Now when he [Jesus] had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake…And Jesus said unto Simon, fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him. - Luke 5:4-6, 10-11
When Jesus found the disciples, several of them, especially Peter, James and John, were fishermen by trade. After demonstrating His divine power over nature to them, Jesus called these fishermen to forsake their way of life and follow Him. It was obvious that if they followed Him, He could provide for them. It was abundantly clear that Jesus was worth following. Never before in their lives as fishermen on the Sea of Galilee had they seen anything like this. With such incredible power having been displayed, the disciples “forsook all, and followed Jesus.”
Years later, Jesus had been killed by the Roman soldiers and the Jewish leaders. The disciples had scattered in fear, knowing that if they were caught, they too might become the objects of persecution. However, as they sat trembling in an upper room a few days later, Jesus appeared to them and explained that He was no longer dead, but had resurrected. According to Matthew 28, He gave further instruction that they should go to Galilee and He would see them there. We don’t know how long it took for Jesus to eventually come to Galilee, but by the time He arrived it seems that some of the disciples had sort of given up on the call He had given them.
Whereas in Luke 5, they “forsook all,” now they had returned to their fishing boats and the livelihood they had known before Jesus. He had called them to minister the truth to those around them, but in His absence, they decided to go back to their previous lives as fishermen.
After their first fishing trip produced a fishless night, the disciples were surprised the next morning by a man on the shore who asked if they had caught anything. When they answered, “no,” he told them to cast the net on the other side of the boat. Obeying, instantly their net was filled with an impossible number of fish. Immediately, John recognized the work of Jesus. Pointing this out to Peter, in haste, Peter jumped over the side of the boat and swam to the shore to be with Jesus.
Jesus had not forgotten them. Here He was, with them, inviting them to come sit and talk, and learn one last time. He would not abandon them. Just as He had demonstrated the first time He called them, He would provide for them. He would take care of them. They didn’t need to turn back from their calling. They needed to trust Him, and press on. In the same way that He had given them confidence when they first met, He gave reassurance in these, His last days with them. Now, they should never turn back. They should never quit. The story had started with Jesus and a bunch of fishermen. The story couldn’t finish with these fishermen unchanged. They had been with Jesus, and now nothing could ever be the same.
Food For Thought: John makes a point of saying, “this was the third time Jesus shewed himself after that he was risen.” What were the other two times?