Luke 5:6
When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to tear.
Fishers of MenR.M. Edgar Luke 5:1-11
Weary WorkersW. Clarkson Luke 5:4-6
A Broken NetS. Baring-Gould, M. A.Luke 5:6-11
A New Year', Word for Business PeopleMark Guy Pearse.Luke 5:6-11
A Night of Toil: the Philosophy of FailureW. Scott.Luke 5:6-11
An Image of the Preaching of the GospelVan Oosterzee.Luke 5:6-11
Blessing in Our Temporal CallingLisco.Luke 5:6-11
Christ the Lord of NatureW. J. Deane, M. A.Luke 5:6-11
Christ with the Galilean FishermenJames Foote, M. A.Luke 5:6-11
Failure and SuccessR. A. Griffin.Luke 5:6-11
Failure, Faith, and FortuneM. Braithwaite.Luke 5:6-11
Faith Triumphant in FailureDean Vaughan.Luke 5:6-11
Gospel for the Fifth Sunday After TrinityG. Calthrop, M. A.Luke 5:6-11
Peter an Example for UsFuchs.Luke 5:6-11
Place of the Miracle in the HistoryA. B. Bruce, D. D.Luke 5:6-11
Reasons for the MiracleW. J. Deane, M. A.Luke 5:6-11
The Blessed FishermenHeubner.Luke 5:6-11
The Desponding EncouragedJ. Woodhouse., J. Keble.Luke 5:6-11
The Disappointing Night and the Successful MornR. M. Spoor.Luke 5:6-11
The Faith of PeterVan Oosterzee.Luke 5:6-11
The Galilean FishersNewman Hall, LL. B.Luke 5:6-11
The Just Means of Gaining Temporal BlessingHeubner.Luke 5:6-11
The Miraculous Draught of FishesD. Longwill.Luke 5:6-11
The Nature of the MiracleA. B. Bruce, D. D., Dean Plumptre in "Poet's Bible.Luke 5:6-11
The Obedience of FaithVan Oosterzee.Luke 5:6-11
The Remarkable Transitions in the Life of FaithVan Oosterzee.Luke 5:6-11
The Sinking Fishing-Boat a Symbol of the Ruinous Tendency of Abounding ProsperityT. R. Stevenson.Luke 5:6-11
The Three F's -- a Parable of FishingT. L. Cuyler, D. D.Luke 5:6-11
The Two Draughts of FishesC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 5:6-11
This ParagraphJ. Parker, D. D.Luke 5:6-11
Use of PartnersBishop Hall.Luke 5:6-11
Weariness and FaithDean Vaughan.Luke 5:6-11

The passage is one of encouragement to-those who have been labouring in the cause of truth and righteousness, and whose success has not been according to their hope. We have a picture of -

I. FRUITLESS TOIL. "We have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing;" words that have not only been on the lips of the unsuccessful fisherman, but often enough on those of the weary Christian workman - the pastor, the evangelist, the teacher, the philanthropist, the missionary. Weeks, months, even years, may go by, and nothing or little may have resulted. Especially is this the case in missionary labour among savages, or where venerable systems of superstition prevail. The workman goes through all stages, of lessened hope, of surprise at non-success, of disappointment, of despondency, until he may get down very near to despair.

II. THE COMMAND TO CONTINUE. Under discouragement and apparent defeat there frequently enters the thought of abandonment. The worker says, "I will lay down my weapon; it is useless to proceed. I must have better soil, or it must have a more skilful hand." But when this thought is being entertained there comes a manifestation of the Master, who by some means and in some language, says, "Go, labour on: toil on and faint not." To the "fisher of men" he says, "Let down your nets for a draught." This command to continue may cause us to reflect upon:

1. Our Lord's own example; for he laboured on most diligently and patiently under heavy and sore discouragements.

2. The ample means placed at our disposal with which to work for Christ and men; the glorious fulness and fitness of the gospel of the grace of God.

3. The near presence and promised aid of the Holy Spirit.

4. The inestimable value of the souls we seek to save. But whencesoever suggested, the voice we hear is imperative, Divine, "Go, labour on.


1. We may be indisposed to resume; we may feel, as Peter evidently did on this occasion, that there is nothing to be taken by our toil; that for all practical purposes we might as well leave the field.

2. But Christ's will is decisive. Against that there is no appeal. At thy word I will let down the net." This is the true spirit of obedience. To work for Christ under every possible encouragement is easy and simple enough; perhaps it may not take high rank in heaven so far as its spiritual greatness is concerned. To continue at our post under every discouragement, because we believe it is the will of our Lord that we should still strive and sow - that is the trying, the honourable, the acceptable thing. It may be remarked that:

3. Obedience to our Lord is not inconsistent with a wise change of method. Launch out "into the deep." They were to cast their net into the likeliest waters.

"Cast after cast, by force or guile,
All waters must be tried." (See Keble's hymn, "The livelong night we've toil'd in vain.") If one method does not succeed, we must try another. We must not ascribe to God a failure which is due to our own inefficiency. We must not ask and expect his blessing unless we are doing our best in his Name and in his cause.

IV. THE LARGE REWARD. "When they had this done," etc. Patient, obedient work wrought for Jesus Christ will certainly meet with its recompense. "Refrain thine eyes from tears, and thy voice from weeping, for thy work shall be rewarded." We may 'go forth weeping," but we shall doubtless "come again with rejoicing." The success may come:

1. After much labour and prayer and waiting.

2. In a way in which we did not expect it.

3. Only in part while we are here to rejoice in it; 'for often "one soweth and another reapeth." But sooner or later, in one form or another, here or hereafter, it will come; our net will "enclose a great multitude of fishes;" our hearts will be full, even to overflow, with joy and gratitude. - C.

