(Begin by reading the Gospel. Sometimes it is good to have someone read it to you. The Word is meant to be heard.)
In the Gospel for this Sunday, we hear about the moment when Simon Peter becomes a disciple. Disciples, of course, are people who follow Jesus. We know that we are disciples, too; we follow Jesus. When we listen to the account of Simon Peter becoming a disciple, we might be able to learn something about our own discipleship.
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.
The people listening to the Word of God press in on Jesus as he stands teaching by the lake. Their need is so great. Each of them has the need to hear the Word spoken to him or her. How can Jesus tend to each of them? Really, there are too many for one person to handle. Their need is so great, they are going to press him right into the water! No wonder Jesus looks around for help.
The fishermen who sit mending their nets are through with fishing for the day. They have probably been watching the crowd press Jesus closer and closer to the water. Perhaps it is a little amusing, something interesting to watch while they mend their nets and prepare to go home.
He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
This amusing situation Simon Peter has been watching suddenly gets personal. This person pressed by the crowd now wants his help. Simon Peter has fished all night and is ready for bed. How much does he want to go back out in the boat? But the man asks, and Simon Peter obliges. He takes Jesus out in the boat so that Jesus can sit down to teach the crowds.
We have to wonder what Simon Peter thinks about while Jesus teaches the crowds. Does he resent Jesus for keeping him from his bed? Even while he prevents the boat from drifting, even while he wonders how long Jesus will speak, he cannot help from hearing the words that Jesus speaks. What do these words do to him?
When he had finished speaking, Jesus said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”
Seriously? Now he wants to go fishing?!
Simon Peter says,
“Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing.
Not only have the fishermen worked all night and are ready for bed, they have caught nothing. When their wives and children met them at the shore that morning, they had no fish to hand over to be sold. No fish. All that work for nothing.
Why does Simon Peter say this to Jesus? Does he want Jesus to know how tired he is? Does he want Jesus to know how ridiculous this idea is? Does he want Jesus to know just how much he is asking?
Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Whatever he feels about this task, Simon Peter does it. Why? He is a grown man; he could tell Jesus, "Forget it, buddy. I'm going home." But he does not say this. However tired he is from working all night long, however frustrated he is at not catching any fish, however ridiculous he thinks this idea is, Simon Peter does it because Jesus asks him to. He obeys.
When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats so that they began to sink.
Now Simon Peter knows exactly how ridiculous Jesus' idea really is! This is a ridiculous amount of fish! Where there was nothing, now there is everything. Where there was no work, now there is more than enough. More people join to help. There is work here for all. Perhaps they start to laugh at how ridiculous this all is!
But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”
Simon Peter is not laughing; he is afraid. He knows how he has been feeling—he knows he thought this was a foolish thing to do, he knows he was resenting Jesus for asking, he knows that all he wanted to do was to go home. Simon Peter knows that he is sinful, and yet here he is in the presence of One who is all goodness.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”
Is Jesus concerned that Simon Peter was frustrated or resentful or just plain tired?
Does Jesus care that Simon Peter did not want to help?
Jesus has seen that Simon Peter obeyed when he did not want to.
It is easy to obey when we want to help. It is a much bigger deal to obey when we would much rather do anything else.
When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
Why do Simon Peter and the others follow? How can they know what catching people means? They may not know, but they have been changed by what they have heard and what they have heard.
What have they heard?
They have heard the Word of God. The Word of God makes everyone know their need for more. The Word of God reaches people even while they are frustrated and resentful and tired.
What have they seen?
They have seen what happens when someone listens to Jesus. They have seen no work for any of them become work enough for all.
Really, there is too much for one person to handle.
No wonder Jesus looks around for help.
No wonder they follow.