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]
Have you ever been to a real magic show? Sleight of hand. Distraction. Mirrors and smoke. Fake bottoms. Special boxes and props. All designed to divert your attention away from the mundane and make you think it’s truly magic.
In this encounter with Peter and his fishermen partners we have so many things going on that I missed the centerpiece of the whole event. Right there in the middle is the miracle. No fish all night, turns into more fish than one boat can handle. Nearly the same thing happens after Jesus’ resurrection. Peter and a few of his fellow disciples are out fishing all night. Again, no fish. Jesus comes on the scene and tells them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat. They do, and another remarkable number of fish are caught. This Jesus seems to have power and authority over the fish of the sea as well as demons, disease, and the devil himself.
A woman once told me that she thought miracles were natural processes sped up. Sorry. Water doesn’t turn into wine naturally. Little girls don’t naturally regain life. Blind men don’t naturally recover their sight. And fish don’t just appear in one spot at one time. This is a miracle. Jesus marshals a school of fish just for Peter’s nets. At that time. In that place.
So is this miracle simply an attention getter? Is Jesus merely wanting to make a dramatic statement to gain Peter’s ear? Perhaps. But this is also a revelation of Jesus’ nature as true man and true God. He is God in the flesh. He commands waves and fish. This is his world. He is the one who – as God spoke to Job – set the boundaries of the sea. He spoke creatures into being.
Jesus is beginning to show his majesty – if but for a while. There will come a time he lays it all aside and appears as powerless and unsuccessful fishermen toiling all night. But make no mistake, the One who will hang on a cruel Roman cross is the same one who commands fish to fill Peter’s net. It should be clear that we don’t follow a mere good teacher. We don’t follow someone who only manages to put people under has spell.
Jesus is God in the flesh. I don’t think he’s finished testifying to his glorious power. Maybe you’ve see his gracious and miraculous intervention in your life. And maybe you’re following him – just like Peter and his brothers. What will he do next? I don’t know. But I look forward to his next miraculous touch!