“And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.’ 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. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’ For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’ And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” – Luke 5:4-11
Jesus was teaching the people and they were eager to hear the Word of God from Him so the crowd was pressing in on Him. He had to get in the boat for practical reasons to be able to speak to the crowd without being crushed and for everyone to see and hear. He picked Simon’s boat because He had other purposes in mind as well.
Simon and the others had been out fishing all night without catching anything. Weary and probably discouraged they were on shore washing their nets and preparing to put their gear away and head home when Jesus came over and got into their boat to teach the crowd. Simon took Jesus out a little ways from shore so that He could better teach the crowd. After Jesus finished teaching He instructed Simon to row farther out and cast their nets.
Simon didn’t think the effort was worth it. He felt that they were going to be wasting their time. They had already been cleaning the net to put it away and try again at a better time. This meant that they would have to clean it and put it away again after what Simon thought would be a fruitless effort. Simon responds to Jesus’s request by saying,
‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.’
Despite the fact that he feels it will be a wasted effort, Simon decides to do what Jesus asks him to do. There is no reason that after all of their previous work the night before that this last try in less than ideal situations should produce different results.
We may often encounter situations in which our own feelings tell us something different from what the Lord is telling us in scripture. We too can feel like God is telling us to do something that doesn’t look like it will work and doesn’t seem worth the effort. However, our response in these situations should be the same as Simon’s.
“But at your word I will”
We might say to ourselves, “I’ve already come at this situation the best ways that I can and nothing has worked. Why would this work now?”
At this point, Simon didn’t really even have faith. He was mainly being respectful to Jesus. There may be times that our feelings tell us there is no point and we don’t really even have faith that whatever we are going to do will work, but if we merely obey, God will take care of the rest. Simon didn’t think it was going to work, but he followed Jesus’s word anyway.
The difference between failure the night before in prime conditions and the overwhelming success the next day in more difficult conditions was the presence of Jesus and His leading. Jesus used this situation to reveal in part who He was to Simon and some of the others so that they would follow Him and be His disciples.
Upon catching such a large and unexpected amount of fish, Simon is confronted both with his lack of faith and his unworthiness, so much so that he tells Jesus,
“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
Jesus responds with grace telling him “Do not be afraid” and calls Simon and the others to be fishers of men.
Simon is right in saying he is a sinful man and unworthy of being in Jesus’s presence–Jesus doesn’t disagree with him–but that is why Jesus has come. He has come so that through Him we might be in God’s presence without fear. That we would be covered with righteousness and our sin done away with.
Jesus is calling Simon and the others to follow Him and play a role in spreading this good news, though they have no real idea what it is yet. Even though they don’t really know anything yet, they’ve heard Jesus teach and they’ve witnessed this miracle with the fish so they decide to leave everything and follow him.
What started as a simple act of obedience in taking Jesus at His word despite their feelings and lack of faith turned into a miracle and boosted their faith so much that they were willing to leave everything and follow Him.
This is what the Lord does with us as well. When we lack faith and our feelings are telling us the opposite, but we choose to obey and take Him at His word, He works and builds in us that faith that we lack. He accomplishes His work for His glory regardless of the circumstances and the way that we feel about the situation. His Word is greater than our feelings and any reasons we can give for why it won’t work. His Word is stronger than our lack of faith and will accomplish all that the Lord has for it.
Let us follow Simon’s example despite what we are thinking or feeling and in the face of our doubts say,
“But at your word I will”