And when they had thus done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes, and the net brake.
I. IS DISCHARGING THE DUTIES OF LIFE OUR BEST ENDEAVOURS MAY APPEAR FRUITLESS. Always discouraging to toil without success: in learning, business, religion. Our failures often arise —

(1)through inexperience;

(2)through indolence;

(3)through impatience.None of these the case with Peter however. An experienced fisherman, and had toiled all the night. Continued fruitlessness ought to awaken candid investigation. Are we in a right sphere of labour? Are we labouring in a right spirit? We may be, and yet our best endeavours appear fruitless.


1. In obeying Christ, Peter's faith rose above natural difficulties.

2. In obeying Christ, Peter's faith rested on Christ's command "At Thy word." No one else could have persuaded him to let down the net.

3. In obeying Christ, Peter's faith led to decisive action — "I will let down the net." Cultivate the habit of decision. The decisive man will catch his fish while the negligent man is preparing his nets.

III. IN DISCHARGING THE DUTIES OF LIFE, WE SHALL ULTIMATELY BE SUCCESSFUL. Success may be delayed for a time; but it will come. At the very moment of our failure God purposes to fill our nets.

(J. Woodhouse.)

"The livelong night we've toiled in vain,

But at Thy gracious word

I will let down the net again:

Do Thou Thy will, O Lord."

So spake the weary fisher, spent

With bootless, darkling toil,

Yet on his Master's bidding bent,

For love and not for spoil.

So day by day, and week by week,

In sad and weary thought,

They muse, whom God hath set to seek

The souls His Christ hath bought.

Full many a dreary, anxious hour

We watch our nets alone

In drenching spray and driving shower,

And hear the night-bird's moan.

At morn we look and nought is there

Sad dawn of cheerless day!

Who then from pining and despair

The sickening heart can stay?

There is a stay — and we are strong!

Our Master is at hand,

To cheer our solitary song,

And guide us to the strand.

In His own time; but yet awhile

Our bark at sea must ride

Cast after cast, by force or guise

All waters must be tried.

Should e'er Thy wonder-working grace

Triumph by our weak arm,

Lot not our sinful fancy trace

Aught human in the charm.

Or, if for our unworthiness,

Toil, prayer, and watching fail,

In disappointment Thou canst bless,

So love at heart prevail.

(J. Keble.)



III. The word "Nevertheless" introduces THE GRAND CONTRAST AND ANTITHESIS OF THE TEXT. Gather into one all the heads and threads of discourse — we are weary of the monotony of life, weary of the perpetual round of doing and being, disappointed with the result of life, with what we are to-day in Thy sight — beings occupying a point and not more, between two eternities. Nevertheless, at Thy word, because Thou speakest in our ears today and sayest, "Launch out into the deep, the inscrutable future, the future of time and of eternity"; yes, at Thy word — otherwise we were languid and depressed and disappointed and could not — at Thy word we will once again, to-day, let down the net.

(Dean Vaughan.)

Our subject is perseverance in duty in the absence of seeming success.

1. Illustrate it by the circumstances of our earthly life. Let duty always take precedence of pleasure; let recreation never be thought of till it is fairly earned: let no engagements be entered into beyond what can be met, and no expenditure be indulged in beyond a man's income. Let no neglect of our own prudence, and our own duty, be excused by the idle plea of relying upon God's providence without ourselves exercising the self-help on which God's providence is conditional. On such principles, as a general rule, success will reward effort, and the net judiciously cast will not fail to enclose the fish. There are, of course, exceptions. Without any fault on the part of the workman his labour may be in vain. What shall those do who may truly say, "we have toiled all night," &c.? Give up in despair? Nay. Let down the net again.

2. Apply this to higher industries. The case of a soul seeking heaven. The work of preacher, Sunday-school teacher, Bible-woman, tract-distributor, Christian missionary.

(Newman Hall, LL. B.)

Miracles of our Lord are parables. Because the record is literally true that it is spiritually instructive. The terms success and failure have a large range in human life. Some men are born, we say, to succeed. Nothing that man possesses can, however, guarantee results. Circumstances which man controls not, changes which he cannot foresee, have a wide operation, and under their influence it is seen again and again that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. Failure comes where success was certain; success where every one foresaw failure. If a man has found heaven he may bear to have lost earth. But is it not true that failure has place also in spiritual things? Is there no such thing as a toiling all the night and taking nothing in the matters of that world which is of the soul and of eternity? The history of the Church of Christ is full of answers to that question. What long dark nights has it had to toil through! But of this we are sure, that the long toil of the night, however little rewarded, was essential to the marvellous success of the morning. The attitude of the true Church on earth has ever been characterized by the brief words selected as the topic of this sermon, "Faith triumphant .in failure." And how shall we say that the case stands now for us? Are we living in a night or in a morning? It is far better to be labouring in the blackest night, than to fancy ourselves gathering with Christ when we are indeed scattering without Him. But for ourselves, and for others, let faith triumph over failure. I know that every failure is a proof of the want of faith. I know that if faith were present, failure could not be. But there is such a thing as faith, after defeats, returning to the charge, and it is in that that the test of our Christianity lies. A man who can come back to Christ, and say, "Lord, I have slept at my post; I have let my oars drop; I have often left my net unmended until it could enclose nothing; I have suffered weariness to make me indolent, and long disappointment to make me hopeless. I have clone all this, but yet — even now — even thus late — I will, once again, at Thy word, let down my net, and wait Thy blessing," that man may have many faults, he may be much behindhand, he may be full of infirmity and of sin, but he has the root of the matter in him; he has a little faith, and according to that faith shall it be to him. That man knows something, however little, of a faith triumphant in failure. Christ stands, as of old, upon the shore, and asks us of our welfare. He enters, as of old, into the little vessel which contains our fortunes: He feels for its frailness, He will guide its fittings, He will steer it for us into the haven where we would be. Hitherto we may have toiled and taken nothing; but if, at His word, we will now let down the net, He will bring into it that which shall be sufficient for us, and man's failure shall be Christ's success.

