Connections 2.06.2022: The Fear of Fish

Luke 5:1-11

Frustrated and exhausted fishermen ended their long workday—their long worknight—cleaning their nets. They shook out the catch: nothing salable or edible, just a few minnows. Weedy strands of seaweed, some pesky stones, empty shells. Simon’s aching shoulders slumped, and his eyelids drooped with fatigue.

Maybe Simon was too tired to argue when the stranger stepped aboard uninvited, requested an outing, gave a laketop lesson to the crowd on the shore, then suggested dropping the empty net overboard just one more time. I imagine Simon shrugging his shoulders, maybe even rolling his eyes. Was he obeying Jesus or just humoring him when he agreed to cast the net again?

Somewhere between “if you say so” and falling on his knees before Jesus in a boat weighed down with fish, Simon woke up.

And once he was awake, he was afraid.

A fisherman who had worked all night with no haul should have been overjoyed by this unexpected abundance, ready to open a pop-up seafood stall and fill his pockets with coins. Instead the first words of Jesus’ call on Simon’s life are: “Do not be afraid.”

Waking up to the possibilities God opens in our lives can be terrifying. Exciting, awe-inspiring, and joyful, yes. But also downright scary. Abraham knew it when God pointed him toward a new land. Joshua knew it when he stepped up to lead after Moses died. Mary knew it when an angel announced her shocking pregnancy. Shepherds knew it when a heavenly chorus sent them seeking a newborn king. And Simon knew it. Stooped in puddles of lakewater at Jesus’ feet with fish flopping around his knees, Simon knew the wonder, the worry, and the overwhelm of being on the receiving end of the ways of God. Simon joined in a long tradition of faithful people whose first divine invitation was to “fear not.”

I wonder if Simon was reassured by Jesus’ words. Are we reassured? Because if Jesus can do this with fish, how much braver do we need to be when we seek to gather in the people Jesus loves? When crowds overflow mountainsides and lakeshores and living rooms, when the work demands impossible strength and long fruitless nights, when wise stewardship is needed, the call is the same as it ever was.

Prepare your nets. Do not be afraid.

Discussion

  • It is natural to fear the unknown, but Simon’s fear came from what he had seen, live and in person. The stunning filling of his empty nets was only the beginning of the disciple’s experience of Jesus’ power. When have you witnessed some wondrous work of God? How did you react? Has witnessing God’s unbelievable work ever prompted you to fear God’s power?
  • The word “encourage” is related to “courage,” which comes from the French word for “heart.” As you have faced the fears that come with being a Christ-follower, who have your encouragers been? Who has helped you to “take heart” when faithfulness seemed pointless?
  • Think of those who are traveling the Jesus way alongside you. Is there anyone you know who is facing particular fears, disappointment, or frustration in their call? How can you be an encourager to them? How can you help others lift their heavy nets?

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is the lead editor of Connections. She is a graduate of Samford University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary, and as a military spouse has had nine (at last count) different hometowns in the past 20 years. She and her husband Scott and sons Sam and Levi live in the Washington D.C. area. In recent years, Nikki has written Smyth & Helwys curricula as well as devotionals for d365.org and Baptist Women in Ministry. She weaves clergy stoles, knits almost anything, and dreams of making her dreadful novel drafts into readable books. She blogs about faith and making things at amovingyarn.com.

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