First steps

Luke 5:1-7 NIV
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

The more I think about this story, the more I see in it elements of every Christian’s life, at least the first steps of the spiritual journey. Simon had presumably already met Jesus: in the previous chapter Luke mentions the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law of a fever. It seems likely that Simon and Jesus would have exchanged some words that day. What they said and how Jesus’ words then affected Simon can only be imagined.

Jesus’ extraordinary impact

Jesus was someone who kept drawing crowds when he spoke and there must have been a reason for that. I believe it was the extraordinary power of his words, which somehow pierced the very hearts of the people Jesus met, and I believe that Simon was impacted in the same way as many others. I imagine that Simon had been profoundly moved by his previous meeting with Jesus, and that meeting primed him for what came next.

Here, a day or two later, Simon meets Jesus again. It was not an easy day for Simon, who was tired, disappointed, and worried after a hard and frustrating night’s work. He and his companions had pulled up their boats after a bad night’s fishing, and were cleaning their nets. They were aware of Jesus speaking to a crowd a short distance away, but may not have been able to hear what he was saying. Suddenly Jesus was coming towards them, and then he made a strange request. He asked to be able to use Simon’s boat as a preaching platform.

Jesus enters our world

That was typical of Jesus. Not waiting for Simon to come to him, he entered Simon’s world. He does the same with us, steps into our world, and gives us the chance to be involved in his program. The Jesus who at first was just a person “out there” who impressed us with his words and actions, is suddenly a part of our lives. We are challenged not just to observe, but to join in. Jesus challenged Simon to give him a platform from which to speak, and his challenge to us is the same: to give him a space, a platform, in our lives.

Simon did not have to say yes. He was tired and frustrated. He may well have felt he had a valid excuse to say no on that particular day. But for whatever reason, and I presume it was because of Jesus’ previous impact on Simon’s life, he said yes. Jesus was able to preach his message from the deck of Simon’s boat. Simon had gone from spectator to participant. He had taken the first step on the journey of faith.

We do not have to say yes either, but this first step makes possible the next. It allows Jesus to take us further. We will never go anywhere until we are willing to take the first step.

Into deeper water

But it does not end there. Every journey is made of many steps, and every step involves a decision. For Simon the next challenge was to “put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch.” The deep water for Simon involved allowing Jesus to intervene in his work, in a way that must have seemed a little crazy to Simon.

It would have been even easier to justify a “no” at this stage. Why should Simon let Jesus tell him how to do his job? Simon was the expert; Jesus was a carpenter.

I can react that when Jesus starts interfering in my world, the place where I am in charge, in control, secure and safe in doing things my way. It is easy to take offense. My pride gets in the way. Who does Jesus think he is, telling me how I should do my job? I have the education and experience. Why should I listen to Jesus?

Saying yes to Jesus

If Simon had similar thoughts, they are not recorded. He simply said yes again. Jesus’ suggestion was slightly crazy and Simon was risking getting egg on his face. It would be embarrassing if he did what Jesus asked and nothing different happened. He could easily have pulled out at this stage. So why did Simon say yes?

“Because YOU say so, I will let down the nets,” is what Simon said. Simon had begun to trust Jesus. He would not do this thing for just anyone, but he would for Jesus, because he had started to understand that Jesus wanted good things for him and that he must have a good reason for asking him to do something that was risky, even if the only risk on this occasion was professional embarrassment.

Then the miracle happens. The bumper catch. Simon is amazed, overwhelmed, suddenly aware that Jesus is not just a nice guy with uncanny insight into people, but that he is somehow divine. God.

Pathway to miracles

The pathway to the miraculous involves saying yes to Jesus. Saying yes can be difficult, scary. When Jesus places a new challenge before us it is usually easier to say no, to retreat into our comfort zone, to remain where we feel safe and secure. We know we can have a good life there. But if we can trust him it can open up a whole new world, a world of wonder and amazement, a world where miracles happen.

Where am I on that journey? Where are you? Have I dared to say yes to Jesus? Am I faced with the next challenge, and wondering whether to say yes? Should I take the next step? Am I willing to trust Jesus?

Simon said yes. His world was turned upside down. Nothing was ever the same.

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