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. 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. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 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. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
Do we read the bible to find out about ourselves? Or do we read to find out about God? Perhaps the greatest mistake we can make when we sit with scripture is to think that what we read is about us. The bible’s primary and all-important purpose is to reveal to us the God of Jesus. Yes, this passage is a call story, the story of Simon Peter and James and John leaving their nets to follow the Messiah; but it is a mistake to think this reveals anything particularly important about being human.
Luke’s account is crafted to reveal both the transcendence and immanence of God through the person of Jesus, the otherness of the divine at the same time as the presence of God-with-us. Jesus steps into the boat to teach, for God is our teacher; Jesus then invades Simon Peter’s everyday world of fishing, just as God seeks to break into our everyday existence. The miraculous catch of fish is the revelation of God’s extraordinary abundance, a declaration of divinity. It is in the face of this surprising God that Peter makes his confession, but the character of God unveiled in what follows is, for me, the greatest revelation of all.
Jesus ignores Simon Peter’s confession of unworthiness. The words “Do not be afraid” set aside human considerations of worth and value. Instead, God accepts us, embraces us and invites us into relationship, to live our lives with this teacher, provider and lover.