What is Jesus trying to tell you that you’re not hearing because you’re too distracted?
In Luke 5:1–11, we see a very familiar story. It’s the story of Jesus calling Peter, his brother Andrew, and another set of brothers, James and John, to become His disciples. On the surface, it is a story of a powerful miracle that leads to the four fishermen leaving everything to follow Jesus. But if we dig just a little deeper, we discover that there is much more to it.
The passage starts with Jesus’ back to the Sea of Galilee. In front of Him is a large crowd who, in Luke’s words, are “pressing in” to hear Jesus preach the Gospel. It is a powerful moment. The Son of God preaching the Word of God. The crowd is enthralled. But off to the side is a group of fishermen mending their nets. They have been fishing all night and are about to go home to ostensibly grab a warm meal and a soft bed. It doesn’t take much to imagine that they are tired. And apparently, they aren’t paying any attention to the sermon that is happening in their presence.
It wasn’t that Peter and Andrew didn’t know who Jesus was. There is an account in John 1:35–42 where we see Andrew, Peter’s brother, interact with Jesus. Andrew is a disciple of John the Baptist at the time. He hears John say that Jesus is the lamb of God, and Andrew follows Jesus. He asks Jesus where he is staying and actually spends the night with Him. The next day Andrew goes to Peter and says, "Hey, we've met the Messiah. Come meet him." Peter goes and meets Jesus, and that's where that story ends.
But there’s more. Jesus had been in Capernaum, Peter’s hometown, healing the sick and teaching God’s Word. He was beginning to cause a stir. There’s no way Peter didn’t hear the buzz. Jesus had even impacted Peter’s family specifically. In Luke 4, Jesus had healed Peter's mother-in-law of a fever. And here, weeks if not months later, Peter and his friends are back doing what they knew to do: they are working.
For whatever reason, Peter had not yet responded to Jesus’ pursuit of him. On this particular day, it seems by all accounts that Peter is simply too busy to notice. But that is all about to change.
Luke 5:3 is a wonderful moment in Scripture: “Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, [Jesus] asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat." Don't miss what Jesus did here. Jesus didn't ask Peter if He could borrow his boat. He just got in it. And at this moment, Jesus forced Peter to act. Jesus broke through Peter's distractedness and made him take notice.
But Jesus wasn’t done. At some point, Jesus finished His sermon, looked at Peter, and said, row me out further into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch. This is too much for Peter! Here he was, about to finally get to go rest after a night of work, and Jesus was asking him, a professional fisherman, to row back out and fish some more after they had already packed up! Peter's response shows his frustration: “And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5).
Here we see Peter’s emotions begin to show. There is tone implied here. Dr. Archibald Robertson says in his commentary that there is some pretty strong frustration in Peter’s tone: “This isn’t disobedience. It’s acquiescence to show his obedience to Christ as ‘Master,’ but with no confidence whatsoever in the wisdom of this particular command.” Peter was exhausted. He knew there was something about Jesus (after all, he did agree to row out to the deep), but he had not yet bought in. And so, he begrudgingly does what Jesus asked with no real expectation that anything will change.
Of course, we know the way the story goes. They throw the nets over and haul in a catch of fish so large that the boats almost sank. It was Jesus doing what Jesus does. He used a miracle to finally get Peter’s attention. And He did get his attention. Peter confesses Jesus as Lord and realizes his own sinful posture in the face of Jesus’ identity (Luke 5:8). Jesus then commands Peter and the others to leave everything and follow Him, and they do.
However, don't miss what it took for Peter to get to this point. Jesus had a plan, and that plan involved Peter. But it took multiple interactions with Jesus, and ultimately, a moment where He finally had to force Peter's attention by performing a miracle to get Peter to wake up and follow Him.
Before we judge Peter too harshly, aren’t we like Peter at times? Jesus, the guy who healed Peter’s mother-in-law, the guy who had been setting the city afire with His teaching and healing, this same guy was preaching to the crowds, and what were Peter and his friends doing? Working. Why was he working with Jesus in his midst? Because, too often, that’s what we do! We manage our lives. We have our responsibilities. We have family, work, kids' sports, hobbies, and so on. Too often, we are too busy to make enough room for Jesus in our lives.
We are no different from Peter. We are surrounded by God and His goodness, and most of us go through our lives with our heads down, while ALL THE WHILE Jesus is relentlessly pursuing us. What did it take for Jesus to get their attention? He stepped into their space. He blurred the lines between the God stuff (the Gospel He was preaching) and their everyday lives.
What is Jesus trying to tell you that you’re not hearing because you’re too distracted? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to find out?
This week, why don't we let Peter be our motivation to make space in our lives to hear what Jesus has to say to us. God has a plan for this world, and that plan has space for every one of us to plug in. It's what God wants from us and for us. But before God can use us, we have to know where He wants to use us. And to do that, we have to be listening.
Andy Blanks is the Co-Founder and Publisher for Iron Hill Press. He is an author, speaker, and podcast host. He lives in Birmingham, AL, with his wife, Brendt, and their four children.