How you ever felt like you missed an important opportunity that could have changed your life forever? You could have had that great new job, but fear kept you from telling your boss that you wanted it. Maybe you are single and remember how your heart skipped a beat when you saw that beautiful girl across the room, yet you never had the courage to ask her name. Do you wonder where your life would be today had you had the courage to or strength to do things differently?
Getting right down to it, how different would your life be today had you not heard the call of Jesus? What if you had never felt or responded to the love of God in your life? Where would you be now? Would you still be married to the same person? Would you still be in the same job?
When you trusted Jesus with your life, you set in motion a series of events, decisions, and moments that radically changed your life forever. But what are the things that keep you from following Jesus today? Is he asking you to do something that seems unreasonable? Sell you house and go to the missions field? Is he telling you to stop climbing that corporate ladder and start spending more time with your wife, your husband or your kids? Maybe you need to stop investing in your retirement future and start investing in the future of God's Kingdom.
I don't know all the specifics of what God might want for you, but I do know that through the life of Jesus and through the lives of those who followed after him we can learn some amazing lessons that have the potential to transform the way we live. If you don’t want to live your life with regrets, then look with me today at the story of Peter and his call to follow Jesus. As we examine this story, we will see how Peter learned to lay aside his trust in self and follow Jesus call to fish for live-Men. And just like Peter, God wants us all to lay aside our own pride and become fishers of live-Men. Just as Peter learned to trust and obey, when we lay aside our own trust in self, we too will learn to follow Jesus’ call and share the love of God with the lost.
We are all familiar with the many New Testament stories that show the adoring crowds following after Jesus. Our story today will open with this same scene; a gathering crowd pressing in to hear Jesus. But before we dig into this Scripture, let’s step back for one minute and get the bigger picture of how Jesus became so popular among the people.
II. Jesus message drew large crowds because He trusted in His Father’s mission and made a radical life change.
Before anyone had ever heard the name of Jesus or seen a miracle, He was tempted by Satan to abandon His mission. Satan told Jesus that His future was uncertain, but that if Jesus would simply give up on His mission, he would fulfill all Jesus’ earthly desires for wealth, power, and physical satisfaction. Jesus overcomes this temptation, sticks with the mission given Him by the Father and returns home full of power and with the praises of his people. Yet upon his return, He found rejection from those who knew Him best; his family, the spiritual leaders of His home town and eventually rejection from some of His own disciples. Even Jesus’ own mother, the one person who knew best that Jesus was more than just a carpenter, attempted to keep Jesus from His mission so He would stay close by her side. As we look at today’s story in the context of the other Gospel accounts, it is fair to conclude that Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John had all met Jesus at least a year before our story begins. These men had all followed Jesus for a short time, and then they left Jesus and returned to their nets. But amidst the sense of rejection and isolation, Jesus pushed forward to fulfill His mission. Jesus knew His calling meant that He must leave all that He knew of family and home and go about the business of His heavenly Father. And when He chose to follow after his calling, the power of His message became a strong force in drawing the people after Him. That is where today’s story finds Jesus. Turn with me to the New Testament book of Luke, chapter five.
III. The story finds Jesus preaching to the crowds beside the lake of Gennesaret. (1-3)
Please read along with me starting in verse one of chapter five as we enter into this story.
Luke 5:1-3 (NIV) One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
The crowds were desperate to be near Jesus, to hear His powerful message, and to experience His miracles. They were so excited that they barely gave Jesus enough room to breathe. Jesus observes two empty boats and the fishermen who have quit for the day. Why do you suppose Jesus takes note of these men over the crowds that are hanging on every word? Because these are not just any old fishermen. As I mentioned before, a quick survey of all four Gospels lets us know that these are men Jesus has eaten with, men He has called to follow after Him, men who have seen miracles, and men who have turned away from it all and gone back to the security of what they knew best--fishing. Jesus sees an opportunity to finish teaching the crowds without getting crushed and a way to capture the attention of His wayward disciples: Simon Peter and the others.
As Jesus hops into the boat, I wonder, was He sad knowing that these men had left him for their old jobs? Did Satan use this opportunity to temp Him once again to doubt His mission? Maybe He was tempted to doubt His own judgment in choosing these men who obviously had a greater interest in cleaning their nets over listening to His message. No matter, Jesus puts aside all concern all doubt and simply hops into Simon’s boat and tells him put out from shore so that He can finish preaching to the crowds. Jesus had a plan; a way to connect Peter’s love for fishing with the eternal purpose for which God had made him.
I wonder also, what must Simon be thinking or feeling as he pushes out from shore? Does he feel some guilt for leaving Jesus? Maybe he had hoped Jesus would not notice him as he quickly cleaned his nets trying to get done and away from Jesus before having to face an awkward reunion. No matter, he can not avoid the Master now and out of respect for their past relationship, or maybe out of simple guilt, he will obey Jesus command, and Peter pushes out from shore.
IV. After Jesus finishes speaking, He tells Simon to put out into the deep water to fish. (4-7)
Read with me now as the story continues.
