Simon stood up carefully, pressing his hands into his lower back. He could feel every muscle, tight and cramping, sore from the long night of bending and pulling. Squatting again by the lapping shore-water, he reached down to pick up the fishing net, scrubbing and picking at the lengths of intertwined vegetation.
At least the others shared in the tasks, their joint vessels standing empty by the lake shore of Gennesaret. Lake fishing wasn't a one man job, it took a team of people to manage the boat, pull the nets, and clean up after the night.
This morning was unusual—not in the lack of a catch, that happened often enough, but in the crowd of people watching and thronging around. Several times he found himself motioning small children away from playing with the nets, tangling and tugging on them, making it harder to finish the chore. He wanted to get the job finished and to go home to rest.
A large shadow fell across his hands in the early morning sunlight, and Simon looked up to see a man, simple and plain, gazing down at him. Even as he did, the people swarmed closer and closer, trampling the nets and pressing into him, pushing and asking questions.
Simon looked at the growing multitude, and at his boat. Making a quick assessment of the situation, he got up, motioned to the man to climb in, and they set out a little from the shore. If they couldn't finish their job on land, he may as well wait until the crowd dispersed.
Instead, the man began to teach the crowd, his voice carrying clearly over the water, the people quieting and sitting along the shore. When he was finished, he turned to Simon and said, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
Simon looked at Jesus, his thoughts in a turmoil. He was tired, and Jesus didn't know fishing. He was a master, a rabbi, a teacher of the Law. And they'd already tried-- it just wasn't a good time for fishing. And deep water? That wasn't where they fished. Their small boats weren't made well for deep sea fishing.
But in that moment, he made a decision. If only to show Jesus that it was pointless, they would go out again. “Master, we have worked hard all night and caught nothing; but because you say so, I will let down the net.”
Simon motioned to the others, whose faces mirrored his own frustration and weary defeat. They picked up the oars and set out into the deep water, the waves increasingly swelling and splashing up over the sides. A little water in the boats would be fine, Simon knew. Too much and they would capsize.
Simon and his partners picked up the large net and lowered it down into the water. Within moments the weight of the net increased and it became more and more difficult to hold on. Simon leaned over the edge, careful to keep the majority of the weight of his lower body within the boat. The ropes began to strain. At the corners, he could see them start to unravel and the cords start to snap.
Signaling to their partners to come and help, the second boat sidled alongside, and together they heaved the load into both boats, filling them and causing the hulls to sink lower in the water. With the rocking swells, Simon saw the boats begin to take on more water.
Fear, amazement and a raw sense of insufficiency, more than that--of defilement, gripped Simon's heart. He fell down at Jesus' knees in the boat. “Go away from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord!”
Jesus looked at Simon, and knew the magnitude of Simon's heartache and vulnerability. What Simon was now, he would no longer be. A picture of who Simon would become, transformed by Love, seeped into the voice of Jesus, now soft with compassion and hope: “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” (Luke 5:1-11)
Launch out into the deep
Halley Faville lives with her husband and children in their mountain home in Oregon.