Scripture: Luke 5:1-11
If Jesus has called you to follow him, from now on you’ll be catching men.
When the Lord changed my heart and saved me at the age of 20, I was studying to be a broadcast journalist at Michigan State University. In fact, for two years I had already been a reporter on a cable access news channel in Meridian Township, which is a community right next to East Lansing. And I started doing this work when I was a freshman. Most evenings during the week, I would go to classes or after I’d go to classes, I would go to the studio, and I would perform various tasks. Sometimes I would just run the camera for the local zoning board show. Have you ever been flipping through the channels, and you came across a meeting from your local community? And it’s just like this low production of a government meeting and it was on TV for some reason. And you thought, why is this on TV? There was a time that was brought to you by Kyle Bushre. Sometimes when I got some more seniority, I would host a live show right after that meeting with one of the zoning board members. You thought it couldn’t get more exciting. In addition to that, every week I would put together a package story for our news magazine show, and so I would report on riveting topics like proposed new sidewalks and easements granted to a guy who wanted to build a shed. Those are actual stories that I spent part of my life reporting on. But as boring as all that is, and I know it’s very it’s very, very boring, the process of doing that, I was learning. I was learning how to tell a story. And so when the Lord grabbed ahold of my heart at summer camp in 1998 as a college junior with two years of reporting experience, I was in a unique position of a person who is already interested in disseminating truth in a understandable and engaging way. Now, I would not say that’s what the media does today. I couldn’t be more happy that I did not end up in the media. But believe it or not, there was a time when journalism students cared very much about getting the truth and getting the truth out to people. And that was me. And over the course of the summer that I was there at the camp in 1998, I remember quite clearly having this thought: If I’m going to share the news, why wouldn’t I share the good news?
So even before I put my faith in Jesus, God was using his sovereign power to shape me into the follower of Jesus that I would eventually be. He was building both my skills and my passions that would eventually be used for his glory. Church, the more I walk with Jesus and the more I read God’s Word, the more convicted and convinced I am that God is sovereignly at work in the lives of his people, not just after their conversion, but throughout their entire lives. He is building and molding and shaping and bringing you to a place where you will be used for his glory even before he changes your heart and brings you into his family, he is molding you and investing you with experiences that will uniquely prepare you for his service. God is at work building your passions. He’s shaping your experiences and giving you unique ones, not only to receive the gospel but to serve him uniquely in the Kingdom of God, where he would have you. I’m excited.
Today we’re going to enter into the part of the book of Luke where Jesus is going to begin to gather his team of disciples. So far, it’s been a focus on Jesus. Now it’s going to be Jesus and his team. And these are men and women from very different backgrounds. They have different personalities. Some of them say and do very stupid things, which gives me hope for me. They have different kinds of jobs. They’re tax collectors. There’s a religious zealot in there. There’s Pharisees, and there are fishermen, as we’ll see today. It’s a ragtag bunch of folks that Jesus pulls together to make one team, and they’re all united around one mission, and that’s the mission to share the gospel, to make disciples, to serve as ambassadors for Jesus. Or to put it in terms of our story today, we are called to catch men. Jesus has called you to follow him; from now on you will be catching men. If you have your Bible, go ahead and open it to Luke Chapter 5. Jesus calls his first disciples using an illustration of the mission.
He’s a big illustration of it. It’s unmistakable to them. It will be unmistakable to us as well. But they really would have understood it as we’ll see. We’re going to watch Jesus command the people to obey his word, and their lives are going to be changed by their obedience. And by the way, so will yours. As you are obedient to Jesus, your life will change for the better. We’re going to watch as Jesus skillfully reassigns their abilities and their passions. He’s going to change the use of their expertise. He’s going to repurpose them for his mission. When we’re done looking at this story today, you will have insight into what your life is for. Now, those of you who have been following Jesus for a long time, you know that you’ve been repurposed. You have seen how God has taken what you’re excited about and used it for His glory. Those of you who don’t yet know Jesus, maybe not haven’t followed Jesus yet. I believe you’re going to see today how Jesus is going to use your life in his mission. I’m going to read through the whole story, and then I’m going to show you how Jesus’ mission will give you purpose as we work together to expand the Kingdom of God. Here’s the story: [Luke 5:1-11] “On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the Word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land, and he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, put it out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch. And Simon answered, Master, we toiled all night and took nothing. But at your word, I will let down the nets. And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus knees saying, depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken. And so also were James and John, Sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, do not be afraid. From now on You will be catching men. And when they had brought their boats to the land, they left everything and followed him.
