Luke 5:5 “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Peter was a fisherman by trade. Although the Bible reports that when Jesus said, “Come, follow me” Peter and others left their nets and did so, it’s clear that their fishing skills helped to provide for the disciples from time to time. Here, they have been doing that all night…not the glamorous work of healing or listening to Jesus’ teaching, they have been fishing through the night so that there would be food. As the sun comes over the horizon, Jesus shows up.
Remember that Jesus grew up in the carpentry trade. Maybe he had done a little fishing, we don’t know, but his human expertise was with wood, not fish. Peter, however, is a pro and had probably been fishing since he could stand on a boat. So you can imagine what it sounded like when Jesus sauntered up to Peter, who had been up all night and hadn’t caught a thing, and says, “So, why don’t you cast the net over there instead.” Peter is probably exasperated when he says, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing.” Perhaps Luke deleted some expletives in his account, but the bottom line is that, as much as Peter might have felt is was silly or useless or maddening to have a carpenter telling him how to fish, he did what Jesus suggested. “Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” Of course they come up full of fish.
This is told as a miracle story rather than a parable, but I think it has some of the same sorts of lessons that the parables have to offer. Too often we rely only on our own expertise and knowledge. Even when that doesn’t seem to be getting us anywhere, it can be hard to imagine that those outside of our specialty can offer any insight or guidance. We are the trained ones. We are the ones who know. More and more, universities are beginning to wake up to the limitations of this. Gradually they are coming to realize that psychologists have something to offer to biologists and that theology belongs in conversation with medicine.
And it’s the same in our personal lives. Sometimes it’s our children that have the answer. Sometimes it is the one not caught up in the dilemma who can see what is going on. Often it is the person who is not blinded by personal investment in a situation who can see the obvious.
Most pointedly, however, this story reminds us that following God’s direction is what will yield a net full of fish. We might well be experts and know that just putting down the net over here instead of over there is not going to make the first bit of difference. But we would be wrong. If God says, “Do it,” then there will be mighty results. Maybe those results, like the fish, will be immediately obvious. Maybe the effect of God’s command will never be revealed to us. But this story teaches us to act in faith. Even if we think God is off his rocker or doesn’t know this world half as well as we know it, we will be successful and the world will be blessed if we let down our nets as God asks.
God of all trades, give us the humility to listen to your wisdom. Amen.
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