I suppose it was very early when he saw the appraoching crowd. Tired, smelly, and bedraggled, the weary fishermen dragged their boats ashore and proceeded to clean their nets. The frustration from the previous night weighted heavily upon them and the ruckus approaching only compounded the irritation. But as the crowd approached they began to realize it waas not simply a flock of people aimlessly making their way along the lake shore, they were being lead and taught to as well. And as the work of the night ws finished and fatigue settled into the joints and muscles of the fishermen, the sound of the sweet voice of the teacher seemed to calm them as Jesus came near and stopped before them.
I suppose he asked them whose boats they were and when heard that one belonged to Peter (a man he has had previous contact with, see John 1.42), he climbed aboard and asked to set out into the lake a small ways so that the crowd caould hear him better. You could almost see the little dark cloud of frustration form above the head of Peter as the words come from the lips of Jesus. But he knows the report of many people, even his own brother, about Jesus and so sets out into the water a bit.
The morning sun is bright and warm and the lulling boat comforting for the men. I would not be suprised if Peter nodded off for a few moments before catching himself and starting a little before refocusing on Jesus and his teaching. After all, he is speaking the word of God. Sometime later, perhaps mid-morning or early afternoon, Jesus wraps it up and looks to Peter. He wants to set out into the deep…and that for a catch of fish. Are you kidding me? A carpenter telling an experienced fisherman like Peter “how the cow ate the cabbage” and how to do his job? Doesn’t this guy know we have fished all night and haven’t caught anything? Well, he is sure going to hear it from Peter. And he lays it on him.
Peter probably explained the situation with much vim and vinegar, almost scolding Jesus for his ridiculous request. Now it isn’t in the text, but I would not be surprised if Jesus gave him “the look.” The kind of look that a mother gives her children when they ask “why” or “how do you know that.” The kind of look that communicates someone has inside information: raised eyebrows, chin down, slight frown and piercing eyes. Maybe Jesus did this, maybe not. What I know is something compelled Peter to do what Jesus said in spite of good judgment.
Notice what happens: simple obedience delivers stupendous results. Their nets are so full of fish that their nets begin to break and they pile so much fish in their boats that full of fish that they begin to sink. Peter realizes something amazing has happened and falling before Jesus he pleads for Jesus to “depart from me for I am a sinful man.” Jesus did not depart from him; he called him first, to be his friend, second, to his disciple, and third, to be an apostle. Before Jesus can call him to these things, though, Peter must acknowledge what he is before Almighty God: individually, he is a sinner.
When we are finally confronted with the Son of God after fishing in vain all night, what is our response? Do we still cling to our nets and tell Jesus, “Oh, thanks for the offer, but I think I’ve just about got it.” I sbumit to you that our attitude ought to be the same as Peter’s: we recognize who we are before him (sinners) and we accept him as Lord of our life. Follow this encounter with Jesus, the disciples leave everything (boats, nets) and follow Jesus. Luke does not record the words of Jesus in Matthew and Mark, but the message is their: follow me. Jesus does not want us in our boats fishing without him. Without him, there is no success. Without him, no men are caught. We must turn our lives and efforts over to the master of ocean and earth and sky and recoginze his authority over us.
One more thing: what kind of men did Jesus call? These men are not the religious elitists Jesus will have to deal with in his ministry. These men are simple, not arrogant or pompous. They are low level, working class men, who one day will be called “ignorant” by the upper class elitists (see Acts 4.13). That goes with recognizing who we are before God – humility. These were simple, humble people Jesus called to follow him for the purpose of equipping them to evangelize the world. Jesus can catch fish all day long, but that is not what he came for; he came to catch men, especially those who are looked down upon and in a humble position.