OK, Simon, let me get this straight. You’ve been a fisherman all of your life, right? You know what you’re doing.
You take your fishing boat out to catch fish and you cast your nets into the water.
And then you catch a lot of fish.
And that’s a miracle?
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; 2 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. 3 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 [a]people from the boat. 4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but [b]I will do as You say and let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; 7 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. 8 But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ [c]feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were [d]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.” (From BibleGateway.com)
I can just see it now. I’d bet you anything that there were some in Simon Peter’s group of friends who couldn’t understand why this miracle was in fact a miracle. A fisherman casts his nets and catches fish. Was that really a miracle?
But it was. Sometimes miracles happen that way — in a way in which someone looking in can’t even see the miraculous part of what happened. This was not just a miracle — it was an incredibly personal one, a gift from Jesus to Simon Peter that only Peter could really understand — so precious and personal that it brought Simon to his knees and melted his heart and changed his life forever.
It was miracle and message and gift and purpose all wrapped up into one. The fact that some didn’t even understand that it was a miracle made the message more personal and the gift even more profound.
Only God could have known how much it meant to him — how catching so many fish his nets couldn’t hold them was the ultimate dream of success; how he longed to be like his cousin Andrew and follow holy men like John the Baptist but he knew that that kind of life didn’t put food on the table—–he was too practical. And yet he longed for that life—-a life that meant more than catching food which is eaten and gone in a day.
And especially now. No one but God knew how he had been working so hard day after day and seeing nothing come of it. He’d worked all night, had cast his nets into the water over and over and over again until his shoulders ached, his arms trembled and his hands were sore and bleeding, and still he and his crew had caught nothing—-no fish at all. Only God knew how discouraged and exhausted and inadequate he felt that his best was not good enough— how no matter how hard he tried he could not provide for their needs. Only God understood how he had prayed for help and guidance, how he knew something was missing in his life and how he had wanted God to provide, not only food but answers and meaning and purpose and everything that mattered, and how he had not really expected an answer despite his struggle to believe and his fervent desire to have the faith that God heard him.
In that one miracle was a message that answered every question, every prayer, every need.
” Come, follow me,” said Jesus, “and I will provide for you. Your cup will be overflowing. If you follow Me your life will bring more good to the world than you could ever dream of. You will be a fisherman who is a fisher of men, and you will inspire more than you could ever imagine possible.”
Have you ever experienced a miracle like that in your life?
For me it was something that happened many years ago, when my children were young and we had very little money. I would walk down to the library on my lunch hour every day and look through the beautiful books, not just the ones to borrow, but the ones for sale at the “friends of the library” counter. I remember finding some for sale for 50 cents or a dollar — books that had torn covers or ragged edges but were full of beauty and wisdom and inspiration on the inside. I even felt guilty for purchasing a C.S. Lewis book for 50 cents that had the cover torn off. “Do you know who this author is?” I asked the lady at the desk. “Are you sure you want to sell this book for only 50 cents?”
I remember back when I wanted to know Jesus for the first time (or again for the first time) and I asked Him to help me to know Him better—to learn everything I could about Jesus. Maybe if I could find a book or two about him — St. Augustine’s Confessions, “The Imitation of Christ”, etc. ? —I listed off at least 6 or 7 books that I wanted to read to know more about Jesus — how the Saints had known Him, how to love Him, how to pray. I was hungry for wisdom, hungry for Jesus. Maybe I could find a book or two like that at that little bookstore at the library for a price I could afford — even books with torn covers or ragged edges– I didn’t care. I just wanted to find them someday, or some of them someday, if possible.
It was within a week of that prayer — perhaps even a day or two afterwards — that I walked into the library and saw them.
There were at least 20 of them—maybe more— lined up in a row on the “friends of the library” sale shelf. The books I saw contained every single one of the books I had asked for – prayed for — every one of them — and then some. All classics, all exquisite books from great writers and saints. They cost a dollar apiece, so that buying the whole set would have cost me about the price of a pizza.
And there were no torn pages or ragged edges—not in one of the books. In fact, you know how it is when you open a cloth covered book and the binding is so tight that you know it has never been opened before? Those books, all Harvard Classics, were like that. Untouched. Gold-embossed. And antique. They were published in 1909 — 1909! And they were all exquisitely, unbelievably beautiful.
Only God knew what that meant to me. How I loved the smell and feel and beauty of old books. How I would rather have a treasure trove of wisdom than of jewels. How a torn book about Jesus would have been gold to me, and He had provided these books about Himself—many more than I had asked for — and gave them to me lined in gold.
He knew that I had longed to study the great books, the classics, in college, but that I chose a more practical major. To study wisdom was for the rich– that kind of degree didn’t put food on the table. And I couldn’t have afforded a great books college anyway — we were too poor for that sort of thing.
And yet here they were, everything I thought was out of my reach was here, right in front of me. “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” Isaiah 55:1
It was an overflowing, abundant, beautiful gift, a lavish answer to my prayer, a personal profound miracle that brought me to my knees and melted my heart and changed my life.
“Yes, ” Jesus said without saying a word, ” I want you to know Me too….Come follow Me…”
“Sooo……” a friend of mine said…..”Let me get this straight. You went to the library. And you found a lot of books. Right?
And that’s a miracle???”
You bet it is!