When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4)
This command was given to Simon Peter. It took place by the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was pressed by the crowd, so to create a situation in which they could all see and hear Him, He got into Simon’s boat, asking him to put out a little from the land. Then He sat down and talked to the people from the boat.
When he was through speaking, he said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon hesitated for a moment before he obeyed this command. Maybe he thought he knew more about fishing than did this strange man. Fishing was his business. “Master,” he answered, “we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (v. 5).
Maybe the teaching Simon had just heard made him feel he should do what Jesus commanded. So they pushed out into the deep, and when they let down their nets, they had such a huge catch of fish that the nets began to break. They beckoned to their partners in another boat to come and help them. Verse 10 in this same account says that James and John were their partners, and came over to help. They filled both boats until they were about to sink. Peter and all who were with him were astonished at the size of the catch they had taken. The account says they forsook all and followed Jesus. They had let Jesus use their boat, and He rewarded them. But this was more than a thank you for the use of the boat; it also contributed to their life support so they could now give their lives to Jesus. When Simon Peter saw this, he was so convinced that this man Jesus was extraordinary that he fell down before Him and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man” (v. 8)!
While this command was given to a specific person in a certain situation and is not to all people for all times, it has been quoted many times to illustrate a truth that is often the theme of missionary conferences. There is much to be learned from the story of this command. First, Jesus is interested in our temporal needs. He is willing to give practical help. Second, it will be rewarding for us to do what Jesus suggests even if we have tried before and failed—even if it seems unreasonable to try one more time.
There were other instances when Jesus showed an uncanny knowledge of fish. Remember when He sent Peter to find a coin in the mouth of a fish so they could pay their taxes? (See Matthew
17:26–27.) After His resurrection, Jesus again stood by this same sea and told His disciples to let their nets down on the right side of the boat, and when they did they received a huge catch (John
21:4–7). Although Jesus became a man, He was obviously still God and was all knowing. He would have been a great friend to take on a fishing trip!
Billy Graham had an experience like Peter’s experience. He was coming to Los Angeles to conduct an evangelistic crusade in 1950. He had been through many evangelistic meetings before with varying degrees of success. As he and his friend and associate Grady Wilson were driving through the desert, Billy asked Grady to drive to the side of the road. There, for some period of time, Billy prayed. Jesus seemed to be saying to him, “Launch out into the deep.” He could have argued that he had tried before and nothing special had happened. But in obedience, they went to Los Angeles, hired a big tent, and erected it in a major downtown district. The meeting went many weeks longer than planned, and God gave Billy such a large catch that the nets almost broke.
William Carey, the pioneer of the modern missionary movement, said, “Attempt great things for God and expect great things from God.” Many leaders of great missionary advances have followed that advice.
The promise of this command is a large reward. The warning is that if we fail to obey Jesus, maybe because of past failures, we will miss the great reward.
Lord Jesus, help me to stay alert for Your voice so I can obey when You tell me to launch out. I pray I will not miss the blessing You have for me by failing to obey. Give me the courage to launch into deep water when You are the One calling me there. Thank You for taking care of all my needs as I walk in obedience to Your Word.
–Adapted from Encountering Jesus: Praying the Commands of Christ into Your Life by Norval Hadley. This book is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount.
Praise Jesus as your King and husband, the bridegroom of the church (Eph. 5:25-27). Give thanks for his power to wash you and make you clean and holy, radiant and without stain or wrinkle. Confess any impure thoughts you may have had this week. Commit yourself to purifying yourself “from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (2 Cor. 7:1). Ask God to help you think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable (Phil. 4:8).
Pray for pastors who work with couples experiencing marital problems. Ask God to give them the wisdom to counsel effectively and the strength to bear this heavy burden.
“They who have steeped their soul in prayer can every anguish calmly bear.” —Richard M. Milnes