By Joe Chesser
Most all of us have told stories about fishing. If not we have at least heard fish stories. And probably most of them have been exaggerated at least a bit, haven’t they. But it’s hard to beat the fish stories in the Bible ... and they are not exaggerated! For example, the story of Jonah, or finding a coin in a fish’s mouth to pay taxes (Matthew 17).
Have you ever gone fishing and ended up with two boat loads of fish so heavy the boats were sinking? That’s what happened to professional fishermen Peter, Andrew, James and John after fishing all night and getting skunked (Luke 5.1-11). A similar thing happened sometime later when Peter and a few friends went fishing all night and caught nothing. Someone from the shore called out to them, “”Cast your net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” They did, and ended up with 153 large fish so heavy they had a difficult time hauling them to shore (John 21.1-14).
That someone was Jesus. In both of these last two stories Jesus told the experienced fishermen to cast their nets once again into the sea. Even though Jesus was a carpenter turned preacher and not a fisherman, Peter, who was a professional fisherman, cast his nets into the sea once again just because Jesus told him to do so. “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets” (Luke 5.5).
As exciting and entertaining as these fish stories are in their own right, these stories are not about fish. They are merely the means to help us see the incredible and amazing power of God over nature. God created a fish large enough to swallow Jonah, keep him alive for three days, and then spit him up on the beach. Incredible! God put a specific Roman coin in a specific fish’s mouth for Peter to catch on his first try so he could pay his taxes. Wow! Because the fishermen took Jesus at his word, the boats became overloaded with fish. All of these fish stories go far beyond natural law. They are so far beyond what’s normal that many skeptics question their authenticity. These skeptics fail to see and believe that these stories are not about fish, they are about God.
It makes me wonder how many other “natural” events in our lives are like these fish stories. How many times have we been in just the right place at just the right time to receive something special (a job opportunity; a discount; help with a flat tire; a new friend; etc.)? Was it luck, or was it God? Was it “natural” or was it Providence? The word “providence” is not found in Scripture, but concept of Providence can be seen throughout the Bible for those who are open to see it. What Peter saw when his nets and boats were filled with fish helped him see Jesus as the Lord and himself as a sinner: “I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5.8). Because of the fish Peter saw the Lord. Because he saw the Lord, Jesus called him to become a fisher of men (Luke 5.10).
What are these fish stories telling you? Are you more impressed with the abundance of blessings God gives you, or that they are calling you for a higher purpose?