casting out: part 1

…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. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 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.

Luke 5:5-11

 

On my way back from a recent trip to the Philippines in May, my father gave me this passage from Luke 5. As we spoke over the phone, he said, “It’s time to cast out.” Since then, these verses and my father’s words, have not stopped following me in heart or mind. There’s something in the simplicity of Jesus’ command, and the reluctant yet hopeful obedience of Peter, that simply won’t leave me alone. There was such a weight in the power of the word that Jesus spoke, and a mystery in the abundance that followed the timid faith of a fisherman.

The first truth I observed from this story is that Peter took an action by casting the net, but only caught the fish by the word of Jesus. Peter’s action alone was not enough to change the circumstances; the change ultimately hinged on the word of Jesus. This is something I have come back to again and again (as you will see if you continue to read).

A second truth I began to see concerned Peter. Peter simply believed the word of Jesus, and cast out his net. Even if he did not fully believe in the moment, he still cast out his net in a response of obedience. Jesus did not do it for him, but only gave Peter his word. The act of faith was required of Peter, not Jesus. Jesus did not even promise a large catch of fish; he only told Peter to let down his net for a catch. The word was spoken, but required a response – an act of faith in response to the one who spoke it. Jesus’ simple command was short and simple, but clear enough to demand a response.

As I’ve reflected on this narrative, I’ve been forced to examine my own heart and ask some difficult questions. Isn’t it true that the word and promise of God is all I need to act, to “cast out” as Peter did, in a response of faith and obedience? Isn’t it true that Jesus has given me everything I need to do so? But so often, instead of casting out in faith, I have been waiting for him to cast out for me. Aren’t his word and promise enough? I have been given everything I need, even more than enough. As Peter cast out his net, he caught not a little – he caught an abundance. An abundance awaits those who are willing to cast out their nets at his word.

I eventually arrived at yet another truth found in this story of a rabbi and a fisherman. Looking again at Peter, I realize that he was gripped with wonder, awe, and amazement at his bountiful catch, and especially towards the man who caused it. He was not prepared for the abundance that would follow his obedience, and he recognized that it was no ordinary man he had just obeyed – this was someone great. Peter knew he did not deserve, and had not 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 – that he left everything he had. The end result of Peter’s catch was not simply the abundance, but that it led him to Jesus, so much so that it caused Peter to follow him immediately. Ultimately, this encounter with God-in-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.

Am I so astonished, overwhelmed, amazed, and in such awe and wonder at the abundance of what Jesus has given to and done for me, that I will gladly give up, lay down, sacrifice, and even run from those very blessings in order to follow him? In order to “cast out my nets” to lead others to him? For Peter, it was not about the catch as much as it was about Jesus. He immediately responded to the word of Jesus because he recognized the worth of Jesus. “If Jesus can do this, then what else might he do? This may be just the beginning,” he might have thought. Whatever the true reasons, Peter must have understood something we sometimes do not: Jesus himself was the reward; Jesus himself was worth following; Jesus himself was worth leaving everything behind for. Through Peter’s life we see Jesus was worth living for, and finally worth dying for.

 

A fishing boat at sunset on the coast of Manila.
A fishing boat at sunset on the coast of Manila.

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