(Dean Vaughan.)

The sea-shore was often the Lord's retreat. By the shore lines of Galilee He wandered, and amid the voiceful hush of nature His soul found rest. Our scene opens in the morning on that sea made so sacred with associations of our Lord. On the beach, drawn up a little, were two fishing-boats. They had been out all night, trying, but unsuccessfully, all waters. The fishermen were washing their nets some little distance away with disconsolate faces. A night spent in toiling, and the morning dawning upon no fruit of effort, might well make them sad. These men had apparently failed, but there were elements in their failure which led to success.



1. Natural aptitude.

2. Industry.

3. Foresight.

4. Willinghood.


1. There are prayers unanswered and we are weary. You have, perhaps, been hugging the shore of self — throw yourself and yours more upon the deep of God s unfailing faithfulness and mercy.

2. You have been fishing in shallow waters, teaching your children, your scholars, your people, with that which was cheaply got and therefore little worth. Launch out into the ocean of God's truth.

3. You have had your religious crotchets. Launch out into broader spiritedness, deeper sympathies, more catholic charity.

"O, stirring words of living power,

Ye speak to every heart;

Ye bid all selfishness away,

And slothful ease depart.

Where'er there is a soul to cheer,

Where'er the mourners weep,

There, bear the healing balm of love,

'Launch out into the deep!'

O, watchword brave for those who sail Across the sea of life, Steer far away from every rock With awful dangers rife. Leave all the shallows and the neap; Far in the distance keep; Strike boldly right amid the waves 'Launch out into the deep!'"

(W. Scott.)

This was the final call of the disciples. Notice with what exquisite skill it is managed.

I. There is THE CROWD PRESSING UPON CHRIST TO HEAR THE WORD OF GOD. To a shepherd they might seem sheep to be folded; to a gardener, plants to be tended; but to a fisherman they would suggest swarming fish, ready to be swept into a net. Then comes the miraculous draught, the "great multitude of fishes" corresponding with the multitude of the people. What could be more appropriate?

II. Then we have THE DIVINE POWER OF CHRIST OVER THE DENIZENS OF THE DEEP, SYMBOLIZING HIS POWER OVER THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF MEN. Probably Peter (whom we may take as representative of the rest) may have smiled when he heard the command (ver. 4). But he obeyed. And when he saw the draught of fishes, and caught a glimpse of hundreds and thousands of human beings drawn into the meshes of the gospel-net.

III. THE EFFECT OF THE MIRACLE WAS TO REVEAL THE TRUE CHARACTER OF CHRIST TO PETER AND TO REVEAL PETER TO HIMSELF. Before Isaiah could go as a messenger to the people he must have a vision of the Holy God, and be bowed down under a sense of his own sinfulness. So with Peter. Whether he clearly saw at this time the whole truth of the Godhead of Christ it may be hazardous to affirm. But this is clear, that he felt himself in the presence of One who represented the holiness of God. And he shrank from Him, yet was attracted towards Him. "Depart from me"; but his inner heart says, "Stay with me." The work was done. "They forsook all and followed Him" (ver. 11).

(G. Calthrop, M. A.)





(D. Longwill.)

The interest in this case centres not in the miraculous element, but in the two questions: Is the incident historical? and is it in its true place in the history? The circumstances that the narrative is found only in one of the Synoptical Gospels, and that not, as we might have expected, the one containing the Petrine tradition; that an incident is recorded in the appendix to the fourth Gospel so similar as to suggest the hypothesis of a duplicate; and that an emblematic significance is assigned to the occurrence in the words reported to have been spoken by Jesus, lend plausibility to the notion that we have to do here not with an actual event, but simply with a symbolic story invented to embody the promise made to Peter by his Master that he should become a fisher of men. Of those who are prepared to recognize in the incident something more than a metaphor transformed into a fact, some have doubted whether it is in its true place in Luke's Gospel, and ought not rather to be assigned to the post-resurrection period, as in the fourth Gospel. In this connection stress is laid on the exclamation of Peter on seeing the great draught of fish, "Depart from me," &c., which, as connected with the period of the first call to the discipleship, seems to lack point and appropriateness, but gains deep meaning when conceived of as spoken by Peter when his humiliating denial of his Lord was fresh in his recollection. But one has no great difficulty in imagining such an excitable, impressionable man as Peter uttering the words at any time, without any special occasion for calling his sin to mind, viewing them simply as an expression of reverence. Strauss characterizes Peter's fear as superstitious, and not at all New-Testament like. Granted, but what then? Was it to be expected that the disciples at the time of their first call should be men of the New Testament in their thoughts and feelings? On the contrary, was it not the very aim of their vocation that they might be associated with Christ, and in His company gradually imbibe the spirit of the new Christian era, the era of the better hope, when we no longer stand off in fear, but draw nigh to God in filial trust? Peter's exclamation, as reported by Luke, is in keeping with the initial period of discipleship, and just on that account it supplies no ground for transferring the incident to the later period when discipleship was about to pass into apostleship. At that late time Peter might have more reason than ever before for calling himself a sinful man, but his sense of unworthiness was not so likely then to express itself in the form of a "Depart from me." Looking at the incident in connection with its probable aim, it seems equally appropriate at the beginning and at the end of the history. Christ's purpose was to inspire Peter with enthusiasm for his spiritual vocation. There was a need for this at both periods, and in view of this fact it becomes credible that the narratives of Luke and John are not variations of the same history, but records of distinct events. The earlier event served the purpose of winning Peter to the life of discipleship, the later of inspiring him with devotion to the heroic career of the apostolate.

(A. B. Bruce, D. D.)

