At Your Word, I Will
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But Simon answered and said to Him, "Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net" (Lk. 5:5).
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Like any experienced fisherman, Peter knew when the fish just weren't biting--and the empty nets from the previous night's work told him everything he needed to know about his chances of success. So when Jesus walked up and told him to try one more time, Peter was skeptical. This would be a waste of his time. However, Peter already had a measure of respect for Jesus, so "at your word" he went out into deep water and cast his net again.
The net caught so many fish that it almost capsized Peter's boat, and he had to call another boat over to help haul in the enormous load. Everyone "was astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken" (v. 9).
This episode taught Peter that Jesus knew what He was talking about. But the lesson would have been lost if Peter hadn't followed through on the Lord's instruction, despite his misgivings. Whether eager or grudging, Peter's compliance validated what seemed like a pointless order.
There are so many of Jesus' instructions that have the same potential for astonishing results, but are often greeted with skepticism. Some examples:
Jesus says, "Love your enemies . . . do good to those who hate you" (Matt. 5:44). That directive runs counter to everything we think we know about human relations. We love our friends and hate our enemies. We do good to those who do good to us. Is it even possible to generate positive emotions toward those who abuse us? Jesus says: Just do it, whether it makes sense or not.
Jesus says, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Ac. 20:35). From our earliest experiences around the annual Christmas tree, we are conditioned to believe the opposite: we're happier when we receive. But Jesus insists that there is something about radical generosity that satisfies our souls in a way that we will never achieve no matter how much we get. Jesus says: Give, give, and keep on giving, and you'll be glad you did.
Jesus says: "If you have anything against anyone, forgive him" (Mk. 11:25-26). Anything? Anyone? That's a sweeping statement that can't possibly hold water. There are some offenses that are so serious, some scoundrels who are so evil, that forgiveness is simply out of the question. Nevertheless, Jesus insists: Forgive anyway.
We could go on and on with these kinds of injunctions. They all seem so counterintuitive, but people who muster the courage to comply are usually astonished at the outcome of these behaviors. Like Peter, they discover that Jesus knows what He's talking about.
The life that Jesus calls us to live is not easy, but it is not our place to second-guess His orders. Whether or not we understand, appreciate, or agree with all the mandates He lays upon us, our response must be the same as Peter's: "Nevertheless at Your word I will."