Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?”They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. – John 21:4-8
I’m not really an expert in too many things. Preaching? Maybe. Photography? Once in a while I manage to grab a shot. Parenting? Well, I’ve had at least some experience in that category. But I know some really good preachers. I’m a member of a photo club and only occasionally win a ribbon in competition. And my children might reveal certain chinks in my armor. Don’t even ask me about fishing!
The disciples, however, seem to be expert fishermen. They surely knew their trade. But – expert or master – this night they were unsuccessful. So when Jesus shows up, asking if they had any fish, they must come to grips with their inability to control the situation and succeed at their trade. They are busted. Found out. Their lack of success is exposed.
But the odds are stacked against them. When Jesus tells them to cast their net on the other side of the boat – and they do, and they haul in a catch too big to haul in – we must conclude something. Jesus had set them up. As surely as he knew where the fish were, and where they needed to cast their nets, he knew that they would not catch any fish even before they set out the previous day. They were set up. Although the text does not say so explicitly, the One who has his eye on the sparrow, certainly has his eye on every fish in the sea of Galilee. He determines their course – and when they would find their way into the disciples’ nets.
We may wonder about God’s control over all things. We may question his ability to control the affairs of men. And while we may not want to be too cock sure of ourselves when we declare our understanding of God’s ways, we might want to hold in our hearts that God does direct the affairs of fishermen and women and men of all vocations.
When Peter cries out, “It is the Lord!” he gives us an example of what God desires in every situation – miraculous haul of fish, or quiet of a fishless night of fish. That we would recognize Jesus’ presence, and his calling to a purposeful life is God’s desire for us. Whether he calls us to “cast our nets on the other side of the boat,” or some other seemingly futile advice, we who listen to him will discover a great haul of God’s favor and blessing.