The gospel story this morning is about fishing and unreasonable requests (LK 5: 1-11). There’s Jesus who has obviously been doing his itinerant teaching for awhile because the crowd is “pressing in on him” as he is speaking near the lake of Gennesaret. There are the fishermen, Simon and his partners, James and John, who have been fishing all night without catching anything; they’re busy washing their nets – and probably very tired. The first request of Jesus seems a little inconsiderate if he knew anything about what kind of night the fishermen had just had; he just gets in to the boat and asks Simon to put out a little from shore where he proceeds to continue his teaching. There’s no dialogue about that request. When the teaching is over, however, Jesus gets what seems to Simon (and probably every fisherman on the shore) somewhat more unreasonable when he tells him to go deeper and lower the nets for a catch. In the gospel Simon just reminds Jesus that they’ve been out there all night having caught nothing but then acquiesces saying, “…but at your command, I will lower the nets.” I think it was probably rather more like the words of a song I know describing this situation where they’re asked to cast their nets to the other side and “with nothing short of astonishment, say “Lord, don’t you think we’ve tried?!” Whatever the response – and whether from fatigue or a sense of what crowds have been saying about Jesus or just to show Jesus the futility of his request, Simon does it and the nets are so full of fish that he has to call for help to pull them up.
Jesus uses this miracle as a lead-in to the call of Simon, the one who becomes Peter, the Rock. He says, “From now on, you will be catching men.” (and women and children…) He tells him not to be afraid of miracles – and presumably all the other challenges he and his colleagues will encounter. Good advice, as on that morning fishing had become a risky business.
Sometimes we come up against seemingly unreasonable directives that (unbeknownst to us) hold great rewards if only we can take the risk to go deeper than we have ever gone in carrying out the requests. I’m hoping, with all the young risk takers who have returned to school this week, to be brave enough to cast a wider net this time – maybe even jump out of the boat with Peter…but that’s another story for another day.