my ordinary too. Some changes I may anticipate and others may completely change my understanding of ordinary. I pray for an attitude of obedience like Simon’s, “Because you say so.” Obedience without the angst and the uncertainty, without the worry and fear. Instead, obedience with the certainty that Jesus knows the boat, the waves, the fish, and much more and He has plans to fill my boat and then some.

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