And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. 3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. 4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. 5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. 6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. 7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. 8 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 was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: 10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. 11 And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him (Luke 5: 1-11).
We have, in these verses – the history of what is commonly called “the miraculous catch of fish”. It is a remarkable miracle on two accounts:
For one thing, it shows us our Lord’s complete dominion over the animal creation. The fish of the sea are as much obedient to His will – as the frogs, and flies, and lice, and locusts, in the plagues of Egypt. All are His servants, and all obey His commands.
For another thing, there is a singular similarity between this miracle worked at the beginning of our Lord’s ministry, and another which we find Him working after His resurrection, at the end of His ministry, recorded by John (John 21). In both we read of a miraculous catch of fish. In both, the Apostle Peter has a prominent place in the story. And in both there is, probably – a deep spiritual lesson, lying below the outward surface of the facts described.
We should observe, in this passage – our Lord Jesus Christ’s unwearied readiness for every good work. Once more we find Him preaching to a people who “pressed upon him to hear the word of God”. And where does He preach? Not in any consecrated building, or place set apart for public worship – but in the open air; not in a pulpit constructed for a preacher’s use – but in a fisherman’s boat. Souls were waiting to be fed. Personal inconvenience was allowed no place in His consideration. God’s work must not stand still.
The servants of Christ should learn a lesson from their Master’s conduct on this occasion. We are not to wait until every little difficulty or obstacle is removed – before we put our hand to the plough, or go forth to sow the seed of the word. We may often be lacking convenient buildings for assembling a company of hearers. We may often be lacking convenient rooms for gathering children to Sunday school.
What, then, are we to do? Shall we sit still and do nothing? God forbid! If we cannot do all that we want – then let us do what we can. Let us work with such tools as we have. While we are lingering and delaying – souls are perishing. It is the slothful heart that is always looking at the “hedge of thorns” and the “lion” in the way (Prov. 15: 19; 22: 13.)
Where we are and as we are, in season of out of season, by one means or by another, by tongue or by pen, by speaking or by writing – let us strive to be ever working for God. But let us never stand still.
We should observe, secondly, in this passage – what encouragement our Lord gives to unquestioning obedience. We are told, that after preaching He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” He receives an answer which exhibits in a striking manner the mind of a good servant. “Master,” says Simon, “we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.” And what was the reward of this ready compliance with the Lord’s commands? At once, we are told, “And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.”
We need not doubt that a practical lesson for all Christians is contained under these simple circumstances. We are meant to learn the blessing of immediate unhesitating obedience to every plain command of Christ. The path of duty may sometimes be hard and disagreeable. The wisdom of the course we propose to follow, may not be apparent to the world. But none of these things must move us. We are not to confer with flesh and blood. We are to go straight forward when Jesus says, “Go!” We are to do a thing boldly, unflinchingly, and decidedly – when Jesus says, “Do it!” We are to walk by faith, and not by sight – and believe that what we don’t see now to be right and reasonable – we shall see hereafter.
So acting, we shall never find in the long run that we are losers. So acting, we shall find, sooner or, later, that we reap a great reward. (… to be concluded)