Well, let’s start first by talking about the word of God. Do you see how it says that the people gathered to Jesus to hear the Word of God? Now, that might not stand out to you and I, because we use that phrase so often. But this is actually pretty remarkable. The phrase ‘the word of God’ is only used once each by the other three gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, and John. And all three of those times it’s used to refer to the Old Testament scriptures. So the Word of God, that phrase, the Word of God is the Hebrew Bible to a Jewish person. That’s what they would hear when they heard the Word of God. But after Jesus comes, there’s an expansion on that understanding. And we see it a lot in Acts and Paul and in Peter’s letters, referring not only to the Old Testament scriptures, but to the testimony of Jesus and his disciples. That’s what the word of God comes to be known. So Luke here is showing us the beginning of this expanded understanding of the Word of God. And it starts with Jesus. People started to come out and hear Jesus because they wanted to hear the Word of God. They weren’t just coming out to hear a good teacher or to catch some advice. They were they were coming to hear a source of divine authority that would be the same as if they had opened up the Hebrew scriptures and read them for themselves. They were they were getting the continuation of the testimony of their Bible.
Have you ever wondered why we call the Bible part of the Bible, the Old Testament and part of it, the New Testament? Well, it’s because the Old Testament had closed for 400 years. The people had not had a word from God through a prophet. They hadn’t they hadn’t heard from the Lord for 400 years. And so they had this series of books called the Canon, the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures. And they didn’t have an ending to that story. And people were coming to Jesus because God was beginning to speak again. He was revealing himself again, and they were clamoring to see what was next. They didn’t know yet about the cross or the empty tomb that was coming. But what they did know was that Jesus spoke the Word of God. So God was once again revealing himself to the world in Christ. So many people all wanted to hear the Word of God that they backed Jesus up to a lake. They got him cornered there by the lake. And Jesus takes this opportunity to acquaint himself with some of the men who were beginning to hang out with him. And so he hops into Simon’s boat, which is right there on the lake, and he asks him to push out into the lake so that people can hear. And what that does is it sort of creates a natural amphitheater for Jesus to be able to teach. And this crowd is growing around Jesus. It’s been growing since he started his ministry. And of course, it is because Jesus isn’t just some talking head with an opinion. He’s not just some guy. He’s not just some good showman. When you listen to Jesus, you’re hearing God reveal himself. They heard a prophet. They heard new, fresh teaching from God. This is not just the opinion about God. This is God. And so for everything that Jesus says next in this story, we need to remember and understand that Jesus isn’t just speaking. He’s revealing. He’s revealing who God is, God’s will.