As for the nature of the action recorded, it has been variously conceived as a miracle of power controlling the movements of the fish and directing them into a particular course, or of supernatural knowledge of the place where the fish were to be found at a certain moment, or of prophetic clairvoyance in the exercise of a faculty natural to man, but possessed by Jesus in a preternatural degree, or so far as Jesus was concerned a mere act of trust in a special providence of God making itself subservient to His designs. It is not necessary, and the narrative does not enable us, to decide peremptorily between these various views. We arc not even absolutely shut up to the belief that there was a miracle in the case in any form or degree. It is not an impossible supposition that the knowledge possessed by Jesus was such as might be obtained by observation. Traces of such a great shoal of fish might be visible on the surface to any one who might be looking in the proper direction. A well-known writer [Canon Tristram] remarks, "The density of the shoals of fish in the Sea of Galilee can scarcely be conceived by those who have not witnessed them. Frequently these shoals cover an acre or more of the surface, and the fish, as they slowly move along in masses, are so crowded, with their back fins just appearing on the level of the water, that their appearance at a little distance is that of a violent shower of rain pattering on the surface." But, while this description clearly proves the possibility of becoming aware of the presence of a shoal by observation, the supposition that our Lord acquired the knowledge which enabled Him to give directions to the fishermen in this way, is rendered very improbable by the fact that the draught of fish appeared to Peter marvellous not only in itself, but in connection with the agency of Jesus; for that he recognized Jesus as somehow the cause of the extraordinary and utterly unlooked-for success is manifest in his words. Yet it is noticeable that the narrative does not lay stress on that agency in explaining the emotions of Peter and his companions, but simply on the quantity of fish taken (ver. 9). And it may be admitted that the purpose of the transaction did not absolutely demand a miracle. Christ's aim was not merely to attach the disciples to Himself, but to fire them with zeal for their new vocation. For that end what was wanted was not a mere miracle as displaying supernatural power or knowledge, but an experience in connection with their old vocation which, whether brought about miraculously or otherwise, should take possession of their imagination as an emblem of the great future which lay before them in their new career as apostles, or fishers of men. The phenomenal draught of fish, however brought about, fulfilled this purpose better than a small take would have done, even though the fish had been expressly created before the eyes of the disciples. Such a miracle would have filled them with astonishment and wonder, but it would not have awakened in their breasts wondering thoughts and high hopes in reference to the work and progress of the Divine Kingdom.

(A. B. Bruce, D. D.)

All through the long night's mist and rain,

In open sea or near the shore,

They cast their nets, yet still in vain;

They found but failure evermore.

'Twas time to cleanse from tangled weed,

And lay them on the beach to dry:

When lo! in hour of utmost need,

They heard the voice of Jesus nigh.

They cast their nets again, and lo!

So large the haul of fish they take,

The meshes gape, and scarce they know

If they shall land them ere they break.

And then a chill of sudden fear,

As though the veil of sense were rent,

And they, frail men, were brought too near

The scope of some Divine intent.

Oh, could they bear that presence dread,

Before whose keen and piercing sight

Lie bare the hearts of quick and dead,

The world's great Teacher, Light of light

What wonder if from pallid lips

The cry bursts out, "Depart from me"?

Too bright that full apocalypse

For man's sin-darkened eyes to see.

"Sin-stained am I, and Thou art pure

Oh, turn Thy steps some other way;

How shall I dare Thy gaze endure?

How in Thy stainless presence stay."

Yet chiefly when unlooked-for gains

Our skill-less, planless labours bless.

And we, for weary labour's pains,

Reap the full harvest of success;

We wonder at the draught we take,

The latent powers that bud and grow!

Ah, can we dare our work forsake,

And follow where He bids us go?

"Yes, fear ye not," so ran His speech

"Fishers of men ye now must be,

Where'er the world's wide waters reach,

By gliding stream or stormiest sea."

So only can we hope restore,

So only conquer shame and fear,

And welcome, from the eternal shore,

The voice that tells "our Lord is near."

(Dean Plumptre in "Poet's Bible.)

1. The rank of life from which Jesus Christ chose the men who were to be the chief ministers of His religion, is worthy of particular notice. We see that His ministers were, in general, of lowly station; and yet we at the same time know that their instructions and influence, far surpassed those of the most learned and powerful men the world had ever seen. Principles were disseminated by fishermen and tent-makers, which, from the very first, excited the admiration of many, and which, in the process of time, effected a complete revolution in the religious sentiments of the civilized world. Does not this afford an irrefragable argument for the Divine origin of the gospel? Whence had such men such things? Let us beware of neglecting anything they delivered.

2. Let us mark the honour here put on honest industry. Duty requires us to be diligent in the proper duties of our station and profession in life. No matter how humble our employment, Christ will accept us in it, visit us in it, and bless us in it.

3. The success of human industry depends on the blessing of Providence. If given, let us thank God for it; if withheld, let us not murmur, but cheerfully acquiesce in the Divine will.

4. An encouraging example of implicit and persevering obedience to the Divine commandment.

5. Instruction to ministers, in their employment being compared to that of fishermen.


(2)Requiring watchfulness.

(3)Exercising patience.

6. The necessity of forsaking all, in order to follow Christ.

(James Foote, M. A.)

Blest —

(1)by the gracious presence of Jesus;

(2)by the rich gift of Jesus;

(3)by the gracious call of Jesus.


1. God's word.

2. Labour.

3. Trust in God.

4. Acknowledgment of personal unworthiness.

5. Right use of the blessing.


1. From disappointment to surprise.

2. From want to plenty.

3. From joy to terror.

4. From fear to hope.

(Van Oosterzee.)

Peter's faith —

(1)was tried;


(3)was changed into sight.

(Van Oosterzee.)

1. Its ground.

2. Its nature.

3. Its blessing.

(Van Oosterzee.)

1. The wide-reaching command (ver. 4).

2. The hard labour (ver. 50).

3. The sole might (ver. 56).

4. The rich fruit (vers. 6, 7).

5. The right temper (ver. 8).

6. The highest requirement of the evangelical function (vers. 10, 11).

(Van Oosterzee.)

