Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Who Was In the Boat?

The Sea of Galilee has been a source of life-giving water for the people of Israel for centuries. Over the years, many have also depended on its waters their personal economic wellbeing. Such was the case for a group of fishermen who lived along the shores of Galilee in about 30 AD. Fishing was not an occupation for the feint of heart; it was tough manual labor in that day; there were no automatic winches to help. The nets were hauled by hand; the boats required rowing.

Jesus meets these rugged men along the shores of the sea in their natural environment. They are doing the only work they have ever known—no doubt the work their fathers had taught them to do. As lifelong fishermen, their bodies were no doubt weathered and tanned from countless hours spent in the hot sun, their hands calloused from struggling with the nets, their aroma no doubt distinctive as perspiration mingled with the smells of the sea, their language brimming with local color. They were probably not unlike the workers that populate the neighborhoods where I live in Southeast Baltimore—down-to-earth, good-hearted, hard-working blue-collar workers who work hard… and play hard.

Luke tells a story of an encounter Jesus has with these fishermen—see Luke 5:1-11. He describes a series of events in these verses that culminate not just in a remarkable catch of fish but in life-changing experiences for these men. After this encounter, several of them will decide to leave the only career they have ever known to embark on a journey with Jesus that will take them to places they have never been, doing things these unschooled, ordinary fishermen never dreamed they would do.

How does Jesus connect with them? He categorically does not wait for them to come to the local synagogue—you’ll note he just left the synagogue. No, he goes out to them and enters their world. It’s clear from reading the text that Jesus already knows these men well before the events of Luke 5:1-11 unfold. He has observed them as they work; maybe he has even been out fishing with them. Perhaps it is in being willing to get his hands dirty with them that he gains their respect (notice Simon calls him “Master”) and has an opening for more...

From this group of men, Jesus handpicks several to embark on a new mission. They have spent their life catching fish, and now Jesus will train them to “fish” for men.

Where is Jesus calling you to “put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch”? Maybe it’s a place you’ve been “fishing all night” with nothing to show for it, or maybe it’s a place you never thought of fishing. The question is: Will you listen to the call and obey?

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