Often times we encounter experts in their fields who many dare not question their advice. We live in a modern world that would often times advises us ‘to stay in our lane”. However, with Google we can access second and third opinions. You can find any information on You Tube. But, today we encounter a carpenter challenging a fisherman about his knowledge of his own trade. “When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch. Simon answered, "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets."(Mark5:4&5)
One is never certain why Simon responded in this manner; for surely after a night of torturous work the last thing he wanted to do was to ‘go back out.’ The response may not have been as immediate as recorded for he had to first convince himself, then convince his workers to reload the nets while working through the economic risks involve. Of course, he also considered the limitations of fishing in the daylight on a lake where fish can easily avoid the nets. In other words, the deck had been stacked against any form of success that far.
Can one believe in possibilities when the signs declare failure? Why hope amidst despair?
My friends, there is much in this story for us to consider as we wrestle with our own limitations. We, who are fortunate to have jobs, work harder and longer yet just cannot seem to get ahead of our bills. We, who are retired, continue to live in fear of illness and ever rising health care costs. Parents live in fear of failure of or harm to the children. Our black men cower at home in fear of facing a world that seems to proclaim no room for the black male. Our daughters are searching for a positive thinking black male. Our black churches are in deep crisis because in many ways this institution is part of a faith system which alienates the black man. Many of our black men are no different than Simon who said I am so tired and exhausted by the running, I just want to stop!
If Jesus can out fish a fisherman, can He save the black man?
Much like young Jeremiah, Simon was so caught up in all he lacked, he was not immediately willing to see the possibilities in the presence of Jesus. Simon, being both a businessman and a committed family man, put great demands on his time and assets. It is quite similar to the present-day challenges that press on many of us. Many would share that they wished they could make it to worship but allow other pressing matters to engage their attention. Similarly, the prophet Isiah had to undergo a violent conversion experience before he understood and accepted his call to prophecy. Isiah 6:6 &7 reads “Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: "Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed, and your sin is blotted out." My friends can you imagine the excruciating pain of Isiah? Yet, he was able to make some of the greatest biblical prophecies. Sometimes, we must undergo situations that drive us out of our comfort zone. Far too often we cling to some false sense of worth or value when we approach God. We hold out our status, education or experience even at times we offer our strength. God does not need status, strength or experience is what Jesus was declaring. Some hide behind their sinfulness as a tool of evasion, and Jesus says, I am able to look beyond all that you carry. Jesus out fished a fisher man so who do you think you are? God wants us to come to him not in strength but with all of our vulnerabilities. Deep water fishing is not for the fainthearted. My friends, Jesus is calling us to come to him as we are for he already knows all with which we are wrestling. Simon was willing to say, “okay Jesus I am willing to risk it all for you” and he was fully rewarded. When his catch came by the word of Jesus, it was his biggest ever!
One wonders why Luke saw it as important to record Simon’s conversion in this manner. Possibly, it was an attempt to challenge the early church; letting the church know it was at a very important crossroad which demanded bold and tireless initiatives. Luke is proclaiming that if we are willing to follow Jesus and do his will in the world our greatest catch awaits us. I speak these words of truth to power; to a church whose future like many others seems quite bleakly. We are in many ways no different than Simon who grew tired of hauling empty nets which leads to emptiness; that sinking feeling of failure and disappointment which creates disharmony and fear. We are living in a time in which fear seems endemic; fear of who is coming over the wall, fear of the stranger, fear of those who look like you, fear of those who look different than you. This crippling pervasive fear is much like an epidemic. This fear leads us to hoard our time and skills and money. So we have no time for choir singing, but expect to sing harmoniously the Lord’s song on at worship. What fishing skills do you have to offer?
Yet, it’s Simon’s willingness to surrender his fears, weariness and wariness to decide to push out again. This time he is going into greater risks for the men are tired and going further away from their safe zone. It is like Christianity. Unlike Episcopal style of Christianity where you go into the water but not too deep to release your grip on your mind, your memory and your money. Simon is now out of his depth and is leaning and trusting the fishing technique of a carpenter. Now that is faith! His men are stunned, but others are following to see how it's got to work out. Jesus drives Simon out of his comfort zone where he is now forced to become totally dependent upon God. His going on the fishing trip of his life. Jesus makes a way where there is no way. God is the way maker and Simon is about to find out how powerful this new way is. My friends, what are you looking for in Jesus today?
Jesus looks Simon dead in his eyes and challenges a fisher man not to be fearful. Go beyond your fears and you will find great reward seems to be the bold message. When Simon got his dream catch that bought him all the financial security he ever desired, he walked away from it because he found something greater; He discovered the power of God! God power breaks down fears and raises up men and women of God. God power brings down earthly powers and builds up a Kingdom for God. God power allows stunted ministries to fail so that kingdom building churches would rise. God power is being used by us to bring healing and wholeness to a sick world. My duty is to run around this faith community constantly offering words of assurance, healing and hope to the doubtful, fearful and hopeless. But, this is our church's ministry as well. First, it begins with you.
Simon was looking on at Jesus while doing his work. Then, Jesus moved him from being an observer to becoming an active participant. We need more people to actively participate in the work of Jesus. Salvation is not a spectator sport. Salvation is about ones willingness to wade into the deep called the unknown. Simon gave up fishing to become a faith walker. Wading in faith groping and grasping for God while keeping his eyes on Jesus. For those who are ready to wade "come follow me" says Jesus. There is much work, but the reward is great!