This is a multipart story about fishing
Fishing is something most Christians understand in principle at least because Jesus told His disciples that He would make them fishers of men.
One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God.
I am sure it will reveal some profound truths based on a humble little fishing line or net and I am confident that these stories and personal anecdotes will bless and encourage you.
This is a lengthy story, so I have broken it down into different portions. This should make it easy for you to follow and return to key points that interest you at any time. We start with a fishing fleet
A personal anecdote:
I was once an avid amateur fisherman and enjoyed an assortment of fishing activities that ranged from fishing on the Great Barrier Reef of Australia to the small rivers and estuaries and an occasional trip to some of our lakes. Each place was different. The fish were different. Fishing techniques therefore had to be different.
Trout were caught in fresh water, using fly tackle, but out at the reef, heavy tackle was the order of the day and a line of one hundred pound breaking strain was common, whereas flyfishing for trout required very fine equipment.
In the rivers and estuaries where I spent most time, the techniques differed again and even more so, depending on the desired species. Some fish fed on the bottom and others on or near the surface.
Some species fed on diets of weeds, whereas others required the use of various baits, live or otherwise, or lures.
Sometimes I would buy bait but preferred to catch my own and there again, the techniques greatly varied, depending on what kind of fishing I intended doing.
Fishing at night was different to fishing during the day and no two excursions were ever the same.
I preferred incoming tides, so liked to be fishing when the tide was either at its low point, or close to it.
At the ebb, the water was absolutely still, almost lifeless, but as the tide started to turn and run in, the fish started feeding.
The spiritual lesson I learned is that for every endeavour in God, we much determine the best way to go about it, which of course necessitates our getting the mind and will of God on that particular occasion.
Jesus applied this principle. He used great variety in His ministry and I will use healing blindness as an illustration. He touched blind people and they were healed. He cast evil spirits out of people and they received their sight. He spat on the ground and made clay with which He placed on the blind person’s eyes with a command to wash and the blindness was healed. He spoke to blind Bartimæus and he was healed. He laid His hands on one man twice to restore full vision.
For us to do what He told us to do, we have to follow His example. There are no set formulae. Every situation and circumstance differs, so we must find out from the Holy Spirit what to do on that occasion.
What this incident tells me is that Jesus clearly wants us to catch so much that we cannot contain it.
It also tells me that we cannot do it alone and it also reveals that we need a specific word from the Lord because it is at His word, we receive the authority and the ability to do whatever it is that He has asked you as an individual to do
We now turn to the second part of our story that goes as follows-
The small group of men sat discontentedly in a huddle, carefully watching the door of the small room. They spoke with quiet hushed voices, jumping at the occasional noises outside wondering if the door would be suddenly kicked open and soldiers swarm inside to take them.
Would they be arrested, beaten and tortured or—executed?
They had bribed the police force and the remnant of their army were either scattered into the hills and disbanded, or forced to become vagabonds and members of underground movements.
Some guerrilla groups engaged in subterfuge, sabotage and extremists committed assassination and sabotage and a few of their leaders had also been caught. There seemed to be no end to the enemy victory and occupation of their beloved homeland.
Allies could not, or would not help them.
Their nation was being pillaged and raped. Their children were becoming brainwashed by the propaganda or taken as slaves with some of the womenfolk and their beloved traditions and culture were being slowly eroded away by the infidels. They seemed to now be totally alone and naked, with their dreams shattered.
Does anything sound slightly familiar?
One man slowly stood up and walked to the door, saying, “Well, I’m goin’ fishin” and slipped out into the cold darkness of the night and a few others decided to join him. After all, there was nothing else to do and they could not stay cooped up in their quarters forever, despite the curfew and the trauma of recent events. They had to do something, no matter what to take their minds off things, but it didn’t seem to be the same as at other times.
It was dark, cold and miserable and the fish simply weren’t biting, but they stayed there as most fishermen do, waiting for as long as possible before the inevitable return to normal life (if there ever would be such a thing again).
Sitting on the banks of a river, or inside a boat, listening to the steady lap, lap, lap of the waves can be therapeutic. It helps one to relax and unwind and sometimes bonds people together. It enables one to escape from the pressures and problems that come in life. What else could they do anyhow?
The darkness of the evening gradually made way for that pre-dawn glow.
The morning mist began to dissipate as the sun’s warming rays came up from behind the distant hillside and features of the landscape started to come into focus. As it often does, the orange ball of the sun suddenly popped up into the sky, the shadows disappeared and the previously hidden features of the night landscape came into view.
A man was standing on the distant shoreline. They could not make out his features as it was too far away. He called out. “Have you caught anything”? Well, what a dumb thing to ask under the circumstances. Of course they hadn’t. It was a spur of the moment decision to go fishing.
Everything was wrong. The tide wasn’t right and they had gone out, seemingly without any prior preparation, as this was a spur of the moment decision. Where did they get those boats? Who was the owner? Did they have to ask for permission to use them? I believe that they were Peter’s boats!
Religious attitudes imply that Peter was as poor as a church mouse, but he was a married man with a home, a fishing business, partners and a father.
Think about it!
They weren’t in the mood for pleasantries with strangers. For all they knew he could have been a spy and setting a trap for soldiers who may be laying in wait behind the sand dunes. “Tell him to get lost”, someone said. “Ignore him”, said another. Someone called back and said in a heavy voice, “No”, wondering what this stranger wanted and wishing he would go away and leave them alone.
The man walked to the waters edge and said, “You’re doing it wrong.
Use your nets and put them out on the other side of the boat”. “Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained I guess. We’ll give it another half hour and go”, said one, so they dropped the net over the side.
As if we haven’t got enough problems. Quick. Stop the boat and get that net freed before it gets wrecked. C’mon, hurry up”.
