1. It is certain that Mt. 4:18-22 and Mk. 1:16-20 describe the same situation but it is not certain that Lk. 5:1-11 describes that same situation. And it is certain that the account at Jn. 21:1-11 cannot be the same as the three synoptic accounts.
2. The disciples were experienced fishermen They had fished all night but caught nothing. Then Jesus told them to move out into deep water. In vs. 4 Jesus' command contained a promise. He implied that they would catch fish in the deep water. It is similar to Jesus' command to the ten lepers, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." Lk. 17:14. The command contained a promise. Jesus implied that they would be healed.
3. In vs. 5 Peter says, "In reliance on Your Word I will let down the nets." He abandoned his knowledge and experience as a fisherman and obeyed the Word of Jesus. When the Word of God commands us to do something we must obey and not argue on the basis of our supposed superior knowledge.
4. Vss. 6-7 remind us that when the Lord blesses, He blesses mightily. He gives more than we ask and in a way which is far superior to the ways of man.
5. The confession of Peter in vs. 8 the Bible: of Paul, I Tim. 1:15; of Abraham, Gen. 18:27; of Job, Job 42:6; of Isaiah, Is. 6:7; of David, Ps. 51:3-4; and, of Luther. The last thing that Luther wrote before he died was: "I am a beggar." Yes. All men are spiritual beggars. They are sinful. They have no righteousness of their own. They do not know what is best for them. They do not know the will of God without being told. Christians admit all of these things. And the Lord is gracious to them and forgives them. That kind of person makes the best missionary, a fisher of people. All have sinned. But all have been justified. This is always the heart of the Christian's thinking and doing.
6. Whenever we are dealing with one of Jesus' miracles we should never forget that the primary purpose of His miracles was to prove that He was the Son of God. Jn. 2:11. The miracles also always served a good purpose for people in need. Simon Peter and those with him, on this occasion, needed fish. Jesus supplied them. They also needed assurance that He was the Messiah. Jesus showed it. And, finally, they needed a lesson to teach them how to spread the Kingdom of God on earth. It caused them to follow Jesus, vs. 11.
7. The first three verses of our text show the urgency with which Jesus taught. So many people pressed on Him to hear Him that He was forced to board a boat and then to teach from the boat. He used the boat as a pulpit.
8. After Peter had confessed his unworthiness in vs. 8, fear and awe took hold of Peter and his companions. In fact, it was fear and awe that caused Peter to confess his helplessness. But Jesus did not want them to live in fear and awe of Him. He said: "Quit being afraid." That is what the original Greek means. That expression occurs many, many times in both the OT and NT. Cf. Gen. 15:1; 26:24; Dan. 10:12.19; Is. 41:10.13; Lk. 1:30; 2:10; Acts 18:9; 27:24; Mt. 1:20; 28:5.10; Rev. 1:17; and Lk. 8:50 to mention only a few. Jesus does not want us to be afraid of Him. He is our brother and friend. He is kinder to us than a mother is to her baby. Fear does not cause lasting obedience. Love does. Jesus' miracles always proved His love.
9. Peter serves as our model. Early in the morning, though he had fished all night, he caught nothing. But when Jesus commanded, he tried again. At the beginning of a day we often feel like Peter. But we must follow the Word of Jesus. And when we do, we learn two things: that we are unworthy sinners and that He blesses us bountifully in body and soul. We live by faith, not by sight and feeling.
Theme: THE SINFUL MAN FINDS TRUE HELP
We usually think of finding spiritual help when we go to church or are reading a devotion. But Peter, the sinner, found his help right in his work. Though a good fisherman, Peter had fished all night and caught nothing. But the Lord Jesus came to Peter's rescue. Not only did the Lord bless Peter with many fish but He also taught Peter the way that He wanted Peter to go. Here Peter is our model.
I. THE SINFUL MAN REALIZES HIS LOST CONDITION
B. He learns his sinful condition. It is not easy to analyze the psychology of vs. 8 in our text. Peter said: "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, 0 Lord!" It was a frank and honest confession of sin and sinfulness. It reminds us of the following confessions of sins: Paul, I Tim. 1:15; Abraham, Gen. 18:27; Job, Job 42:6; Isaiah, Is. 6:7; David, Ps. 51:3-4. On his deathbed Luther said: "I am only a beggar before God. Yes we have no righteousness of our own. All we can bring to God is our sin.
II. THE SINFUL MAN IS FORGIVEN AND THEN OBEYS THE LORD
A. The fearful one is told not to fear. Vss. 9-10 of our text tell us that fear and awe took hold of Peter and all his companions. That is the reaction of sinful man in the presence of God. The shepherds at Bethlehem were fearful when the angels appeared. On Easter the women were fearful when the angels appeared. Because of his lost condition sinful man always fears in God's presence. But God takes no pleasure in the fear of man. The words: "Fear not" or "Quit being afraid" occur many, many times in the OT and the NT. Cf Gen. 15:1; 26:24; Dan. 10:12.19; Is. 41:10.13; Lk. 1:30; 2:10; Acts 18:9; 27:24; Mt. 1:20; 28:5.10; Rev. 1:17; Lk. 8:50. What does this mean? It means that God forgives the sinner. God removes the fear of the sinner by forgiving his sin. Forgiveness takes away man's guilt. Then fear disappears. That's what Jesus did for the disciples.
B. His faith causes this man to obey the Lord.
1. Peter said: "In reliance on Your Word I will let down the net." Very likely Peter's mind said: "To fish at this time of morning is foolishness. I won't do it." But his faith said: "My Lord knows much better than I do. Surely his command contains a promise." He proceeded by faith, not by sight or feeling.
2. With his companions he abandoned all and followed Jesus. His profession had been fishing fish which then died. But he became a fisherman of people who lived forever. The church is a group of fishermen. They fish people. They must learn to follow the Word of the Lord.
Peter was a child of God when Jesus came to the lake teaching But Peter had to learn each day what it means to be a child of God and a fisherman in God's Kingdom. Confession of sin and absolution must be experienced daily. Following the Word of the Lord is a daily process. Learning to be a fisher of men is a daily occurrence.