When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. (Luke 5:4-7 NASB)
Once Jesus had brought the party to Simon, once He had Simon captive in the boat, Jesus then deals with what seems to have captivated Simon’s mind and heart. The sound of a tired man can almost be detected in Simon’s response to Jesus’ request to put out and fish. The driven ambitious fisherman doesn’t have to be told twice to fish, it’s what he does. He realizes the only thing he has to lose is sleep. He won’t have fewer fish to sell, that’s for sure. He obviously won’t make less money. But he is tired, and you can sort of hear it in his word choice.
One thing I don’t hear is Simon protest that Jesus is a carpenter/book-worm, and if He truly understood fishing, He’d realize that now is a poor time to fish. That is never said. Perhaps Simon is simply being polite. He refers to Jesus as ‘epi-stata’ or ‘over-stander’, one in charge. It’s a term of respect used in Luke and no where else. Maybe Simon is placating Jesus with his obedience or respect. In a sense he could be saying, “Might as well obey, what do I have to lose?” We do that: take a deep breath, sigh, and shuffle on into whatever Jesus has told us to do, dejected and hopeless. But hey, we’re being obedient.
SIMON SEEKS SOMETHING
But context here suggests Simon knew something else about Jesus; that he was aware of the power Jesus wielded. He witnessed demons forced to submit and the sick healed (and sort of a combination in his mother-in-law being healed). He was already aware that Jesus was no simple ‘preacher’. So, I believe that Simon had a sense of the potential for something miraculous to happen. I believe he could imagine a catch of fish, a successful day of business, sort of as payment for Jesus borrowing his boat. You know, a few fish, enough to make the time spent providing a seat to Jesus worth his while. It would still be a miracle, to catch something mid-day, after the fish had dropped to the cooler depths of the water. That was imaginable to Simon, it seemed possible that Jesus could do that, and he could really use the fish.
What Simon had no way of knowing was that the fish had come to hear Jesus speak and were just as numerous as the crowd on the beach. I imagine it as a progressive realization as the nets begin filling, and then the boat. Then the other boat comes, and that one begins to fill to the point there’s no more room for people in either and water begins sloshing over the sides. It’s more than Simon could imagine. It’s too much to do in a single day, it’s too much of a success, one they aren’t enough to handle. Jesus overwhelmed Simon’s imagination, his expectations, and his abilities. Along with the teaching Simon is confronted with the power of Jesus, and this reality far exceeds Simon’s.
WHO SIMON FINDS IS THE SON OF GOD
The problem Simon had was that his day was a goose-egg to this point. The solution Jesus provided was about three-days worth of success. In other words Simon is confronted with the power of Jesus to make good on His teaching, but also on Simon’s needs. The book-worm carpenter was a more successful fisherman than the driven Simon. In other words, the possibilities with Jesus completely overwhelmed any other possibilities Simon could imagine. Simon is confronted with who appears to be God in the flesh; which is impossible, but what other explanation is there? The only time this sort of thing happens in Scripture, the ‘Angel of the Lord’ is one doing it. And when that ‘angel’ speaks, it says, ‘the LORD said…’ as in God spoke. It was this potential of God being frighteningly close, terrifyingly involved in Simon’s life, that drove Simon to his knees.
Simon experienced with sight, sound, and touch, the reality of Jesus being more than he could imagine. Jesus exceeded his expectations, his ability to imagine, his wildest dreams. Jesus was more than Simon could handle. He went from ‘some guy’ to ‘this teacher’ to ‘this miracle-worker’ to ‘God’. It was a progression where Simon could think of Jesus in growing in consequence in his life; Jesus became more important, to the point He even was willing to obey Him so Simon saw himself as less than Jesus. But to be shocked into realization that Jesus was even more than simply an important person was more than Simon could handle. Simon had some options, but not many.
I imagine Jesus smiling and laughing, helping Simon and his men pull in the net, everyone shouting in joy that the day would not be a waste. But Simon going through the emotions of joy to shock to terror as the fish kept coming, and Jesus kept laughing. Who was this guy? Simon could have lost his mind right then, he was already strung out pretty thin being tired and hopeless that morning. He could blame it on stress. Simon could have simply taken a deep breath and accepted the amazing gift as a great success, but one that also meant he wouldn’t be sleeping any time soon as he prepped the fish for market. But what about Jesus? He had to deal with Jesus, this joyful buoyant carpenter-turned-rabbi Who had just filled both his boats with fish.
WHAT WILL WE DO WITH JESUS?
I suppose the question for you and me is, “What will we do with Jesus?” We read this account, and we are several degrees removed from the events, but still, we can capture some sense still of the immensity of what Jesus did. We have jobs, we have ups and downs. We have bad days where nothing goes right. What will we do when Jesus shows up and blows away our expectations? What will we do when Jesus overwhelms our imagination, our wildest dreams? Or will we wait for our miracle? Will we wait for Jesus to do this for us, in a sense testing Him to see if He is truly pursuing us? Careful what you hope for. Isaiah saw God and the four creatures in the temple and he nearly had to change clothes he was so scared. Ezekiel saw God and the four creatures while in exile in Babylon and was shocked into silence for a week. Simon would eventually see Jesus transfigured and then he loses his senses. Are you sure you want your own miracle?
I will try and learn from Simon’s miracle that whatever consumes my mind and heart Jesus can handle. And He can handle my problems to a shocking degree of success, a ridiculous degree, unimaginable. Can I live with that? Will I behave as if it’s true? Is it in me to be authentic with my claim that I believe this? What happens when the difficulties continue? What happens with the ‘goose-egg’ remains the level of success in my day? I don’t have the faith within me, I don’t have the ability to press on when I see nothing of this power. Such faith and ability comes from the same source as the power itself; Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Father, Creator, Maker and Sustainer of all things. I will watch in shock as the faith and ability flows into me. Oh wait, maybe that’s my miracle…
What’s your view through the knothole?