For the next few Throw Back Thursdays, I am taking a break from my novel research and am instead sharing some Biblical Times research.
For the last five years, my family and I have traveled to Wisconsin with our church to provide a Sports Vacation Bible School. And for the last three years, I have created a daily prayer journal for the missionary teams to complete as they progress through the week.
The process for this takes me hours for each individual entry. While I am not going to share the devotions, I thought I would share some of the Bible story and the research that helps me understand the context of the Bible story. So here we go…
Day 1: The Calling of Simon Peter, Luke 5:1-11
Biblical Times Fisherman
Most of us today think of fishing as a relaxing venture with a pole or two in the water, a hat pulled down over your eyes, and a dozing kind of day. And perhaps if fishing were done for leisure it might not have been too different for our Biblical friends.
However, the life of a fisherman was anything but leisurely.
A Day in the Life of a Fisherman
Being a fisherman was strenuous work which required persistence, dedication, and long hours, often with little results.
Nets were handmade out linen or flax. Pieces of cork or wood were attached to the tops so they would float. The weights were stones with holes hand-drilled through the middle.
To prevent rotting, fishermen had to carefully clean, dry, mend, and then fold their nets every day, and this was all completed after working as a team, dragging the nets along the bottom of the lake toward shore, drawing them up, emptying the nets into the boat, rowing back out to deep water, and then dropping the nets again… seven or eight times each night.
And don’t forget the fish had to be sorted, cleaned, and then sold before the fishermen could head home for an afternoon of rest.
Why Did They Night Fish?
Was it to avoid the heat of the day when the sun would bake their backs? Was it so the fish would be fresh to send to market in the morning?
Good reasons, but actually, no.
Due to the fact the fishing nets were made out of linen or flax, fish could easily see and avoid the nets during the day. That is why most fishing occurred at night.
What Was the Boat Like?
The typical fishing boat was 23 feet long and seven feet wide. A crew of five people manned it: four to row and one to steer and supervise the catch. The last person also had the job of watching for signs of sudden storms.
THE BIBLE STORY
(My own retelling of Luke 5:1-11.)
Simon Peter was part of a fishing team of at least two boats who had fished all night long only to end up unsuccessful. Not a single fish. Weary, they sat on the shore tending to their nets when Jesus came along, a crowd pressing against Him.
Jesus asked Simon to allow Him to get in the boat and put out a little way. After the long night, they had, and the many chores ahead of him, it would have been easier for Peter to say no. However, Peter did as he was asked and had the privilege of listening to Jesus teach the crowds.
When the teaching was complete, Jesus asked Simon to once again put out into deep water and try fishing again. Peter was tired and reluctant to do so. He knew that fish would see their nets during the day and the likelihood of this trip being a failure as well was high. But he wasn’t doing this on his own. The Great Teacher had asked him to put out into the deeper water.
“Master,” Simon replied, “we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing! But at Your word, I’ll let down the nets.”
Can you hear the reluctance in his answer? It is almost as if he is saying, “I really don’t want to do this, but because you have asked me, I will do it anyway.” He wasn’t enthusiastic about it. In fact, it was probably the last thing he wanted to do, but he did it anyway.
His obedience was rewarded with so many fish, their nets began to tear and they had to call for help. When Simon Peter saw this, he realized Jesus was holy and had divine power. He knew he was unworthy to be in Jesus’ presence.
“Go away from me, because I am a sinful man, Lord!”
But Jesus knew Simon Peter better than even Simon knew himself. He had created Simon. He valued Simon. He had a job for Simon.
“Do not be afraid. From now on you will be catching people!”
Simon had been called. He left a successful business behind and followed Jesus.
Reflection Questions for You
What trepidations do you have as we go into the weekend?
Is there anything holding you back from following Jesus or serving God?
Do you feel you have been called to do the impossible?
Jesus called you. He knows your skills. He knows your heart. He wants to use you. Admit whatever is holding you back and say, “But at your word, I will let down my net.”