So with that in mind, let’s look at the command of God. There’s kind of an interesting awkward moment here, a little conversation that Simon has with Jesus. Jesus is a rabbi. He’s teaching the people. So that’s people would come to him as a rabbi to hear from him. He’s speaking with the authority of God. But do you know what he’s not? He is not a fisherman. He doesn’t fish. His dad was a carpenter, so he’s on the boat. But just being on the boat doesn’t make you a fisherman. I have sailed before. That does not make me a sailor. Right? So he has no fishing background. Yet, Jesus turns to Simon and he says, ‘Head out into the deep water and put down your nets for a catch’. Notice the confidence there. You see that? There’s no wavering on this. He doesn’t say ‘put down your nets’. Let’s see if you can get a catch. I have a good feeling about this. This might go well for you. He just says put down the nets for a catch. I mean, what do you say at that point? What do you say if you’re one of the fishermen? These are professional fishermen, Simon, who will later be called Peter In fact, he’s called Simon Peter in this story often gets a lot of grief for his impulsive, ridiculous things that he says. And does that all get recorded in the Bible? And so he gets a lot of grief for it. But I think what he says here is actually pretty good from his perspective. What he says to Jesus here actually makes a lot of sense. He says, Master, So right there, he’s polite, right? Master? We toiled all night and caught nothing. He’s polite, he’s accurate, and frankly, he knows a lot more about fishing than Jesus does. He could have just told Jesus to stay in his lane. I know they didn’t talk like that back then, but, you know, like today, he could have said something like that. Jesus, we know, you know a lot of stuff. You don’t know this. He could have said something like that. Let me dwell on this. Just for a moment. There are many people today who will listen to Jesus to an extent. Okay. So they like Jesus. They like some of the things He said and they will listen to Jesus to an extent. And that extent is usually some sort of compartmentalized religious part of their life. So whatever they want to call their spirituality or their religious part of their life, that part Jesus can speak into it. So, for example, some people really like the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount. They look at that and they go, Oh, that’s the way we need to treat each other. They love it when Jesus talks about loving people and treating people with respect. They love it when Jesus says that we can go to God and ask for things. They like that part of what Jesus has to say. But when it comes to certain teachings from Jesus, like the existence of hell, or the danger of wealth, or the forgiveness of enemies, people sometimes make a switch in their minds. Jesus at that point when they hit their extent, goes, from being an authority who commands to an advisor who suggests. I talked to a businessman, a guy who’s a friend of mine, many years ago now, and this this guy that I knew confided in me. He saw me as something of a helper to him just as a friend. And so this business friend of mine confided in me that he was running an unethical business. He was cheating people. He was cutting corners. He was overcharging customers. When I pointed out to him that Christ commanded him in scripture to run his business ethically, he simply said, I have kids I need to put through college. I can’t change what I’m doing here. Yeah, yeah, I know what the Bible says, but you don’t understand my situation. See, my situation is reason for me to be able to ignore what that says. I had a college student tell me one time that she wanted to follow Jesus, but the sexual ethics of the Bible were dated and certainly couldn’t be lived out today. And she even then went on to suggest that it would be unwise to follow them because you don’t know if you’re compatible with the person unless you first live together with them. She figured that out. She knew better than what the Bible was saying. The implication of both of those examples is that Jesus is good for some things, but he can be safely ignored for other things.
Let me tell you, friends, scripture in general, and this passage in particular, presents discipleship in a very different way. Scripture has a very different view of what I just described there. Simon responds, ‘But at your word, I will let down my nets’. Think about that. Think about that answer for just a second. He’s saying, Jesus, what you’re saying doesn’t fit my perspective and experience. It doesn’t match up with what I know about fishing. And I know so much more about fishing than you know Jesus. I think I know better than what you’re telling me. But because you’re the one speaking, because it’s your word, because of who you are, I’m going to do what you say. He wouldn’t listen to just anyone. Certainly you wouldn’t listen to a non-fisherman. But he spent enough time with Jesus to know that when Jesus speaks, he’s bringing a perspective and authority that’s higher than Simon. Let me tell you, if you’re resistant to God’s word in an area of your life because you think that there’s good reason for you to do things differently, because you have better perspective on your situation, you don’t. You don’t have a better perspective on your situation than God has on your situation. You will never have a better understanding of your life than the Lord. You will never have a better understanding of this one thing you are going through or this one area of your life. You will not have a better understanding than the God who designed you. Jesus has a far bigger understanding of everything that’s going on in your life than you do. Jesus’ word doesn’t come to us as a suggestion to consider, it comes to us as a command to obey. And that’s for our good. I know, I know the way our world works. We think, oh, commands are bad, but suggestions are good. And I might consider your suggestion. No, you got to understand, this command is for our good. It’s for our good. When you listen to Jesus, you are listening to the one who will guide you into the abundant life that Jesus himself came to provide for you. And Simon and everyone else here finds this out and they find it out in a big way. They put their nets down. They caught so many fish that they had to call the other boat over to help.
