Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got in one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." Simon answered, "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets." When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break.
When Jesus encounters these fishermen on the shore of the lake, they must be exhausted. They are cleaning their nets after a full night of fishing in which they caught nothing. So when Jesus asks to use their boat, I'm sure it was with a small amount of trepidation, but Simon agrees and takes Jesus out. Then, when Jesus is done speaking, he tells Simon to venture out into deep waters to let down his net for a catch. Simon protests at first, saying they had already tried to no avail. But he decided to listen to Jesus anyway, and when they let down the nets in the deep water, they caught so many fish their nets almost couldn't handle the load.
There is a lot to unpack in this story - the idea of abundance, trusting Jesus when he tells us what to do, and so much more. But today I want to touch on the idea of deep water. One author I read this week suggested that this is less a story about fishing, and more Jesus giving us a spiritual metaphor about leaving the shallows for deep water.
In the shallows we are comfortable, we are safe - we can see the bottom and we can retreat if any threats come our way. Once we have ventured into the deep, we are more vulnerable, because we can't see what might be around us or coming towards us. In the shallows, we can rely solely on ourselves - a tempting narrative our society preaches. In the deep, we must rely more on our boat and the people around us, for we are no longer on our own.
When this fishing expedition is complete, Jesus invites Simon Peter to join him to catch men instead of fish. He invites them to leave everything behind and follow him. Talk about leaving the shallows for the deep! Can you imagine giving up everything you have, everything and everyone you know in one afternoon, to go follow an itinerant preacher? Yet Simon finds himself ready and willing to jump into the deep end with Jesus.
What deep ends are you avoiding in your life? Where might Jesus be encouraging, or even commanding, you to go deeper? Where do you need to be more vulnerable, more open, more reliant on those around you rather than yourself? What could happen if you leave the shallows for the deep?
God of all, we know you rule in both the shallows and the deep. Help us this week to listen to where Jesus is calling us - to let go of the shoreline if we must and be willing to venture into deeper waters. Help us to remember that even if the water feels too deep for us, it's never too deep for Jesus. Amen.