- I like to think of fishing as something that is to be relaxing. I want a folding chair and a book when I fish. Cast out the line, sit down, and read a book until something bites. When I was a child, I liked placing the red and white bobbers on the fishing line. Then, when I saw the bobber go under the water, I knew to pull the line. Most of us today also view fishing as something to do recreationally.
- But being a fisherman in the first century was a tough life and required hard labor. Casting out their boats into the Sea of Galilee, first century fisherman would stand on the edge of the boat and cast large nets into the water and then haul the nets back in. For hours and hours a fisherman would continue to cast nets into the water. This was not a one-man job for the work was laborious. With a catch of fish, a few men would be required to lift the weight of the fish into the boat.
- One thing I hated about fishing is the prospect of catching nothing. Spending hours fishing only to come home empty-handed is a great disappointment. Even worse is when you look around and see others catching fish. So you decide to move to that spot and it dries up. So you keep moving, hoping to catch fish, but to no avail. But as a fisherman in the first century, a lack of fish was not only a disappointment but was the loss of a paycheck. Working as a fisherman is what put money in their pockets and food on the table.
- It has been one of those disappointing days for Simon Peter and his men. They have worked all night long, casting their nets into the sea, but have caught nothing. Peter and the other are exhausted after working all night. Now it is morning and they finally call it quits. They bring the boats into shore and begin washing their nets.
I. Peter and Jesus
A. The futility of life
- Meanwhile, Jesus is preaching by the Sea of Galilee (Gennesaret). The crowds are pressing against Jesus to the point that he is backed to the waters of the sea. Jesus sees two boats near him. He gets in one of the boats and asks Simon Peter to push out a little from land. Jesus then sits down and continues teaching the crowds. Peter has willingly helped out Jesus from the thronging and pressing crowds. Peter then also listens to the teachings of Jesus as he has put the boat out while Jesus speaks.
- When Jesus finished speaking, he tells Simon Peter to put out to the deep water and let down his nets for a catch. Feel the despair and disappointment in Peter’s words as he tells Jesus that they have worked hard all night and have caught nothing. It is not hard to read into the words Peter is saying to Jesus. First, Peter and his men are tired. They have worked hard all night. They are exhausted. It is time to go rest and try again another night. Second, they have finished all night and caught nothing. Peter is implying that going out this one time is not going to be profitable. Peter may be thinking, “This carpenter thinks we are just going to go out to the deep, catch some fish, and come back in. But fishing is no good today. We are wasting our time.”
- All of us have had bad days like this. We have had days where we look at life and see complete emptiness. We have had times when we feel that we are wasting our time. We have had days when we are discouraged and frustrated. Things did not go how we had hoped they would go. We have had high expectations fall in flames. We may have times when we think the Preacher of Ecclesiastes was looking at our lives when he exclaimed, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!” The Preacher of Ecclesiastes went on to say that all things that are done on the earth is like chasing after the wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14).
- We call it a dog chasing his tail. We feel like we are going around in circles. For all of our efforts and for all our time, we are not getting anywhere. We try to make more money only to never have more saved. We try to improve our talents only to never receive the promotion. We try to upgrade our possessions only to have more headaches and more things break. We become dismayed in life and wonder what is the point?
- With great resignation, Peter says that because of Jesus’ request, he will go let down the nets. “It won’t do any good, but I will do what you say.” Peter has absolutely no expectations here, except failure. “I am only doing this because you say so, Jesus. But when I pull these nets back up, I am going to tell you that I told you so.”
B. Things Change With Jesus
- One final time, Peter and his men let down the nets. Suddenly, they felt a pull like they have never felt before on those nets. The pull on the nets is so great that the nets are beginning to tear. They signal for the other boat to come over and help them get the nets up with all these fish. With the extra men, they begin to pull up the nets. But there are so many fish in the nets that they fill both boats and they begin to sink.
- I would imagine that if the camera were to pan to Jesus in this event, we would see a little smirk from Jesus. The unimaginable has just taken place. Peter and his crew have worked hard, fishing all night long, and did not catch one fish. It the middle of the daytime, Jesus tells them to go out and they immediately catch two boatloads of fish. I do not suppose these fishermen have ever seen enough fish caught in the nets to fill two boats to the point of sinking!
- How different things can be in life when Jesus is on the boat! How dramatic the results can be when Jesus is with you on your journey! It would be useful to recount to you all the times we have seen God answer our prayers for spiritual and physical needs. We have had people written off by doctors, given only days to live. I have seen doctors shake their heads, unable to explain why a recovery took place. I have seen lives change from discouragement, disappointment, and futility to purposeful, energized lives with Jesus.
- Peter believed trying again was a waste of time. Why should this time be different than the last two thousand times they had let down the nets? It will be different because Jesus with you. “All things are possible with God” (Matthew 19:26).
- Simon Peter sees what is happening and falls at Jesus’ feet. Peter and all those with him were astounded and amazed at the catch of fish they took. We cannot simply visualize that these fishermen caught some fish that they were unable to catch that night. That is only part of the amazement. But majority of the awe comes from the quantity of fish that came up in the nets. No one had ever seen anything like that before. James and John are also amazed at what has taken place. Peter, while on his knees, says, “Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord!” Peter now sees his inferiority and recognizes that he is in the presence of the power of God. All Peter can say is that he does not deserve to be around someone like Jesus. But Jesus responds to not fear for it was time to become fishers of men. They bring the boats back to land and Peter and his men leave everything and follow Jesus.
