We Gotta Go Deeper
I don’t profess to be much of a fisherman. What few skills I had as a youth fishing the fresh waters of Mississippi lakes and ponds have nearly faded and they seemed to be of little use on the brackish waters of the Rappahannock.
But there are still a few lessons that I seemed to remember; if you want to catch the big fish, you must fish deeper. Those fish generally are not up in the shallow waters.
What is true of fishing is also true of lots of life’s quests. If you want to know more, you need to continue learning. If you want to grow a business, you need to continue investing. Life is risky, but by not risking anything, you gain nothing.
Jesus came to the lake of Gennesaret. William Barkley tells us that this is the same as the sea of Galilee. The name comes from the fertile land that lies just to the west of the body of water, it means the garden of riches or the prince of gardens. The body of water itself is 8 miles wide and 13 miles long. At that time, the lake was the setting for at least nine townships with populations of no less than 15,000 people.
The lake was most likely the main commerce of these towns. It provided the livelihood of most folks.
When Jesus made his way down by the seashore, the sun was probably just rising. The fishermen were just coming in from their morning run, much like we see around here with the crabbers and oystermen.
A crowd of people, many who had heard him or at least heard about him, were gathering all around him, so much so, that Jesus needed a different platform from which to speak. Seeing the boats emptying of fishermen, he jumps onto Simon Peter’s boat and tells him to put out a little ways, so that he may teach the crowd.
After he is done, he turns to Peter and tells him to “put out into the deeper water and let down your nets.” Peter being Peter, says to Jesus. “Master, we have been fishing all night and have caught nothing, yet as you say so, we will let out our nets one more time.”
And of course, they catch so much fish that a second boat is summoned and even then both boats began to sink. These were no small boats. The remains of a fishing boat were recently discovered near the shore of Lake Gennesaret dating back to this era, and it was 21 feet long, 8 feet wide and 4 feet deep. That’s a lot of fish.
If this story sounds familiar, that is because there is another story of Jesus telling Peter to cast his nets to the other side of his boat after Jesus resurrection in John’s Gospel.
But Luke tells this story from the standpoint of Peter’s call, or should I say, his first call to be in ministry. Both stories deal with confession of sin, repentance, and responding to God’s call. And both deal with evangelism, and being called to fish for people.
But I think there is a deeper message here for all of us who are called to fish for people. That is as a people called to be fishers of people, we gotta go deeper in at least three ways.
But before I get to that, let’s think about our aversion to going deeper. Why are we often afraid of going deeper? As I think about it in terms of water, a lot of people are afraid to go deeper because they don’t know how to swim. My mother never learned how to swim. Her own mother was afraid of the water that she taught passed down that same fear to her; so much so that my mom would fill her bathtub with only about 2 to 3 inches of water. That is what she once told me.
Whenever we would go to Arkabutla or Sardis Lake in N. Mississippi, I remember my mom would only wade in the water not even ankle deep; barely to the top of her feet. But my mom also knew that was a fear that she did not want her kids to have. We all had to take swimming lessons.
Before I took swimming lessons, I remember Danny Lambert, one of my older brother’s friends, told me he would teach me and then grabbed me and pushed me into six feet of water, I was only about 3 feet tall. Not a good experience overall. So I could appreciate my mother’s fear. Never-the-less I did eventually learn how to swim with a much better instructor.
The point is, we are afraid of going deeper because we are not equipped. We lack the skills, the fundamental teachings to understand how to navigate deeper conversations of faith.
Something else that keeps us from going deeper is we don’t know what is down there in the deep dark water. It is one of the reasons that when I do go into the ocean, I am extremely aware of my surroundings. I am constantly looking for shark fins or giant squids. Or even back in those Mississippi lakes, I would be looking out for water moccasins. It’s just what you do. In other words, we don’t like to go deeper because we are afraid of the unknown. You might call it a lack of faith, then again it could be a great faith, a great faith that something nasty is going to get you.
The third reason we don’t like to go deeper is perhaps the same reason Peter was not all that excited about having to go back out there after he had finished cleaning his nets; it was just that much more work. It was out of his routine. He may have been tired, and he was certainly disappointed. He thought he knew what the result would be and so he just did not want to do it.
How often is that us in answering the call to go a little deeper? To try something new? To go over and talk to that couple or family that we have not seen before either here in church or somewhere in town?
And so, to be faithful to our call as followers of Jesus, to be fishers of people, but also to be faithful in our own growth as disciples of Jesus. We’ve gotta go deeper.
It’s not enough to just say I believe on Sunday and expect miracles only to go back home and keep living our lives the same old way; with fears of learning something new, fears of the unknown, and fears having to give it a little more effort.
If we continue to live with those kinds of fears, we will never see anything different in our own lives, much less our church.
To combat those fears, we need to do these three things.
- Get equipped. Get equipped by picking up that bible and reading it, and that devotional and hearing other people’s stories. Better yet, get involved in bible study with others, start a bible study – small group of some kind where in the course of whatever you are doing you talk about how your faith is doing. It could be a cooking club, a book club, a men’s outing. Equip yourselves with prayer, with more opportunities for worship, and fellowship with in the Spirit of God.
- To face the fear of the unknown, get familiar with your spiritual surroundings by becoming more involved with your church. Again get involved in a ministry you believe God is calling you to. Or start one. We recently have had a couple of people to answer the call to help with sending out cards, and the UMW. Doing these kinds of things that not only help to feed your faith, but in doing them you help to feed others. And also you begin to get more familiar with what this deep dark church thing is all about. And that helps you deal with the real dangers we all must face in this world. But you won’t know that if you don’t get in the water.
- And finally, even for people like me, who like Peter, get a little tired and just want to call it another day and go home. You know, that is fine so long as we don’t lose sight of what our calling is. We all need to make sure that we take care of ourselves. You are going to be no good to anyone, even yourself if you are constantly sick, or tired, or sick and tired. It is not healthy for your body, your mind or your spirit.
But part of taking care of yourself is taking care of your spirit, and your spirit was given to you by God and it is meant for God. By answering God’s call to serve in healthy ways will do more to heal you than to kill you.
So, don’t be afraid to go deeper in your knowledge of God, in your faith, and in your service to his Kingdom. Jesus calls on us to put out into deeper water. We can’t just stay in the shallows. Well we can, but there isn’t much there. To find what we are looking for, we gotta go deeper.