Going out into the deep is the place of dependence on Christ and the Word He has placed in us in preparation for doing His work. Intimacy and learning from Him comes first, but we must take that and go. Our obedience will take us to places we have never been, but Jesus goes with us. He knows what is required and prepares the catch in advance for those who listen and obey in faith.
When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4)
This particular verse resonates with me deep in my spirit and stirs a singular challenge. It upends notions of comfortable Christianity and confronts us on so many levels. I found myself considering those first disciples, simple fishermen who hadn’t yet been called to follow Jesus. Their lives were very different to ours, but humanity has a common spirit and we can identify with all the characters in this life-changing moment. It struck me that Jesus didn’t simply arrive and call them. He first preached to the multitude from their boats, then He sent them out to sea. It was only after the miracle of fish and Peter’s instinctive repentance that He challenged them to change their profession. As I meditated on this, I realised that every believer’s call is ‘into the deep’ in a way that cannot leave us unchanged. Life with Christ is a challenge of transformation.
The Word precedes into the deep.
It’s no accident that Jesus first addressed the crowd, or that He used the boats from which to do so. God’s purposes are always purposeful. He does everything by design. Before Jesus could issue the command to go into the deep, He had to first speak the Word. Nothing that is of God can happen without the speaking of the Word. It reveals God and it releases faith. Those fishermen would have had no choice but to listen as the Son of God addressed the crowd. While we cannot speculate on what exactly He said, we can accept that it was sufficiently powerful to inspire obedience. The Word prepared their hearts and made them ready for what was to come. Jesus had a particular purpose – to call them to discipleship – but they needed the power of the Word to prepare them to receive it and obey it.
This is such a valuable lesson for us. God will never thrust us out into the deep without first preparing us. His Word is our foundation, our lifeline, and our power for obedience. We should never ever launch out without first spending time in the Word and with the Living Word. Listening to His voice is the beginning, the place where we learn to know Him and love Him, which in turn brings simple faith. Without the Word, we’re at the mercy of self and situations. We make our own plans and rush out, leaving ourselves vulnerable and open to disillusionment and failure. There is absolutely no substitute for the Word which can only be gained through spending time in the Word and with the Word. It must start with Jesus, because He is our faith, our strength, our courage, and our liberty.
What into the deep really means.
The boats were anchored in the shallows, close enough to the coast for the crowd to hear Jesus clearly. This was a safe berth, unthreatening and familiar with no surprises or difficulties to deal with. It’s the place we have in Jesus before He commands us to launch out into the deep. We rest safely in the shallow water and listen to His voice and learn from Him. But our verse today reminds us that this is a resting place, a space in which He prepares us for action. In the Word is our time of green pastures and still waters, where He nourishes and feeds us and slowly prepares us for the transformation that must inevitably come. I’m struck, here, by the absolute grace of a loving God who knows what is needed and graciously provides, even though we may not be aware of it at the time.
Into the deep is the next step. It’s a launching out, fully equipped by Word and Spirit, into places and things wholly unfamiliar. Sooner or later, every believer must step out of their comfort zone. We will all face the challenge of obeying Christ without question. It will be unknown territory and unknown things. We will need to learn to walk in the ‘deep things’ of God that our natural understanding and intellect cannot fully comprehend. Into the deep means letting go of what is familiar and moving out of sight of land. It means trusting God with absolute faith and acting in unhesitating obedience. Little wonder, then, that we need the safe harbour of the Word to shape us for the things that are so much bigger and deeper than we could ever imagine. Nothing in life can prepare us for what awaits us in Christ.
Into the deep is all about fish.
Jesus taught those soon-to-be disciples a wonderful lesson that we can take hold of today. He sent them out into the deep with only His Word and told them to go fishing. That’s a very good analogy for the command to go and preach the Gospel. We go where we’re sent, armed only with the Word, and cast the nets for the ‘fish’ we likely cannot even see. The lesson was two-fold. First, it was about faith and obedience, which go hand in hand. Peter sums this up powerfully when he says he will let down the net because Jesus commanded it. He’s saying, ‘at Your Word I will obey,’ which should be our response to the work of the Word and Spirit in us. Secondly, it teaches us we go and cast the nets, but Jesus fills them. The Word, when spoken, will always manifest in God’s desired result.
When we go into the deep, it’s about God, not us. It’s about the fish He knows are there and His purpose to bring them in. We cannot see what He sees. Nor can we bring the fish into the net. What we can be sure of, though, is that if He commands us to launch out it’s always about fish. There will always be a ‘catch,’ and it will always be beyond our expectations. It’s actually a very beautiful picture of the life God has ordained for every believer. We have time in the Word, nestled in the shallows, where we learn and grown and He works His life into us. Then He sends us out to bring others in. But He fills the nets. He brings the fish, and all we have to do is cast out into the deep and trust Him to fulfil His purposes.
Into the deep is finding our purpose in Christ.
Jesus illustrated in very real and practical terms what awaited these almost-disciples. He presented them with a very vivid picture of the power of God at work and the results of simple obedience. They launched out into the deep with absolutely no clue as to what lay ahead. The result, however, revealed the purposes of God in a way they could clearly understand and take hold of. In one ‘ordinary’ fishing expedition, Jesus prophetically confirmed His Word and revealed the future. He effected a transformation that would ultimately impact the entire world. God doesn’t offer vague, esoteric, and super-spiritual philosophies that only confuse us. He grabs hold of the practical, ordinary things of life and uses them to shake us from our complacency and stretch us into His purposes. He takes what is familiar and works a supernatural transformation that is beyond our comprehension.
This moment undoubtedly that had an impact on those fishermen. They never looked back. The church may have ‘officially’ started in Acts, but this was the beginning of Christianity. It was the moment when the power of God touched the hearts of simple men in a way they could understand and relate to. Our purpose in Christ is to go out into the deep. It’s to reach into the deep things of God and bring in the ‘catch’ He has already prepared. Everything He does in and through us is towards our kingdom purpose of being ‘fishers of men’ for Him. In the deep, there is nothing familiar to hold onto. We’re totally dependent on Him and on the rich foundation of the Word He has given us during our preparation. Out in the deep is the place of obedience that is the outworking of our intimacy with Him.
Living the dynamic of into the deep.
The calling of the first disciples is a beautiful metaphor for our life in Christ. We must have our times in the shallows where we rest and learn from Jesus. These are the moments of preparation, of growing our faith and building a relationship with Him that empowers us to live in obedience in the work to which we are called. But we cannot linger in the quiet place. We must go out into the deep. Faith without works is dead, and life in Christ is to do His works. The deep is a daunting place that stretches us and makes us entirely dependent on Him. But our assurance is that we don’t go alone. Jesus is always with us in the boat. He knows the outcome before we set out and has already put everything in place for an outcome that is way beyond our limited human expectations.
Lord Jesus, thank You for Your wisdom and perfect preparation in our lives. Thank You for the wonderful privilege of being called to go out into the deep in Your service. Help us to learn from You in our quiet times and build our faith. Teach us the deep things of God, so that we may go out with joyful obedience, totally dependent on You. Thank You, Lord, for the assurance that You always go with us and that You have already accomplished the work that will manifest Your perfect glory and Your kingdom.