As the guys are washing up, Jesus climbs into their boat and calls to Simon to push him out a little from the shore. Up to this point, we know very little about Simon. Yes, he will go on to become the Apostle Peter, but right now he’s just a tired, and unsuccessful fisherman. The only reason Jesus calls him is because Simon has something Jesus needs...a boat.
This tells me that Jesus doesn’t call us because we are special or extraordinary. It doesn’t matter if we are successful or failures. Jesus calls out to us all because we all have something he needs.
As Simon is about to find out, Jesus doesn’t just need a pulpit to preach from. He needs a crew. So, he calls on this fisherman once again and asks for another favor.
He says, “Take me out into the deep water and get your nets dirty again.” This is a ask. First of all, those nets had just been cleaned and put away. The guys want to go home, go to bed and forget about the night. Still, they answer Jesus’ call.
Reading something by Amy Ziettlow, I learned their ancient nets were handmade out of flax or linen, two kinds of material which could tear easily. They were fragile and required careful handling to properly maintain them. Second to the boat, a net was vital to the fisherman’s livelihood.
The crew had just finished cleaning their nets and carefully rolled them up for the day when Jesus calls, asking them to take on the risk of damaging them. Simon could have easily refused. James and John could have taken their empty buckets and tired butt’s home. But they don’t. Jesus calls them and for some reason they acquiesce.
Take a moment to think about the times Jesus has called out to you. How did you respond? Think about the times you’ve walked past someone in need and ignored their plea for help. How many times have you pretended not to hear when someone is being mistreated?
Like I said, this is a big ask. You see Jesus isn’t asking these guys to keep the boat steady a few feet from shore. He’s asking them to go with him out into the deep – the last place most of us want to be. And they go.
It’s out there, in the deep unknown, Jesus opens their eyes. As Rice notes, “What was once the place of frustration and futility becomes a place of abundance, discovery, and sustenance.” Jesus called them to act, and they did. And the result is overwhelming.
When they realize the magnitude of this discovery, they begin to sink. You don’t have to be a sailor to know that sinking is never a good sign – especially far away from shore. Simon and company find themselves in deep water, figuratively and actually.
Metaphorically speaking, Jesus is asking these guys to risk their lives by leaving the shallow shoreline, and make a great sacrifice, to cast their old way of doing things out in the deep waters for a new way of life… one of abundance.
Yet in reality they had to figure out whether or not to drop their nets, and the safety and security that is in them, to do what Jesus is asking. This scares Simon, who is able to see the face of God in Jesus.
This terrifies him because he believes he is not worthy of such a gift. Like the prophet Isaiah who sees God and shouts, “Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips!” Or Paul who proclaims, “I am unfit to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church.” Just as Jesus called him worthy, so too has Jesus called Simon, James and John worthy.
Our Lord tells his terrified crew, “Do not be afraid.” Four words we should cling to today. Because here’s the thing to remember:
Your worth is not based on what you’ve done, but on what Jesus has done for you and me.
Jesus knows who you are, warts and all. He knows what it’s like to be human and carry the pain and struggles of life. He knows what people are capable of - both good and bad. And still, Jesus calls us because we have something he needs.
This should make us all a little afraid, if only because Jesus is calling us out into the depths of our faith and asking us to truly follow him - the living word of God.
It doesn’t matter if you think you’re worthy enough or good enough or strong enough Jesus is calling and offering you all the abundance of grace and love that God has to give. What matters is how you answer. Will you acquiesce when he tells you to “Let your nets go because from now on you’ll be catching people”?
What Jesus needs is not a boat, bravery, or bravado. Jesus needs hands that can help. Hearts that can heal. And I believe that is something we all have to give.
On those days when I am ready to call it quits, I am reminded that Jesus is not calling me to be perfect. He is simply calling me to be present, so that his presence can be seen.
Jesus needs people like you and me, people who are willing to go out into the deep unknown and live our faith out in the world so that others might benefit from it.
When Simon and the Zebedee brothers got their boat to shore, Luke said, “they left everything and followed him.” Jesus called and they answered – leaving everything that defined who they once were – their nets, their boat, their old fears, and concerns. They left their old way of life for a new life with Jesus. A decision that must have seemed futile to many.
Because the disciples answered his call, we are here this morning as the church, the very holy and sacred body of Christ. As the visible presence of his sacred body, we are called to take him into Anamesa. Because it’s in that space between his call and our answer where we find people who are suffering.
It’s in that space out there in the deep unknown where wars and threats of war continue. Out there is famine, poverty and children who are suffering. There are widows still all alone in their pain. Prisoners trapped in their past. Folks who are lost, frustrated, angry, and in need of any kind of miracle in their life.
Jesus is calling us to be that miracle.
You see, fishing for people is not just about God’s abundant provision; it’s about bringing Christ into magnificent beauty and unimaginable ugliness that makes us want to give up.
Three tired and disheartened people met Jesus and found abundant life. They heard his call. And answered it.
And their world, and even our world, changed for the better. Imagine what we can do in Anamesa, if we don’t give up, throw in the towel, and call it a day. But instead answer the call of Christ to be his hands and heart in our homes and communities.
For it’s in those sacred spaces we not only hear Jesus calling but we see him in our midst and find our true worth.
Rice, Whitney. The Deep Water. January 31, 2022 (accessed on February 4, 2022)
Ziettlow, Amy. Living By The Word. Christian Century, January 26, 2022.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”