When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4).
I hated the midnight shift.
I think I hated it because any time I was required to work through the “deep night” hours it was followed in the morning by my regular daytime shift as a chaplain intern at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas, Texas.
To be fair, I didn’t do the midnight shift very often. We had a full-time chaplain on the staff who regularly worked those hours. That was the rhythm of his standard work week. But from time to time he would take vacation days, and when he did the department interns were called upon to work through the night.
My memories of that experience color the way I read the brief conversation between Jesus and Peter in Luke 5:1-5.
Bad Timing or a Lack of Trust?
A quick review: Jesus was teaching by the Sea of Galilee – what Luke calls the Lake of Gennesaret – and the attendance exceeded what was expected. Jesus was getting pushed from the shoreline into the water, so he got into a boat belonging to Peter. Peter pushed out into the water and Jesus used the boat as a speaking platform.
Luke doesn’t tell us much about what Jesus said that day or how long his teaching lasted. What we are told is that when Jesus got into Peter’s boat, Peter had been busy washing his nets and cleaning his gear.
His shift was over.
Time to clean up and take a break. Jesus, however, had a different idea.
Once he had concluded his message and dismissed the crowd, he said to Peter, “Let’s go out to the deep water and the let the nets down for a catch.” That was probably the last thing Peter wanted to do. Peter had already worked through the night, and he said as much to Jesus. “We’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.”
No doubt Peter was weary after a night of fishing. The timing was not good. But what we hear in Peter’s reply might have been more than a timing issue. Very likely it was a trust issue. Peter knew better than Jesus did. Peter knew, based on his lifetime of experience and his acquired expertise, that the best time for fishing is at night.
Peter knew those waters better than the carpenter Jesus. Or so he believed.
And yet, as we saw yesterday, Peter’s respect for Jesus moved him to comply. “But because you say so. . .” Peter had no clue what Jesus had in store for him.
One More Time
I’d like to suggest to you that all of us have deep water places in our life, and it is in those very places that we struggle to trust God. We’re hesitant to believe that God can make a difference in the places where we’ve prayed and worked and waited to no avail. Our deep waters are familiar places, and we’re pretty sure we know them better than Jesus does.
Maybe these depths are a difficult and broken relationship, patterns that you pray will change but never do.
These depths might be an ongoing relentless fight with depression or crippling worry or an enslaving habit.
These deep waters could be a stubborn circumstance related to your work or your finances.
The bottom line is you’ve been dealing with these things for a long time. You’ve been out on those waters over and over again, and you’ve got nothing to show for it. And yet, Jesus asks you to go back and let down the nets one more time.
He’s asking for more than compliance or mere obedience. He’s asking you to trust him.
Jesus has a way of showing up in those places and doing what we could have never done on our own. When he does this, he turns our reluctant obedience into bold risk-taking devotion.
The question for you today might be obvious. Where are the deep waters in your life?
You might not see the miracle right away – but just know that those deep waters are where the miracles happen. Ask God for the grace to trust him, ready to go back there again, ready to be surprised by more than you could ask or imagine.
Gracious God, I ask you today to be at work in those ‘deep water’ places of my life – the places where I’m sure there’s nothing left to do; the places where I’m sure I know better than you; the places where I’ve given up. Help me to be expectant, ready to see you do what only you can do. Do this as you see fit, when you see fit, and teach me to wait on you in trust, I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.