I love fishing, so if I lived in that time and I was one of Jesus disciples, this would be the one I would remember. This would be my favorite miracle that happened. So. So here’s what happened at his word Jesus commands, Simon obeys and Jesus word delivers with a corresponding reality that far outmatches every expectation that these men had that day. Jesus is able to guide these men to exactly what they want, and he gives them abundant riches. And this testifies to who Jesus is. Let’s look at the revelation of Jesus. What does God reveal? It suddenly dawns on Simon that this is not an ordinary moment. So let’s say they had gone out and they and they obeyed and they let down their nets and they brought in some fish. That would have been more than they had before. And if they brought in some fish or even maybe a lot of fish, the response might have been, wow, thank you, Jesus, Thanks for helping us out. We never would have guessed that this would have worked. Boy, somehow you did good. Good job. Nice. Nice start. I guess it’s beginner’s luck for you. But when you catch nothing, absolutely nothing. The worst economic disaster for the day, for you when you’ve caught nothing. And then you catch so much fish that your nets are breaking and that your boat is sinking. And you have to call your friend’s boat over and his boat gets filled up to, you know, that something is up. And suddenly Simon realizes that something is up. He is not in the presence of a good teacher or a good fish guesser. He is in the presence of the Lord. Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord. There are three parts to this. Depart from me. Why does Simon immediately want Jesus out of his presence? Why get off the boat, Jesus, Go. Go to the other end, Jesus. Why does he want to get out of his presence? Well, it’s because every good Jewish person knows that to be in God’s presence, you have to be holy. You have to be holy. There’s something to be prepared. And Jesus just made known that to be in his presence means to be in the presence of God. He’s not ready for that. For I am a sinful man is the second part. Here’s the reason that he wants him to leave. Simon now finds himself in a position that where he’s not ready yet. He knows that there’s preparation necessary. You don’t you don’t come before the Lord covered in fish slime. You just don’t do that. You don’t you don’t come into the presence of God unless the proper sacrifice has been made, and the proper cleansings have been made. 1500 years of mosaic priesthood has taught him a holy God will not allow unholy people to stand before him. They understand the presence of God in a way that we don’t really. And he knows full well he’s not ready because nothing yet has been done about his sin. I am a sinful man. I cannot be here right now. And the third part is, oh, Lord, Simon is in this moment realizing that Jesus is the Lord. Now, he doesn’t fully understand the Trinity. I’m not I’m not saying that as Simon walks with Jesus, he’s going to learn more and more about who Jesus is. But what he realizes right now is that when he listens to Jesus, he’s listening to God. Before we look at the call and what Jesus calls him to do, it’s really important to understand what has happened in this moment. What has happened in this moment when Peter when Simon Peter turns to Jesus.
And it’s important for us to always understand what has happened in this moment, but what hasn’t happened right now. In our culture, we talk about becoming a Christian or becoming a follower of Jesus like this. We’ll use phrases like this. We’ll say, “I listen to Jesus, and I decided to follow him”. Or “I made Jesus the Lord and savior of my life”. We’ll use phrases like that. And frankly, I don’t mind. Those are actually fine. I don’t mind that we speak that way. It’s a typical way that Christians speak and I don’t mind it. But understand the implication of that confession for a lot of people when they say it. What they mean is I decided to make Jesus something in my life. I decided to make him into something. So we have a personal truth culture when it comes to God. Not in everything. Not most things, actually, but in this thing. When it comes to understanding God, we have a personal truth culture. So for a lot of people, the only valid way of thinking about belief is subjective. We say, Who is Jesus to you? You ever heard that phrase before? Who is Jesus to you? Or what do you believe about God? And Jesus then becomes shaped into a lot of different molds, regarded and disregarded according to the whims of that particular individual. But Simon’s confession isn’t like that at all. It’s not that kind of confession. Jesus didn’t become something to Simon. Jesus revealed himself to Simon. Jesus does not change in this story. Simon changes in the story. He just made himself known. Simon is the one who changed. Simon had a view of Jesus. When Jesus got into his boat, Simon had some idea about Jesus and had an opinion of him. And it was something like Great teacher, great healer, below average fisherman, something like that. Right. That was his, that was his take on Jesus. But with this new knowledge revealed to him by Jesus, his view has changed to conform with the objective reality of who Jesus actually is, what his actual identity is: Lord, who commands the fish of the sea, in whose presence I am not worthy to stand. That’s what he just learned about who Jesus is. Jesus is the same, but Simon’s view of him is now more accurate. If you are a skeptic or you’re a sort of a sort of a cultural or a lukewarm Christian trying to make sense of Jesus, you don’t need to discover what Jesus means to you. You need to discover who Jesus is. That’s what you need to learn.
