Since we’re running a few gardening-related posts (of course we are), I thought I’d bring back some of my favorites as well. Anytime I talk about an encounter with Jesus it’s a favorite, because that’s the best possible things to have happen. Even when, as this person finds out, it leaves you a little scared, and a lot wet.
I am a gardener, but a haphazard one at best. I forget where I plant things and what I already bought. I dig up seeds my husband has planted that I didn’t know about. I plant and replant the same spots, with little patience to ensure success.
Last year, I threw some cutting flower seeds in a circular patch that had been a dumping ground for weeds, cardboard, and old stalks. I didn’t expect much. I hadn’t put much into it.
The ensuing display of orange zinnias, blue cornflowers, and yellow marigolds lit up the side yard for months. Their exorbitance only exacerbated my lack of effort.
I received a huge bonus for minimal exertion, and I felt the joy of it. So I get Peter a little bit in today’s encounter with Jesus.
When Jesus had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”
“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.
When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him.
Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus. (Luke 5.4-11)
I know exactly how Peter felt. He had blown it. He knew he had. He knew his attitude hadn’t been grateful or trusting or anything approximating appropriate about the whole re-fishing gig. He knew Jesus blessed him anyway. And he fell on his face in a stunned mix of amazement and repentance.
This Jesus in this encounter takes our little obedience and lavishes boatloads (literally) of goodness on us.
And just look at how he does it.
He does it despite the probability that it is not possible
There were no fish out there. The experts had certified it. Who would doubt the fishermen’s word that fish were not biting? I wouldn’t. The only fish I’ve ever caught in my life was a tiny sunfish at Girl Scout camp that I caught with an old hook and a bread dough ball. Both my father and my husband attest that fishing and my ability to sit in one spot doing nothing but staring at water do not comingle.
But Jesus blatantly ignores the experts and sends them out anyway. Go fish. Because I said so. Because I believe you can find fish if you follow my voice and do what I say. I believe that crazy thing you dream about can happen if you’re in the boat with me.
He does it despite the attitude of the givee
Jesus: Go out and put the nets down for fish again.
Peter: OK, Jesus, we already tried that, but WhatEVER, dude.
Because you know that was exactly the tone of his voice.
And how often has that been my tone when dealing with that hard thing Jesus tells me to do that I just Do. Not. Want. To. Do? OK God, whatever. I’ll do it. But I won’t be Cheery-Dearie while I do. And then . . . the boats are swamped with goodness anyway.
Because he is good.
He does not, as many armchair theologians would imply, give to us after we have attained a certain grade for righteousness. He does not keep score of how often we have a bad attitude toward obedience. He surprises the churlish among us with kindness. It’s his kindness, after all, that leads to repentance (Romans 2.4). True here with Peter, no? So true.
He does it with an eye toward something more
Along with the fish he offers what is certainly more important and harder to offer unsparingly. He offers forgiveness, patience, and a new purpose.
He wants to call these fishermen, and us, toward something greater than fish. The lavish generosity is about His love and character, to be sure. He gives good gifts simply because He is good. Period.
But it is also about His kingdom and His plans for it. For us. He calls us to head out into the waters of his kingdom, fishing for people’s hearts. Fishing for justice. Fishing for forgiveness. Fishing for sacrifice and healing and love.
He demonstrates in this one act of generosity that the returns will be mind-boggling.
What does this encounter mean for us?
- Can’t we love a Jesus who gives because it’s in his nature to give, not because he’s keeping a chart of what we deserve?
- Can’t we love a Jesus who believes in the seemingly impossible for us?
- Can’t we love a Jesus who cares so much more about our real calling, what our hearts beat for and our souls ache for, than he does our nine-to-five job? Who gives us free rein to pursue that with all our hearts because that is what defines who we are, not our title or position? (Although yes, we still need a job, because food.)