Fishing With Broken Nets

The theme of the call can be seen in the readings from the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures for this week. The call on Isaiah's life is outlined in the verses in Isaiah we read. Jesus calling Simon, James, and John is to focus of the Gospel reading. The New Testament Epistle tells the story of Jesus' resurrection. The resurrection might seem out of harmony with the theme of the calling of God's servants, but the theme of the calling is present in the resurrection story. For Christians, the resurrection is an integral part of the call. God calls Christians to proclaim the resurrection, by being servants of the resurrection. We are servants of the resurrection when we reach out in love, to help people see the life-giving power of God's love in our lives.

Luke 5:1-11 (Contemporary English Version) Jesus was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, teaching the people as they crowded around him to hear God's message. 2Near the shore he saw two boats left there by some fishermen who had gone to wash their nets. 3Jesus got into the boat that belonged to Simon and asked him to row it out a little way from the shore. Then Jesus sat down in the boat to teach the crowd.

4When Jesus had finished speaking, he told Simon, "Row the boat out into the deep water and let your nets down to catch some fish." 5"Master," Simon answered, "we have worked hard all night long and have not caught a thing. But if you tell me to, I will let the nets down." 6They did it and caught so many fish that their nets began ripping apart. 7Then they signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. The men came, and together they filled the two boats so full that they both began to sink.

8When Simon Peter saw this happen, he knelt down in front of Jesus and said, "Lord, don't come near me! I am a sinner."

9Peter and everyone with him were completely surprised at all the fish they had caught.

10His partners James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were surprised too. Jesus told Simon, "Don't be afraid! From now on you will bring in people instead of fish." 11The men pulled their boats up on the shore. Then they left everything and went with Jesus.

Some translations, such as the King James, say there were two ships by the lake. The word boat might be a better translation. The fishermen's boats were not like the large fishing ships one might see in coastal regions in North America. Adam Clarke, a well-respected commentator, notes “it is highly improper to term these ships.”1 Commentator Albert Barnes says they were probably small enough they could easily be pulled up on the beach. These boats were often attended by four or five people. Barnes notes that the small size of the boats is shown by the fact that a full net of fish placed them in danger of sinking.2

I get the impression the nets may have collected a bit of dirt or debris. Verse two says the fishermen were washing their nets. The commentator John Gill says the men had “gathered a great deal of soil and filthiness, but they had caught no fish.” He states that is why they were washing the nets.3

I am not from a coastal region of the world, so I may not understand Adam Clarke's explanation very well, but I will see if I can relate his description of fishing form these small boats. The method of fishing used was used on fairly flat, smooth beaches. The nets had corks on top that kept the top of the net floating. The bottom of the net had weights, so it would sink toward the bottom of the lake. One end of the net would be attached to the shore. The fishermen would row out, dropping the net. They would make a semicircle from the shore. As the fishermen return, their nets would pick up the fish in that small area of the lake.4

The fishermen realize they do not have control or power over the size of their catch. According to Luke's account, Jesus does have power over the size of their catch. The Messiah's power and strength “exceeds all their expectations.”5 After Jesus exceeds their expectations, Jesus calls the fishermen to fish for people. In Luke's account, the fishermen immediately follow Jesus.

There could be several reasons why the call of Jesus was so strong to the fishermen. A few factors that helped make the call more appealing could be as follows:

  • The nets had been full of filth and dirt. There are times when the call of God cannot be heard over the noise and bustle of the good times. But when we feel life has given us a net full of dirt, somehow the call of God can be heard. I am not sure I understand that, but some people seem to hear the Spirit speaking very clearly through the filth and dirt life throws at them.

God's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-identified servants have very sensitive hearts, hearts that are very tuned into the voice of the Spirit. Anybody who can hear Jesus calling to be a disciple over the loud noise of prejudice, discrimination, fear, hatred, and rejection has very sensitive spiritual ears. Perhaps, that is the reason why God speaks so strongly through queer disciples.

  • Miracles can get our attention, because they affirm us. Miracles show us that God thinks a lot of us, that God thinks enough of us to personally touch our lives.

You will notice Jesus affirmed the fishermen as fishermen. He did not do a miracle involving cattle or sheep. They were affirmed as fishermen and you do not affirm fishermen by trying to make them into shepherds or cattlemen.

In the same way, God does not affirm queer people by trying to make them straight. God does not affirm queer people in the same way the Lord affirms straight people.

  • The nets of life become too full. There are many reasons why people change vocations midway through their working careers. Economic recession, business failure, health concerns, or just wanting a change are reasons frequently given. A theme a person can hear among people who entered a helping profession or the ministry later in life is seeking more fulfillment. When the excitement of success wears thin, people start to look for more lasting accomplishments in life. And they see those lasting accomplishments not in building large buildings, gaining wealth or fame, but in touching lives.

  • There is something people must understand before they are able to hear the call of God. In the story, the nets became so full, the nets started to break. When the nets of life become so full, the nets are stretched beyond their limits and the nets start to break, Jesus is there. At times when life is not easy, good, or pleasant God is present. Jesus is present. The Spirit is present. God is there when the nets of life are empty, and when the nets of life are bursting at the seams.

Today, Jesus is calling you to be fish for people. The old radio teacher, J. Vernon McGee is quoted as saying, “Every pulpit is a fishing boat, a place to give out the Word of God and attempt to catch fish.”6

I am going to take that one beyond the quote and I don't think Vernon McGee would mind. Every work place, every school, every home, every place a person goes who lets the Spirit of God move in his or her life is a fishing boat, a place where you can attempt to catch fish.

The call to fish people is not a call to in-your-face evangelism, handing out tracks, or thumping the Bible. The call is to share your faith by touching lives. In many cases, it will involve practical things that make life a little less difficult for those who are struggling. The call is also to show kindness, respect, and hospitality. And in some cases, the call is to verbally share about your faith with somebody.

Fish for God today, and every day, in all you do.


1Adam Clarke. “Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible.” e-Sword.  (Software Program.  Franklin, TN:  Equipping Ministries Foundation, 2000)

2Alberta Barnes. “Barnes' Notes on the Bible.” e-Sword. (Software Program. Franklin, TN: Equipping Ministries Foundation, 2000)

3John Gill. “John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible.” e-Sword. (Software Program. Franklin, TN: Equipping Ministries Foundation, 2000)

4Clarke, e-Sword. (Software Program)

5William Neil. William Neil's One Volume Bible Commentary. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1976), 390.

6Warren W. Wiersbe. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Vol. 1 (Wheaton Illinois: Victor Books, 1989),

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