The next chronological manifestation of the glory of Christ is seen in his miracles. There is a certain economy in the use of miracles in the history of redemption. There are great men of God like Abraham, and David, and Isaiah, and Nehemiah of whom no miracles are recorded. But this is not the case with Jesus of Nazareth. One comes across summaries like this one in Mark 1, “That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases” (vv.32-24). That is, there were many who were ill and Jesus healed them all. There are other reports of occasions like that. Then consider the emphasis on the mighty works of Christ in the last sentences of John’s gospel: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”
There are just about 35 individual miracles of Jesus written in the gospels, and they are remarkably diverse. There are not only the miracles of healing, and the exorcism of demons, but there are the raising of the dead to life, the feeding of great crowds from meagre stores of food, the stilling of a storm, walking on a sea and changing water into wine. There is also a diversity in the method of his healing, sometimes he spoke to people, sometimes he touched them, sometimes he applied something to them, sometimes he came into their presence, and sometimes he was far away when he healed them. Once there was a healing of a blind man in two stages because the first stage reflected the spiritual condition of the man and the people amongst whom he lived.
As a healer it is Christ’s kingly power that is being manifest. There is a display of his authority over the effects of sin in disease and death, over the devil in his exorcisms, and over creation in his ability to transform a tree, a herd of pigs, shoals of fishes, the winds and waves, loaves and fishes, water-pots, rocks, the light of the sun and the surface of the sea. All these cannot be explained simply in terms of a spiritual force residing within a great healer.
There is not a single word for ‘miracle’ in Scripture. There are the three familiar terms:-
1] A miracle is a wonder. Time and again the impression Christ made on people was to fill them with astonishment. We read so often the words, “they were all amazed.” No observer was blase with what he had witnessed. They were turning and asking one another, “what manner of man is this?” They felt a kind of stupefaction before him, and it never ended, from the time they began to follow him until the sight of the empty tomb itself. There was this feeling that they were out of their depth, that he was wholly other from anyone else. There was no class and no category into which he could be placed.
It is not enough to feel just admiration for Christ. There has to be a sense of grandeur, of being overwhelmed by him. He is characterised by absolute greatness, and supremacy, and authority. He is not like anyone else in the whole history of the human race. He is not like Mohammed. He is not like Buddha. He is not like them at all. He takes your breath away, and it is not pleasant. It is not entertainment. It is not a ride on a rollercoaster. Reality is awesome. I am not saying that astonishment saves men – the devils believe and tremble – but I am saying that a man stood on this earth and did such things that people were scared out of their wits. They felt ill, and they told him to get away from them. Communities pleaded with him to leave. They had goose-flesh, their hair stood on end, and they fell down before him. There was this striking display of God’s presence and power in the acts of Jesus of Nazareth. A miracle is a wonder.
2] A Miracle is a mighty act. In other words, it cannot be explained at all by any power within a creature or the creation. They were actions only explicable as the putting forth of the divine power of God the Son. If he had not been there nothing would have changed.
Consider the extent of Jesus’s healing ministry, the sheer numbers of those involved. Have we thought that it is possible that the paralysed man brought from Capernaum to Jesus carried by four friends was the very last invalid left in the area? He was left there because he could not get to Jesus. The impression is distinctly given that not one ill person was overlooked in Capernaum, not even the elderly person in the last stages of a life-threatening disease.
How fascinating and gracious was his manner. He rarely questioned the sick: no interrogation. He never asked for a penny. He never laid down conditions for their healing. He refused no one. There were no set rituals he went through, no jiggery-pokery, no mechanics whatsoever, simply they were somehow brought into the sphere of Christ and immediately they were healed. There was this invariable efficacy. Never once was there an attempt which failed. Whatever the disease of body or mind or possession killing someone the sick were cured. And no publicity was sought from it. No advertising. “Keep this to yourself,” he said to them as the healed person walked away. You cannot explain the whole picture and momentum of all these miracles in terms of coincidence, or nature taking its course. You cannot say that he was a better healer than others. There is no record of anyone else healing the sick who is remotely like this One. It will not do to throw away a line like, “There were other healers in other religions.” That is not the case. These miracles can only be explained in terms of ‘Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.’
