This is a much longer and detailed reflection on this Gospel passage than was possible via Instagram.
The scene opens with Jesus loitering along the lake-side one morning. Gradually a bit of a crowd gathers and He begins to preach to them, but they aren't the main event today, Peter is.
So Jesus preaches while He waits for Peter's boat to come into shore.
We can take it for granted that Jesus and Peter already knew of each other, most residents of a small lake-side town do. Peter may have been sufficiently curious about this new preacher to pull in to shore where he could do things at once, wash and clean the fishing nets and surreptitiously listen to Jesus.
Now Peter and his crew (see, he already has leadership skills; tick) have been out fishing all night and they have caught nothing; absolutely nothing.
To get a better understanding of this, reading the Wiki Bible page on 'Fishing in the Bible and the Ancient Near East' is invaluable.
Here are two very useful excerpts from it:
There are three main components of a net; the head rope, the netting, and the foot rope. The head rope or “lead” rope is a thicker rope at the top of the net that usually has cork attached in order that this would be the rope closest to the surface of the water. From the head rope the net itself is attached. This net can vary in size depending on the targeted species of fish. A much smaller mesh net would be required to catch sardines, whereas a larger mesh would be used for larger species of fish. This netting material would be composed of smaller diameter line weaved in such a way to make many small squares. At the bottom of this mesh netting would be attached the foot rope. The foot rope would be of a similar diameter as the head rope, but attached to it would be stone weights. These weights would ensure that the foot rope would be the rope at was the closest to the bottom, thus stretching the net between the head and foot rope.
The Cast-Net is a type of net circular in shape, measuring from six to eight metres in diameter. There is no head-rope on this net; however, it does have the foot-rope that is attached to the outside diameter of this net. Attached to the foot-rope there are weights attached, to allow the net to sink quickly. As the name may imply this net cast or thrown by a single person either from a shallow area or water or from a boat. As this net is cast it spreads out and lands on the water like a parachute, descending quickly trapping any fish that are underneath of it. After the net is on the bottom there were two approaches to retrieving the fish from the net. The first way was that the fisherman would dive to the bottom and retrieve the fish individually placing them in to a pouch. The other method for retrieving the captured fish was to dive down and gather the foot-rope and bring up the catch all at once.
So the fishermen would head out at night, using the moonlight to help locate shoals of fish, and use a cast-net or a trammel net. They would wait for the net to sink, and then one of them jumps overboard to locate the foot rope and bring it back to the boat, and then the whole crew would use the foot rope to haul the net in. Each pay-out of the nets took time. The diver had to be fit and be a bit on the fear-less side.
Most people if they had 2 or 3 hours of fishing like this with no result would write the night off, go home get some sleep and try again the next night. But Peter and his crew fished the whole night long and caught nothing. Each time they got their hopes up, and each time they were disappointed. Are you getting an idea of Peter's capacity for endurance and perseverance? (tick) Are you impressed that the rest of them didn't mutiny? (tick) Are you also wondering what was so important that they needed a good catch of fish that night and were willing to do whatever it took to get it? Me, too. There was something extra specially important about the need for this catch of fish to be good.
The disappointment, dejection and tiredness of Peter and his crew would have been glaringly obvious, and yet they all had enough discipline (tick) and professionalism (tick) to clean and wash the nets before heading for the bliss of sleep.
Jesus knows all this, and still He does this very Zacchaeus-like thing – He gets into Peter's boat and asks if He can use it as a pulpit. Great! Now it is going to be even longer before Peter can head for snooze land. Yet Peter does it, are you impressed with his generosity? (tick) This was very much 'going the extra mile', wasn't it?
Now Jesus has what He wants, a captive audience in Peter. I think we can be very sure that when Jesus was preaching from the boat, that His primary focus was on what would touch Peter's heart and His secondary focus was on the crowd listening.
'Yay, Jesus is wrapping up His talk, maybe I can get some shut-eye now.' Uh-uh. Jesus asks even more of Peter. Jesus asks Him to go back to the fishing area, (more rowing!), and to go out into deeper water than Peter was comfortable diving in. This is, according to Peter's experience, a most futile endeavour, and yet Peter now has enough respect for Jesus to call Him 'Master'. Peter states his objections, and goes against every one of his instincts, and gives it a go. That's even more generosity (tick) and bravery (tick).
Jesus is still in the boat. If you had set up such a huge 'gotcha' for Peter, you would have wanted to see Peter's reaction first hand too.
Over the side of the boat Peter goes to get the foot rope, and there's fish! Hold on, there's lots of fish. Gulp. These fish could sink the boat!!!! Can you imagine the frantic panic that overtook Peter then as he tied to get the attention of his mates way off back on the shoreline?
Mind you, why were his tired mates still lake-side? Did they care enough about him to keep watch, or were they fascinated by this latest harebrained activity and wanted to see what happened, or a bit of both?
So there's a lot of 'Can we make it out of this alive?' thoughts crowding out the thoughts of the catch of fish, until the other boat comes to help. Now there's two boats at sinking point.
Archaeological finds suggest that Peter's boat was around 9 metres long, 2.5 metres wide and a metre deep. A rough estimate would then be 7 cubic metres of squirming fish per boat.
At last the 'Are we going to have a watery grave' crisis is over, and the size of the fish haul penetrates Peter's brain. Jesus did this? Where's Jesus? Sitting among the 7 cubic metres of fish, enjoying Himself to the full, with an incredible smile and total joy.
Peter slip, slop, slides over to where Jesus is on one of the rowing benches. He can't get to Jesus' feet, there's so many fish, but he can get to His knees. Peter's gobsmacked response is 'Leave me, Lord, I am a sinful man'. Jesus has gone from 'Master', to 'Lord', a term of divinity, in Peter's vocabulary. Jesus has all of Peter's heart and all of Peter's attention.
Now, only now, does Jesus reveal Peter's new mission as a fisher of men. Peter has passed all the pre-mission aptitude tests, here is Peter's promotion.
They still have some qualms getting back to shore with these two dangerously full boats, but they get there. Full to the brim, just like the water jars which contained the miraculous wine. Just enough to fill; not enough to overfill.
And how does this relate to us?
Have you been working away at something with no results for what feels like forever?
Then Jesus might have something very special in store for you; but it is going to ask more of you when you feel like you have nothing left; and maybe more than once. It is going to include getting out of your comfort zone and doing something at His orders that on the surface of it makes no sense whatsoever. You may feel swamped and like you are even on the brink of losing everything, including your life, but it will be worth it.
It all comes down to, 'Are you willing to keep on saying Yes to Jesus, no matter what?'
That is what will get you through to the other side, from desert, to break-through to new mission-mantle.
Keep that look of joy and approval on Jesus' face before you, to keep you going.
St Peter, pray for us, we are going to need it big time.