Catching Men, Preserving Life: Part 2
Here’s part 2 to the Luke 5 sermon. This one focuses on what Peter did as Jesus called Him. I preached it on June 17. On June 24 we had Master’s Praise, a southern gospel quartet from IWU, sing. They gave a great concert and we timed it perfectly (just after District Conference). Anyway, here’s the sermon.
Text: Luke 5:1-11
Last week we looked at the story of Jesus calling Simon to be a disciple. We saw Jesus go where people would listen. And when those crowds only listened, he approached Peter. He met Peter where he was, as a fisherman. And he called a man who he knew could lead, who had men under him. He called a man who was persistent and wouldn’t give up when things got tough. He called a man whom he had met before. Jesus did something miraculous and he calls us to share these stories. And lastly, Jesus called Peter to do something, not to simply sit on a pew or watch Him do everything.
Today we’re going to look at what Peter did in response to Jesus. Peter’s response is just as important as Jesus’ call. For those of us who have responded to Jesus, hopefully today’s sermon serves as a reminder of what we first signed up for. And for those of us who haven’t, hopefully it will give you an idea of what being a disciple of Jesus is all about.
As a Christian, you and I are called to live out both what Jesus does and what Peter does. We are both disciples of Christ and calling others to join us in discipleship. So to say you identify with one or the other in this passage is a little lopsided. You have only half of the picture of Christianity if you are only being a disciple without calling others, or if you’re only calling others but could care less about obeying Jesus yourself.
Turn to Luke 5:1-11.
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.
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.
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.
1. Peter questions Jesus. He says, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” There has to be at least a little bit of doubt going through Peter’s mind when Jesus wants to go fishing. At this point they’re only in shallow water. It would have been easy for Peter to say, “Sorry, I’m tired. I’m pulling the boat ashore. Come back tonight when I go out again.” We read the story and know the ending. Peter doesn’t know what’s about to happen. Even though Jesus had healed his mother-in-law, that probably wasn’t the first time something like that had happened. And in order for Jesus to “show up” here like He did earlier, He would have to have control over nature. It’s one thing to heal another person; it’s quite another to guarantee a bunch of fish to a man who just covered the entire area just hours before.
So Peter questions. So often we don’t feel comfortable questioning God. We worry about how God might think of us. He might think we don’t have much faith in Him. Or even worse, other Christians might think we don’t have much faith.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve questioned God in the last nine months. Time after time, “Lord, do you really want me here? I don’t feel capable.” Or, “God, are you sure this is the direction you have for Parkway?” Questioning God is part of discipleship. Look at the other Biblical characters who questioned God. Mary asked the angel Gabriel, “How can I have a child? I’m a virgin.” Abraham questioned God when he was told his wife Sarah would have a child at age 90.
Questioning God is part of following Him. And it’s okay.
2. Peter obeys Jesus. Notice how Peter first addresses Him in verse 5: “Master.” Peter uses a word that isn’t normally used in the NT. This word means something along the lines of commander or leader. Just as we see Peter in command of a crew, we see Jesus in command of Peter. In calling Jesus, “master or commander,” Peter shows utmost respect for Him. Peter acknowledges Jesus’ authority as commander and replies, “Because you say so, I will let the nets down.”
I’m assuming most of you have worked at some point in time. Whether you’ve worked in a factory or in an office, you had someone labeled “the boss.” And what “the boss” says goes, at least if you want to keep your job. What happens to employees who don’t do what the boss says? They get fired.
Over time, as you work at one place for years, you get to know your boss. At least in some jobs you do. And that person becomes more than just the guy you obey for fear of losing a job. That guy becomes a friend. He becomes someone who speaks your language, who understands your strengths and weaknesses and who allows you to use your strengths on the job. Your relationship changes.
Peter and Jesus are in this boat for a couple hours together, depending on how deep they went out. They didn’t have a motor boat to propel them in no time. I wonder what they talked about as the crew rowed. I wonder if Peter kept giving Jesus that look that said, “I’m still not so sure about this.” Jesus probably looked back with that look that said, “I know something you don’t know. Na, na, na, na, na.”
Whatever the case, they eventually got to the spot they were headed to, caught the fish, and the relationship had changed. Again Peter addresses Jesus, but this time as Lord. He is kurios, Jesus the Lord. So now when Peter obeys Jesus, it’s not out of a sense of duty to a superior, but out of worship to his Master.
