Simon was a fisherman. He was in business with a couple of brothers, James and John, somewhere near Capernaum, adjacent to the Sea of Galilee.
At the end of one long, unproductive night on the lake, the three partners toiled at the shoreline, mending and cleaning their nets. One can only imagine the thoughts that went through their heads and the substance of their conversation as they contemplated many hours of hard labor that nevertheless had left them fishless.
Just then, a crowd began to converge on the place. Jesus, a young teacher from nearby Nazareth, had arrived in town, and many had come to hear what he had to say. As the crowd swelled and pressed forward to listen, Jesus climbed into one of Simon’s boats and pushed out a few feet from shore so that everyone could see and hear. No doubt the fishermen set aside their nets and joined the gathering.
We do not know the subject of the lesson that day, but when it ended, Jesus suggested that Simon grab his nets and head back out on the lake to try to catch some fish. Given the previous night’s futility, the suggestion may have seemed a bit imprudent. “Master,” said Simon, “we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.” And so they headed out, Simon and Jesus in one boat, James and John in another.
At a certain place, Jesus gave the signal and Simon let down his net, which immediately bulged with fish. So great was the catch, in fact, that the net began to tear, and Simon was compelled to call for the assistance of those in the other boat in order to secure the catch.
Happenstance? Clearly not. This day on the lake was unlike any before it. Recognizing the source of his good fortune, Simon became overwhelmed by the implications. Why should this man choose him—this boat, this lake, this hour. What could possibly make him worthy of this great bounty? The thought crumbled Simon, and he fell immediately at Jesus’ feet. “Depart from me,” he pled, “for I am a sinful man.”
To which Jesus might well have responded: “Yes. Yes, you are. So what’s your point?”
That is the point, after all. Paul said: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Jesus came for that very reason. His life and ministry were devoted to the sinful.
Of course, you know that Jesus did not depart from Simon, but rather invited him—with all of his so-called unworthiness—to leave his nets and follow him from that day forward. Simon’s life changed that day when he agreed to follow Jesus, even though—and especially because—he was a sinful man.
Do you sometimes feel you have toiled fruitlessly, that in spite of your best efforts your life is little more than a few broken, empty nets? May I suggest that in those moments, you give in to the impulse to set those nets aside and join others who have gathered to hear the words of the Master Teacher, others who, like you, are sinful and unworthy, others who could also use a few more fish in their nets from time to time.
“Come, follow me” said Jesus (Luke 18:22). And when He said it, He was talking to you and me.