A few weeks ago I preached on Luke 5.1-11, the famous ‘catching men’ passage. Two things struck me afresh. (1) The amazing haul of fish is clearly a miracle. It’s the work of Jesus. There’s no way the disciples would ever catch those fish apart from Jesus’ intervention. It’s a nature miracle; Jesus directs the swimming paths of those fish right into the nets. (2) Jesus involves the disciples by telling them to let down their nets. He didn’t need to do the miracle that way. He could have rained fish from the sky, or made them jump into the boat, or caught them himself. But instead he sends the fishermen out to fish.
Why did Jesus do things this way? Why did he make it clear that this was a miracle caused by his power, and yet use the disciples in the process?
I think the clear answer of Luke 5.1-11 is that the miracle represents the mission to which Jesus is calling the disciples. The nature of the miracle – Jesus’ power, the disciples’ involvement – points to the nature of the disciples’ man-catching mission.
So, it doesn’t surprise us when, in Luke’s second volume, we see the disciples speaking the gospel word and God miraculously drawing people into the gospel net:
‘And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly…And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed’ (Acts 13.46-48)
‘And we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul’ (Acts 16.13-14).
The disciples let down the net and the Lord fills it with fish. The work of evangelism is like the rest of life: we do something, and God does everything.