By Jared Warner
Willow Creek Friends Church
February 10, 2019
Luke 5:1–11 (ESV)
Jesus Calls the First Disciples
5 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, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 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. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 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.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
The season of revelation for me is one of the greatest to speak of. The passages we read revolve around the discovery of the nature of Christ by those around him, and the responses to the discovery various people make. Often it reminds me of what God used to convince me. I have shared the story of my journey many times, I share it not because I think my journey of faith is better than anyone else’s, but because it is my journey. I cannot speak for anyone else. I can only share what has been revealed to me. I might be able to share the story of someone else, but only if they reveal that story to me. My journey I know, I am aware of it because I was there. It is my experiences, my emotions, and my observations. You may or may not agree with the conclusions that I have make or the reasoning that I use to determine my decisions, but it is my story. And there are not very many stories that have more power in the lives of other than your personal story, the narrative of your journey.
This is because God uses the stories, he uses the testimonies of his disciple to show the world of the continuous power available to those that trust him and entrust their loves to him. What guided your life, what encouraged you to walk the pathways of faith instead of traversing the ways of the world? Our responses will all be similar, yet each unique but for most it is a story of return a testimony where we were once wondering lost in some chaotic wilderness and we found a path that caused everything in our lives to change.
I grew up in a small rural community. I was surrounded by people of faith and prayer. When your entire lifestyle depends on nature providing just enough water, just enough light and heat, just enough anything to sustain life faith is important. The things I witnessed and heard may not have convinced others, but it convinced me to consider trusting Christ.
Car accidents that should have killed me, farm equipment accidents that I should not have survived yet walked away without a scratch or even a bruise, countless charging enraged animals who did not care if I was standing in front of them that somehow jump at just the right time. One could say they were all coincidence, nature, or even good engineering. But all I know is I am alive and there are several moments that the probably was not in my favor.
Through every farm accident, every icy slide where I went just perfectly through two trees instead of into them, everything that occurred in my life it was not until I experienced the love and joy of being a father that I began to understand. It took a child to convince me, to fully reveal to me that God created us for his pleasure and because he loves us. It took a child to show me that my life was for the same.
What did it take for God to grab ahold of your life? What caused you to turn from your life before and pursue faith, what causes you to remain?
We call this season epiphany, or revelation but it could also be called the season of testimony because it is the season of what God did among the disciples that brought them to the point where they would turn from the lives they knew to a life and lifestyle where directed and dedicated to Christ.
We meet Jesus along the shores of the sea, Luke calls it a lake, but it is just one of the names for the sea of Galilee. Those who make a living on the produce of the sea are there washing their nets after a day’s work. Crowds are coming to the clearing which is believed to be a plain just south of Capernaum. Because of the crowd and the terrain, it is difficult for Jesus to teach the people, so he goes out on a boat to get some distances for his voice to travel.
What I find interesting about this story is that Jesus is only teaching, they do not make any mention of any healings he is only teaching. We do not know what exactly he had spoken about that day. He might have had many wonderful stories to tell amazing words of encouragement, but we are not told what those words were.
I find that to be very interesting. In most instances where Jesus is found teaching a crowd was are given so e indication as to what he said. This time we do not know. Maybe it is because of who is out there on the plain. We are told that at least some fishermen are there cleaning their nets. This probably is not a gathering of the local scholars. It is likely a clearing where there is plenty of space for the common fishermen to spread out their tools of trade and relax after the long hours of labor before the move into the second part of their daily labor of selling their daily catch. They are out on this plain separating the fish into quality grades, they are eating lunch and what they need to do to store their nets and prepare for their next day. I imagine the thick heavy air. It is hot and humid. A strong smell of fish is permeating the air, mixed with the sweat of those that labor in the Sun. Men are cursing and singing common working songs, stories are being exchanged and since they were fishing, we can be sure that lies are being told. It is the joining of the working class.
You can imagine the scene. It is the break room that many of us have spent time. It is the water cooler at the office, the cafeteria, and for the farmer the local co-op where they speak about the commodity prices while sharing a doughnut and coffee.