1. Hear when the Lord speaks.

2. Labour when the Lord commands.

3. Believe what the Lord promises.

4. Follow whither the Lord calls.


1. On what it depends.

2. Of what nature it is.

3. For what it inspirits us.



1. It was simply failure; disgrace did not attend it. They had done their best, and it was not their fault that they were unsuccessful. Better to say, "I toiled all the night, and caught nothing," than, "I cast in the net, and caught one thousand fish without an effort."

2. It was overruled for good. God often teaches that the years of plenty are from Him, by prefacing them with years of famine.

3. It did not produce despair.

4. No faithful toil is without reward. What we call failure is, in God's account, oftentimes brightest success.


1. It was miraculous. In two respects — that they caught so many, and, though the net brake, saved all.

2. But by ordinary means. No success without diligent labour.

3. They had much anxiety — "The net brake." Yet this apparent accident was a source of good — co-operation.

4. Their minds seem to have been pervaded by deepest awe. "They beckoned" — not shouted, as in ordinary circumstances they would have done.

5. To enjoy success, we must have a present Lord.

6. Success should lead us to follow Christ more fully.

(R. A. Griffin.)

We have heard of some ministers who could say that they had often preached from the same text, but they had never delivered the same discourse. The like may be said of Christ. He often preached upon the same truth, but it was never precisely in the same manner. We have read in your hearing this morning the narrative of two miracles (Luke 5. and John 21.) which seem to the casual observer to be precisely alike; but he who shall read diligently and study carefully, will find that though the text is the same in both, yet the discourse is full of variations. In both the miraculous draughts of fishes, the text is the mission of the saints to preach the gospel — the work of mancatching — the ministry by which souls are caught in the net of the gospel, and brought out of the element of sin to their eternal salvation.

I. Is THESE TWO MIRACLES THERE ARE MANY POINTS OF UNIFORMITY. They are both intended to set forth the way in which Christ's kingdom shall increase.

1. First you will perceive that in both miracles we are taught that the means must be used. In the first case, the fish did not leap into Simon's boat to be taken; nor, in the second case, did they swarm from the sea and lay themselves down upon the blazing coals that they might be prepared for the fisherman's feast. No, the fishermen must go out in their boat, they must cast the net; and after having cast the net, they must either drag it ashore, or fill both boats with its contents. Everything is done here by human agency. It is a miracle, certainly, but yet neither the fisherman, nor his boat, nor his fishing tackle are ignored: they are all used and all employed. Let us learn that in the saving of souls God worketh by means; that so long an the present economy of grace shall stand, God will be pleased by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. Every now and then there creeps up in the Church a sort of striving against God's ordained instrumentality. God getteth the most glory through the use of instruments.

2. Again, in both our texts there is another truth equally conspicuous, namely, that means of themselves are utterly unavailing. In the first case you hear the confession, "Master, we have toiled all the night and have taken nothing." In the last case you hear them answer to the question, "Children, have ye any meat?" "No" — a sorrowful No. What was the reason of this? Were they not fishermen plying their special calling? Verily, they were no raw hands; they understood the work. Had they gone about the toil unskilfully? No. Had they lacked industry? No, they had toiled. Had they lacked perseverance? No, they had toiled all the night. Was there a deficiency of fish in the sea? The Great Worker who does not discard the means would still have His people know that He uses instrumentality, not to glorify the instrument, but for the sake of glorifying Himself. He takes weakness into His hands and makes it strong, not that weakness may be worshipped, but that the strength may be adored which even makes weakness subservient to His might.

3. Thirdly, there is clearly taught in both these miracles the fact that it is Christ's presence that confers success. Christ sat in Peter's boat.

4. In both instances the success which attended the instrumentality through Christ's presence developed human weakness. We do not see human weakness more in non-success than in success. In the first instance, in the success you see the weakness of man, for the net breaks and the ships begin to sink, and Simon Peter falls down with — "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." He did not know so much about that till his boat was filled; but the very abundance of God's mercy made him feel his own nothingness. In the last case, they were scarcely able to draw the net because of the multitude of fishes. Brethren, if you or I would know to the fullest extent what utter nothings we are, if the Lord shall give us success in winning souls we shall soon find it out.

II. THERE ARE ALSO SEVERAL POINTS OF DISSIMILARITY. The first picture represents the Church of God as we see it; the second represents it as it really is. The first pictures to us the visible, the second the invisible. Luke tells us what the crowd see; John tells us what Christ showed to His disciples alone. The first is common truth which the multitude may receive; the next is special mystery revealed only to spiritual minds. Observe, then, carefully, the points of divergence.

1. First, there is a difference in the orders given. In the first, it is, "Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught." In the second it is, "Cast the net on the right side of the ship." The first is Christ's order to every minister; the second is the secret work of His Spirit in the word. The first shows us that the ministry is to fish anywhere and everywhere. All the orders that the Christian has, as to his preaching, is, "Launch out into the deep, and let down your net." He is not to single out any particular character; he is to preach to everybody. The secret truth is, that when we are doing this, the Lord knows how to guide us, so that we "cast the net on the right side of the ship." That is the secret and invisible work of the Spirit, whereby He so adapts our ministry, which is in itself general, that He makes it particular and special.

2. In the first instance you will clearly see that there is a distinct plurality. The fishermen have nets — in the plural; they have boats — in the plural. There is plurality of agency employed.

3. Thirdly, there is another difference. In the first case, how many fish were caught? The text says, "a great multitude." In the second case, a great multitude are taken too, but they are all counted and numbered. "A hundred and fifty and three." What was Peter's reason for counting them? We cannot tell. But I think I know why the Lord made him do it. It was to show us that though in the outward instrumentality of gathering the people into the Church the number of the saved is to us a matter of which we know nothing definitely, yet secretly and invisibly the Lord has counted them even to the odd one, He knoweth well how many the gospel net shall bring in. I, as a preacher, have nothing to do with counting fish. My business is with the great multitude. Splash goes the net again! Oh Master I thou who hast taught us to throw the net and bring in a multitude, guide into it the hundred and fifty and three!

