Did you know that you can grow pears in Manitoba? Neither did I, but you can. A few years back we bought a couple of trees, then waited about nine years before it began to start producing edible fruit, but finally it happened. So much so that last month the main fruit bearing branch broke! I didn’t even know that was possible. Who would figure that a tree meant for bearing fruit could break from the weight of the harvest it brought forth.
It was then that the Lord brought back to mind the scriptures about catching fish. Especially the part when the net began to break. Then I recalled the two messages I heard about the net and how it referred to the unity of the disciples. How it changed from the first time when they began following Jesus to three years later when He appeared to them again after His resurrection.
The first time Jesus commanded Simon Peter and his companions to launch out into the deep and let down their nets for a catch was in Luke 5:4. They caught so much that their net was breaking, so they called out to the others near by to help them. Even then, the catch was so big that both boats began to sink. When Peter saw the magnitude of fish they caught with Jesus, he was astounded! After all, they had been fishing all night and caught nothing. He knew that it was not his clever skills as a fisherman that enabled them to do it, but rather who was with them that brought in the blessing.
Peter was a believer who was also a fisherman and probably thought he knew what he was doing because this is what he was trained to do. He knew the time of day that was best to go fishing, and this was not it. Verse five says “They worked hard all night and caught nothing.” Put yourself in his shoes. What would you have thought when you had been working all night and accomplished nothing, then Jesus comes to you and says, “Go into the deep . . . for a catch.” Everything you know to be true as a fisherman says this is the wrong time to be doing this. Perhaps this was a test for Peter. To see if he would do what the Lord told him to do, even when it didn’t make sense.
He not only passed the test when he listened to Jesus, something changed in him as well. He became aware of who Jesus really was. Verse eight says, “he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying ”Depart from me for I am a sinful man O Lord!” He must have realized at that moment that all he knew, all his hard work and effort didn’t bring in the harvest, the Lord Jesus brought it to him. Knowledge is good to have. “Seek wisdom” Proverbs 4:7 teaches, but “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). We must do what we know but when the Lord instructs us to do something we don’t understand, obedience will unlock the door to receiving more than we can imagine.
The big catch is what Simon Peter wanted, but the net was breaking. He was about to lose some of this precious cargo! This is where the lesson on unity comes in. The importance of unity and the “bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) among believers. The kind of unity that strengthens the Church when we learn how to work together. What if each string on that net is a person that the Lord has connected to another person, that is connected to other people from other Churches or other ministries, that join to make a bond that will bring in a mighty harvest, like the world has not known? How many more people can we reach if we work together?
There are people who the Lord has placed around you and I for a reason. Our brothers and sisters make a much-needed support structure that makes us stronger as a unit. We were not meant to do life alone or to compete with one another. We are meant to work together for the sake of building the Kingdom. Needing one another and depending on each other. All fear, pride, grudges, or whatever is getting in the way of doing that, must be put away from us so the Lord can knit His beautiful net.
In John 21, Peter and his crew, the disciples, attempt fishing without Jesus and once again catch nothing. Jesus appears to them once more after His resurrection and tells them to throw their “net onto the right side of the boat and you will find some” in verse six, and they did! Both times they tried to catch fish on their own and caught nothing. They needed Jesus with them. The last time though, the net did not break even though verse six continues to say, “they were unable to haul it because of the large number of fishes”.
Why did the net not break this time? Perhaps it was because they had learnt how to work together. Now when Jesus told them to do something, they could accomplish it. A lot changed for them over those three years. The Lord had strengthened them, individually and corporately. Their unity had grown, and with Jesus they would be able to bring in the harvest that He sent them out to catch, without losing even one.