3] A Miracle is a Sign. That is the way the apostle John refers to the seven key miracles in his gospel. They signify something. They carry a message. A sign points somewhere. In other words the miracles are not an excrescence or a later embellishment on the Gospels, a clumsy literary attempt to make a martyred righteous rabbi larger than life. They are always integrated into the teaching of Jesus. In other words you cannot abstract the miracles of Jesus from the fundamental questions as to who he is, and what he is doing. They are signs as to his nature and his saving work. His whole life is supernatural. It begins in incarnation and climaxes in resurrection, and along the way there are these signs and wonders and mighty deeds. It would be inconceivable if this were not so.
For example, Christ heals the paralysed man who has been let down through the roof to his feet. What has the Lord been doing there? Why is he in that house and why are the crowds packed in around the doors and windows with none prepared to yield even for a sick man? He is preaching the word. That is why he is there. He is telling men that there is forgiveness of sins when you come to him. Christ lifts men up from the sinking sands of shame and moral weakness. Then this miracle, raising this man off his bed and onto his feet, is a tremendous sign of the reality of that. Is it easier to speak words about the forgiveness of sins or to say such words as, Get off your bed and walk? Of course, it is easier to talk about sin, and talk about forgiveness. We talk that talk all the time. Jesus is speaking in that cottage about guilt and pardon, and he was saying that he could forgive sinners their sin. Anyone can talk that language. The devil quotes the scriptures. But then the Lord focused on that man, with all their unbelief around him (“Who can forgive sins but God only?”), and he instantly healed the man of his paralysis. Stiff limbs became lithe. A body as rigid as a shop window dummy’s moved supply. Christ’s miracle was an attestation to the truth of Christ’s words. It demonstrated the great Forgiver was there. The King from heaven had at last come, and was casting our demons and stilling the tempest and raising the dead. These miracles were insignia of the royalty of Mary’s child, and great David’s greater son. He elsewhere claimed to be the food from heaven which gave eternal satisfaction, and then he multiplied the loaves and fishes and he fed 5,000 men. If one boy’s meal was 5 loaves and 2 fishes, 5,000 men would need 25,000 loaves and 10,000 fishes. See him breaking and breaking those loaves and fishes and distributing them to the breathless disciples as they pass them around the seated multitude. Or hear him as he claims, “I am the resurrection and the life,” and see him raise Lazarus from the dead.
So Christ’s words became verifiable in the realm of the visible and the physical – our world – and so they substantiated his claims. “I am the master of this whole world. I am totally in control of this universe – winds, storms, trees, demons, sickness, death, men and women. They all shall sweetly obey my will. But note well, I am equally master in the realm of the spiritual. I have the same authority there. As surely as I display my power there I can also save men’s souls. I can make people new.” How does Jesus perform his miracles? By power. And the underlying message is that in salvation too there is transforming power, revolutionising a person’s life. In other words, Jesus never saves but he transforms. Jesus never forgives without making men new.
There is, of course, the even larger picture, that the miracles appear as signs of the coming of the kingdom of God. As an old teacher of mine, Dr End B. Storehouse, said, “Jesus points to an immediate connection between the coming of the kingdom (which serves so largely to sum up his message), and his activity by the Spirit (as the Anointed One, the Messiah) in casting out demons: ‘For if I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, the kingdom of God has come upon you’ (Matt. 12:28).” The ruling power of God is experienced by sinners through the action of Jesus Christ. A new divine order has broken into space-time history.
The Doubts of the Baptist
There is that moving incident in Matthew 11 which perfectly illustrates this. John the Baptist has done his herald’s work, announcing the coming of the King and the establishment of his kingdom, calling upon people to prepare for him by repenting, making their crooked lives straight, and levelling out their mountains of iniquities. “The axe will be laid to the root of the trees,” he warned. Then Christ comes and John bears witness to him. “He will baptise with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
But then John the Baptist is arrested and thrown into prison, and Jesus makes no attempt to rescue him. John had lived a righteous obedient life. He had been in the desert, disaffiliated from human society, eating locusts and wild honey, dressed in camel’s skin, waiting for the apocalypse. Jesus goes to weddings and feasts. He turns the water of purification into wine! Is that straightening everything out? What is going on?
From his prison John sends two of his disciples with a question, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we seek someone else?” (Matt. 11:2). Is this the kingdom or not? Why isn’t the axe laid to the root of the tree? Where is the fire of judgement? Don’t you care that your servants suffer shame in prison for serving God? Where is justice? Where is righteousness? Where is the power of the Kingdom?