4. Yet again, notice another difference. The fish that were taken the first time appear to have been of all sort. The not was broken, and therefore, doubtless some of them got out again; there were some so little that they were not worth eating, and doubtless were thrown away. "They shall gather the good into vessels and throw the bad away." In the second case, the net was full of great fishes; they were all great fishes, all good for eating, all the one hundred and fifty-three were worth the keeping, there was not one little fellow to be thrown back into the deep again. The first gives us the outward and visible effect of the ministry. We gather into Christ's Church a great number. And there will always be in that number some that are not good, that are not really called of God. Sometimes we have Church-meetings in which we have to throw the bad away. We have many blissful meetings where it is gathering-in the fish — and what big hauls of fish has God given to us! Glory be to His name l But at other times we have to sit down and tell our fish over, and there are some who must be thrown away; neither God nor man can endure them. Thus is it in the outward and visible Church. Let no man be surprised if the tares grow up with the wheat — it is the order of things, it must be so.

5. Yet again, you notice in the first case the net broke, and in the second case it did not. Now, in the first case, in the visible Church the net breaks. My brethren are always calling out, "the net is broken 1" No doubt it is a bad thing for nets to break; but you need not wonder at it. We cannot just now, when the net is full, stop to mend it; it will break. It is the necessary consequence of our being what we are that the net will break. There are several other points of difference, but I think we have hardly time to enlarge upon them. I will only hint at them. In the first case, which is the visible Church, you see the human weakness becomes the strongest point; there is the boat ready to sink, there is the net broken, there is the men all out of heart, frightened, amazed, and begging the Master to go away. In the other case it is not so at all. There is human weakness, but still they are made strong enough. They have no strength to spare, as you perceive, but still they are strong enough, the net does not break, the ship goes slowly to land dragging the fish; and then, lastly, Simon Peter pulls the fish to shore. Strong he must have been. They were just strong enough to get their fish to shore. So in the visible Church of Christ you will often have to mourn over human weakness; but in the invisible Church, God will make His servants just strong enough — just strong enough to drag their fish to shore. The agencies, means, instrumentalities, shall have just sufficient force to land every elect soul in heaven, that God may be glorified. Then, notice, in the first case, in the visible Church they launched out into the deep. In the second case, it says they were not far from the shore, but a little way. So to-day our preaching seems to us to be going out into the great stormy deep after fish. We appear to have a long way to reach before we shall bring these precious souls to land. But in the sight of God we are not far from shore; and when a soul is saved, it is not far from heaven. To us there are years of temptation, and trial, and conflict; but to God, the Most High, it is finished — "it is done." They are saved; they are not far from shore. In the first case, the disciples had to forsake all and follow Christ. In the second, they sat down to feast with Him at the dainty banquet which He had spread. So in the visible Church to-day we have to bear trial and self-denial for Christ, but glory be to God, the eye of faith perceives that we shall soon drag our net to land, and then the Master will say, " Come and dine"; and we shall sit down and feast in His presence, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God.

III. The time is gone, and I close by NOTICING ONE AMONG MANY LESSONS WHICH THE TWO NARRATIVES IN COMMON SEEM TO TEACH. In the first ease, Christ was in the ship. Oh, blessed be God, Christ is in His Church, though she launch out into the deep. In the second case, Christ was on the shore. Blessed be God, Christ is in heaven. He is not here, but He has risen; He has gone up on high for us. But whether He be in the Church, or whether He be on the shore in heaven, all our night's toiling shall, by His presence, have a rich reward. That is the lesson.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)


1. A most unlikely disappointment.

2. The disappointment of skilled men.

3. A disappointment in spite of devoted labour.

4. This disappointment was most disheartening.


1. It was success that was not very probable. The best time for fishing had gone — the night. Not unfrequently the work of which we have least hope in the end gives us most joy. History of missions, e.g., to South Sea Islands. "In the morning sow thy seed," &c.

2. It was success through the use of the old means.

3. It was success in the old sphere.

4. It was success realized by the very men who had previously failed.

5. It was success consequent on the Lord's presence and on a believing obedience to His word.

6. It was success of the most complete character.

7. It was success in the joy and blessing of which others shared. Those in "the other boat" were called upon to help.

8. It was success which had the most gracious results.

(1)Led to the adoring recognition of the Lord's presence and power (ver. 8).

(2)Filled the minds of all with grateful astonishment (vers. 9, 10).

(3)Was the pledge and promise of greater things (ver. 10),

(4)Led to completest devotion on the part of those concerned (ver. 11).

(R. M. Spoor.)

When is a man most likely to go wrong morally? When he is in suffering? Hardly so. Prosperity puts him to a far severer test. On the ground nobody gets giddy and falls, but on a pinnacle many a one, having lost the steady nerve and firm foothold, has trembled, reeled, and rolled down. How few can bear success t Let a man steal a march on his fellows, outstrip them in the boisterous race for riches, "get on in the world," as we phrase it, and the chances are that he will deteriorate. Noble exceptions there are to the rule, never more than in our own day. Many rise in character as they rise in circumstances. But, alas I numbers do the exact opposite: as they go up in possessions, they go down in mind, down in heart, down in conscience. Gray, in his charming Elegy, speaks of "chill penury" freezing "the genial current of the soul." It may do, but the pleasant, soothing zephyr of wealth certainly tends to relax manly vigour and induce baneful lethargy. There are certain fish which flourish best when lowest in the sea; severe pressure is evidently, in some way, adapted to their nature; when raised near the surface they invariably degenerate. It is so, too often, with men; when raised, they descend. Alexander the Great was all right as long as he had to cope with his enemies; difficulty did not daunt but develop him. On he went from strength to strength, carrying everything before him. But the day that saw his final obstacle removed beheld the first step taken in a retrograde direction. Conquest surrounded him with luxuries; all the elaborate appliances of civilization were placed within his reach; he had but to lift his hand, and the prolific, varied resources of distant and neighbouring lands were at his command. The enervating influences of these things were, however, only too speedily manifested. The Macedonian hero dwarfed into the effeminate ben vivant; Spartan simplicity gave way to requirements as multitudinous as they were vicious, and to make his ruin complete, the world's conqueror died from the effects of a disgraceful drunken brawl!

