On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, Jesus was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 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. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. – Luke 5:1-11 [ESV]
I was speaking with a pastoral coach about ending well. Nearing retirement two years ago, I told him I wanted to “run through the tape, and end well.” He waited for a moment and asked, “What does that look like four months after you retire?” It was an insightful question. It also moved me to engage him to help me through that process of transition. In other words, there was a moment in which I decided to go with him as my pastoral transition coach – based on that perceptive and helpful question. It proved to be a catalyst for our ongoing relationship.
This is a catalyst moment for Peter, James, and John. Jesus uses Peter’s boat as an impromptu pulpit, teaches the people, and then tells Peter to go out into deep water and let down his nets. I can imagine Peter’s reaction – clearly revealed here: And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when he does that he reels in a massive catch of fish. Nets are breaking. Boats are nearly sinking. Brothers and partners are called to help. And Peter realizes that someone very holy is there.
His response – initially very un-Peter-like – is to bow in humility and confession of his own sinfulness. Not a bad option when in the presence of the Holy God, the King of the Universe, the Creator of the Universe, and the One who fills their nets to bursting. This is a divine encounter of the totally-unique kind. And Peter does well to bow in humble obeisance and reverence.
But wait! There’s more! For Jesus will take this moment and turn it into a life-changing calling. Peter will now follow Jesus. And his life will be forever changed. There may be a thousand nuances to his life situation that play into this moment. The Chosen (the most excellent video portrayal of Jesus I have ever seen) plays this out to be a financial windfall that helps Peter deal with a looming and ruinous tax debt. Maybe Peter had been on a very long stretch of meager catches or fishing failures. Maybe he was being relegated to well-known unproductive fishing spots. Maybe his boat was long due for major repairs.
We do not have to conjecture about what happened and what Peter did when Jesus invited him to follow. The rest, as they say, is history. But not dead factoids of dates and places, but the history of a man called by Jesus, instructed, corrected, praised, and honored even to be one of Jesus’ three closest disciples. Jesus used Peter’s boat and changed his life that day. Maybe you have a story of Jesus’ intervention in your life. Maybe it is yet to come. But that’s what Jesus does. He changes lives.