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Praying about Jesus’s miracles: The first miraculous catch of fish

Lynne Baab • Tuesday July 2 2024

Praying about Jesus’s miracles: The first miraculous catch of fish

One of my favorite prayers is “Lord, you know.” Sometimes, I’m troubled about something and confused about what to ask God for. Other times, I’m tired and can’t organize my thoughts, but I feel deep concern about something. Sometimes, I feel blue, and I don’t know how to pray for my mood.

I tend to pray “Lord, you know” about my personal life and the needs of friends and families. The miraculous catch of fish widens the options for when and where to pray that helpful prayer.

Luke 4 describes the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. After Jesus fasts in the wilderness and is tempted by Satan, he returns to Galilee. He teaches in synagogues and is well-received. The only exception is his hometown, Nazareth, where the townspeople try to throw him off a cliff. He leaves Nazareth for Capernaum, where he teaches, casts out a demon, and heals Simon’s mother-in-law. He retreats alone to a solitary place. (That’s the same word I wrote about two weeks ago that can refer to places that are desolate, secluded, lonely, remote, deserted, or isolated). The crowds pursue him, and he tells them he needs to preach throughout the region.

A lot happens in Luke 4, but one thing is missing: disciples. The first 11 verses of Luke 5 describe the calling of the first disciples. Simon, James, and John have been fishing all night, with no success. Jesus asks Simon to let him preach from Simon’s boat. After Jesus teaches, he tells Simon to put out into the lake to fish.

Clearly Simon had sensed something remarkable in Jesus when Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law and spoke to the crowds because. Simon says to Jesus, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5). The trust expressed in Simon’s response always amazes me.

In effect, Simon has said, “Lord, you know.”

Simon’s trust is rewarded by a catch of fish so large that the nets start to break, and the boats begin to sink from the weight of all the fish. Simon’s response to this catch seems over the top. “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’” (verse 8).

Jesus has already shown Peter that Jesus has power over illness. Jesus has intrigued Peter with his insightful teaching. In Peter’s mind, this is fine — Peter never pretended to be a doctor or a teacher. Jesus’s expertise in these areas is welcome, interesting, and admirable.

In the moment when all those fish broke the nets and swamped the boats, Jesus has demonstrated his power over fish, and fishing is Peter’s livelihood and area of knowledge. Jesus has shown he knows more about something Peter views as his specialty and identity. This is terrifying, humbling, and awe-inspiring.

In my young adult life, when studying this passage, we talked about the Lordship of Christ in all areas of our lives, including our areas of competence. I still like the word “Lord,” use it often in my prayers, and have tried to submit to Jesus’s lordship in my life, an ongoing and fruitful process. I’ve spoken with people from Britain for whom “lord” implies everything they dislike about the ancient hierarchical patterns in their society. “Lord” evokes the aristocracy, which is often insensitive, entitled, and self-focused. For some Christians, the term "lord" represents a form of toxic masculinity that they rightly want to reject.

Perhaps “Lord” doesn’t work for you as a name for Jesus, and “Jesus’s lordship in all of life” doesn’t resonate as a helpful and challenging concept because of the language. Whether the word "lord" works for you or not, I invite you to ponder the ways you think about your areas of competence and your willingness to view Jesus as an expert even there. Perhaps the prayer “Jesus, you know” can help us express our dependence on God even when and where we feel most competent and knowledgeable — in addition to those areas of life where we really don’t know what to do or how to pray.

Jesus, you know. We rest in your knowledge of us in the areas of our lives that we can’t find insight about. You know us deep inside, and we are grateful that the Holy Spirit prays for us when we don’t know how to pray. Jesus, you know. You see more than we do in the areas of our competence. Your Spirit supports us at work and when we do things we’re good at. You guide us and empower us in our expertise. Thank you. Jesus, you know.

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Next week:  A second miraculous catch of fish. Illustration by Dave Baab: Green Lake, Seattle.

Previous posts about fish and water:

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