People sought Jesus to ‘hear the word of God’ some perhaps also sought him for the miracles (4:23). The phenomenon of the crowds pressing in on him is reflected constantly in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). To escape the crowds Jesus often hops on to a boat (Mark 4:1,4:36, 5:1 etc.). Today, was no different except he sets his eyes on not one but two boats, boats that were briefly abandoned by the fishermen who were washing their nets post a failed catch.
Interestingly Jesus makes a choice to get into one of the two boats and we are told that it belongs to Simon the fishermen. I believe that Jesus was making a clear choice. He picked Simon’s boat because he wanted to ‘catch’ Simon for his mission; this on a day when Peter had no catch, and here in lies the catch!
I don’t know how we would respond if someone walked into our home or our personal office and began to use it as a make shift Church. Jesus never asked for Simon’s permission, he just spied a boat and decided he need to use it. Yet ironically Jesus did not need Simon’s boat; as we will see later, Simon needed Jesus’ blessing. Does Jesus really need our home or our place of work or whatever our boat may be? He is the Lord, he walked on water. Jesus could have razzle and dazzled the crowd by standing on the water and preaching. The crowds would have swelled at this miracle. It seems that on this day Jesus wanted to ‘catch’ Peter. So, he sits in his boat within ear shot of Simon and spoke, knowing clearly that Peter was listening.
Jesus knows that Simon has caught nothing but don’t forget that Jesus knows where the fish are! Simon who has been listening to the Lord from a distance is drawn closer to the Lord, now by a personal request; ‘duc in altum’, put out into the DEEP water. Perhaps most of us are fishing too and we catch nothing and here in lies the problem; it is not what we are looking for but where we are looking for. Simon was told to go into the deep, the shallow may be safe but God wants us to fish in unchartered waters, in the deep. That is where the mission field is. As a Church we pay in safe waters but Christ wants the nets of the Church to be thrown wide and in unchartered waters. Fishing in the harbour is safe but that’s not what harbours were primarily built for and that’s where you might just end up with small fry; the big fish are out there!
Simon must have seen this unfolding request as odd if not impertinent. Jesus was a carpenter and he was a fisherman; what would this carpenter turned into Rabbi know about fishing. It’s not like Simon gave Jesus some tips on wooden pegs and latest furniture tips. But Simon is not disrespectful, “Master” he says, ‘we have worked all night long and have caught nothing,’ Perhaps that’s the reality of our lives, we have worked and worked and nothing seems to work because WE have become the source of instruction and inspiration, not the Lord. All it takes for us to haul in that catch is to take a cue from Simon, “yet if you say so.”