(T. R. Stevenson.)

"Out of the ship." The Lord Jesus had been preaching in synagogues; but there were very many outside who wanted to hear Him, and whom He wanted to reach. So He entered into a boat belonging to one of His disciples that was drawn up on the beach, and when it was thrust a little way from the shore He sat down and taught the people.

I. JESUS SEEKS A PULPIT RIGHT IN THE MIDST OF DAILY LIFE. He comes to each of us and asks us to let Him have our daily occupation as His preaching-place.


1. It was the boat of a disciple. He never thrusts Himself upon any. Can we afford to receive the Lord aboard of our ship?

2. It was the boat of an ardent and loving disciple. How eagerly Simon received Him into the boat!

3. It was the boat of a busy disciple. Hard-working disciples who can toil all night, if need be — their's is the business from which Christ will preach.

III. LOOK AT THE FISHERMEN. They were washing their nets. The Lord will never help us to catch fish with dirty nets.

IV. Then as to THE SERMON WHICH THE LORD WOULD PREACH from the daily occupation.

1. Considerateness for other people. These men would have to go off again at sunset to fish, and they had toiled all the previous night. But that others might see and hear Jesus, they leave their nets, they thrust out the ship, and they wait upon the Lord. A sermon that was never so much needed as it is to-day.

2. Faithfulness. The crying want of our times is this, that men should see and hear Jesus in the boat of every disciple. Faithfulness on the part of His disciples goes furthest to give men faith in their Lord and Master.


1. It goes well with the boat when Christ is on board.

2. Notice that while the Lord said "nets" (ver. 4), Simon said "net" (ver. 5). And he took up the first that came to hand. Ah, Simon, the blessed Master knows more about fishing than you think. And, my brethren, He knows as much about your business as about Simon's. Their net brake (ver. 6), so they needed the nets after all.

3. Think of the fishing-net giving the disciples the most amazing manifestation of Jesus they had seen. Ah, so it is when Jesus is in the business, the common daily work of life shall bring glorious manifestations of the Lord's presence and power.

4. The fisherman who takes Christ on board is promoted to the rank of an apostle. To serve Jesus in the common round of daily life is the way up to the highest and most splendid service for the King.

5. When Jesus is in the ship everything is in its right place. The cargo is in the hold, not in the heart. Cares and gains, fears and losses, yesterday's failure and to-day's success, do not thrust themselves in between us and His presence. "Goodness and mercy shall follow me," sang the Psalmist. Alas when the goodness and mercy come before us, and our blessings shut Jesus from view I Here is the blessed order — the Lord ever first, I following Him, His goodness and mercy following me.

(Mark Guy Pearse.)

I. FAILURE. "Toiled — nothing." Failure may be caused by

(a)lack of aptitude;

(b)deficiency of energy; or

(c)want of perseverance. Notwithstanding skill, exertion, and persistence, here was failure.

1. The plea of disappointment.

2. That plea urged as a reason for relinquishing toil.

II. FAITH. "Nevertheless, at Thy word," &c. The fishermen were learning of Christ; their confidence and hope were growing. They had Christ's word to rely on, and have not we?

1. Faith in exercise.

2. A right resolve taken.

3. A new venture made.


1. Unexpected abundance.

2. An act of kindness compensated.

3. Plenty the reward of obedience.

4. Success the providence of the Lord Jesus Christ.


1. The perception of Christ's glory.

2. Christ's majesty producing, humility.

3. A new vocation indicated.

4. Abandonment of all for Christ's service.

(M. Braithwaite.)

1. Through a long weary night four men sat in their boats on the Sea of Galilee. They are not novices in the art of fishing, but old experienced hands. They do not idle away their time. They toil hard. They toil hard — dropping their nets and drawing them up again, empty. The story of that vexatious night of disappointment is told, next day, by one of their number in this one sentence, "Master, we have toiled," &c. It could all have been compressed into the one sad word, FAILURE. And this is the word which many pastors and Christian workers may feel themselves obliged to write underneath many of their undertakings and efforts. But God holds us responsible only for duties, never for results. Not by human might, or power, but by His Spirit, is success to be reached. A Paul may plant, or a Peter may fish, but God only can give the increase.

2. Now let us turn over the leaf, and begin Chapter II. It is no longer midnight, but morning. The early sun sparkles on the blue waves of Gennesareth. Two fishermen are on the beach, washing their nets; two others, John and James, are mending theirs in a boat. Jesus comes in sight, followed by a jostling crowd. He wants elbow-room, and space to address the throng, and so He calls for Peter's boat and makes it His floating pulpit. As soon as His discourse is over, He begins to think of His hungry and disappointed disciples. So He gives the order to Simon. There was a great deal of human nature in Peter. He felt just as you and I have felt a hundred times. He said, "We have been toiling all night, and have taken nothing." Had he stopped short right there he would have got a rebuke for the shameful sin of giving up. He was despondent over the past; but he was not despairing for the future. So out bolts that ringing reply, "Nevertheless," &c. Noble words! There spake out a resolute and a relying FAITH. Faith set the bow of Peter's little smack right towards the deep water, and then laid hold of the oar. This is precisely the same thing which we pastors, and Sunday-school teachers, and parents must do straightway. Invite Jesus into our undertakings, for we cannot fail if He is with us in the boat. Then let us pull out into the deep water of thorough, conscientious, faithful work. The fish are in the deep water, not near the shore.