This is a scene that could be seen every day, from the first day of the week to the sixth. It is Jesus living and interacting with them life in their daily life. We are not told why Jesus was there, maybe someone asked him to help on a boat, maybe Jesus was walking by and notice that one of the sailors was injured and decided to lend a hand with the nets, maybe he came down with Simon’s wife to bring them their lunch.
Jesus is out there with the common working man. As they finish their tasks more and more men gather and press in on Jesus to the point that he gets into a boat so they all can hear. His friend Simon is not in a particularly good mood, he had been out all day and the only thing to show for it is the muck of the sea. Jesus is speaking about life with God and the kingdom and everything and as far as Simon is concerned Jesus is a good guy, but he just does not understand reality. Jesus lives in this idealistic world, but you live in a world where you worked all day mad at the end of it you still don’t know what you will eat because your nets were empty. Then Jesus tells Simon to go out deeper and put out the nets. Here in a crowd of fishermen Jesus says let’s go fishing.
I am not a fisherman, but I know enough to know that they go out early in the day catch the fish bring them in and then sell the fish. At this part of the day it is not usually profitable to go out because the sun would drive the fish deep. Simon and the others know their trade and here a carpenter is telling them how to do their job.
Some laugh. Some scoff. Some wonder what is going on. They are ok with his ideas. They like what he has to say but can they entrust their livelihood to it? Simon says ok for you I will do this. It is like a husband telling his wife that just this once I will try it your way. They go out to the deep. They drop the nets and they are surprised.
What does it take to cause someone to turn? For me it was a child, a child that carried the genes of my family, but that child was just one of a long line of reasons. For a man named Simon it was something else entirely.
Simon was a man who made his living on the sea. He knew the sea like a farmer knows the land that bears his grain. The farmer knows where the soul is deep and where the rocks are near the surface. He knows when and how much fertilizer he can add. The farmer knows when to plant and when to wait. A man of the sea knows where and when to cast their nets. They know the courses the fish move and which side of the boat they need to cast from to capture the greatest amount. It takes a man of the sea to know these things. And Simon knew that Jesus was not a man of the sea. I am certain that everyone on that coastal plain gad known that Jesus was not an expert of the sea. It was probably a running joke during the session of teaching. He probably wanted each man there to know just how poorly he knew their trade. But when he spoke of the kingdom and entrusting their very livelihood to the teaching, he was presenting them they like all of us would have scoffed. How could he really know?
I have watched people from the city come to make it on a farm. I had watched as they try to do things and fail, only to build a house and rent out their land to those that understood the ways of the land. It takes a master of a trade to profit. It takes years of work and study under a master to gain the knowledge and the skills to survive in any trade. You do not become a profitable plumber by watching YouTube, you simply delay the expenses for a time.
Jesus looked at Simon and he told him to cast the nets. Simon looked at Jesus, knowing that if he were to cast the nets his life would change. He would either become the laughing stock of the fishmongers or he would see God provide. Simon hesitates for a moment. For a moment you can almost sense the neurons in his brain firing across the synapses. He says, “Master, we have toiled all night and have caught nothing!” The translators put in the sentence an exclamation point here. They want us to know that Simon is in a state of inner turmoil. He is struggling. What will it take to cause you to turn?
Simon is standing there on his boat. The entire crew is looking at him, and every one of his colleagues are standing on the shore. Jesus has just taught them something about the kingdom because that’s what Jesus does, and he turns to Simon and says, cast the nets. He is literally asking Simon to let go of everything he has ever known. He is asking him to forget everything he has ever learned his entire adult life. To release from his mind every concept he had perfected over the past twenty or so years. And to trust him. Simon knows the sea, he knows how the fish swim, he knows when they come to the shallows to eat and when they hide in the depths. He knows when they can cast nets and when they should just go home. He knows that it is time to go home, and he also knows that he had just spent an afternoon cleaning the nets and this guy standing in his boat wants him to unpack all the gear and make a fool of him.
