Luke 5:1-11 records the first time that Jesus performed a miracle that resulted in the catching of an exceptionally large number of fish. On the second occasion, He had already been crucified and raised from the dead. It was early in the morning and seven Disciples were together. (John 21:4-11). On the first occasion, Jesus is already a popular figure, known for His profound teachings. Luke 5:12 says, “One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. Brothers Simon and Andrew, and brothers James and John had been toiling all night and had caught no fish. They were washing out their nets which, instead of fish, had trapped the usual expected debris from the lake. Jesus is known to them.
Jesus decides that strategically, it would be better if he were a little removed from the land since he had a Ph.D. in Physics. He knew that sound waves operate more effectively over water because the air above is cooler, and as such the sound gets amplified. Did I mention that He created all the laws of Physics? There is nothing to suggest that He and Peter were friends, but they were definitely acquainted, and if nothing else, Peter knew all that he needed to know about Jesus. He knew Him well enough to call Him “master” (Luke 5:4). Dr. Vine in his Vine’s Expository Dictionary points out that the Greek word “Epistales” which in the New Testament only appears in the Gospel of Luke, is a term that focuses on the authority of Jesus and not on the content of His teaching. Peter had clearly done his research, and coupled with his observation, had settled in his mind how he ought to relate to Jesus, and so had the lepers in Luke 17:13. This becomes very clear after Jesus gives him both His first and second commands.
The same Jesus who would later tell His Disciples to locate a donkey, untie it and bring it to Him; and if its owner enquires, simply tell him that the Lord has use for it; now authoritatively climbs into Peter’s boat. Luke 5:3 says, “He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.” We know that Peter obeyed.
But perhaps Jesus’ second command and Peter’s response is more revealing. “When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4) Then Peter the leader distinguishes himself, as he would later do on many more occasions. As an experienced fisherman, Peter knew that at night when the water is cool, the fish swim closer to the surface than they do during the day when the surface of the water is warmer. If they could not catch fish in a particular spot during the night, it would be impossible for them to catch them in the same spot during the day. To put it mildly, as far as Peter the experienced fisherman is concerned, Jesus who is not a fisherman, is out of His league, and what He is saying does not make sense. But, against this background, Peter says, “But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5)
Luke 5:6-7 chronicles the result of Peter’s obedience. Peter signaled his partners to bring their boat, and both boats began to sink because of the excessively large number of fish that were caught. Peter retains his leadership role as he now enters into a period of worship. He is confronted with the Deity of Jesus demonstrated by this miracle in Peter’s world. Peter immediately recognizes his own sinful condition in the presence of a Holy Jesus, and in his own style, prompted in part by reverential fear, tells Jesus to go away from Him. Credit these words to Peter’s personality and speaking style. For if he meant what he said to be taken literally, he would have run away from Jesus, not kneel before Him. Thank God, Jesus who made all personalities, understands them all.
A true appreciation of sinful man entering the presence of the Holy God justifiably creates fear, as it should. Just take a look at the early years of the Nation of Israel as they journeyed through the Wilderness and as they occupied the Promised Land… worship of God was caveated with numerous cautions designed to cause man to keep his distance from God. Jesus recognizes this justifiable fear in Peter, but also knows that He had come to usher in a new era that would be symbolized by the veil of the Temple being rent in two, and ready access to the mercy seat of God being extended to whosoever will. So He says to Peter, in Luke 5:10, “Don’t be afraid…”
Finally, the verse that blew my mind is Luke 5:11. These fishermen have just made the mother of all catches, enough to expand their business in a major way. But they recognized that Jesus was more valuable in His person than He was in His performances… and so they left their boats, and all the fish they had just caught… and followed Him. WOW!!!
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