The Miracle of the Empty Nets

In the last chapter of the Gospel of John, the disciples returned to their pre-discipleship occupation: fishing. Maybe it was because they needed breakfast. Maybe in the disillusionment from the crucifixion, they returned to what they knew they were familiar with: fishing.

Only there were no fish that night. All night. Talking about kicking a disciple when he’s down! The whole disciple thing hadn’t worked out, and now these fishermen couldn’t even catch a single fish!

I think the vague memories of the last time this had happened ruminated in Peter’s mind. It was the day Jesus had called Peter to follow Him. Only then, he was Simon. And this man, this Messiah, came aboard his boat and caused him to have the catch of a lifetime.

How long ago!

How many things had changed!

It all seemed like a dream, now relived in the context of the frustration of a fishless night.

Or so Simon Peter thought.

But Jesus stood at the shoreline and shouted to them to throw their nets to the other side of their boats. They did not recognize Jesus by seeing Him. They did not recognize His voice. They only recognized Jesus when He repeated the miracle that He had called Peter by 3 years earlier (Luke 5), by overwhelming their nets with fish. In the midst of disappointment, their senses had been clouded, until Jesus brought the clarity of a miracle.

At the first miracle, Peter had fallen to Jesus’ feet and asked Him to go away because he was ashamed of his sin. This time, Peter leapt out of the boat– perhaps in an effort to walk on water again– ultimately to run to Jesus.

But what if that disappointment had not been there? What if they had been catching fish all night long? What if they used all their fisherman tricks and really packed the fish into the boat?

Would they have longed for the miracle? Would they have even recognized the miracle?

Just as Jesus was in the overload of fish, I think Jesus allowed the empty nets too.

There have been many times when I’ve thought: God I’m doing all the right things, I’m seeking your will, and I even think that I know what that is, but You’re not cooperating!

Perhaps in my disappointment, I have trouble seeing God already at work. God invariably shows up in His own time, and in a way that not only provides for my every need, but fills me with joy because His hand becomes all the more evident in the contrast of frustration and disillusionment. And when He brings the miracle, I begin to see that He’s been standing at the shore of my life waiting for just the right time to provide the miracle. Waiting for me to recognize and run recklessly to Him.

I think God allows times of disillusionment to make the miraculous moments all the more meaningful.

God, as I wait for Your Hand, help me to see that the times of disappointing deficiency are still a precious part of what you have in store for me.


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