So what will Jesus do now, now that he’s revealed himself to Simon, now that Simon understands or is beginning to understand in whose presence he is standing, let’s look at this call. The Call of God on Simon’s life. Three times in Luke, we find the phrase, do not be afraid. Three times we’ve heard it three times now. The first time was to Zachariah when the angel met him in the temple. The second time was to Mary when the angel told her that she had found favor with God. And this third time it’s to assure a very sinful, a very unprepared Simon, that there’s no need to fear being in the presence of the Lord. See, Simon did not enter into the presence of the Lord. Simon didn’t enter into the presence of the Lord. The Lord had entered into the sinful, unprepared presence of Simon. Jesus knew what he was doing. Jesus mission is to come and to rescue sinful, unholy, unworthy people like Simon. Jesus says has come not so that we will be afraid, but to alleviate our fear by making it possible to be before the Lord. And then Jesus drops the phrase that we mentioned here at the start today. From now on, you will be catching men. This whole thing with the fish is one giant illustration. This is great economically for the fishermen. Yes, it absolutely provided for the fishermen. But it’s not about the fish. This is the story is not about fish. The point is that Jesus will send his fishermen directly to the place where his fish will be. And when they are obedient, they will draw in exactly the catch that Jesus knows in advance will be there. That’s what He’s doing here. Is it possible?
Let me ask you, Church, is it possible that God has been preparing these men their whole lives to carefully search the waters for fish so that when they become evangelists, they will carefully search the world for disciples at the command and direction of Jesus? It’s more than possible. It’s exactly what happened here. It’s exactly what’s going on. God is showing these men – and he’s showing us – what our lives are for. As disciples of Jesus, our mission will be to go where the Lord directs us, to gather the men and women who are to become His disciples. And how’s this for irony? This is an amazing irony. When you catch fish, you take them alive out of the water, bring them into the boat where they die. What we’re called to do is to go gather spiritually dead men and women into the kingdom of God, where they will finally be alive in Christ. Church this is what we do. This is the call. This is the mission that we’re called to be on. To be a disciple of Jesus means to be engaged in Jesus’ great fishing trip. Now, not every one of us will be involved in the same way, but as a team, all of us are involved. All of us are called to be on the boat, there, catching Jesus great catch. God has uniquely designed you to be part of that team. And part of what you need to do as a part of Calvary is figure out what role you serve on in the fishing boat. But make no mistake, if you are following Jesus, you’re on his boat, you’re part of his group, you’re part of his team.
The men that day left everything, it says, to follow Jesus. They realized that their life was meant to be lived in service to Christ on the mission that Jesus has for them. You need to realize that, too. All of us do. Every one of us who follows Christ needs to realize that that is what our lives are for. Everything that the Lord has done for you in your life, every experience that you’ve had, everything he’s put you through, every situation that you have encountered, every skill that you have, everything that he’s invested in you as a skill that you hold every passion in your heart that he has put there is designed uniquely by God to engage in the mission to go and to make disciples. What this means for you individually is a conversation that needs to be had. At some point you need to say, I’ve got to talk about what it is that God has uniquely designed me to do in the mission. And if you’re part of a small group and you’re using the sermon-based curriculum, you’re going to have that conversation this week. But understand, this is the mission we’re on, Church. We don’t choose it; God chose it for us. We get the joy of serving the Lord in this way. Let’s pray that the Lord will direct us to the catch of men and women in our community and ask the Lord to give us the courage to follow Him into that mission. Would you pray with me?