Hard work is one of the virtues anyone who wants to be successful in life is expected to possess. The Bible in Proverbs 12:11 says “Those who work their lands will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense”. What then happens if one works their land but ends up having no food?
Luke 5:1-6 best describes this scenario. One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water, so he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish”.
“Master” Simon replied “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.
Fast forward to three years after this incident, the same scenario presents itself in John 21:1-6 after Jesus resurrected. Afterward, Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel 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.
Some people might attach spiritual connotation to this in the sense that, God supernaturally made provision for them but I choose to look at it from a physical perspective.
When you look at these two instances, almost every variable is constant except the commands Jesus gave and the time factor.
I believe Simon Peter and his cohorts have been plying their trade as fishermen for a very long time hence qualify to be called experts at that. I also believe there was a particular methodology they used in fishing which always gave them a bumper catch.
On one of their usual nights, they did what they always do but this time around, they were unfruitful. They believed they had worked hard to merit having a bumper catch but since their efforts were not yielding any fruitful result, why not abandon their boat and wash their nets, which is a sign of giving up. Jesus then comes onto the scene and gives a simple but effective instruction. “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish,” he said. Does that mean all their life, they’ve been fishing at the shallow part of the sea?
In the Second instance three years later, they encounter the same problem. I believe since the day Jesus told them to launch deeper, they’ve stuck to that methodology in addition to other methodologies they’re familiar with. Jesus comes to their rescue again but this time around, he didn’t tell them to go deeper but told them to cast their net to the right side. They had a bountiful harvest in the same Sea they believed had no fish in the previous night after obeying Jesus’s instruction.
Most of us find ourselves in the shoes of Simon Peter and his friends at a stage in our lives. We use a particular method to achieve great results and over time, we become used to it and it becomes our routine. A period dawns when we fail to achieve the results that we used to achieve after using the same method. Just like Simon Peter, we work harder than usual expecting to gain better results but the situation doesn’t change. Most of us fret when we get to this stage. We get frustrated and get mad at ourselves. If you find yourself in this part of our world (Africa), then you’d attribute it to witchcraft, family curses etc. You’d then spend productive days and weeks in Church binding devils who don’t even recognize your existence. We give hefty offerings in church for God to open up the windows of heaven and change our situation. (NB: I’m not against giving hefty offerings in church neither am I disputing the possibility of witchcraft and curses behind some people’s unfruitfulness or unproductivity). In extreme cases, we wash our nets and hung them with the excuse that, we’ve worked hard but we’re not getting fruitful results. We accept it as our fate and find respite in the excuse that “Just maybe it’s not meant to be” or “Maybe it’s not my time”.
Jesus being a cornucopia of spirituality didn’t speak in tongues, fast or pray lengthy prayers for the disciples to have a bumper catch. Neither did he bind or loose any devil for the fisher folks unfruitful situation. He just gave different instructions in the two instances. “Go deeper” “Cast your net to the right”.
When you peruse carefully, you’d realize that the instruction changed from “Go deeper” to cast your net to the right” in the space of three years. One can deduce from this text that Jesus even knew methods of doing things change with time. Something his disciples failed to notice.
We’re also culpable of this at times. Several attempts at a goal end up null and just like these fishermen, we wash our nets and attempt hanging it up.
Jesus is trying to prove to us that, as time evolves, it takes innovation to stay relevant and productive in our various endeavors. This text is a wake-up call to us all not to give up when the going gets tough. If we try the shallow space and it doesn’t work, let’s go deeper. If we try the left and it doesn’t work, the right is always there. When we go above and it doesn’t work, let’s go below.
With every problem we encounter, there’s always a solution hidden somewhere. If we can’t figure it out, God is always there to give us clues. Let’s not hang our nets just like the fisherfolks attempted to do.