Of Broken Nets and The Big Fisherman

I recently read a beautiful novel that fictionalizes the story of the Roman soldier who drew lots to win Jesus’ robe after the crucifixion.

It follows his journey through Gallillee searching for truth, and perhaps my favorite part was getting a personalized glimpse of the apostles and other people we only read sketches of in the Gospels. The author, Lloyd C. Douglas, was a minister who later in life took to writing, and he clearly had intimate, lifelong experiences with the Bible and likely apocrypha and other gospel research.

Even though I realize it‘s a work of fiction where he’s obliged to fill in many details, I love how Douglas breathed life into familiar characters, and as the well-known stories jumped off the pages I began to reframe how I’ve been reading New Testament verses in wonderful ways.

One of the apostles I’ve started to develop a great affection and admiration for is Simon Peter, who is nicknamed The Big Fisherman in Douglas’ novel. I love his passion and faith — from unquestioningly dropping his fishing nets to follow Christ to his response to the Savior washing his feet;

“Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.”

Peter was always all in, and I love him for it.

This week’s Come Follow Me study guide included a prompt to compare Christ’s first encounter with Peter and several other apostles, and the time he reappears to the disciples on the sea shore after the resurrection.

I had never realized it, but Christ told Peter where to cast his nets with miraculous results twice, and the differences are striking. The first time, the fish fill two boats to overflowing and break the nets. The fishermen panic as the boats begin to sink, and Peter turns to the Savior, afraid, and tells Him to get away from him, he isn’t worthy of His presence.

The miraculous haul was too much for them to handle, and they really don’t understand what is happening. Yet amazingly, when Christ invites Peter, James, and John to follow him, they do it! There’s so much they don’t understand yet, but the fishing partners make this enormous leap of faith and heed the Savior’s call.

The second time Christ tells Peter where to cast his nets is after the resurrection. Peter and his group seem to have gone back to their day job, and they follow Jesus’ instruction without realizing who he is, and again the nets come up overflowing with fish. At this point, Peter has witnessed Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, and he’s been at His side, learning, throughout His entire ministry. He has been set apart as an apostle.

This time, when they cast their nets, the nets don’t break. They hold firm.

And there is Peter, half-naked and standing knee-deep in squirming fish, competently pulling the nets to safety. When he realizes it’s Christ on the shore — this is an intimately familiar miracle for Peter now — he jumps into the water and swims to Him.

The nets held firm. This time, Peter is ready for the miraculous bounty Jesus sends his way. It’s a small detail, but it means everything, because it testifies to me that the Savior strengthened Peter, and He will strengthen us, too.

When we throw ourselves wholeheartedly at His feet, when we choose to walk with Christ and make the leap of faith Peter took, He will fortify us. Our spiritual nets will have the capacity and strength to hold whatever He chooses to fill them with. That was Christ’s promise to Peter, and He extends the same invitation to each of us. Will we jump in and swim to Him?

Photo credit: Daiga Ellaby via Unsplash⁣⁣

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