After my series on the parables, I found I was drawn to look into the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels. I have never studies the mighty works of Jesus as a focused effort before and am looking forward to finding nuggets of truth that we can be encouraged by.
I have provided a general introduction, with an opportunity to download two files for your reference in my initial post Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction. I found that the format I used for the parable posts were useful to keep me on track, and will continue to use them for this series, with some minor tweaks. With that said, let’s take a look at
Jesus Provides a Catch of Fish
On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
This is the first time Jesus provides a catch of fish for His disciples. It is the only time He provides a catch of fish prior to His resurrection, and only Luke records this miracle. The fact that this is the only gospel that records a catch of fish was somewhat surprising to myself. I expected multiple gospel accounts.
The miracle was intended for the disciples, for the Lord told His disciples to put out into the deep, implying the miracle occurred away from the crowds on the shore He had been teaching earlier.
Questions to Consider
Who were the audience?
As I mentioned above, the principal audience was the disciples, and all others on the two boats that were to push out to the deep. Whether the crowds could see or understand what was going on is not clear, and is not disclosed as to it’s impact other than the disciples that were initially dumbfounded by the mighty work.
When did the Lord perform this mighty work?
Where did the Lord perform this mighty work?
See Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction for downloadable reference file.
Why did the Lord perform this mighty work?
I understand Jesus to perform His miracles for specific purposes, some of which are clearly identified within the text, and some of which are somewhat veiled. By that I mean, each of the miracles are intended to exhibit the identity of this Rabbi that was speaking new words, that He was the One that the nation waited for, longed for and hoped for.
Yet, this one miracle has a specific purpose. The purpose was not to supply food to the disciples family, for as the test states…
And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
The mighty catch of fish may have simply rotted in the sun, which I highly doubt, but the point is that the focus of the disciples lives took a major turn here. They no longer identified themselves as fishermen, for they left everything behind them. It is interesting that though the text states they left it all, this is not to be understood as they gave it away, sold it or in some way gave up ownership. No, we need to remember that later in the gospels (John to be specific), Peter is out fishing again, presumably on his boat with his equipment.
What was the message for the original audience?
What was the message. Let’s read it once more.
“Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”
The message was directed to Peter, yet I am confident the other disciples heard the message. Can you imagine the Lord looking you in the eye and telling you “Do not be afraid”? Afraid of what though? They had just experienced a gold rush of profits!
When I first read this passage years ago, I thought Peter’s initial reaction was ludicrous. Pull those fish in, bank the profits and buy your wife a Maserati. How wrong was I in seeing earthly gain as the intent of the message. Peter’s ears were of a different ilk. Peter reacted properly.
…when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
The fish were simply a vehicle to stir Peter’s conscience and soul. He ignored the fish, and confessed Jesus as Lord. The text does not state that Peter simply was astonished, but that he recognized the source of this miracle, understood the authority of the One who stood beside him and confessed Jesus as Lord.
And Peter told the Lord to depart. To go away, for he was sinful. He had the natural reaction that anything (anyone) holy could not be with the unholy. He surely did not understand, as we most likely do not understand, the great desire of the Holy One to be with His creation, to find a way to be with His people. He has sought us out since the garden, and continues to seek us as we wander away. Seeking us to the point of death, even death on the cross.
Peter also confessed his sinfulness. What specifically was Peter confessing to at this time? Was it that he argued with the Lord about His initial command to set out into the deep? Maybe. At least that would be the immediate thing in my mind. Yet he didn’t confess an act of sin, but that he was a sinful man. This is instructive in my mind, since his confession spoke of his condition, and not just a single act of omission or commission.
I am of the understanding that when we recognize who Jesus is and His character, power and grace, the natural reaction is to see ourselves in the light of that understanding, to see our weakness, rebellion, and general disregard for God and His ways.
What is the message for us today?
The message for us today is “Do not be afraid”. From a stance of boldness, of a proper fearlessness, the result will be that we will “catch men”. You see, I don’t understand the phrase “You will be catching men” as a command so much as a result of understanding Who Jesus is.
So was Jesus telling Peter (and the other disciples) to not fear Him? Would that be consistent with the Biblical narrative of God’s desire to be with His people, to be in relation with Him? Peter obviously reacted in fear, as I know I would have, seeing this miracle occur in front of my very eyes. The fact that Jesus could produce an overabundance after Peter and the gang had failed, must have caused a multitude of emotions, but the overarching one was of fear.
How often the disciples must have asked each other – “Who is this that can…..”
For us today, the message seems clear. Understand who this One is, who God is, and the unbounded power and love He has expressed in the cross.
Peter began to understand because of the experience of the miraculous fish. He experienced many miraculous events. Yet Peter would admit that the greater proof of Jesus’ deity and our relation to Him must be based in the prophetic Word. Peter truly was an eye witness of His power. He actually heard the voice from the heavens, declaring the identity of Jesus. And what does Peter tell us to do? Should we seek our own miracles, dreams, or visions, finding a basis to believe in Jesus through miracles?
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,”
we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, – 2 Peter 1:16-19
With his witness of all the miracles, Peter directs believers to the prophetic word. This “knowledge” needs to find it’s roots in the Word of God, and to be understood through prayer, meditation and obedience to the known will of God.
Don’t seek miracles. Give the Lord freedom to grant at His pleasure. Crack open a Bible and find a foundation safe and secure for your faith. Gain a boldness through understanding the strength and power of the Lord Jesus, of His desire to be with you. Reject the attitude of telling Jesus to depart. Admit your sinfulness to the Lord Himself, and admit to yourself that Jesus is seeking you.
He is good, all the time!
Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.