Luke 5:1-11 records the call of the first disciples. Traditionally, a rabbi would accept applications from potential followers. Rabbis generally wanted the most studious and capable disciples. They sought the ones who had mastered the Scriptures and came from a proper pedigree. Rabbi Jesus had a different philosophy. Instead of demanding disciples to seek him, He sought them. He chose fishermen with calloused hands instead of students with cultivated minds. He didn’t call the qualified; He qualified those that He called. I’m glad that Jesus still takes this approach. Before I ever knew to seek Him, He sought me. He didn’t call me based on my credentials but because of His compassion.
Only Luke tells us that the initial call of the disciples was accompanied by a miraculous catch of fish. In Luke 1:3-4, the narrator tells us that the aim of the Gospel is to “write an orderly account” so that Theophilus (the guy to whom Luke dedicated the Third Gospel and Acts) might have “certainty” concerning the things that he had been taught. Mark 1:17-18 records the calling of the disciples: “And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” This does not sound plausible and would not give our friend Theo “certainty”; why would these men leave their families and their homes to follow Jesus? Luke does not tell of the call of the disciples until after he has recorded the healing of many in Capernaum, including Peter’s mother-in-law (Lk 4:38-40). Then, according to Luke, Jesus miraculously delivers a great catch of fish to the fishermen before calling them to follow Him. These details help readers readily understand the disciples’ willingness to abandon all and follow Jesus.
When Jesus approaches the disciples, He finds them washing their nets after a disappointing night at sea. The disciples had fished all night (which was the best time to fish) and caught nothing. Jesus boarded the boat, used it for a platform to speak to the crowds, then asked Peter to take Him on a little ride. After they reached deep water, He asked them to throw the net into the water one more time. There is so much power in “one more time.” When faced with repeated failure, our instincts are to wash our nets and put them away. But, what if the next time is the right time? Yes—It seems that miracles happen in the land of “one more time.”
Simon Peter responded: “Master, we have toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets!” He shook off the disappointment of last night and embraced the hope of today. And, immediately, his obedience was rewarded. “They enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.” The catch was so great that it caused the net to break!
This is a metaphor for Peter’s time as a disciple. He was immensely blessed by the Master, but He wasn’t equipped to receive it.
He was given the revelation that Jesus was the King, the Christ, and the Son of God and was provided the keys to the kingdom for this revelation. What a huge blessing! But, his net broke when he rebuked Jesus for stating that His kingship would involve suffering and death. He was given the opportunity, along with only James and John, to accompany Jesus deep into the Garden of Gethsemane during the most vulnerable moment of his Master’s life. His net broke when he failed to pray and fell asleep.
The breaking of the net was finalized in the outer court of Caiphas’ house. While Jesus was inside the house boldly proclaiming His identity to the council and giving up His life, Peter was vehemently denying Jesus to save his own life. Peter was called to be a “fisher of men.” His destiny was to proclaim: “I know Jesus, and you should too.” Instead, he proclaimed: “I don’t even know the man.” Peter was blessed with witnessing the many healing miracles performed by Jesus. He was given the opportunity to stand alongside the Master when He commanded the dead to raise. He saw Jesus calm storms and cast out spirits. He even walked on water briefly!
Jesus gave so much to Peter, but Peter was not equipped to handle the blessings.
Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. And, on the third day He rose again. After His resurrection, He appeared to His disciples. Peter knew that his friend and Master was raised from the dead, but apparently thought that his denials had nullified his assignment as fisher of men. So, he went back to being a fisher of fish. In John 21, Peter tells a group of the disciples: “I am going fishing.” And, they all go with him. We have all been here before. We have disappointed ourselves or have been disappointed by others, and we think that disappointment cancels out destiny. We stop living for what could be. We stop pursuing the fantastic and go back to the familiar. We exchange calling for comfort.
Just like in Luke 5, Jesus finds these disciples that He has chosen and loved fishing in a boat. And, again, they have been fishing all night with no results. Jesus calls out from the shore: Cast the net one more time. One. More. Time. Peter was given another chance, an ability to start all over. And this time, we are told that “Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. (John 21:11)” The experience of Peter would be drastically different in the future. Peter would not only receive blessings, but his net would be able to contain them.
The Peter of Acts is completely different than the Peter of the Gospels. He preaches boldly and suffers nobly. He preaches the first Christian sermon at Pentecost and is the first person to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles. According to reliable tradition, he was crucified upside down for the sake of the Gospel.
Have you checked your net lately? So often, we ask God to grant blessings and to provide resources. We pray for miracles and open doors. But, are we capable of receiving them? What if He brings us the things that we have prayed for, but we are not able to hold on to them? You can’t control when the fish might come, but you can make sure that your net is ready.
This article was originally featured in Destiny Magazine, 2020 Fall/Winter Edition.
Landon has been the Director of Destiny Leadership Institute (DLI) since 2011. He is responsible for devising DLI’s unique, online platform that allows students to obtain formal educational training while gaining practical experience in their own local church. His academic accomplishments and practical experience has prepared him to lead DLI with purpose and vision.
Landon has a Bachelor of Arts from Mississippi State University, as well as Master of Divinity and a Master of Arts in Biblical Literature from Oral Roberts University. While at ORU, he specialized in the Greek New Testament, particularly the Gospel of Luke. Landon is currently working on Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Landon also serves as campus pastor at Grace Church, Tomball, Texas. He is married to Sarada, and they have two daughters Vanna and Zarra.