Mark 1:16-20, “Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.”
Luke’s gospel includes a more detailed account of what happened on this occasion, so we are going to look mostly there…
I love to fish and over the course of my life I’ve been fishing thousands of times. When I was 18, I spent the summer running a dory out of Depoe Bay commercial fishing for salmon. I caught my share of fish but was “skunked” (caught no fish) on plenty of occasions. I can relate to Peter’s experience.
Peter and his friends “toiled all night” fishing and “took nothing” (Luke 5:4). They were boat fishermen. They fished at night because that was when the fish could be found along the shoreline. And at night the fish were naïve to the existence of the encompassing nets that would spell their doom. For hours they labored hard and despite their efforts no fish were to be found. So, they made their way back to shore and were washing out their nets.
Jesus was there. The crowd was pressing in on Him. Jesus got into one of the boats and from there taught the people. When He finished speaking, he said to Peter, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4). This was not Peter’s first introduction to Jesus. On a previous occasion Peter’s brother, Andrew, had told him about Jesus. “We have found the Messiah” he said (John 1:41). Having been brought then to Jesus, Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter (‘Peter’ is from the Greek word for ‘rock’; John 1:42). From the beginning Jesus had plans for Peter.
Peter was a fisherman. He knew about fishing. He had labored all night to no avail. Daytime was not the time for good fishing, but He nevertheless obeyed Jesus and they went fishing together. I’ve fished with plenty of different people and some real good fishermen, but Peter was privileged to fish with the “Master of the seas.” And so, when they let down their nets “they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking” (Luke 5:6). So great was the quantity of fish that they even filled another boat so that “they began to sink” (Luke 5:7).
It was said of Jesus following another miracle that “He has done all things well” (Mark 7:37), and that was the case in this case. His supernatural wisdom, power, and sovereign control over all things were dramatically demonstrated to Peter. And that explains Peter’s response as he and his friends were “astonished at the catch of fish” (Luke 5:9). “He fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’” (Luke 5:8).” Peter saw something of the glory of Jesus, and in that was made aware of his own shortcomings. The miracle worked to simultaneously expose truths regarding both Jesus and Peter. But Jesus was well aware of Peter’s needs. Peter bid Jesus to depart, but Jesus instead called that sinful man, that ordinary fisherman, to follow Him, saying, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10).
On another occasion, some years later, Peter would again experience another miraculous catch at Jesus’ bidding (John 21:4-8). That would happen not long after Peter’s biggest failure and disappointment. He had self-confidently asserted his loyal allegiance, saying, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you” (Matthew 26:35)! But he failed to live up to his assertion and denied Jesus three times. But the Jesus who renamed him and called him and prayed for him and loved him, worked to restore him. His ministry began with a miraculous catch and with a miraculous catch the resurrected Jesus put Peter back to work.
And then there came that day. At Pentecost the Spirit-filled Peter stood before a large crowd of People. He boldly proclaimed the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection. And the people responded. 3000 souls were added to the church (Acts 2:41)! Peter the fisherman was made to be a fisher-of-men, according to Jesus’ purpose and design. In every case it was Jesus Himself who caused the miraculous catch, but He was well pleased to call and use that ordinary fisherman. I love a good “fish story,” but it was more than a story about catching fish, for it speaks to the truth regarding Jesus. The Great Fisher of men still works in the lives of ordinary men and women in miraculous ways to accomplish miraculous things.