Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. (Luke 5:1,2 NASB)
One of the problems with following Jesus is how His requests are so unrealistic. For instance, Simon (soon to become Peter) had heard Jesus teach, had invited Him into his home, Jesus healed his mother-in-law, and his house became the scene of many miracles performed throughout the night. Then Jesus disappears to go about to other villages to do the same thing. This is essentially how Luke 4 ends. But now Jesus is back. The crowds are following Him around, He leads them down to the Sea of Galilee, and to the boats of Simon and Zebedee. The fishermen are tired, dejected, and busy washing nets.
So, where’s the unrealistic request? It’s in the fact that Jesus seems to be pursuing Simon. He goes from the synagogue to his home. Then Jesus leaves the area only to wind up along the shore leading a crowd to completely disrupt the end of Simon’s work. Jesus is invasive with Simon. He doesn’t break rules. He isn’t particularly rude as such. He does things like borrow Simon’s house for the night so He can heal the entire community. I believe Simon invited Him over for a meal. He leads people along the shore, but why there? I believe Jesus was looking for something, or more precisely, someone.
Jesus is, in a real sense, relentless with Simon. Simon is dedicated to his trade along with his partners, Zebedee and his sons, James and John. He makes money, enough to not have to work every day it seems (or at least skipping the Sabbath like a good Jewish male). He has a fine trade going. But it’s one in which he doesn’t have a lot of control over his product. He is, in a sense, an opportunist, and is therefore dependent on his product being where he seeks. He has perhaps become good at guessing, experienced at knowing where the fish are more likely to be. But there are days where he’s wrong, like this night, when they caught nothing at all.
The reality is that, to feed his family Simon needs to fish. If he’s not fishing, he’s not feeding the family. That’s a problem. The fish, so far, have refused to throw themselves into the boat (or nets), so he has to work. He’s probably even said that at some point, “The fish aren’t going to catch themselves! Let’s get at it!” He has no idea what’s coming, how his reality is about to be turned on its head. He doesn’t realize how unfair Jesus can be, how creative, and how relentless He is. How could Simon know? He has experience fishing, not with teachers and prophets. He’s heard about the others, many from Galilee, leading people to revolt against the oppressive system, fruitlessly. But he’s never left the reality of his nets to join them.
John has possibly left his nets before, and possibly James. They followed John the Baptist for a while and were the first to meet Jesus (see John 1). But not Simon. He was a thoroughgoing fisherman. He was a realist. He was grounded in what was, not what could be, or might be, or should be. He was solid, and consistent. He was rough and possibly impulsive, but that’s what worked for fishing. He worked hard, and could work through the night. I’m sure he was difficult to work with because of these qualities, but they would also be admired by those who worked for or with him. Then comes that day along the shore, dealing with the disappointing reality of a fruitless night’s work. Along comes Jesus, and reality takes a long vacation.
THE PEOPLE’S REALITY
Where am I in this picture? I could be in the crowd following Jesus, pressing in close, nearly sending Him into the water anxious to hear more of His teaching. In a sense, I’ve left reality a while back. Why am I not at my job? Why am I not providing a daily wage for my family? It’s not the Sabbath, I’m supposed to be working, but I’m not, I’m here along the shore seeking more of this new teaching; more of this new teacher. I’m anxious to be one of the early-adopters of this potential messiah. Maybe this could be it! Maybe this one could be the salvation from Rome!
Or perhaps I’m along the shore washing nets after a fruitless night of fishing. I’m one of the deck hands, sore from hurling nets out and hauling them back in. Now I’m tired, and washing. My boss is angry, not with me, but at me because I’m there to be mad at. The nets are fouled with the stuff from the water, but not fish scales like we hoped. It’s tedious work, and I can barely see straight because I’m so tired. But I work because he works. I do what needs to be done because that’s what I do. And it’s what I’ll do tomorrow (or tonight) as well. It’s what I do every night. Or so I think.
But there are two other actors, ones on the stage whom I can watch. Simon the fisherman frustrated with his reality. And Jesus the One seeking the frustrated fisherman to change his reality. I can only watch them. I could be anyone, but I can only watch them. I see them meet, but I don’t know the outcome. What will happen? And what will change for me? Will I be able to let this possible Messiah redefine for me what Messiah means? Will I continue to work for my boss as he goes off to who knows where following this new teacher? Or will I too follow this teacher?
What’s my reality? It too is made of up work, family, bills, necessary things, but also of opportunities. The challenge is whether or not I will permit my reality to be turned upside down by my Master. The question confronting me is will I allow change? Change is not something I can control, it’s not something comfortable. Will I become willing to have my Master make changes and adjustments to me? Or will I continue on in my present reality? The scene is set. The actors are present, on their marks. The marker snaps closed, and the Director calls, “Action!”
A different view through the knothole this morning. What view do you have?