Jesus’ first words for them were simple and familiar in many ways. He calls out to them and asks if they have caught anything. This is an ironic question from Jesus because he obviously knows they’ve caught nothing. What he is doing is presenting to them an opportunity to admit failure. I know it seems simple but in a real sense fisherman don’t like to admit when they haven’t called anything and will often over exaggerate what they have caught. What Jesus does here is offer these men, who don’t know who he is at this point, the opportunity to admit failure and in their admittance open the way to success. As soon as they confessed to Jesus that they had caught nothing, He tells them to throw their net over to the other side of the boat and immediately their net is full. It’s so full that they are unable to pull the fish into the boat. 153 fish to be exact. They literally have to row the entire boat to the shore with the net dragging alongside. There admittance of their own failure opens the door for Jesus’ miraculous work.
This is a massive lesson for the Church and one that Jesus had been teaching for His entire time on the earth. “Blessed are the meek.” “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” “In your weakness you are made stronger.” This theme and a lesson runs throughout Scripture. Jesus taught this lesson to the fishermen that day. That lesson is simple.
Failure is inevitable. Faulted, broken humanity is destined for failure. This means that faulted, broken men and women will lead the new church. It should be of no surprise to the world around us that the Church is faulted. It’s led by faulted men and women. That reality escapes the minds of many skeptics today. Jesus was teaching these disciples, who would be foundational for the beginning of the Church, that embracing failure and learning from it is the key to success. They confessed their failure to Jesus and in return found success. The same principle would be a giant necessity for the rest of their ministry. The church would fail and continues to fail today. Even in its initiation they did a terrible job taking care of widows and orphans and were forced to face up to that failure only months after Jesus’ ascended to heaven. The Church still fails today. This isn’t a hypothesis but a fact. Christians, who are commanded to be active members of the local church, must recognize our capacity for failure. In our embracing of that capacity we will find success and also show the world the Christ doesn’t guarantee perfect holiness upon conversion. He guarantees growth.