Peter, A Fisherman

Studies in First Peter

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

Luke 5:1-11 (see also Matt. 4:12-22; Mark 1:14-20; John 1:35-42)

What does a person think and feel when they suddenly realize they are in God’s presence?  Peter, who probably knew Jesus as an acquaintance, found himself in the presence of someone who challenged his worldview and how he thought and felt about himself.

There was something about Jesus that attracted people to Him. They came at all times of the day and from great distances.  Jesus began His ministry in Galilee, near the Sea of Galilee, also called Gennesaret. Early one morning He was walking near the lake followed by a crowd of people. They were pressing about and into Him. Seeing an opportunity, He boarded a boat owned by Peter and asked him to put some water between Himself and the crowd.

On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 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. (Luke 5:1-3 ESV)

This story is unique to the Gospel of Luke. We are not told what Jesus taught. His standard message was about sin and repentance, faith and obedience. His message was the gospel. However, the parallel passages in the other Gospels give an indication of the content of his messages during the early part of his ministry.  From the other Gospel accounts there are two points Jesus stressed during his messages, the nearness of the Kingdom of Heaven or of God and the need to repent, a fundamental action to enter the kingdom.

Once He finished speaking to the people, He turned to Peter and told him to go fishing. Peter was a fisherman. Jesus was a carpenter and Peter probably knew it. In his mind, Peter may have thought Jesus knew nothing about fishing. The best time to fish is night time. Peter had been up all night fishing. He was tired, cleaning his nets so he could go home and eat and sleep. Yet, here was Jesus telling Peter how to do his job. “And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch’” (Luke 5:4 ESV). My imagination suggests Peter felt angry, perturbed that a man, who knew nothing about fishing was telling him what to do.

He had worked all night. His was not a paid position. If he didn’t catch fish, he didn’t get paid. His livelihood, and the lives of his family, rested on his working and catching fish. He needed to catch fish. He knew how to catch fish, the best spots, the best times and the best circumstances. He answered Jesus truthfully. “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!” (Luke 5:5 ESV). The word toiled means to grow weary with effort, and to be burdened with grief, exhausted. Peter, and his fellow workers were drained of energy. They were cleaning and fixing their nets so they could repeat the process the next night. They were beyond tired. Yet, Peter acquiesced to Jesus command.

Jesus did not ask Peter to put out and fish. He commanded Peter put out into deep water and fish. God never asks us to do something. He commands with the expectation we will obey. Peter reluctantly obeyed. “But at your word I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5 ESV). They rowed out into deep water and let down the nets they had just cleaned. In broad daylight, knowing they would not catch any fish.

They caught fish. Suddenly, in a place where there should have been no fish, there were fish just waiting to be caught. They caught so many fish their nets started breaking and they called for help.

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. (Luke 5:7 ESV).

Jesus knew they would catch fish. Perhaps they heard part of what He said while He taught the people. Their anger and frustration turned into action. There were three or four families and a village of people relying upon their work which had, up to that point, produced nothing. Now, families would have their needs filled and people could buy or barter for fish to eat. Jesus had done something no one expected. Apparently, He knew about fish, too.

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