Has that happened to you? Have you stopped viewing God as simply a commander who shouts out orders and started knowing Him as the One who knows what’s best for you? I’m convinced that too many Christians never move from obedience out of fear or duty to obedience out of worship. We’ve grown up hearing that we’re no good because we sinned one too many times. We believe the lie that Christianity is all about the rules and not about the God who made them. God desperately wants you to believe Him when He says, “From now on you’ll catch men.” And He wants that belief to sprout into joyful obedience as an act of worship.
3. Peter acknowledges his sinfulness. The boats are sinking. Jesus is sitting down in the boat and Peter drops to Jesus’ knees. He says, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” You can see the light bulbs going off in his mind. Jesus is Lord; I’m a man. I’m a sinful man.
This is the crew chief, the man who should be overjoyed right about now over the amount of fish he has to sell. His fortunes have changed; he has money to make and food to put on the table at home. He has a happy crew. The only bad thing about this situation is the boat is sinking. Peter should be at his feet helping balance out the weight on the boat so it doesn’t sink. He should be telling his crew what to do with the fish. He should be high-fiving James and John.
But instead he’s on his hands and knees, eye to eye with Jesus on the floor of the boat. What a crazy place to be. That’s like sitting in the middle of an aisle at Wal-Mart on a Saturday afternoon. Everyone’s busy buying their food, and you’re there as if nothing else is going on.
That’s Peter. And Luke is making a point here and throughout his gospel with his use of the word “sinful” or “sinner.” If you’re not a sinner, Jesus doesn’t want to be with you. The Pharisees constantly question Jesus: “Why do you spend time with the sinners?” And Jesus’ reply is He is calling them to repentance. The sick need a doctor, not the healthy.
If Peter wouldn’t have acknowledged his sin, would Jesus have called him as a disciple? I can’t say for sure, but my guess is He wouldn’t have. Does Jesus want anyone following Him who doesn’t own up to their sin? No. An integral part of being a disciple is understanding our sinful nature.
4. Peter is astonished and afraid. Verse 9 says, “For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken.” I don’t think Peter is worrying about the fish at this point. He’s thinking more about how he acquired all the fish. Jesus has just done a miracle, a miracle that in Peter’s mind proves that this guy is more than your ordinary rabbi. His astonishment and fear are a testimony to who Jesus is. Jesus is God, and these emotions are the only proper ones in the midst of a miracle.
Look at how many times the word fear is used in Luke. In Luke. 1:13, Zechariah is afraid of the angel in the temple. In Luke 1:30, Mary is afraid of the angel telling her she’s pregnant. In Luke 2:10, the shepherds are afraid of their angels with good news. In Luke 8:25, the disciples are afraid AFTER Jesus calms the storm, not before. In Luke 8:35, the town is afraid AFTER Jesus heals the man named Legion.
Fear and amazement imply that we don’t have Jesus figured out. We know just enough about Him to know there’s something special going on, to know He’s God, but we don’t know everything. These emotions must be our natural response to the supernatural.
What are you afraid of? Spiders? Mice? Snakes? Heights? Jesus?
5. Peter left everything and followed Jesus. He left the success of that day, he left the routine and certainties of life, he left his possessions, his power, his family…everything…and followed Jesus. Why do we tend to look at this story, read verse 11, and get the warm feeling inside but leave it at that? Why do we say, “Good job Peter!” but forget that Luke was writing to an audience that now includes us? Do we think Jesus only asked the 12 disciples to do this?
There’s a saying that goes, “If you follow Jesus you don’t go where you want to go. You go where He wants you.”
What would you do if you heard God saying, “I want you to start a ministry to the homeless, but in order to do it, you need to be homeless.” Or if He said, “There are people in countries you’ve never been to who need to know about my Son. I’ve chosen you to tell them.”
This story leaves no room for excuses. Can we question God? Yes. But can we hide behind excuses? No. Luke 9:57-62 say, “As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’ He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’ But the man replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.’ Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’”
We’re going to sing a song called “The Savior is Waiting.” It speaks to those who’ve never taken the step of faith like Peter did and said, “I’ll follow you, Lord.” But I think it can also speak to those who’ve said they’ll follow but haven’t left everything yet. Or to those who are obeying God out of duty rather than worship. Please come to the front if the Holy Spirit has spoken to you.