If you’re empty, Jesus is near.
Luke’s well-known narrative of the miraculous catch of fish begins with empty boats and empty nets. We usually feel frustrated and exhausted when we try hard and come up empty, but Jesus finds emptiness attractive.
The fishing industry at the Sea of Galilee was booming in the first century. Jewish historian Josephus recorded counting 340 fishing crews in business during those days. The fish of choice was a type of tilapia (now known as “St. Peter’s fish”)—a tasty, mild fish measuring about 18 inches long.
The best tilapia fishing was at night. Using circular nets 25 feet wide, Peter’s fishing crew had worked all night and caught nothing.
Sometimes we work hard and still come up empty. It happens. It’s hard.
Maybe you’re a parent who has tried everything with your rebellious child. You’ve disciplined, encouraged, prayed, counseled, and fumed but nothing seems to work.
Maybe you’re a business owner who has gone in early, come home late and invested your own resources, but still the corporate accounts are empty.
I’ve felt it as a preacher, wrestling with a text, looking for a message and coming up dry.
An empty boat—that’s what Peter had to show for all his hard work.
What does Jesus do with the empty boat? He turned it into a pulpit.
“Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.” (Luke 5:3, ESV)
The boat gave Jesus some distance from the pressing crowd. His voice carried nicely over the water. He was casting a spiritual net. Jesus used Peter’s empty fishing boat to fish for people.
Before long, the empty boat was teeming with tilapia too. If the global pandemic has put your life into a toilsome spin and things feel futile and empty, take heart. Jesus loves to do miracles out of our emptiness. And that’s the Gospel!