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Cast your nets

26th February 2016

John 21v1-7a
Afterwards Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. "I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?"
"No," they answered.
He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some."
When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!"

Peter was discouraged. He hadn't recovered from the time he'd disowned Jesus. He felt a failure. Even after Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to Peter and his friends, Peter didn't know what to do with himself. He'd given up on the idea that he was any kind of follower of Jesus. Despairing of ever being of service to his Lord again, he went back to what he'd known before he met Jesus - he went fishing.

His friends, probably out of compassion for him, decided to keep him company.

But the fishing trip was a disaster. The Sea of Galilee contained plenty of fish, and they were expert fishermen, but they caught absolutely nothing, all night.

Early in the morning, when they were tired and fed up, Jesus came to them but they didn't realise it was Him. How often have we failed to realise that God is with us?

And Jesus called out, "Friends, haven't you any fish?".

They must have hated that. The Bible says they simply answered "No". I expect Peter was thinking and feeling rather more than that. It's bad enough to have betray Jesus, to have gone back to fishing and found he couldn't even do that. He must have felt this stranger (as he thought) was "rubbing salt into the wound", as they say. He said "No", but he must have felt like saying "Leave me alone!"

Jesus said "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." And they did as he suggested. Perhaps they remembered the time, three and a half years before, when:

Luke 5v4b-8a
He said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch."
Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."
When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees.

And perhaps they realised then that it was Jesus speaking to them.

And even in their severe discouragement, they obeyed the voice of Jesus. And they caught 153 fish (verse 11).

When we do it our way, we fail. When we obey God, we reap a harvest.

I think most of the English church feels like we've let Jesus down. He called us to be "fishers of men" (Luke 5v10) and many of us feel like we've been out all night and haven't caught any fish yet, or haven't caught as many as we should. But a new harvest is coming soon.

I believe God spoke to me when I read this passage again recently. He said:

Let down your nets.
There's no shortage of fish,
There's no shortage of nets,
There's no shortage of boats,
There's no shortage of fishermen.
But there has been a shortage of listening for the word of God.
Let down your nets;
A harvest is coming.

There are plenty of fish in the sea - plenty of people searching for God. We have plenty of nets - strategies for evangelism, meetings and opportunities. There are plenty of boats - thousands of churches in the UK. And there are plenty of fishermen - every Christian is a fisherman.

But we need to listen for God to tell us where to cast our nets. And then we need to obey Him.