And the Net Brake...
Text: Luke 5:1-11
Since the Holy Spirit “speaketh expressly” (1 Tim 4:1), we must be careful not to add anything to the revelation of God’s word (Deut 4:2, Rev 22:18, Prov 30:5; 2 Pet 1:3). However, it is possible to find some of the “old paths” in the setting of some unusual Bible scenery as in our text.
The story begins as just a day of common events on Galilee’s shore. Fishermen usually washed their nets when the fishing was over. The event recorded is noteworthy only because of the miracle our Lord performed there. We focus on the results of His miracle: and “their nets began to break.” Focus on the net being torn by the weight of the fish, yet still able to hold the fish. Look at the net pulled to the very limits of its endurance by a miracle of our Lord.
The account begins with (1) an net empty without Jesus -an empty net which serves as a challenge to Simon’s faith. "Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing” (Luke 5:5). Sometimes, we, like Peter, work hard but come up empty. Sometimes all was vanity and there was no profit (Eccl 2:11, 18-20). How futile are our efforts when in them the Lord is not there! Unless we labor with the blessing of God, our labors are in vain (Ps 127:1). They had labored, caught nothing, and “called it a night.”
But later the Lord commanded “Let down the nets again.” The command was not hard. Peter knew how it was done. The challenge was the night’s empty nets. Did Peter think it would do any good to do it again?
How often do we face the same challenge? We are commanded righteousness. We are commanded to worship. We are commanded to reprove, rebuke and exhort. We are commanded to go and teach others the gospel. We are even commanded to withdraw from the disorderly. Where is the challenge? The challenge is that we really think that what is commanded of the Lord will not work. The challenge is to ignore human experience, and discouragement, and do it anyway.
(2) The broken net becomes the tool of an obedient faith... or the tool of faithful obedience. “At your bidding I will” (Luke 5:5). There was no other good reason. It was Peter’s faith; the substance of things hoped for and it is the evidence of things unseen. Faith says “just because You say so, I will do it.” And if I do it for that reason, success will come.
The Bible is consistent on the success with comes after obedience.. and obedience as just a matter of doing what God has said. For example, in 2 kings 5:10-14, Naaman was cleansed after he washed, not when he was angry. The challenge for Naaman was to actually do what was commanded. Again, Ezekiel wrote “So I prophesied as I was commanded” (Ezek 37:4-7). In Luke 6:46-48, our Lord admonished us to be doers of His word. Doing what He commands makes us His friends (John 15:14).
Many preachers today say very little about “obedience to the word of God.” We must understand that a person who is not doing God’s will because it is God’s will is not a person of faith. The empty net became the instrument of obedience because of faith. Without faith in the command of Jesus, Peter had little reason to let down the nets again.
But “when they had done this,” many fish were enclosed and the nets began to break (v 6) to the point that when both boats were filled, they began to sink (v 7).
So (3) the net brake and became the tool of God’s work. Recall that God never performed a miracle in some incomplete or inferior way. The net, breaking and full of fish, tells us who Jesus is: the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:30-31). The extreme catch amazed the fishermen. They knew what was normal, and what had been a good day; but this catch was much more.
And the broken net also told Peter who he was in the presence of Jesus: “I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Verse 8). If he ever did, how could Peter ever doubt the Christ? Peter’s statement reminds us of the unworthy centurion (Matt 8:8), and of Isaiah’s words in Isa 6:5. Surely, no man, here on earth or in eternity deserves to be in the presence of the Holy God.
The account ends with them leaving everything and following Jesus (Luke 5:10-11). So finally (4) we see the nets forsaken for them to go fishing for men. As fishermen who fished each day hoping for more and larger fish, they began that day to live in pursuit for a much more valuable catch - a world of men. The nets then took in Peter’s heart the place that all things ought to be taking in our lives; left behind as futility of labor under the sun, for things far more eternal.
Jesus plainly said that they were going fishing for men. That would be a new kind of fishing, using a new kind of net to catch a world of “sinful men”... the gospel of Jesus (John 20:31). And the sea is not Galilee; but the whole world (Mark 16:15-16). It’s a quantum leap from “cast down the net” to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
Do we, like Peter, marvel at the wondrous works of God; yet fail to reach the potential of doing for him what we are able to do..because we do not see the bigger picture? Let us not miss the difference between the “fish” and “catching men.” If you caught every fish in every sea, all you would have would be a large mess of fish. In contrast, Jesus was speaking of catching men! When fish are caught, they die and men eat them. But when sinful and already dead men are caught, they are saved (Eph 2:1-2). Men, unlike fish, are caught for the destiny of life (John 10:10; 20:31). And men are of far more value than all the fish (Matt 16:26).
Let us also forsake the broken net and our boats, for the lasting spiritual opportunities to be fishers of men! (Matt 6:31-34)