Maybe you recall seeing these words in your Bible: Sea of Chinnereth, Sea of Chinneroth, Sea of Gennesaret, Sea of Tiberias, or The Lake. These all refer to one and the same place, the Sea of Galilee, which plays a significant role in the Bible, particularly the New Testament. Many of Jesus’ miracles and teaching took place on or around this bountiful body of water. In fact, Jesus’ ministry is bookended by a couple of significant fishing events with His disciples. Luke 5 (Mark 1, Matthew 4) and John 21 record two separate events. In both instances, the disciples had fished all night without catching anything. Both times, Jesus gave them specific instructions which made little sense from a human perspective, and yet the disciples’ obedience yielded great catches. The fact that the Bible bookends Christ’s ministry with two very similar events is a great indicator of the main ministry of the disciples: fishing for men.
In the first instance, Jesus was in the process of selecting and calling the disciples to His ministry. In that day, the normal method for a person to become a disciple of a rabbi was for the prospective person to study diligently and petition a rabbi hoping to be accepted as a student. Most applicants were rejected and returned to their employment. Jesus turned this system on its head. He reversed the process by choosing men who had not petitioned him to become his disciples. Many of us would say that Jesus chose unlikely men. Jesus gave these men a fantastic material example and then told them that He would make them into fishers of men.
Luke 5 tells us that there was a crowd pressing around Jesus. There were two fishing boats and several fishermen on the shore washing their nets. Jesus made a request of Peter. He asked to Peter to put the boat out a little in shallow water so Jesus could use it to speak to the crowd. That was an easy request for Peter to comply with. It made perfect sense and required very little effort. When Jesus finished speaking, He gave Peter a second set of instructions. Jesus told Peter to row out a long way from shore at the wrong time of day and cast his nets in the wrong place. All of this would necessitate rewashing the nets. This request made no sense from a human perspective and required a great deal of effort.
Peter obeyed both and received several rewards. He got to witness a miracle. He received material provision. More importantly he got to see himself as a sinner. Most importantly he got to be with Jesus. Perhaps because of Peter’s obedience, Christ invited him to come along with Him. This resulted in Peter making the ultimate commitment. He left everything and followed Jesus. Luke 5:2 tells us that Peter and the others were simply tending to their own business, washing their nets when Jesus suddenly showed up and issued a call on their lives.
I don’t hear very much talk about the call of God these days. I believe that God still calls people today. When people are simply washing their nets, tending to their own affairs, Jesus bursts into their world and changes their lives forever. He extends a call to obey and follow Him, leaving all else behind. Whether it is lay ministry, bi-vocational ministry, or full time vocational service, God still walks on the beach, interrupting people who are washing their nets. Will you follow in Peter’s footsteps and receive the rewards he received or will you just put your head down and keep on washing your nets?