Happy New Year! I hope your year is off to a good start. Mine has been minorly shaky—I started the year with a bang-up sinus infection (my favorite involuntary sickness) and I had to throw away every single strand of Christmas lights due to a portion of each strand not lighting up. This is
discouraging since, after all, the only job a strand of lights has is to light up. I have decided the Christmas decorating companies are out to get us, programming each string of lights to last about half a season. They, of course, give us false hope with the spare bulbs per box which do not work
one-hundred percent of the time.
Have I wished you a Happy New Year yet?
One of the highlights for me in this early part of 2024 was seeing the familiar passage of Luke 5:1-11 with fresh eyes. I spoke briefly about it in an Instagram reel where I asked the question, are you willing for Jesus to reprioritize your 2024 plans? The video seemed to sparked some thought, so I thought I’d go deeper into it here. Before we get there, though, let me ask you: are your 2024 plans set in stone? Are your goals for the year fixed? Or are you available for Jesus to shuffle around your priorities?
Take a minute to read the following short account from Luke 5:1-11.
1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Like me, you may be quite familiar with this story having read it many times before. But something hit me that I’d never thought of prior. Peter and his friends were fishermen, meaning this was their business. They hadn’t stayed up all night fishing because they needed some time
away from their wives and kids to shoot the breeze on a breezy night out. They had been up all night because their livelihood depended on it. Fishing was their job.
When Jesus tells Peter to let down his nets in a certain spot in the middle of the day, Peter is hesitant because what does a rabbinical teacher know about fishing. Peter, on the other hand, knows that on the Sea of Galilee fish feed at night, and he has already tried to catch them and failed. But Peter responds and does what Jesus tells Him. When he and his friends set out into the deep and let down their nets, their nets began tearing at the astounding haul of fish. Here’s the part I’d never thought of before, the part that scholar Kenneth Bailey in his book Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes so astutely brought out. You would think Peter would want to harness Jesus’s spectacular ability to know where the fish are. Think of the boom to his business! The windfall of sales at the fish market if Peter always knew where to catch them! Perhaps Peter wondered why Jesus wasn’t in business for Himself given His keen ability to harvest fortune out of a lake.
But Jesus’s priorities are different from Peter’s. “Peter faces a man who wins the ‘fishing lottery’ but doesn’t want it.”
In the moment on the water Peter recognizes that Jesus is no mere teacher. It’s probably too early for Peter to understand Him to be the Son of God, or the Messiah, but Peter gets that Jesus is holy and he is not. Instead of chastising Peter for his lack of faith—or trying to talk Peter into a business partnership where Jesus spots the fish and Peter brings them in and they become Galilee Gazilionaires—Jesus changes Peter’s value system. Instead of prioritizing fish that are brought in to die, Peter will from here on out look for people to bring to life in Christ.
Yes, Jesus could aid Peter in the biggest, most profitable year of his career, but that wasn’t why Jesus came. And it wasn’t Peter’s highest calling. Nor is it ours.
Peter encountered Jesus in a space of earthy stuff like water, wood, nets, knives, and swimming things to show Peter the high value of eternal things. Things like souls. As we sit atop a new year, are you willing, if needed, for Jesus to bring some of your top priorities lower and your lower priorities to a place of prominence?
My prayer for you and me is that Jesus will meet us in our everyday spaces—like He did Peter—to show us what truly matters. That we might be reminded anew that He is not just teacher, but Lord. And that we are not just workers but disciples who serve at the pleasure of our Savior. What a year this stands to be if we will allow His priorities to become ours.
Happy New Year!
 Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies In The Gospels, page 146