3. What will be the result sooner or later? Look at those disciples in the boat and you will see. They have lowered their net, just as Jesus told them to do. Lo, a multitude of fishes swarming in! The net is breaking. Peter signals to John to bring his boat alongside and help to save the prodigious haul. Up comes the other smack. The two vessels are soon so overloaded that they begin to sink; and Peter throws himself down in awe-struck wonder, and cries out that he is unworthy of such a miraculous blessing. That was Peter's way of saying just what we pastors have often said when the revival was glorious, and we felt how much more God had done for us than we deserved. How sweet was Christ's answer! "Follow Me, and I will make you a fisher of men." And so the loaded boats are pulled ashore, and the happy day's work ends in a FULNESS of blessings. Here are the three F's. The first is a sad one, and teaches us that when we rely upon an arm of flesh our hardest toils may end in Failure. The second is the watchword of all wise action, and all holy endeavour — it is the golden word Faith. And when we take Jesus with us in obedient trust, we bring back a Fulness of success.

(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

1. Illustrates Christ's indirect method of working. He often gives commands, the exact bearing of which it is difficult or impossible to see.

2. Illustrates the proper treatment of the Divine word on the part of man.

3. Shows the proper effect of God's rule over inferior things. There is enough in any display of Divine power to humble us, if we did but open our eyes to see the way of the Most High.

4. Illustrates the ever-heightening and ever-widening vocation of mankind.

(1)"Thou shalt catch men." God does not call men downward but upward, when they are faithful to their trust.

(2)Men need to be caught, for they have gone astray from God.

(3)Man must catch men.

(4)The art of catching men is a Divine art. It is easy to amuse them, and not difficult to instruct them; but to catch them in the holy sense of this promise to Peter, is an art taught only by the Master Himself.

5. Shows that Jesus Christ does not put men into the ministry simply because they are unfortunate in secular concerns. Peter had caught nothing all night, and in the morning he was turned into a minister! Do not people plan to put their least gifted and least successful children into the Church? It is sometimes said that they do. Christ seemed to say to Peter, "See, there are fish enough yet in the water; but you leave your occupation at the very moment of your highest success. I don't make a minister of you because there is no other way in which you can make a morsel of bread, but for infinitely higher reasons." So to-day there are men in the ministry who could have caught fish enough and been highly successful in the ordinary work of life. Give them credit for good motives.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

We must not minimize this miracle by deeming that Christ, either by marvellous sagacity or superhuman omniscience, knew of the presence of this great shoal at that time and spot. Rather, we must not only see in Jesus " the Lord of nature, able, by the secret yet mighty magic of His will, to guide and draw the unconscious creatures, and make them minister to the higher interests of His kingdom"; but we must also recognize in Him the second Adam exercising that dominion over the fish of the sea, which was part of the grant of empire given originally to man. That there should be this great herd of fish was not in itself miraculous; what was miraculous was that its appearance should be thus timed, that it should coincide with Christ's word and subserve His purpose.

(W. J. Deane, M. A.)

Various reasons have been offered for the special applicability of this miracle.

1. Thus was Peter repaid for the loan of his boat, even as the widow of Sarepta was rewarded for her charity to Elijah by the unfailing resources of the barrel of meal and the cruise of oil; as the Shunamite hostess was requited for her kindness to Elisha by the restoration of her son to life; as the house of Obed-Edom was blessed when it gave shelter to the ark of the Lord; as Christ Himself testified that a cup of cold water given to one of His disciples should not lose its reward.

2. Also, Jesus was thus preparing His apostles for their coming call; they might see that in casting in their lot with Him and in abandoning their gainful trade, they were entering the service of One who was able to provide for their bodily life as well as for the wants of their soul; One who taught them that "godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come."

3. Still more might Simon see herein a prophecy of the future, an adumbration of the success that awaited the preachers of the gospel, as they in obedience to the word of Christ cast their nets into the sea of the world.

4. Here, too, is a lesson for all; how little we can do by our own skill or wisdom, how much when we take Christ with us in our work. His Word teaches us how, and where, and when to labour, and following that Divine Teacher we are sure of success.

(W. J. Deane, M. A.)

"The net brake." That net is the Church; and the history of the Church is, alas I a history of the tearing of its meshes, and the breaking away of its fish. Heresy and schism have troubled the Church from the apostolic period; and Christ in this miracle showed that it would be so, lest we should be discouraged; but He also showed the remedy for it — a remedy we have not sufficiently taken to heart. When the net was torn, then Peter beckoned to his partners to help to receive the draught. And by this we are shown that the true remedy for heresy and schism is unity. Sad it is that there should be so much separation among the Apostolic Churches; that the Eastern Church, and the Church which claims to be founded by St. Peter, and our own English Church, should all be engaged in fishing on our own several accounts, with mangled nets, from which many escape, and in which only few are saved. When the Churches recognize the real cause of their failure, repent of their haughty and narrow isolation, and draw together, and call to each other to help, then, and then only, will they be filled to the bulwarks, so that they seem almost about to sink.

(S. Baring-Gould, M. A.)

There cannot be a better improvement of society than to help us in gain, to relieve us in our profitable labours, to draw up the spiritual draught into the vessel of Christ and His Church. Wherefore hath God given us partners, but that we should beckon to them for their aid in our necessary occasions? Neither doth Simon slacken his hand, because he had assistants. What shall we say to those lazy fishers, who can see others to the drag, while themselves look on at ease, caring only to feed themselves with the fish, not willing to wet their hands with the net? what shall we say to this excess of gain?

(Bishop Hall.)

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