Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. 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 and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.
-Luke 5:1-11 [NASB], (this occurrence also appears in Matthew 4:18-20)
Crowds were following Jesus around in his early ministry movements that we have recorded here. I'm sure if we had the opportunity, we would do the same. By this point he could have already performed some miracles but we don’t know. You do have to imagine however, that hearing Jesus teach about anything was probably amazing enough to warrant leaving behind your regularly scheduled plans to follow Jesus.
When Jesus arrives at the lake of Gennesaret where Peter and company just happened to be fishing, he jumps in their boat. These guys were skilled fisherman. This was their job, it's how they survived, yet they are not having very much success on this day. Then, this guy that could possibly be the messiah just hops on in to their boat after recently giving Peter his new name. He says "go back out to sea boy so I can teach from the shore." Then he’s done and he tells Peter to fish again. Peter reluctantly does so and to his surprise needs help pulling the nets back into the boat because they were filled to their max. Was this the first time Peter was broken? It's probably not that hard to relate to Peter's current predicament. As a prideful fisherman, you too would probably have said "I'll put the nets down dude, but I'm tellin' you we aren't gonna catch nothin'". I've had plenty of situations when I thought I knew it all but was quickly shown how wrong I was. My typical response would be to somehow cover how what I said or did is still okay and right, to avoid looking bad. But how does Peter respond? He was so blown away that he fell at Jesus’ feet and recognized how unworthy he was of Jesus' time.
Clearly Peter could tell that this guy is the real deal. His own sinfulness flooded his brain. True guilt filled his mind as he saw God incarnate doing what he does best, be God. Yet Jesus did not care about his sin, he was making a live parable. With God's help we can accomplish anything. Maybe "anything" is too extreme of a word. Jesus said “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men”. He wasn't saying that with God you can always catch fish, or do really good at your worldly occupations, but similar to other parables he tells it was more about the life they can live as Christians, or Christ-followers. If we make godly, spiritual goals, and we rely on God to help us accomplish them, we will accomplish them, no doubt about it. There was no choice in the disciple's minds - they were going to follow Jesus. Up to this point they must have been half-assing it, but following this they jumped up and followed him.
The Gospel of Luke puts it in the coolest way, in my opinion. Luke does not mention Jesus literally saying “Follow Me”, but they did follow him, in fact they dropped everything and left it all to do so. “Do not fear”, says Jesus as he is encouraging Peter that he's on Peter's side. Yes Peter was a sinful man, as we are all, but to Jesus it's not even a concern if you are willing to follow Him. We will see in future articles too that this "do not fear" line is how he always calms the nerves of the disciples, typically it's Peter alone who is on the receiving end of Jesus' comforting words.
It’s clear that Jesus was the true Fisher of Men. He was the man that got it all going and it was no easy fight to get these guys off their butts. If Jesus showed up and schooled me in the my own profession, doing something I thought was for sure impossible, I’d drop it all too. At least I hope I would. But Jesus tells these guys calmly, no longer would the be fishing. This was it, soon they would be telling many about the amazing things Jesus did and in turn those who would hear would be reeled in to the kingdom of God.
Lets look again at how Peter responded to this miracle. He fell to his knees, embarrassed of his sinfulness, and told Jesus to go away because he was just too sinful to be worthy of being around Jesus. Today we know for sure Christ died and rose again so we don’t have to be guilty like Peter was. In this point in time though Peter was partly unsure of Jesus and he did not yet understand Jesus’ point or that he came to save everyone who wanted saved. He even calls Jesus, "Lord." The Greek this was translated from is "kurios". Peter is not already referring to Jesus as God, but the word used simply means "one with authority". In that moment Peter could see how much authority Jesus had. This occurrence had to be truly spectacular in order to feel the need to leave your entire fishing operation in the dust and follow a dirty thirty-year-old.
How comforting it would be to feel like you're so messed up, then hear the creator of the universe tell you directly, "do not fear".