Plenty of people have this problem today. They cannot understand a gospel that doesn’t immediately bring power to bear. “Should we look for another?” Wait a minute. Someone else? Another Jesus? Another one upon whom the dove has descended from heaven? Another one of whom the Father says, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” Is that what you want, John?
So John in prison was plagued with doubts, and he did what all who have doubts must do, he took them to Jesus. And all Jesus does is to let these disciples of John stand and observe in the awesome silence a long line of sick folk waiting to meet him. The paralysed man comes, and the leper, and the Downs Syndrome girl, a woman crippled with arthritis, the cancer victim, the child with a hole in her heart, and the boy blind from birth, and a barren wife fearful of losing her husband because she is unable to have children, and the deaf, the boy with asthma, the demon possessed, and a woman with an issue of blood, and the polio victim, and a man clearly dying from his skeletal appearance and his yellow skin. Scores more are just like those. And they move up to him one by one, and they don’t have to explain to him what is wrong. Jesus just smiles gently, and sometimes touches, and sometimes says a word, and sometimes just nods, and sometimes doesn’t seem to do anything and the people walk away erect, healthy, seeing the sky and their loved one’s face, stretching their limbs, hearing the birds sing, weeping, hugging their children or being hugged by them, and the crowds watch in awe. There is a line of the dying leading up to the Lord Jesus, and a line of the healed going away from the Lord Jesus. There at the point of differentiation stood the Saviour. Before Christ and After Christ, and all the world divides around him.
Then after a time Jesus speaks to the disciples of John and says, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see. The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me” (Matt. 11:4-6). What is Jesus saying? He is certainly quoting Isaiah 61 that describes the Messianic Age. “He will come one day,” said that prophet, “anointed with the Spirit, and you will know him by these signs.” In other words, the Lord Jesus shows them that he is the King and that he has all authority. He is able to remove all iniquity from this world. He has the power to do it, in a moment. The disciples of John see it. He can even conquer death.
These miracles are signs. They are signs of promise. They are gospel pledges. They are evidences of merciful divinity. But they are not signs of mere omnipotence. They are works of grace which Jesus does in order to show us the character of the gospel. Did John expect signs? You bet he did! He expected fire to fall on the Romans, and the ground to open under the feet of Pilate, and the prison doors in Herod’s palace to fall off their hinges and all the prisoners’ chains to be broken. He was expecting a legion of angels to zoom down and drive the legions into the Med.
But the Lord Jesus came and he held children in his arms and blessed them. He let a woman weep her heart out over his feet. He asked a drink from a Samaritan woman and then he spoke savingly to her. He actually healed a Roman centurion’s servant. And he healed again, and he healed. How the Messiah healed men and women. This Saviour restored in the beauty and glory and fulness of the gospel all that human life was created to be. He came bringing gladness and peace and he was a helper of men’s joy. That is why the disciples of Jesus didn’t fast. The Bridegroom was with them and they were tasting the new wine of the kingdom. The Lord Jesus was giving by his miracles a foretaste of what is to come. The miracles were signs of a new heavens and new earth. They were a manifestation of what the perfect finished work of complete salvation will really be like.
John has to realise that if the appearance of the Messiah and the setting up of his kingdom was going to be characterised by immediate miracles of judgement then who shall abide the day of his coming? “Ah, John, that axe of judgement can’t fall yet. If the Lord came with a consuming fire then who shall stand when he appeareth?” We would all be destroyed before it. But God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved. The Messiah says, “I have come to seek and to save that which was lost.” What has Christ come to do? To bear the axe stroke, not to wield the axe. To bring men to life, not to condemn them to death. He will walk right up to the seraphim and bare his own breast, and there take the stroke of judgement. God the Son has come, but to walk the way of the cross.
John should have known better. What a text about Christ he early announced, like many a modernist does, but remember, there are many modernist ministers but no modernist texts. John declared, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” “Oh John, if only you had better understood your own text!” There is a wonder in the gospel that you will find nowhere else in the world. It is the wonder of the Word of God who became the Lamb of God to redeem sinners.
“He did not come to judge the world, he did not come to blame. He did not only come to seek, it was to save he came. And when we call him Saviour, we call him by his name.”
He did not use his power to spare himself, but to give his life as a ransom for many. And those are blessed who are not offended at a meek and gentle suffering Saviour. Those are blessed who do not stumble when the preaching of Jesus Christ and him crucified is the centre of our message.