Luke 5:4-7 (NIV) When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
Jesus tells Simon and the others to let down their nets into the deep water. “What is Jesus thinking,” Peter mutters to himself, “is it not enough that I let Jesus preach from my boat, but now He wants me to go fishing… in the deep water… in the middle of the day!” You see, fishing in the deep waters was contrary to everything Simon’s experience and training had taught him. Everyone knew that fish were caught at night in the shallows, not during the day in the deep waters. In a moment’s time, a million thoughts flood Peter’s mind. “I am tired. My men are tired. We spent all night fishing and got nothing for all our hard work. We were just about done cleaning our nets and now Jesus wants me to fish again. More time wasted. I will have to clean these nets all over again. I mean, I respect Jesus as a great teacher and a great man of God. I have seen lots of great miracles, but Jesus does not know fishing. I know fishing but this is just plain out of Jesus understanding.” Many more thoughts and feelings run through Peter’s mind, but all he can bring himself to say is, “Rabbi, we worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But, at your word I will let down the nets.” Mumbling and grumbling all the way, Peter does what Jesus asks, but his heart is not in it.
Have you ever felt like Peter? Sure, Jesus knows all about spiritual things like church, prayer, and heaven, but He does not really understand me and my life. What does Jesus know about the demands from my boss? What does He know about stress in the workplace? What does He know about the struggles of being a single mom? Or being a daughter without a dad? What does Jesus know about dating in the 21st century?
Then, wakened from his daydream and thoughts of how annoying all this really is, Peter’s arm is almost yanked from the socket, the boat almost flips and suddenly the nets are filled and begin to break with the largest catch of fish Peter has ever seen. Using every bit of skill and knowledge they have just to keep afloat, the men frantically gesture their partners who are still at the shore in the other boat to come and help bring in this huge load of fish. The other boat arrives, but soon it too is filled to capacity and both boats begin to flounder under the weight of these fish.
But is this huge catch of fish really a miracle? The fish were already there in the water. The nets were designed to catch fish. Where is the miracle? I wonder if the miracle is not really that Jesus was able to move these men beyond their pride and use a very ordinary day, an ordinary boat, ordinary fish and ordinary nets to make a miracle in their hearts. Isn’t the miracle really that these men put aside their pride just long enough to listen to Jesus’ command? I wonder too what God can do in our lives today. Can he use our ordinary jobs, our ordinary skills, and our ordinary lives to do extraordinary things? It is good to remember that God does not give us impossible commands. Sure sometimes they seem that way to us, but if Jesus tells us to do it, we can trust that He has already made a plan. Peter and the other saw Jesus now in a new light and it changed their lives.
V. After seeing the miracle of this great catch of fish, Simon and the others let go of their pride and follow Jesus. (8-11)
What does it look like when pride goes and the call of Christ comes to us? Let’s read the rest of our story.
Luke 5:8-11 (NIV) When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
All the men, including James and John, were astonished by the great catch of fish. Their training and life-experience told them that this day should have never happened, and yet it did happen and they knew they were in the presence of someone great.
“All those things I thought about Jesus,” Peter thinks to himself. “I doubted His ability to fish, I doubted His command, I doubted Him!” Guilt washes over Simon Peter’s soul. Sure, he obeyed Jesus’ command, but not with an open heart of trust. He feels so unworthy of Jesus. In response, he falls at Jesus’ knees and cries out “Go away from me for I am a sinful man!”
Have you ever had doubts about God’s ability to make something happen in your own life? Maybe you have seen God work and then felt a lot like Peter; dirty, sinful, or just plain awful for doubting God’s goodness.
Jesus’ heart goes out to these fishermn because he knows how hard it is to trust in the unseen things of life. He does not condemn them or judge them, but recognizes their penitent hearts, they have put pride aside, and He offers instead only comfort and a call. “Don’t be afraid of what you have experienced; greater things are on the way. For from this day forward they will be catching live men.”
When Jesus says, “From this day forward,” he is letting these men know that his call to fish for live-men is not just a change in jobs, but a fundamental change in their lives. The idea of catching people was not like fishing. It was a life-long process of bringing people from death into life. He is not interested in catching live fish to kill them for food or profit, but for catching dead people to offer them life for God’s profit.
So much of our evangelism misses this point. It is not about getting people to sign an evangelism card or praying a prayer of decision, it is about bringing people into God’s Kingdom. Taking people from a path of death and destruction and bringing them to the path of grace, love, and eternal life.
The call of Jesus fresh in their minds, their hearts stirred with a passion they have never felt before, these men pull their boats back on shore and leave everything they have ever known; wealth, fame, family, job, security, and they followed after Jesus. They leave the biggest catch of their lives to simply rot in the midday sun, and they begin their training under the leadership of their great Master Jesus.
VI. What do you value most in life? What would it take for you to give it up?
Are you like Peter? Are trusting in your own instincts and skills to get you through life? Are you missing the call of Jesus in your life? Maybe you are missing His call because you fear the unknown future. Peter and the other men really had no idea what they were being called to when they left their nets, but they sure did know what they were being called from. They were called form job security. They were called from family. They were called from prosperity. But what would their future hold? G. K. Chesterton said that Jesus saves us from the degrading necessity of being the child of our time. These simple men had no idea how their lives would change the world, and the fact is neither do you. No of us knows the impact we can have in our neighborhoods, our schools, our work place, our families or on our country. But I guarantee this, none of us are forced to be the product of our culture. Peter had to lay aside his own pride before he could experience God's call to fish for live Men. What do you need to lay aside so that you can hear Jesus call and learn to fish for Men? Is it pride? Your ideal of success? Do you need to lay aside your trust in self? Do you need to lay aside your trust in the things you see, touch, taste and feel? You can be something original and unique. You can be what God is calling us to be. You can be a fisher of live-Men, but will you?