Jesus is growing in popularity, an great crowds are following Him. He is at the lake of Gennesaret, or the Sea of Galilee, and presumably knew Peter a little as He would have stayed with him in Capernaum after John the Baptist had pointed Jesus out at the river Jordan. Jesus asks Peter to give him a hand and use his boat so Jesus can teach the crowds which had assembled to listen to Him.
I think it is sometimes helpful to think about the circumstances of an event. Sometimes when listening to the Gospels and hearing about one great event after the other it might seem that it is all very disconnected and distant from our own lives. It might feel like reading a novel with elements of reality, but ultimately something that seems fiction. It can seem very unreal and the Gospel stories become stories disconnected. But that is not the way it is. These are not stories which are carefully recorded as we know from St. Luke’s introduction. Luke clearly indicates that he is writing history, and has carefully inquired to make sure they are accurate. We can moreover verify many facts in his accounts and find them to be accurate. While there are naturally many supernatural events in the Gospels, as would be expected, it doesn’t mean the stories are irrelevant to our lives and by putting ourselves in the story we can learn what it is that is so significant for the characters and why.
So here we have Jesus and Peter and they would have presumably known each other. Jesus, after having taught the crowd asks Peter to pull out into the deep water and to let the nets down for a catch. Peter objects because as a fisherman he knows it is pointless. They didn’t catch anything earlier, the deep water presumably does not render much hope for a catch and moreover it is the wrong time of day. But because Jesus has build up this sense of authority and is a friend of Peter he goes ahead anyway and to his surprise nets a huge catch of fish.
The story as it unfolds is quite a plausible story and we can imagine it happening. But a thing to reflect on is what effect this event has on Peter. Peter falls on his knees before Jesus, and ask Him to go away from Him because He is a sinful man. Peter and his friends knew Jesus, they had heard Him speak, they had seen some of the miracles and moreover had Him as a guest in their house. So while they would have known and respected Him, only now did it really ring home to Peter what all these miracles really indicated. Jesus performed a miracle which really touched Peter’s heart as a fisherman. It is in this instant that something about who Jesus is dawns on Peter, and in addressing Jesus Peter now used Lord instead of Master.
So even if we were witnesses of healing miracles every day this would not necessarily make us realise who God is as is clear from this Gospel message. Miracles might not be as important as some people think. Jesus performed miracles probably to give Himself credibility and it might help open up people’s minds to the possibility of the supernatural. But ultimately they seem to make little difference in our relationship, our closeness to God, and to accept Him for who He is. This only comes when we allow God to enter into our lives. Like Peter we need to trust and follow the lead God is giving us, even if it might not make complete sense; to pull out into the deep. Only when we give this trust and open our hearts can God really in the depths of who we are connect with us and let us get a glimpse of who He really is and in extension who He is in our lives. This event works a huge change in Peter and he leaves everything including the big catch which must be worth a fortune. He suddenly doesn’t hesitate to abandon everything and follow Jesus without reserve. This is the effect an encounter with God could and should have, and this is the encounter we should be looking for and should be open towards.
And there is just one little extra remark. While Peter is in awe of what He just experienced, and seems to feel unworthy of being with Jesus, Jesus does not leave Him behind. Instead He invites him exactly to do the opposite and tells Peter to follow Him, to come with Him, to remain with Him. Jesus is not interested in how far we are from Him, He always wants us to come closer to Him.
For me it shows that I need to see where God acts in my life how He personally does things in my life which create this intimate connection with him. It is only when we realise this connection that the relationship becomes meaningful, and only then can we follow Peter’s example; to follow the Lord completely in our own lives and maybe even answer as Isaiah did to the question “Whom shall I sent? Who will be our messenger?” whole heartedly “Here I am, send me!”