Authorized Version Translation:
1 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,
2 And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.
3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
1901 ASV Translation:
1 Now it came to pass, while the multitude pressed upon him and heard the word of God, that he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret;
2 and he saw two boats standing by the lake: but the fishermen had gone out of them, and were washing their nets.
3 And he entered into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the multitudes out of the boat.
I. The 'Washing' of the Nets.
A. There are two questions here.
1. The Lake of Gennesaret is a fresh water lake and the nets were being "washed" in the very waters through which they had been dragged all night: so, why were they "washing" their nets? Had they been fishing close to shore and dragging them through mud? Peter's reaction to Jesus' command to "go out into the deep" implies that they had been out there all night...not dragging nets through the shallows. There is this, though -- that Jesus' command may have taken into consideration the "washing" and moving out into the deep would not have wasted all their effort since such a place would not allow the nets to become muddied up by the shallows.
2. However we answer the first question, there is yet this one: why did Luke make it a part of his story? If the "jot and tittle" mentality (Luke 16:17) holds (there are no "wasted" words, letters, or even parts of letters, in the Word of God), Luke's inclusion of this activity has a "point". So what is that point?
B. The "boats" are included so that Jesus' refusal to permit the crowd to "impose" upon Him could be revealed.
1. The "facts" are these...
a. Luke is "stage-setting" by focusing upon Jesus' fixation upon the Word of God as that which needs to be understood. Jesus is not "into" being manipulated by the crowd into giving it what it wants instead of what it needs. It "wants" healing and deliverance. It "needs" the Word of God. Jesus used healing and exorcism as a way to get a hearing for the Word of God. But the crowds are into "imposing" and are notorious for having their priorities fixed on the outer man instead of the inner issues (witness the hypocrisy of waiting for the Sabbath to be over before seeking out the "Sabbath-Breaking-Jesus" in order to get healing and deliverance).
b. The "available" boats make Jesus' withdrawal from the "imposition" possible. But, it is at this point that Luke tells us why the boats are "available". The owner(s) are finished with them for the present and have left them to take care of their nets. This "explanation" shifts our attention from the "imposing crowd" to a few men who "make their living" by taking from the Lake. Luke's "parting shot" in this paragraph is Jesus' deliberate introduction of the "metaphor" of "fishing for men" as the over-arching description of Peter's entire life from this point. This strongly suggests that there is an analogy being "enacted" by Jesus in his dealings with Simon. And that suggestion leads us to the question of the part in the analogy that "net washing" plays.
c. There is no "point" to "washing" nets except to "imply" that they have become corrupted by the mud on the bottom of the lake. There is no way that the nets could have been corrupted by mud except by reason of shallows-fishing.
2. The "analogy" issues are these...
a. The Lake of Gennesaret is the combination issue: the "Lake" which kills, and "Gennesaret" which produces an enormous over-abundance of the food of life.
1) The paragraph continues the earlier thesis of "fear" (Zacharias was a man of fear who needed to understand that God is gracious -- one of the points of the birth narrative regarding John) as Jesus' last words to him are "Stop being afraid; from now on you shall be catching men."
2) The "fear" issue has to be explained. Simon did not react this way when Jesus healed his mother-in-law. In the "explanation" there needs to be a "reason" for Luke's addition of the name "Peter" to "Simon" -- especially since it is premature. Perhaps "Peter" shows up when "Simon" has been humbled a bit.
b. Simon has turned his back on Gennesaret and opted for the life of one who wrestles his life from a deadly source. He clearly sees himself as "superior in courage" to his fellow men (Luke 22:24-34 -- a text which implies that the "argument about who was 'greatest' was started by Simon). However, if he is so "brave", why is he fishing in the shallows? It's much more work -- since it leads to having to wash the nets. And why would they keep on all night if they were catching nothing? A couple of attempts to catch fish in the deep would have pretty much solved the "mud" problem and, if you are catching nothing in the shallows, why not make a couple of forays into the deep before you quit?