Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Net gain

Net gain

Now, here is the real thing.

Having come from a museum filled with references to life on the sea, I find myself, almost by accident, standing on the piers of modern-day fishermen.  On this sunny Sunday, I am alone on the docks.  Trawlers are tied up and empty.  The air smells of fish and oiled machinery.

Between neatly stacked towers of traps, nets and ropes lay in seeming disarray.  I try to imagine the routines that surround this scene – the daily hauling of the equipment back and forth to the boats.  To an outsider like me, these nets look discarded.  But there must be method in this madness.

It’s rare that I come across a scene so directly connected to a gospel narrative.  Looking at these nets, I have a powerful reminder of Jesus’s interaction with Peter in the fisherman’s boat.  In Luke 5, we find Simon (proto-Peter), being told by (from his view) an itinerant preacher where to put down his nets for a catch.

I can imagine what one of these New England trawler captains would say to a landsman like me who told him where to put his nets.  He might suggest, ever so colorfully, where to put that advice.

But of course, Simon obeys.  And is given an unprecedented haul of fish.  In this miracle, Jesus accomplishes many things: he shows that he knows Simon’s livelihood better than Simon does, he demonstrates his divinity, and he gives a powerful metaphor for the life he will call the fisherman into.

Somewhat whimsically, I wonder if Jesus might have done all this had the profession been different.  For instance, could he have entered my studio after I had tired myself out trying to draw something (a horse comes to mind – mine regularly look like giant dogs), picked up my pen and illustrated one beautifully?

Then, turning to me, he might say “Come and we will draw all men unto me!” (I know, Jesus doesn’t generally speak in puns.  But he would to me.)

Here’s what I know.  Jesus, being God, thoroughly knows every aspect of my life.  And he enters my world with a goal of transforming it from being about me to being about him and his kingdom.  He gives me daily abundance – nothing as dramatic as a teeming catch of fish, but minor miracles of beauty and provision.

All of them are meant to remind me of who he is and where we’re headed together.

This is why, when I set out all my art supplies at an engagement, I draw my little symbol.  It is a reminder that Jesus is present.  He’s “in the boat.”  Not only that, but he also knows what I am about to do better than I do.  By his guidance, we can do something amazing.

And somehow, especially if I keep my eyes open, this will fold into his growing kingdom.

A kingdom that is so overflowing with blessing, we must call in our friends to help haul in the net.

Lord, when we see the abundance of your grace toward us, like Peter, we cry out, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man!”  Thank you for calling us into your kingdom.  And for all the demonstrations of your power and presence

Reader: How did Jesus originally get your attention?  Was it something dramatic like Peter or a more gradual revealing?

Email me about it at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. And consider sharing this with friends via the social media buttons above.

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

Subscribe to Ailbe Newsletters

Sign up to receive our email newsletters and read columns about revival, renewal, and awakening built upon prayer, sharing, and mutual edification.

No