1 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,
A crowd can be managed when there are barricades and police; but here were no such helps, but only the moral influence of a defenceless man and his friends in the presence of a mass of people whose interest had been aroused to the point of obtrusiveness. *
2 And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.
To escape the embarrassment of the situation, Jesus got into one of the empty boats standing close to the shore, which turned out to be Peter's, in which in fact he had been fishing the previous night, while Jesus was resting. Peter's boat would not be likely to be moored after a night's fishing, at any other place than his own. Peter might have a house at Capernaum and carry on the fishing business at Bethsaida, which was not far distant.*
3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
Peter complied with alacrity, and, the boat having been moored, Jesus "taught the people out of the ship," a striking situation certainly, -- the shore lined with spectators to the water's edge, and Jesus addressing them from the boat, perhaps fifty yards off.
We may be sure the people would be very attentive. They would all hear, for a smooth water surface is a capital conductor of sound. What was said is not recorded. We must judge from his utterances on other occasions.
In the state of mind generated by the truth, we naturally wish that every word had been preserved -- every speech reported. But we may be sure we have enough for the purpose for which any record at all was made. We are greatly privileged in having so much. It might easily have been that we had known nothing of
"the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth."*
Nazareth Revisited Ch 18
5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.
Peter had been out fishing all the previous night, and had caught nothing. (No wonder: the constant fishing of a small sea like the Sea of Galilee by the large fleet of boats which Josephus gives account of being on it, must have kept the stock of fish low and difficult to get.)
Having fished a whole night without result, Peter was not much inclined to go out again. *
6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.
7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
....Peter was overpowered by the event, in view of his own futile efforts the night before.
These were the only words in which he could express his sense of the greatness of Christ as thus evidenced. They seemed fitting enough words, notwithstanding the difficulty of some to understand them. They express the profound sense that Peter had of his unworthiness to be the companion of one who could show such power. Such a sense is a qualification for such a companionship.
Jesus gives us to understand that there will be many on excellent terms with themselves who will claim his friendship in the day of his glory, whom he will promptly reject and dismiss from his presence. *
9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken:
10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.
11 And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.
Thenceforward, till the day of his crucifixion, they were to be found only in his service.*
Nazareth Revisited Ch 18
16 And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.
Now the religion of Christ... teaches us to go into the world, to be active like himself - to develop by experience: to learn obedience by suffering. He is the exemplification of what we ought to be; he mingled with men, and was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin. It is true he withdrew himself occasionally, and sought opportunity in the retirement and silence of the mountain top, to hold that communion with God which cannot take place in the midst of busy life; and every true son and daughter of the Almighty will resemble him in this, that they will thirst for occasional solitude, to draw deeply from the fountain of spiritual strength and consolation.
Yet it will only be to return with greater zest to the work of doing the will of Him who pleases to make use of evil in the development of the highest good. Everyone who realises the position to which we are called in Christ, will appreciate the privilege of retiring from the busy and distracted world, to coolly and quietly contemplate those relations of being which are forgotten and altogether ignored by those who are all the while in the busy stream of life.
Sunday Morning No 10
Ambassador of the Coming Age, Nov 1868