The first time I heard my Grandpa Jake and our neighbor Ray telling stories, they started with the three-pound bullhead and ended with spear fishing on the ice and the forty-four-pound walleye that got away, but left four pounds of fish on the spear. Eventually the fish gained weight, the bullhead was five pounds and the walleye that got away, sixty-five. Fish stories are fun to tell and fun to share.
Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, were about to embark on the greatest fish story of all. Crowds have gathered around Jesus, so Jesus asked if they would take him out on the water where his voice would carry better. Once done teaching, he told them to take the boat out into the deep and put their nets down. Having a long day of fishing behind them without a catch, Simon Peter and Andrew’s expectations were low. Still, at Jesus’ request, they did what he asked and were astounded by the size of a catch that threatened to sink their boat. It would be one whopper of a story to tell. Calling to their partners James and John to help out, they were able to bring both boats, overflowing with fish, to the shore.
The sign of the fish terrified Simon Peter, at its size and it’s unnatural catch. But, Jesus, as he so often does, tells him “Do not be afraid.” Then Jesus invites him and the others, to become fishers of people.
How do you explain the unexplainable? Whoever Simon Peter may have thought Jesus was . . . at that moment he knew Jesus was someone who could change the course of a person’s life. He could turn despair into hope.
David Ostendorf says, “God’s living word demands our decision – it lays upon us the choice of staying on the boat or leaving everything and following, of moving through that transformative moment to the fullness of life, when ears and eyes and hearts are truly opened and we cannot turn back. For followers of the living word, life is never and can never be the same. It is altered forever.” Feasting on the Word, Year C Volume, page 336.
I’ve never quite figured out what became of the family fishing business or if there were other siblings who picked up the nets. What we have is the Biblical record of the lives of these disciples. Disciples, who left everything behind to follow Jesus, fishing for people along the way.
The mystery and the miracle of it all is, that not only does Jesus still call people to be part of the network of drawing people to Christ, but that he is still in the business of fishing for people . . . People like you and like me. Fishing for us, whenever we wander, wherever we stray.
When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him. Luke 5:11