Luke 5:4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
What do you think about when you read this story? How do you see the miracle of fish? Maybe you have been taught that it was a demonstration by power that Jesus was the Son of God. Maybe you heard that Peter fell to the knees of an all-powerful (dangerously so) God. You probably heard that kind of teaching with this verse applied:
John 14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
I know I got this one wrong in the past. I know now that what Jesus is talking about as “the works” are the demonstrations of the love of God. When Peter got fish it wasn’t a demonstration of power in and of itself. Fish was Peter’s livelihood. Fish was money to Peter. Peter’s life now, his family’s life, his legacy was all based on fish and his success as a fisherman. Now go back and look at the passage in Luke. I believe Peter was overwhelmed by the goodness of God. When Peter was confronted with this truth, evidence of things not seen, assurance of things hoped for, the sheer magnitude of the blessing, the willingness of Jesus to provide with no strings attached, the fulfilment of desires not vocalized, an answer to prayer, the excessive nature of the gift…he was blown away. How could he stay in the presence of such a loving God? Oh by the way, Peter doesn’t confess, by way of revelation, that Jesus is the Christ until some time later.
Look at what the Pharisees said to Jesus and His response regarding “signs.”
Matt 12:38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, Teacher, we desire to see a sign or miracle from You [proving that You are what You claim to be]. 39 But He replied to them, An evil and adulterous generation (a generation [t]morally unfaithful to God) seeks and demands a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
Now back to Peter. It began with Jesus and fish and it ended (on Earth) with Jesus and fish. With a fresh perspective read on.
John 21:2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.
Can you see that Jesus began with a demonstration of God’s love and ended with a demonstration of God’s love. I believe in an instant everything came together. All the events of the last few years played out in his mind. He saw the miracles, the journeys, the exchanges over the night fires, his confession, Jesus’ rebuke, his denial, Jesus’ look, his final surrender of self in bitter weeping, a Déjà vu of the initial meeting and now Jesus is standing there waiting for him. He leaps out of the boat half-dressed in desperation to get there sooner (I can see that scene in Forrest Gump, you know the one with LT Dan and the shrimp boat). Read what happens next.
John 21:10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn…15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
There are many opinions about the number of fish and I haven’t done exhaustive research to back up this theory, but here goes. The number 5 is the number of Grace. 3 is the number of the trinity. 3 times Grace is divine Grace. So I see this number as “a divine Grace from the divine.” Notice their nets don’t break under the weight of so much provision. Have you ever heard someone say “there is such a thing as too much of a good thing?” Maybe so, but when it is from God you can handle it. Also notice that the love question exchange with Peter is 3 times, like his denial. This is right after the thrice Grace provision of fish. Pretty cool stuff. In the end however, I believe Peter is beside himself and completely overwhelmed by the love and goodness of God in and through Jesus. That is the moment that Jesus says “feed my sheep.” “Peter go and impart, like I have, the love and Grace of God in the same way I have.” What is he going to feed them? The love of God in Christ Jesus, the bread of life. One last thought.
John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me[e] anything in my name, I will do it.
These “works” are in the same manner and with the same purpose and from the same kind as Jesus, man filled with God. We get to bring Jesus to the Peter’s of the world!!! That impacts me so profoundly when I read about the life of Peter. We are Peters and then the roles swap and we get to be like Jesus. Sometimes its right there waiting for us just like Jesus with breakfast on the beach. Then we have a moment and that is when it all comes together and we live in perpetual Déjà vu! of the love of God.