“Cast your burdens on the Lord, and he will sustain you;“ - Psalm 55:22
When Jesus first met Simon Peter, he was firmly entrenched in a career as a fisherman. Peter was a blue collar, “man’s man” action-oriented kind of a guy who spoke his mind, and often stuck his foot in his mouth. He wasn’t a highly educated man, but he knew fishing, having lived and breathed it every waking moment of his life in the family business. It was no surprise that after discovering Jesus’ empty tomb, weighed down by the shame he felt for denying Jesus three times on the night that he was arrested, Peter went back to something he knew… fishing. In John 21, it records Peter saying to a few other disciples, “'I am going fishing.' They said to him, 'We will go with you.' They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing (John 21:3)." Peter had failed as a disciple and friend, and now he couldn’t even catch a single fish!
Enter Jesus. Fresh off His resurrection, a voice calls out to Peter from the distant shore…“Friends, have you caught any fish?” Disappointed and likely a bit embarrassed, they answered in unison a solitary “No.” (John 21:5). Again, Jesus calls out to His forlorn friend…“Cast your nets on the other side of the boat and you will catch some.” (John 21:6). Peter, an expert fisherman, is getting what would amount to absurd fishing advice from an unrecognized voice on the shoreline. Seriously… cast my net on the other side of the boat? Fishing in the sea of Tiberias, Peter knew that throwing your net into the water a few feet to the right would not make any difference. Yet, perhaps out of equal parts exhaustion and exasperation, Peter entertains this strangers preposterous request and casts his net out into the waters on the other side of the boat. What happened next defied explanation… the sea which was only moments earlier barren, now became teeming with fish! "So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish (John 21:7)." Immediately, it dawned on John (self described as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”) that this shoreline stranger was none other than their resurrected rabbi! Upon this discovery, Peter abandons the catch of a lifetime and lunges headlong into the water to swim to his savior.
When Peter and the other disciples reached dry land, Jesus had a fire going with bread and fish for breakfast. As they gathered around with eyes the size of sand dollars, they took special note that Jesus was eating fish with them…He was alive, and He wasn’t a ghost! After breakfast, Jesus asked Peter a straightforward question. “Do you love me?” What joy and sorrow must have surged through Peter’s veins as he was simultaneously forced to confront his failures and receive forgiveness? Three times, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Three times, Peter responded, “Yes Lord, I love you.” In this exchange, the burdens of Peter’s sin and shame were forever lifted. He was never the same.
It is no surprise, that Peter the former fisherman turned fisher of men would use a fishing term to describe the way we ought to relate our struggles, burdens, worries, and anxieties to Jesus. "Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7)." Stop and think of that word “cast.” It means to throw all of your problems out of your boat and onto Jesus. Just like Peter couldn’t catch fish with his net inside of the boat, so too, we cannot release our burdens unless we let them go. We must throw all of our burdens and anxieties out of our own boat and to the foot of the cross. Like Peter, for every failure, shame, struggle, or doubt, there is always grace to be found in Jesus. When we release our burdens upon Jesus, we will never be the same. We can become a new man (or woman), set free to live bold and courageous lives of obedience, because Jesus has taken our anxieties off our backs and out of our boats.