And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. (Luke 5:3 NASB)
Simon was someone people followed. They didn’t follow because he was perfect or kind or smart. They followed him because he led, even if it was to nowhere, it at least had a direction. He was driven, relentless, ambitious, and tough. Those qualities may have made him difficult to follow, but the fact that he had a direction to go and seemed to know how to get there made up for it. He may have been wrong, but never seemed aimless. People like that sort of certainty, it’s comforting. So Jesus knew that to ‘net’ the others, He had to first net Simon.
The Captive Audience
Simon had heard Jesus preach before. After a Sabbath of preaching and healing, Simon had invited Jesus into his home. There Jesus had healed Simon’s mother-in-law by rebuking her fever. So Simon had seen Jesus heal. What he heard in the boat, captive to Jesus’ words, may not have been so different from what he heard in the synagogue, but now there were no distractions. Simon was a captive audience. He listened because there was no way not to. It could have been that he continued to clean his nets as Jesus spoke, but he could not help but hear.
The Distracted Listener
But Simon was preoccupied by something. He heard, but what still held his attention was his failure to catch fish. The empty net was all Simon could think of while Jesus spoke, and it was an unwelcome distraction for Jesus. For Jesus to have Simon available for His purpose, the problem of the empty nets had to be solved. I believe that the empty nets were part of Jesus’ miracle. I believe that Jesus’ will was that the nets be empty so that He could come along and make His point more powerful. So, if I’m right, then Jesus knew He had to solve a problem that He had caused. And it wouldn’t be a problem solved by His teaching.
Framing A Solution
But while I acknowledge that Jesus’ teaching alone wouldn’t solve the empty-net problem for Simon, Jesus’ teaching laid the ground work, built the framing for the solution, and set Simon up to understand the importance of what was about to happen. Words and deeds were about to align themselves in the mind and heart of Simon. I believe it requires both, even today. I know that I have to study the words of my Master to really have any understanding of His work. Nothing my Master does today makes sense apart from Scriptures. I see that in Simon’s life in this account. He had to have the teaching of Jesus, spoken in his boat, to the crowds for but him while he mulled over the problem of his empty nets. Without it, Jesus would be simply providing a good day of business.
Hearing Jesus’ Teaching Today
The importance of having our attention cannot be missed. I push through Scripture at what some consider an agonizingly slow pace. I don’t want to miss anything, but I do. It’s like straining jelly, it’s thick and meaningful but so little sticks to the strainer compared to what slides through the mesh. I will continue to go at this pace, and continue to get something more out of it. Now, I freely admit that this is partly due to my deplorable memory. And also because I need to constantly relearn lessons. But even with that, I find the teachings of Jesus, the words of God, the testimony of His prophets vital to understanding my Master’s instructions.
The Fundamental Requirement of Scripture Study
So, in years past, and even sometimes rarely these days, someone will tell me, not ask me, tell me, “I don’t know what to do.” More often that not, more times than I can count, they don’t spend time in Scripture; any time at all. Not even in simple devotions with single verses and lots of exposition (much like this blog entry). They don’t know what God wants because they don’t know what He’s said to them. He continues to say the same things to them, and they continue to look elsewhere for answers. What I’m waiting for, hoping for, is the day when someone comes to me and says, “God showed me this Scripture, can you help me understand what it means?” Or even, “God showed me this in Scripture, and here’s what He did to make it real to me.” I would love something that indicates a dependence upon Scripture to understand the work of God.
This includes me. I need to hear the teaching of Jesus, in the midst of mulling over my problems. I need to hear what Jesus says because often He has orchestrated my problem so He can act in a particular way in my life. But I’m going to miss the importance without His teaching. Sometimes through my own study, and sometimes through the study of others, I will learn a new view of Jesus’ work, and it will suddenly make sense. This is where Simon is headed in this passage, and it’s a pretty good destination for us as well. Will we study and seek to better understand the Master’s teaching so we can better understand His work in our lives? Will we?
I will, but what’s your view through the knothole?