But Simon also knows that there is something tugging at his heart. He knows deep in his belly that there is more to life. He knows that deep within his soul this man is causing a stir that both frightens and excites him. This man has caused his mind to wander again, he has caused his heart to race, and he has again begun to dream of something more. Could there be something more to life than he has experienced?
“Master, we have worked all night and have caught nothing!” Simon says, “But at your word I will let down the nets.” Imagine the fear and the excitement that might be going through Simons mind. Imagine the laughter that the people on the shore might be sharing, the jeers they might be hearing from the crowds. What is Simon muttering under his breath?
A few years ago, a movie came out called, “Faith like Potatoes” This movie is about a man who moves his family from Zambia to South Africa because of political unrest and he builds a farm. They struggle trying to make a living in the harsh environment. But while he struggles he begins to attend a local church and as he attends his faith grows. He was once consumed by his hardships, his fear and angers to the point of destruction but slowly he releases that and steps out in faith. The area is experiencing an unprecedented drought the experts are all telling him to plant safe crops but this man in front of thousands of people, fellow farmers like him, said he would plant potatoes and trust that God would provide. A huge risk, people laughed, and his wife was pretty upset as well. He risked everything for what?
Simon was like this guy in Africa. Their hearts were stirred, and they were called to risk it all in front of their peers. The man in the movie (Which is said to be based on a true story) plants the potatoes into the dry, dusty dirt, and Simon lets down his net. I ask again what will it take for you to turn?
All our knowledge, every ounce of our worldly wisdom might be screaming at us to stop what we are doing, yet we walk. I myself am not naturally inclined to speak. I would prefer to sit at home in silence reading or watching a movie. My idea of a perfect day would include finding a good walking stick and taking a hike with Kristy and my two sons. My wisdom tells me to run away from this place and take a hike yet here I am talking in front of people every week. What will it take to make you turn?
Simon let down his nets, even though every fiber in his being was telling him that this was the worst decision of his life, his heart was telling him do it. He was struggling with himself, yet his heart was telling him to listen to the teacher, let out the nets and trust. He threw the net, he might have even had tears in his eyes because he had toiled all night and had nothing. He had struggled in life and nothing seemed to work. Simon might have even been like some of us, wondering where the money would come from to buy enough food for their family. We know he had a family and his mother-in-law was under his care as well, and he had just spent the night working and had nothing to show. Yet this teach said go out and drop the nets again. The teacher said believe.
He let down the net and began to pull it in. The others on the shore looked at him and laughed, but then they saw something. The boat dipped under the weight and Simon’s arms were straining. He gestured quickly and some of his friends jumped in their boat to come to help. They carefully brought up the net, they filled not one but two boats to the point they were beginning to sink.
He let out his nets, and the man in the movie I mentioned planted potatoes, both stories end the same and God provided more than they could dream. And both men fell to their knees before Jesus. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Simon cries out. I am guessing that what they had just seen was something unseen before. They possibly just received a full year’s salary in one afternoon. It might have even provided enough for the entire community to live comfortably for a while. Jesus looks at Simon who is on his knees before him and he says, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”
What will it take for you to turn? What will it take for you to trust? What is holding you back from living the life you can sense God is calling you to? That day Simon left his boat and followed Jesus. That day I held my son for the first time, I began a journey that changed everything in my life. What is God calling you to trust him in? And what keeps you coming to his feet?
We each have a story. Every one of us has a powerful story of how God took us from where we once where and brought us here. Maybe we have shared that story and maybe we haven’t, but I tell you those stories are the single most powerful tool that we have available to us. When we tell others that story, the story of when we told Jesus that we would do that one thing at his word and trust that he would see us through. Have we forgotten our story? Have we allowed the world to distract us from what God has called us to? Simon let down his net and it changed his world forever, yet even he got distracted for a time, and went back to the boat. Even Simon, the disciple we know as Peter, the rock and voice of the disciples struggled with his faith, yet he was reminded just as we are. What will it take to make you repent and turn back to the faith? What will cause you to let it all down and trust?
As we enter this time of holy expectancy let us think of those things. Let us remember our story, that journey through life that has brought us to this place here today. And let us consider if the God that brought us through all of that can take us one more step.