IN THOSE DAYS, Jesus was standing by 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, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Jesus got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then Jesus 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.” But Simon answered, “Master, we have toiled all night long but have caught nothing. Yet at Your word, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed Jesus.
Peter and James and John, and their companions were fishermen, as is clearly illustrated in the Gospel lesson above. They were not the kind of fishermen who would take off a weekend or even the whole week, get away from everyone to camp out, catch some fish, crack open a few cold ones, and just spend some time out in the wild.
They were fishermen, as in, this was their means of providing and feeding themselves and their families. And therefore, catching nothing in one night shift was not good. They would have nothing to sell and nothing to cook at home. A few nights like that and they would have to go hungry.
So, you can imagine that as they were washing their nets after a wasted and tiring night, the last thing they wanted to do was "to put out a little way from the shore." Yet Simon did it anyway. He already knew Jesus, with Christ having healed Simon's mother-in-law (Luke 4:38-41), so it was not a complete stranger asking him to do something annoying.
Jesus wanted to get into a boat in order to give Himself some space from the crowd that always followed Him and kept "pressing in on Him to hear the word of God."
"When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, 'Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.'" Peter's reaction is understandable and relatable, "Listen, we just spent the whole night, catching nothing but garbage into our nets." Yet, again, as tedious as it may have felt, Simon obeyed. He not only knew Jesus, he knew that Jesus was, at the very least, a prophet sent by God, based on the miracles that He was performing.
However, even Simon was not prepared for what happened next - "they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break." Peter, being a good Jew who knew his Scripture, realized something awesome at this moment, "Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man!" Jesus may not be just a great prophet sent by God, but have divine powers Himself.
Why such reaction? Only God can make something out of nothing. Let's go back to the first chapter of Genesis, specifically the fifth day of creation, "And God said, 'Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures...' So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm" (Genesis 1:20-21).
How come fish appeared where it was not all night long? God. If the fish appeared at the word of Jesus, and if only God can make things out of nothing, then Jesus must be God.
This was the realization that Simon Peter came to. As we can see throughout the Gospel accounts, this was not a firm conviction yet. None of the apostles, none of the disciples, and followers of Christ (except for, perhaps, His Mother) knew for sure Who Jesus was. Their eyes and their minds and their hearts were opened only after the Resurrection, after Christ appeared to them in His glorified body, after they received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Everything that Jesus did during His three years of public ministry and preaching was planting seeds, so that when the fullness of time came, His followers would be able to look back and connect all the dots.
This seed of faith has been passed down from the apostles to their disciples and down to us. And the dots are being connected even by us, as what Jesus taught and did cannot be contained by all the books that would be written (John 21:25).
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest