Hi. My name is Carrie and I have been thinking about fish and nets lately.
These thoughts have been the natural result of listening to Morgan’s sermon two weeks ago on Creation Care and reading Margaret Feinberg’s book Taste & See. Both sources reference Luke 5, the story about Jesus telling the disciples to throw their net out after a long night of unsuccessful fishing. If you’re familiar with the passage, you know that in the light of day, in the presence of Jesus, the nets that failed all night were bursting with a miraculous quantity of fish.
My human heart wants this passage to be about the abundance of God’s provision. But unfortunately, it’s not really about that. The men who pulled in the catch left it on the shore. God’s miracle seems kind of wasted.
Like good Bible scholars, we will press on past our disappointment.
Feinberg taught me that in ancient times, the nets were made of natural fibers and therefore quite visible in the light of day. Night fishing was the only way to catch fish in an otherwise obvious trap. Day fishing was for dummies.
Morgan taught me that the fish swarmed to Jesus because they were responding to the beckoning power of their Creator King.
These two teachings have brought to my mind all that following Jesus requires of us. There is a supernatural drive within God’s people to get as close to Jesus as possible, no matter the danger or the cost. Frankly, this drive does not come easily to me. But maybe it doesn’t come easily to any of us.
Personally, I am a woman who likes cozy blankets in the safe refuge of her home. I like insurances and guarantees that the risks won’t be too great if I’m venturing out of my comfort zone. I have often lamented the constricting space that obedience to Jesus requires. Following Jesus has not come with a rallying cry of personal independence.
Drawing near to Jesus has sometimes made me about as happy as you’d expect being caught in a net could make a fish feel warm and fuzzy about being food for hungry people.
Maybe that doesn’t make the gospel seem particularly appealing. For that, I apologize.
But I defend my unappealing experience as biblical. As support for this claim, I offer you the life of Peter.
The day Peter’s nets hauled in this epic catch, Jesus said He would make him a fisher of people. Peter left his dream-sized catch behind. Deserting fish on the shore was like walking away from money on the table and a proverbial bounty on the plate of his life.
However you want to put it, Peter abandoned safer waters to get as close to Jesus as he could get. He saw Jesus do many miracles, saw Him transfigured, and made many blunders along the way until his final failure when he denied even knowing the man he had once called the Son of God.
Peter’s story always makes me want to run away and lean in at the same time.
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, He showed up on the shore again while Peter was fishing. Peter didn’t recognize Jesus that day, but Peter still obeyed Jesus when He called out from the shore and told him to toss the net in again. The boat nearly sank as the disciples pulled in one last great haul of fish.
Peter literally swam to Jesus that day, not unlike a fish straight into a net.
After they ate together, Jesus and Peter had some real talk about how Peter needed to love and care for the people of Jesus. Then Jesus made it clear that Peter was not guaranteed any worldly independence.
“Truly I tell you, when you were younger, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don’t want to go.” [Jesus] said this to indicate by what kind of death Peter would glorify God. After saying this, He told him, ‘Follow me.’”
(Dear Jesus, that is some heavy stuff. We weren’t ready.)
Peter’s life really took off after that. Extra fish in a net were nothing compared to all the miracles that flowed through this one man’s life. God’s dream for Peter was so unlike anything Peter could have imagined.
Perhaps the same is true for us.
Has Jesus beckoned you into a net? Has he asked you to walk away from some kind of perceived success or glory so you can care for His people? I know it seems sexier to be a powerful, independent person who takes no prisoners than it does to allow God to draw you close to His Son and love others sacrificially. I know it feels as if life will only be fun and fulfilling if it’s lived on our terms alone.
But there is a net waiting for us, and no amount of swimming will help us escape it eventually. Someday that net will draw us all up into God’s presence, where we will meet the God of All Love face to face. He will ask us if we loved the people He put in our lives. Our lives will answer for us.
Somewhere, buried in God’s net is the most fulfilling life of all.
Get caught so you can live free; it is an upside-down and unappealing way of doing things, and yet, it is our destiny. We are God’s fish and we were made for His net.
May we always swim to Him.
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