As it turned out, the boat was not in any danger after all. The net was not caught fast on the reef or submerged rocks. “It’s full of fish” someone exclaimed. I’ve never seen so many before. What’s going on?” Another suddenly said, “It’s the boss. I thought he was dead. What on earth—?”
I guess that you have now recognized a familiar story, even though it may have been told in a different fashion with some poetic license.
The factual account is as follows and it is taken from John chapter twenty-one-
Later Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Lake of Galilee. This is how it happened: A group of us were there—Simon Peter, Thomas, “The Twin,” Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, my brother James and I and two other disciples. Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” “We’ll come too,” we all said. We did, but caught nothing all night. At dawn we saw a man standing on the beach but couldn’t see who he was. He called, “Any fish, boys?” “No,” we replied.
The rest of us stayed in the boat and pulled the loaded net to the beach, about 300 feet away. When we got there, we saw that a fire was kindled and fish were frying over it, and there was bread.
So Simon Peter went out and dragged the net ashore. By his count there were 153 large fish; and yet the net hadn’t torn. “Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said; and none of us dared ask him if he really was the Lord, for we were quite sure of it. Then Jesus went around serving us the bread and fish.
Let us look at what happened. Jesus had been arrested and they all forsook Him. He was crucified and the tomb was later found to be empty. Jesus had appeared to them. Their whole lives were in turmoil. They were emotionally distraught.
They were confused and most likely afraid of what may happen next. Peter denied Him and was plagued by guilt and his feelings of guilt and remorse over his denial could have been too much for him and he simply quit!
I say that because of the words used to describe his saying, “I am going fishing”.
The Greek word used is Hypagō and it has several meanings relating to departing, going, going away, get thee hence and to withdraw or retire as if sinking out of sight. He wanted to sink out of sight and return to what he knew best, which was fishing. Peter had quit!
John said that they went forth immediately to enter a ship. The phrase went forth lines up with what I just mentioned as its meanings include come, depart, going forth and the like, but also relate to departing out of something, to escape, to get out, to go abroad or away. The Greek word used is Exerchomai.
When John said that they entered that ship immediately, they were all quick to respond and this makes me wonder about their feelings and emotions. It also makes me wonder where they got that ship in such a short time.
As I previously discussed, I ask, “Where did they get the ships”? It appears that there was more than one, because John said that they entered a ship that in the Greek was a Ploion—a vessel capable of ocean voyage. We see later that when they realized that Jesus was on the shore and they had caught all those fish, Peter dived overboard to swim to shore, but the others rowed ashore in a little boat. The name given to this boat is Ploiarion. This refers to a much smaller boat.
That makes sense, considering that Peter had a fishing fleet with partners. I think therefore that the ship from which they tried fishing belonged to Peter.
I believe that he still owned his business. After all, he was a married man who still owned a home that was where Jesus healed his mother-in-law. We are quick to leap to conclusions at times and when the bible says that he forsook all to follow Jesus, we assume he walked away from everything and became a homeless, penniless follower of Christ. That attitude suits the opinions of those who advocate poverty as a necessity to being a Christian.
Peter may have left his father in charge of everything and he did after all, have partners. Surely they kept the business operational.
Peter was a professional fisherman yet despite his experience and local knowledge they caught nothing all night—no fish, no signs of a fish and not even a smell of a fish. John’s account states that they had caught nothing and one of the meanings of this word means included people.
In evangelistic terms they had toiled all night and they never had a single soul affected or saved!
When morning came, Jesus was waiting on shore for them.
I think this is significant.
They were out there toiling, wasting time and effort, probably talking all sorts of negative things, feeling lower in spirit by the minute but Jesus was not out there with them! He was standing on the shore beside a warm fire while they were out there cold and miserable. Sure He never leaves us or forsakes us, but he is not in the stuff we can get ourselves into.
He does not come down to our level but calls us up to his level. He bids us to come out to where he is.
When they were in a boat in the middle of the storm, Jesus was walking on the waves untouched by the waves. When Peter called to Him, Jesus told Him to get out of the boat and come to Him. Sometimes we have to get our feet wet by getting out of the boat of our present condition and get to dry shore where He is. If we stay in the boat all we see is other disciples, but if we are out there we see Jesus!
Jesus asked them if they had caught anything. He knew they hadn’t.
He told them to cast the net (singular). They had several nets, but he wanted them to cast one only.
Previously He asked Peter to let down his nets (plural). When He has something lined up for us, we do not necessarily have to try this and that and the other thing because that is not what He asked.
If He said to do one task—do it! He is specific. When Peter was asked about the tribute money, Jesus told him to take his fishing rod and cast out to catch a fish that had a special coin in its mouth. It was not the only fish. Jesus was being very specific. See Matthew 17:24-27.
He told them to cast it out on the right side. Again, Jesus was very specific.
Anyone knows that there are two sides to a ship and out there, it probably doesn’t matter which side you cast from because the fish are under the boat. Why the right side?
The right side or right hand is the favoured position. Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand. He was telling theme to cast out onto the favoured position for a special purpose and it was to receive what was due them. The right side does indeed means the literal right hand side, but there is more to it. The Greek word Meros that was used refers to receiving a prescribed section or allotment, a division or a share.
There is a prescribed portion or allotment reserved for you.
Jesus knows where it is and how to get it to you.
You might be casting your net out the wrong side, doing it prematurely, or leaving it too late and the fish you seek have either swum away or have not yet arrived! Think about it. I will speak more on this later.
Whilst they were doing their own thing, Jesus was having a BBQ.
As soon as they reached where He was, they noticed what he had already done!
One thing we must understand is the fact that whatever it is that concerns us, we are trusting God to do or are expecting to happen is already done as far as He is concerned.