The Miraculous Draft of Fishes
Let us look at one miracle in particular, where the divine glory of Christ is seen. One which seems to me to have most relevance to our own callings, the miraculous draft of fishes which opens the fifth chapter of Luke. It is early in the Lord Jesus’ ministry. Simon and Andrew, James and John are still fishermen. The Lord Jesus is preaching and the crowds hem him in, and people cannot hear, so he asks Peter if he can use his boat. The Lord sits in the boat and preaches to the people, and young Peter is listening to this mind-blowing, thrilling, humbling God-exalting ministry. Finally Jesus ends, and there is that sober silence. What is there to say after God has been speaking to you? Then Jesus breaks the silence and says to Peter, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4).
Notice that he did not give this command earlier in the day. He had come to the seashore and seen Peter and Andrew washing their nets (v.2). They had been fishing all night and caught nothing (v.5). It has been hard unremitting toil at the oars and pulling on the wet ropes, and in the end less than nothing to show for it, because when they went out the white nets were clean, but when they returned the nets were foul and torn, caught on the rocks at the bottom of the sea. All for nothing. It is a picture of futility. But the Lord Jesus did not come then and say to them as in verse 10, “from now on you will catch men.” Shouldn’t he? Isn’t the work of the gospel usually disappointingly fruitless. Aren’t we prone to warn young ministers at such a conference as this not to expect much growth or many conversions these days? Wouldn’t some of us have chosen that morning to go to our younger brothers and say to them, “Been fishing all night and caught nothing? Well, from now on you are going to become fishers of men,” because then they would have been steeled for the tensions, and the blaming of one another for the lack of catch, and the fallings-out, and the mutual recriminations which we think characterises the ministry. But it was not then that the commission came to them.
Firstly Jesus himself preaches the word of God at length and the fishermen hear his message, and they are gripped and transformed by it. There sits in this boat the role-model for every preacher – the proper man – God’s great definition of a man, and he was sent to preach the Word. We listen to him and nothing can be the same again. And then, when he has said everything he wants to say, he says to them, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Peter can’t help protesting: “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” Peter is the fisherman, and the son of a fisherman. Jesus comes from landlocked Nazareth. He is a rabbi and a preacher, a son of a carpenter. Peter knows the lake, marine biology, the technology of fishing. So Peter registers a little complaint, but when you have come under the influence of such preaching how can you refuse the Lord anything? “But because you say so – at thy word – I will let down the nets.”
How important is that “But because you say so – at thy word …” It is crucial isn’t it? To do what he says when all our natural feelings and resentments are the most resistant. When we start to decide when we are going to obey him, when we narrow the limits of his authority over us, when we decide where he is a first century child of his time then we are no disciples of his. He’s no long Master, and there’ll be no catch.
So Peter does what Jesus says. He puts out into the lake a little way. He obeys the Master, and the result is this extraordinary draft of fishes. The nets can’t take the weight. Peter’s boat is too small for all the fish and he shouts and waves to their partners, James and John, to bring their boat over, but then that boat is not big enough, and both boats begin to sink with the mountains of fish filling them.
A mighty work. A wonder. A sign. It points to Jesus Christ alone. He manifests himself to these fishermen in this sign. He shows his omnipotence. He can command the fish in the depths of the sea to come immediately into the nets of Peter. The Scripture says, “In his hand are the deep places of the earth.” He bids them come and they come. Who is Master of ocean and earth and sky? He who is their Creator. He who on the fifth day said, “Let the water teem with living creatures.” They all shall sweetly obey his will. Jehovah Jesus shows his authority over the world he made and sustains. He is creation’s Lord. He plants his footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm.
But here are men who are being loosed from the one calling they had always dreamed of since their first trip on the boat with Daddy. They would grow up and become fishermen on blue Galilee like Daddy. It was a good living. They had job satisfaction. They didn’t desire anything else. They weren’t trained for anything else. How could they survive doing anything else? And the One who is calling them to give up everything and follow him shows them that he will be no man’s debtor, that everyone who had given up a job and family and friends and food for him will in this world have a job and family and friends and food and in the world to come everlasting life. The sign points to the Lord who is shepherd of his people, who promises to supply all our needs according to his riches in glory, the one of whom we sing, “A Sovereign Protector I have.” Jehovah Jireh. The Lord will provide.
