When Jesus is in the Boat
Luke 5:1 Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 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. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10 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.” 11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
Jesus sees the boat there along the shore and needing a place from which to preach, he gets into Simon’s boat and goes out a little from the shore and uses it as his pulpit. When he’s finished he tells Simon how to do his job — how to fish. The fishing language used here is quite technical and Jesus is telling him to do something that fishermen don’t do! You fish at night when it’s cooler, you don’t fish in the middle of the day when it’s too hot to stay out on the lake and the fish don’t bite. However, Simon is obedient and he does what Jesus suggests. The result is that he catches more fish than he could even imagine and they had to get help.
Simon immediately realizes that Jesus is much more than what he appears to be on the surface. What happened that day was highly unusual and transformational and when they reached shore the fishermen gave up their nets and followed Jesus.
When Jesus got into the boat everything changed. The ordinary boat became the extraordinary and the impossible became the possible.
We must take seriously this fishing imagery as a metaphor for Jesus’ work in the church today. Throughout history many have believed the boat to represent the church and Simon (Peter) and the other disciples as those who would do the work or ministry of the church. And what was that ministry? — to catch people.
Now, interestingly, the idea is not about catching people in human nets. The fishermen had already tried that all night long and they had found nothing. They tried all the human strategies that they could and they knew what they were doing. They were professionals! And yet through sheer human effort, they had not caught anything. A good lesson for those who believe that they are to build the church on their own, and far too many are trying to do it that way. The problem is that Jesus isn’t in the boat! Or, quite possibly, Jesus isn’t in the church!
Something dramatic happens when Jesus gets into the boat. They caught so many live fish that their nets began to break — and the grace of Jesus Christ that goes before and reaches out to needy humanity began to draw them in. Jesus was in the boat and the nets were filled! When Jesus is in the boat, or in the church, his grace will reach out to those who are ready for the catch and the nets will be filled.
Simon recognized immediately that there was something unusual that happened when Jesus was in the boat. We need Jesus in our boat today. Without him there can be no real ministry! May we fall on our knees and cry out to our Lord, asking for his forgiveness if we have been trying to fish without him. Only when Jesus is back in his rightful place in the boat will we be able to minister the way in which God intended.
Lord, may you be in the middle of my boat today. Amen.