4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Simon, James and John had been fishing all night without luck (they were hardly at risk of depleting the fish stocks in the Sea of Galilee). The fish would have been sardines, which were prolific in the spring: as many as ten tons could be hauled on one outing. Once landed, the fish were soon grilled or fried or would be preserved by drying and salting. Gennesaret, the location of this episode, lay on the Sea of Galilee between Capernaum and Magdala, home to Mary and its Greek name Taricheae means ‘fish tower’, where fish would have been strung up to be cured.
Fish was a valuable commodity and Simon and his colleagues would have made a good living in that significant industry. Yet, Simon Peter declares himself a sinner when he sees his haul. Those who haul ashore unsustainable catches of fish should perhaps express similar guilt and humility today. Simon’s good fortune implies no guilt, however, but rather acknowledges God’s miracle. Simon, here and later on, is aware of his own weakness and sin, which is why Jesus understands him, respects him and calls him into his service. Someone who is good and knows it does not make a good disciple or a good evangelist.
Jesus also shows his command over nature, his authority over others and his ability to bring about change not only in nature but in people. This miracle shares features with the changing of water into wine at Cana (John 2:1-10). Not only will Simon change into Peter, but he and James and John will be changed into fishers of people, through whom God in Christ will change the course of human and divine history
Lord God, as we show faith in your leading and guiding, use us to draw in a great catch of people into your kingdom. Amen