What is Peter’s reaction to this miracle? Does he gather round him the three other partners and say to them, “We’re making him a partner. Agreed?” “Agreed.” The fishing business had never looked so good. After a bad night when none of the boats working the sea had caught anything they had caught a thousand fish in five minutes. They were way ahead of the competition. Their wives would make a mint at the market that day. They were the only ones with fish to sell. Simon Peter the successful businessman. Now he’s got the right partner.
Isn’t that why many people want Jesus in the boat? A little more happiness, some success, better health, longer life and prosperity. And with the Lord on board they think they’ve got the recipe. Haven’t we heard businessmen of a ‘full gospel’ – as they describe it – telling people how the Lord has blessed them. They once had Robin Reliant Faith. Now they have Mercedes Benz Faith. So men think, “A little bit of Christianity can’t hurt. It might even help the business.”
Who are you dealing with? What is Simon Peter’s reaction? He falls before the Lord of Glory. The boat is full of fish. He’s not thinking about fish, and market, and money, and partners. He cries up from the floor. “Go away! Go away from me! Go away from me, Lord! God away from me Lord; I am a sinful man!”
Why? Why this reaction? There is no healing in this miracle, no resurrection, no deliverance from evil influences. No one is fed. No one is restored to their right minds. There is just this huge catch of fish, and this fisherman is on his face crying to Christ to get away from him. Why?
Fishing was his business. Fishing was what he knew best in life. To get a catch like that – which had never been heard of on the Lake before – could only mean one thing. This teacher whose ministry had just overwhelmed him with the heavenliness of the truth, and now had worked this miracle, there in the boat with them, was Jehovah Jesus. God was in the boat alongside him. The Holy One of Israel, before whom the Seraphim hid their eyes and cried, “Holy! Holy! Holy!” And Peter felt his sin as never before.
Imagine it. The Lord Jesus once came near a sinner and the sinner shouted, “Go away.” I didn’t think that that happened. I thought they were all supposed to be anxious to come to him, and the lack of response was due to our not telling them about him, and that once we did they were supposed to receive him quickly. Yet the rich young ruler came into the presence of Jesus and went away sad. And another who saw him could only say, “Who are you, Lord?” Who are the people who make the best and the only fishers of men? They are those who have discovered their own sin in the presence of the Lord. The Rev Simon Peter – sinner!
It is then that God’s call comes: “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men” (v.10). Can there be any lasting evangelism without experiential knowledge of the holiness of the Lord and our own sin. Don’t you find in Scripture that the commission follows the vision? Think of Isaiah seeing this same Jesus and crying, “Woe is me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (Isa. 6:5). Then comes the commission, “Go, and tell this people…” Think of Saul of Tarsus, lying on the ground before this same Jesus, saying, “Who are you, Lord?” And the response, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant, and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:16-18). Think of John on Patmos confronted with this same Christ: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said, ‘Do not be afraid.” (Rev. 1:17).
Before any of them could say anything useful for the Lord they had to deal with their ignorance. If Jesus Christ has helped you just to “enjoy life” your mission is going to be to help other people to religiously “enjoy life” too. If Jesus Christ has saved you from your guilt and shame you are going to help other people be saved from sin too. Whoever was an evangelist much used by God who had not in the first place smartingly felt his own sin and guilt? A man who is a stranger to his own heart cannot reveal to men their hearts. He is an ignorant man. He is disqualified from teaching others. Our message is that the Lord saves sinners. The Lord – the Holy God – saves – does everything from first to last that bring men from death to life – sinners – men as they really as and as God finds them- guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot.
It is when Simon Peter feels his own wretchedness that then Jesus says to him, “Fear not!” Shouldn’t Peter fear? Shouldn’t sinners fear the God of eternal life? Not the sinner in the presence of Christ. That is the safest place in the universe. Where sin abounds his grace much more abounds. “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” This man, telling Jesus to go away, is the one who most certainly is going to catch men in the power of the Kingdom. How wonderfully that prophecy was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when Peter threw out the net of the gospel and drew in 3,000. “From now on” – it is an important phrase in the gospels – “henceforth” – “Henceforth you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the power of God.” From now on all authority in heaven and earth will be given to Christ. You remember how the Lord repeats and reconfirms the sign and the call after his resurrection. Cast you nets on the right side of the boat. There was a great catch again. Then he says, “Go into all the world.” You will catch men, because I will make you fishers of men. Zebedee had made James and John fishermen. Andrew and Peter’s father Jonas had made them fishermen. Christ the Everlasting Father of his people will make us fishermen.
