“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.” —John 21:3
“Hi, what’s up? It’s the middle of the night. Is everything okay?” I asked my friend on the other end of the phone call.
“Yes, we are all okay,” she paused. “It’s just that my heart is heavy and I couldn’t sleep. I need to talk to someone.”
As the conversation progressed, I understood that my friend, the head of the human resource department at a leading IT firm, was forced into a very uncomfortable situation—she had to let go of nearly 350 employees after the lockdown.
Financial difficulty due to the COVID-19 pandemic had already started claiming livelihoods, and as a child of God it hurt her deeply to see so many families suffer. Even if she refused to do it, it was inevitable.
Financial experts have already made their forecasts for an impending recession awaiting us on the other side of this pandemic. Uncertainty seems to be the code word of today; only tomorrow will tell us if we will even be employed the next day. The loans taken against our salary slips, the commitments made based on our estimation of the future—so many of our plans have come crashing down. This present situation has helped us realise how much we have built our expectations of life on such uncertain grounds.
The disciples of Jesus understood change better than most. Simon Peter, for instance, had left a secure career as a fisherman to follow Jesus—as had James, John, and Andrew. All of them had simply responded to Jesus’ call when He said, “Come, follow Me, and I will send you out to fish for people” (Mark 1:17).
We know that Simon Peter had a family and commitments—much like you and me—which could have held him back when Jesus called him. Instead of flinching from the uncertainty of following this “new rabbi” from Nazareth, however, he adventurously set out for what he believed was a higher calling.
Fast forward three years, and the disciples had witnessed numerous miracles. They were there when the crowd of over 5,000 were fed. They were there when scores of people were healed. They even saw Lazarus being raised from the dead. People from near and far came to see this would-be “Messiah”, and these once-obscure fishermen were now operating as the front office for the most happening movement in Israel. Simon Peter was so famous that he was identified by a servant girl at Jesus’ trial and crucifixion as being a follower of Christ (Mark 14:67).
But overnight, it all changed. Jesus was crucified like a criminal on a cross. These once-popular men were forced into hiding and, even after the resurrection, they did not expect to see their risen Lord. Life would never be the same again.
Peter was again at a crossroads in his career. As uncertainty crept in, I wonder if he thought of his family and the many commitments he had. For three years, he had forgotten his nets. For three years, he had followed Jesus. For three years, he had hoped that his investment of time and effort would guarantee his future. Yet now, all he was left with was an abundance of uncertainty. So, he made a decision to return to what he knew best—fishing.
Sunrise at the Sea of Galilee
Joined by his ex-colleagues, he ventured back out on the boat; through the night he toiled, but to no avail. Dejected and hungry at daybreak, he spotted a man on the shore who asked him a simple question, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” (John 21:5).
Perhaps he thought, “Here is a customer and I have nothing to offer.” But the unusual instruction—“throw your net on the right side of the boat” (v. 6)—resulted in a tremendous catch of fish. The disciples then recognised the Lord. Wasn’t this exactly what Jesus had done when He had called Peter to follow him?
Peter raced through the water to meet the Master on the shore, and lo and behold—what should greet him but the delicious smell of fried fish and bread! It is interesting to note that Jesus already had a fire going with some fish on it, but He still asked Peter to add some of his own catch. His hunger satisfied, Jesus reissued Peter with the “original” job offer: “Follow me” (v. 19).
We are invited to follow Christ too. In these times, as catastrophic world events and financial uncertainty take centre stage, we have security in knowing that our call to follow Christ is a non-retractable offer. Earthly jobs may fail us and our bank accounts may go empty, but we know that our future rests securely in knowing that we serve One who cares for our every need.
Psalm 23:1 reassures us: “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” God, our Good Shepherd, extends to us His provision, compassion, and mission. He specialises in turning our times of testing into testimonies of triumph. All He wants is for us to add to the meal—a little faith, a lot of hope, and complete trust in His unending love.
As Charles Spurgeon puts so eloquently: “We cannot always trace God’s hand, but we can always trust God’s heart.