In chapter 5 of Luke's gospel, there is a scene where Jesus helps Simon Peter catch a whole lot of fish. Simon had just spent a disappointing night on the lake. Jesus told him to push back out, go to the deep water, and let down his nets. Simon did, and the haul was huge.
What was going on here? Our inference is that Jesus produced the haul directly, but this is not stated. What if Jesus instead gave permission?
Jesus, while watching from the shore, noticed a part of the water where the fishermen didn't go. He had noticed it on other nights before this one. He had even asked Simon about it, without being satisfied by the response.
Why did no one fish there? Perhaps because it was such deep water. Casting about with nets in that area was too much effort with too little hope of gain, Simon might have said—having long since become convinced that any smart fisherman knows better than to go there.
In other words, what if this story is not about Jesus’ ability, but Simon’s limitation?
We all carry so-called “knowledge” of this sort that keeps us trapped. We live in a world that was carved up by others before we set out into it, and we accept their prodding about the ways to move through it. We fear the exclusion or rejection that might come from choosing a different way. Simon might have been willing to be a less-effective fisherman for the sake of being an acceptable fisherman.
But then things change. Something happens, something shifts somewhere, so that the merely human rules are revealed to be no longer true. In fact, this always happens. This world is ever in flux, and only the Creator is on the cutting edge. As a result, the ones nearest the Creator’s work will always risk looking like fools, until the old and tired rules are seen for what they are.
"God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise," wrote Paul in First Corinthians.
What did Jesus give to Simon on the lake? I am only speculating, only painting a picture. But I can imagine Jesus noticing the slight way Simon glanced through a tense expression toward that one area of the lake. Jesus said to him, Go. He said to Simon that the best part of his heart knew something better about the lake than what the habits of other fishermen were telling him.
Eventually, Simon Peter would follow his heart much farther—all the way to apostleship, all the way to leadership and martyrdom.
In giving permission, Jesus validated Simon. In validating this man, Jesus began to unlock his power.
Posted July 11, 2012