The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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An Instruction | Tales of the Unexpected

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’

Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
Luke 5:4-7

Let’s recap. Peter was pretty deflated after completing a session of fishlessness on the frontline – but then Jesus turned up and used this crestfallen fish-catcher’s boat as a floating pulpit (Luke 5:1-3). Peter was honoured to be included in the Lord’s work… but now he’s ready to go home.

Whether you’re a decorator leaving a customer’s house, or a doctor concluding a consultation, we all know that feeling when someone says to us, ‘Oh, and one last thing…’. Just as Peter is ready to head off, Jesus says, ‘Oh, and one last thing. Before you go, get back into your boat, row all the way over there, let down your nets, and see if you catch something’ (5:4).

Peter’s inner John McEnroe could well have jumped in here. ‘Who is this guy? He’s a rabbi, and not even a qualified one at that. I hear he used to build stuff. What does he know about fishing? If we didn’t manage to catch any fish in the dark, when they couldn’t see our nets, what chance have we got if we do it now in the daylight?! He cannot be serious!’

But Peter doesn’t respond that way. He knows there’s something about Jesus. Jesus had visited Peter’s house, even healing his mother-in-law (4:38-39). What Jesus has asked him to do here doesn’t make any sense; it’s not what Peter, the expert fisherman, would have done. ‘But because you say so, I will let down the nets’ (5:5).

Peter and his crew row out to deep water, all kinds of thoughts running through their minds and rolling off their tongues. Here goes. They let down their nets and… maybe this tradesman-come-Rabbi does know something about fishing after all!

Sometimes, on our frontlines, Jesus calls us to do things that don’t make a whole lot of sense to us: ‘Don’t worry if your boss doesn’t know about how happy you made that customer, just keep it to yourself’; ‘Go and speak to that mum at the toddler group whose face sports a sustained scowl’.

Peter’s obedience was immediately and obviously rewarded. But there is no promise that doing things Jesus’ way will always lead to instant financial, relational, or emotional blessing (though undoubtedly, in some cases, that will happen). What we need to remember is that Kingdom work only happens when we live in obedience to the King, whether it makes sense to us or not.

Joe Warton