C. Try again
- I appreciate so much the soft words of Jesus to Peter, who realizes his shortcomings. Jesus does not tell Peter to go away. Rather, Jesus says, “Let’s try again.” Jesus would have to say these words many times to Peter during the handful of years they were together on the earth.
- On one occasion (Matthew 14:22-32) the disciples are in the boat on the same lake, trying to row against the wind to reach shore. Jesus walks out on the water to them. The disciples are afraid, believing they are seeing a ghost. Jesus tells the disciples to not fear for it is him. Peter responds that if it truly is him, to command him to come to Jesus on the water. Jesus says, “Come” and Peter walks on the water toward Jesus. But when Peter saw the wind, he became afraid and began to sink. Jesus reaches out his hand and saves him from sinking, declaring, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” But Jesus does not send Peter home for his failure, but tells Peter to try again.
- On another occasion (Mark 8:31-33), Jesus explains to his disciples that he must suffer many things, be rejected, killed, and rise again three days later. Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to rebuke Him. But Jesus rebuked Peter saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” But rather than send Peter away for yet another failure, Jesus says to try again.
- On yet another occasion Jesus predicts that Peter will deny him three times before the rooster crows twice. Peter boldly declares that even if he must die with Jesus, he will never disown him (Mark 14:29-31). However, on the night of Jesus’ arrest, in a matter of a couple hours Peter denied Jesus three times. On the third denial, Jesus turned and looked straight at Peter. But rather than disown Peter though Peter disowned him, Jesus continues to say, “Try again.”
- In John 21 we read about the disciples going out to fish all night and catching nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus is on the shore (though the disciples did not recognize him) and calls out to the disciples to cast their net on the right side of the boat. Now, logically, this makes no sense. Why would the disciples catch fish any better on one side of this little boat than the other? But when they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Only then did they realize it was the Lord. But Jesus does not scratch his head, wondering if he has taught these disciples anything. He continues to tell them to try again.
- Even later on (Galatians 2:11-16), well after the death and resurrection of Jesus, Peter is caught in hypocrisy concerning the Gentiles. Peter would remove himself from the Gentiles for fear of the circumcision group. Paul had to rebuke Peter for his actions. Yet, Peter was not asked to throw in the towel. Peter did not have to stop being an apostle nor a disciple. He just had to try again.
- How many chances would you have given Peter? Perhaps we will allow that Peter did not believe Jesus about letting down the nets again. Would you have given Peter another chance after lacking the faith to walk to Jesus, being afraid of the wind when Jesus was right there with him? But would you have given Peter another chance after pulling you aside and rebuking you, even though it was Peter who was in the wrong? Would you have given Peter another chance after denying being your disciple three times in span of only a couple hours? Would we have forgiven Peter the apostles for his hypocrisy concerning the Gentiles? How many chances will Jesus give? Jesus will give you as many chances as you need, as long as you give your whole heart to serve God. Peter always served fully with his heart. He did nothing half-heartedly.
II. It Is Not Too Late To Try Again
A. To believers
- To those who are have already been immersed in water for the forgiveness of your sins, allow me to make a few remarks to you. We can be discouraged by our failures in our walk with God. Just like Peter, we come up short of what we know we ought to be doing in our lives. We may be hypocritical in our lives, showing up for services, but not devoting our lives to trusting Jesus. We have not put in the effort to know God’s will. We may not be praying the way we know we should. We may have let earthly responsibilities interfere with our service to the Lord. It is not too late to start over and try again.
- We may be failing in conquering sins. We may have weaknesses and temptations that continually cause us to stumble. Our lifestyle may be denying Jesus, that no one would look at us and know that we are a Christian. Our very words may deny Jesus, not willing to stand up for God and defend His truth. Do not be discouraged. Try again. Instead of giving up and deciding to throw in the towel, keep trying harder. We cannot wear Jesus out. If Peter was allowed to continue coming back to the Lord after his failures, we can too.
- Have you not been the person Jesus wants you to be in your relationships? Have you not been a trustworthy person with your friends? Try again. Have you not been the spouse you ought to be, thinking about the other above ourselves? Try again. Have you not been the parent you need to be to your children, giving them the love and time they need? Try again. Have you not been showing the light of Jesus to your co-workers. Try again. It is not too late to try again.
B. To unbelievers
- If you have not decided to follow Jesus Christ and have not been immersed in water for the forgiveness of sins, allow me a few words to you as well. Do you look at life and find it discouraging? Do you feel that life is futile and your actions seem to not get him anywhere? Are you ready to throw up your hands toward life, wondering what is the point?
- Jesus encourages you to try again. Like Peter, you may ask and wonder, “what is the point?” Try again, but this time with Jesus on the boat. Try again, this time trusting Jesus. Try again, this time obeying Christ’s words. Try again, this time letting Christ lead your life. Quit trying to do things by yourself. Put an end to the feeling of futility, frustration, and emptiness by letting Jesus lead your life.
- The Preacher of Ecclesiastes tried all the thing that are available in this world. Here is his conclusion: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole of man” (Eccl 12:13). Life without God is vanity and like chasing the wind. But following God fills our voids and makes us complete.