There is so much to ponder in Luke’s version of the call of the first disciples. (LK 5:1-11) One might first think of Jesus as rather presumptuous. There were two boats by the lake whose owners were washing their nets after a night of fishing when Jesus steps into the one belonging to Simon and asks him to put out a bit from shore – a better vantage point from which to teach the crowds that were pressing in on him. Simon says nothing about being tired or disappointed that they hadn’t caught anything; he just does what Jesus asks. The encounter gets more challenging, however, when Jesus finishes his teaching and says to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” At that Simon has to speak (“We’ve worked hard all night and have caught nothing.”), but it seems that his heart is already softened to Jesus. (“…but at your command I will lower the nets.”) We all know the end of the story: so great a catch of fish that the nets are tearing and Simon’s regret that he had even hesitated before acquiescing to the request of Jesus. (“Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”)
Clearly, the point of this story was not about fish but rather about the work of those who willingly “left everything and followed him” as a result of the fishing expedition. Sometimes a lazy boat ride on a placid lake can be a very peaceful and meaningful experience. At other times, however, we may need to be courageous enough to set out into deep waters in order to understand the depth of our call to serve. It’s a risk, as we know from later gospel stories, but we’ll never know the final reward unless we start rowing.