Thomas Boston has a little book, with one or two of his sermons, entitled “The Art of Man Fishing.” Let me tell you his headings on how fishermen and preachers agree:-
1. The design and work of fishers is to catch fish. This is the work that preachers of the gospel have taken in hand, to bring souls to God.
2. Fishermen’s work is hard work, exposed to the cold and wet. So is the minister’s work.
3. Bad weather won’t keep the fisherman from fishing, nor will it prevent the preacher of the gospel from preaching.
4. Fishermen catch fish with a net, so preachers have a net to catch souls with. It is the everlasting gospel. Why is it compared to a net? Ten reasons:-
i] Because it is spread out ready to catch all who’ll come to it.
ii] Because as fish are taken unexpectedly by the net so are sinners taken by the gospel. Zacchaeus was little thinking on salvation when he went up the tree.
iii] As fish sometimes come near and touch the net, and yet draw back, so many souls are affected by hearing the gospel yet remain in sin. So Herod heard John the Baptist gladly, yet he wasn’t caught.
iv] Some fish get caught in the net temporarily, they struggle and then they get out again.
v] All who are taken in the net struggle to get free. So we all put up some resistance before we were thoroughly caught.
vi] Yet those who are fast in the next can never escape. “All that the Father hath given me, shall come to me.” In fact God does not force the soul to receive Christ, but he conquers the will and so it becomes obedient.
vii] In a net are many meshes in which the fish are caught – there are many invitations and sweet promises to sinners to draw them to Christ.
viii] Nets are weighted down with lead to hold them right under the water. So there are legal terrors and law-threatenings to drive the fish into the net.
ix] The meshes must not be over-wide or the fish will swim right through. So our doctrine must not be too general, without personal application or we will be no fishers of men.
x] Nor must the meshes be too neat or fine for then they will keep out the fish. Be careful you do not preach curious discourses which your hearers cannot understand.
5. Fishermen observe in what places they should cast their nets, and where they may expect fish. So preachers observe the two places where their nets should be cast, in the public assemblies of God’s people and in private conversations.
6. Fishermen may toil long and catch nothing but they don’t give up fishing. So too preachers may preach for years and catch few souls but that does not mean they give up. “Hold on, O my soul, and give not way to these discouragements. You know not but Christ may come and teach you to let down your net on the right side of the ship, and you may yet be a fisher of man.”
So this mighty miracle of Christ is done, and then the promise that they will catch men is given. It is a sign that points to the fruitfulness of the Kingdom, to men who hear Christ’s voice and obey. “From now on you will catch men.”
What are your expectations for the growth of God’s kingdom? It seems to me that one attitude which all God’s servants who have been used by God commonly share has been a sense of expectancy. Their trust in a living powerful loving Saviour has made them work in hope. Think of the admiration our fathers had for Christ. Nehemiah Rogers said, “Christ’s performances outstrip his promises.” David Brainerd said, “Nothing is too hard for God to perform: nothing too great for me to expect from him” William Carey famously said, “Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God.” All such men were steadfast, unmovable and always abounding in the work of the Lord.
What are our expectations? When he called us to be fishers of men then he called us with this sign of blessing. Remember how Jesus made good this sign to the twelve. They did become fishers of men. Remember how the Lord sent Philip fishing for men in Samaria and again there was a full net. Then he sent him to a desert road to catch a single man. He sent Paul to Corinth, and he sent Martin Luther to Wittenburg, and James Paton to the New Hebrides. When he arrived not a fish had been caught, but at his death there was scarcely a fish who was not in the gospel net. God sent three fishermen to the island of Anglesey, Christmas Evans the Baptist, John Elias the Calvinistic Methodist and William Griffith the Congregationalist and those men fished on that island during a 90 year period and the island was transformed. 84 churches were planted, and over 50 men were fishing full time with them.
Consider Korea today and the great bursting nets, and parts of South America, and North America and Zambia. Or think of the day when the Saviour was making a man a fisherman and he directed the net towards you and you were caught, or I was caught. The same Lord who gave power to his disciples and has built his church for these 2000 years is enabling us today, and we too can expect to catch men, and maybe know full nets, and boats sinking under the blessing. We d not measure the grace of God by the statistics of our church growth in the past decade but by the power of his Kingdom.