A Risky Business
We have heard in our text a fishing story, the failures and success of catching fish. When we look at our picture with Jesus in the fishing boat it appears as if his hands have just cast out the net. But his net is one to catch the shoal of people that have gathered in front of the boat. His desire is to bring them into his heavenly kingdom. We notice from the written text and picture that there is a focus on Jesus. Our text today demonstrates the importance of Jesus, the Word of God being central for life’s blessings.
It is hard to pick out a familiar face in the crowd because there are so many people. This can easily happen at the airport arrival lounge, at the football, at a concert, at a school assembly or anywhere there is a crowd of people. One can get lost in a crowd and feel lost as well. One can loose all identity and a cry for help can go unnoticed even with people pressing all around you. It is the nature of the ‘faceless crowd’.
Jesus cares for the crowd as he does for each individual in the crowd. Although you may feel like any other fish caught up in the net Jesus knows you are there. Because Jesus is God, he knows your name and your needs, and can take care of you right there and then. This characteristic of God is once again demonstrated as Jesus turns aside from the crowd to deal with Simon the fisherman and his troubles.
Jesus said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Through this request, Jesus hits a sore point with Simon. And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” I imagine that Simon feels virtually bankrupt of life, frustrated by the lack of results through his hard labour. Simon is the expert fisherman, that’s what he does everyday, and he has been fishing all his life. He knows the lake well and the best fishing places. His boat and net are well maintained to cover any circumstance on the lake. And yet with the total of his experience and knowledge he has little to show for it. He feels frustrated with his life and a failure.
We are not all fishermen but we can easily identify with Simon because we also experience frustration and failure through life. You may feel frustrated because, of the heavy work load, the church congregation is shrinking, God seems to be silent, life at home is getting more difficult, sickness or old-age has kept you inside, starting school, shifting house, or seeking new friends. They can all wear us down leaving us to feel that we have lost control of life. There are as many frustrations in life as there are people in a crowd.
While Simon appears to be the ‘expert’ fisherman, Jesus’ request seems to be one of a ‘do-gooder’. Simon may have thought, “What does Jesus know about fishing. He’s a carpenter’s son.” Nonetheless, Simon listened to Jesus, the Word of God and cast his net into the deep water.
Simon listened to Jesus and took a risk. The risk was great. He allowed Jesus to take charge of his boat and net and the whole fishing operation. Simon had just put his whole fishing business into the hands of a person whom he believed was a virtual stranger to the business. Simon took a great risk that his whole fishing business may end up on the rocks and leaving him even further without hope. What Simon did was handing his whole life over to Jesus, in a sense he had left everything and followed Jesus.
We know what happens next. There is more fish than the boat can handle. When Simon saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (v8) An important thing happened here, not so much the catching of fish that filled the boat, but rather that Jesus revealed his holiness. God revealed his holiness to Simon in the fishing boat. That means, Simon saw and recognised that Jesus is God, that Jesus is a far better fisherman than he is. Simon experienced how Jesus had taken control of his life by taking away the frustration and giving him victory. No wonder Simon fell down at Jesus’ knees because in the presence of Jesus, he recognised his foolishness in trying to battle through life on his own, but with Jesus in control, life brings its blessings.
How can we experience the life giving blessings that Simon received? There are evangelists in various churches and on TV that enthusiastically beckon people to come forward to give their troubled life to Jesus. Simon gave his life to Jesus. He took a risk with Jesus and became victorious. For many of us it is a difficult thing to do for one reason or another, “to give our life to Jesus.” Questions that begin with ‘how’ are difficult at the best of times. Someone may ask me, “How can I catch a fish?” I can give them the fishing rod, or net, the hook and bait and show them how to cast and catch a fish. But how does one hand their life over to God?
The answer that comes from our text reveals that the Word of God must be central in our life, even in our daily life. It was the Word of God that changed Simon. Take the Bible, the Word of God in your hands and read it. Put aside your devotional books and spend more time meditating on the authoritative Word of God, the Bible. Read more than a verse, read a whole chapter before closing the book. For no one reads a sentence from a news article or a novel and can say that they have understood the message of the author.
When you open the Bible and read it, you have allowed Jesus to come into your presence. And we all know what happened when Jesus came into the troubled life of Simon. How does one give their life to Jesus? There is only one step. Listen to the Word of God. The rest is up to Jesus. He knows your name, he knows your every need. Jesus will take control and reveal his holiness to you. The life that is affected by Jesus is a life of praise and glory to God.