Large bodies of water are heavy with mystery. Under the surface live strange creatures, both comic and terrifying. Movies show monsters, though more common are the schools of shimmering fish that fill dinner plates. But the sea is often a metaphor for our own minds, our will and emotions battling under the surface of our societal mask. So when Jesus tells His disciples to cast their nets on the right side of their boat, He is speaking a metaphor into their lives.
Often we default to the line about Jesus making his disciples fishers of men, but this is not the only context in which Jesus speaks of fishing. In Matthew 13: 47-48, Jesus says, “47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous.” Fish in this context are judged, and inedible ones thrown into the fire. What do these fish represent? Men, obviously, but that is an incomplete analogy. Could this story work on more than one level?
In another story, we read, “…and He said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes” (John 21:6). Jesus does not add any commentary here. A miracle of provision is apt. A promise of the fruits of powerful evangelism is the usual conclusion. But the lack of explanation invites interpretation. Deep calls to deep the psalmist says, and this begs the question of what lurks in our deep waters?
We all live in our conscious minds, making decisions that at least approach a logical stance, or so we like to believe. But in our hidden chambers, our subconscious minds carry memories and assumptions about the world. We look for the answers to our inexplicable emotions and thoughts in our conscious minds. The easiest mistake is to assume that our external experiences determine our internal ones. But any good counselor will tell you that our back seat drivers sitting in the seat of the subconscious mind guide us more than we realize.
And those back seat drivers can’t see where they are going, and accordingly lead us to crash the vehicles of our lives into others or into immovable objects.
We must bring to light the schools of fish circling in the dark sea of our unconscious? Why dark? Because we can’t see down into that deep place. How do we get rid of the fish? You know the ones. The insecurity, the anxiety, the driving need for success. Those fish.
I find it so interesting that Jesus specifies the right side of the boat. Your left brain is a straight shooter. It follows the map from A to B and knows how much is in your savings account. Your right brain is more elusive. Emotional and creative, your right brain perceives its way around the dark, and knows how to get home by feel.
Your left brain is looking for the light switch, but your right brain remembers where the monsters hide.
On our own, we fish for answers and cannot come up with much; a few rules and principles make life workable but do not fulfill. And rules never took down a stronghold. Instead, we must take the advice of the Creator of the sea, the fish, even the boat. We must cast our nets on the right side of the boat, and allow Jesus to reveal all the fish that lurked just beyond our reach. He will help sort them out, throwing the lies and the poisonous fish from our childhoods, bad memories, and deceiving flesh into the fire. The good ones provide food, for us and for others.
I think it interesting that Jesus taught his disciples for three years. He increasingly exposed them to truth, revealed their own hearts to themselves. I think of Peter, the denier, and Thomas, the doubter. Being with Jesus will do that. He is not just after your edible fish. He wants them all. And here, I think is why. We cannot be fishers of men unless we are first caught. And we cannot be fishers of men unless we allow Jesus to sort out the catch from the right side of the boat. Why? Because those strongholds exalt themselves above the very name of Jesus.
Now I am stirring the fish into one big pot.
We are the fish; we are the fishermen, and we are the sea.
But fish live in a sea fraught with danger, and so do we. And some of that danger lives in our very own selves. So cast your nets on the right side of the boat. Let Jesus bring up the bad fish with the good. He’ll sort it out. And then the best parts of that metaphor will begin to rise. The provision will come, and not just of food. Remember this is the right brain. Your creativity will increase.
And as you throw the bad fish onto the fire, you also will change. You will become sweeter. Your love will become more nourishing to others. And like Jesus, you will begin to draw people towards yourself, and, of course, ultimately towards Him.