Jesus always relates to people on their own terms. When speaking to Nicodemus, for example, Christ speaks in deep theological and philosophical terms. When speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well, he talks about water, her social status (or lack thereof) and politics, the things that concern her most. Jesus does the same when calling his disciples; He speaks their language.
It is early morning and the four fishermen- Peter, Andrew, James, and John – have worked all night, but they are empty handed. Disappointed, they head back to the dock.
A stone’s throw from shore, Jesus calls out to them, “Turn around and head for the deep waters. Then, let down your nets for a catch.”
Okay. Right. Peter looks at Andrew, bewildered. He is tired. He is irritated. He’s not amused.
Andrew smiles and shrugs and turns the boat around He takes them to the deeps. James and John look at them confused wondering if they should follow in their boat.
“Why are we listening to this man?” Peter wonders. “He’s a craftsman. What can He teach us about fishing that we haven’t learned already?” He spits in irritation.
“He’s the Messiah,” Andrew reminds him.
“And, the Messiah is to be a great fisherman? Remind me, brother, is it Isaiah or Jeremiah that prophesies this?” Peter laughs.
Andrew doesn’t. “He healed your mother-in-law, snatched her out of the hands of death.”
“I don’t hold that against Him.” Peter laughs even louder.
Andrew picks a spot and Peter eagerly drops the net. He’s ready to turn around and get some shuteye.
When they try to pull in the net, though, they can’t. It is so full of fish that they cannot take it out of the water. Even if the two men could retrieve it, the net would break. The best they can do is keep it taught until James and John row out to help.
Once pulled in, the catch fills both boats to the point that they nearly sink. “He is the Messiah,” says Peter, almost under his breath. Peter is in awe of Jesus; He’s a miracle-worker. He does know whereof He speaks. As they head back to the dock, trying not to swap the boats, all the things he has heard and seen of Jesus play out in his mind.
He sees the big picture. The Holy Spirit falling upon Him, like a dove. The voice of God, calling Jesus His beloved Son. He casts out demons. He heals the dying, even his wife’s mother. Two boatloads of fish! This really is the Messiah. He really is The Holy One.
“And, I am but a fool.” Peter speaks to himself, “a sinner. A doubter. Tossed about in life like my little boat in a great storm.” In a matter of minutes he finds himself unworthy, ticking off every sin that he remembers committing, and realizing that he is far from righteous.
When he reaches shore, Peter looks in the eyes of Jesus expecting to find righteous judgment and condemnation, but instead finding mercy and compassion.
Peter falls at the feet of Jesus. He is exhausted. Defeated. Discouraged. A filthy sinner. Unworthy. “Leave, Master. Just leave. You are holy. I am a sinful man. I have no place in Your presence.”
“Do not be afraid,” says Jesus. “From this day on, you will catch men.”
When confronted with the purity and holiness of God, our sins are revealed. Even what we count as righteous and good in our lives, appear as darkness, shameful in the light of God’s holiness. All we can do is fall at His feet and plea for mercy in fear of God.
With love in His eyes, He freely extends mercy to poor sinners like us, if we confess our sin and turn away from it.
Fear Not, for I will make you fishers of men.