“If you say so”

Jesus was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret (also known as the Sea of Galilee).  Crowds had come to hear him teach.  Jesus, seeing two fishing boats, boarded the one belonging to Simon Peter and asked him to row out a short distance so he could address the crowds.  We know nothing of what he said.  But when he finished, he turned to Peter and told him to row even further out into the lake, and get the nets ready for a catch of fish.

Photo by Oktaviani MarvikasariPeter answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing. But because you say so, I’ll drop the nets” (Luke 5:5, CEB).

There is respect in Peter’s words: after all, he has just heard Jesus teach — with power and authority, or so one would presume.  But you can almost hear the tiredness in Peter’s voice as well, tinged, perhaps, with just a touch of condescension: No disrespect, Master, but we’re experienced at this.  We’ve worked all night for nothing: what makes you think there’s anything to catch?  And who fishes during the day anyway?  But I’ll humor you. 

You know the story.  The catch was so huge that it began to tear the nets; the heavy haul nearly sunk the boats.  In fearful amazement, confronted with the unmistakable power of God, Peter did an attitudinal about-face.  Falling at Jesus’ knees, he said, “Leave me, Lord, for I’m a sinner!” (vs. 8).

And Jesus’ response?  He gave Peter a new vocation: “Don’t be afraid.  From now on, you will be fishing for people” (vs. 10).

So it goes sometimes with our Christian vocation, our “calling.”  We follow God’s directives with no more than a mustard seed of faith.  Our “if you say so” is a mix of belief and unbelief: I’ll do it because you say so, but I really doubt much good will come of it.  But God in his grace may overlook the doubt, miraculously multiplying the response of faith instead: Don’t be afraid.  This is just a sample of what I will do through you, if you will only follow me. 

Peter and the others put in to shore, “left everything and followed Jesus” (vs. 11).  They left everything: the boats, the nets, even the miraculous haul of fish itself, which presumably would have fetched a good price at the market (Hey, wait — you guys don’t want all this?  Sweet!  Sushi for everyone!).

I’ve often found myself facing new ministry situations or vocational decisions with the faithful yet reluctant attitude of “All right, God — if you say so.”  And God has been faithful in return, rather than punishing my reluctance.  It should be easy to follow a God like that, but like Peter, I am a sinful man.

It’s a good thing that a gracious and patient God still has a place for me in his purposes.