The following is a part of Pastor Kyle’s sermon from February 10, 2019. The text for the sermon was Luke 5:1-11.
When reading through, and studying, Scripture, you always want to study the text in context. As a result, so that we have a better understanding of what is going on, let us, briefly, recap what has happened up to this point in the Gospel of Luke.
Jesus has been baptized by John the Baptist in Jordan River (Luke 3). He then was led by the Spirit into the desert where for forty days he was tempted by the devil (Luke 4). Upon passing that test, he began teaching in the synagogues throughout Galilee, people were amazed at his teaching, and word about him spreads (Luke 4:14-15).
At one point in his Galilean tour, Jesus goes to Nazareth on a Sabbath; reads the prescribed reading from the prophets that day, which happens to be the prophet Isaiah; and then announces that he is the fulfillment of this prophesy. As a result of this news, and a bit of a back and forth with the townspeople concerning the fact that he wasn’t going to do what they wanted him to do, people in his hometown wanted to kill Jesus, but it says that he went right through the crowd and went on his way (Luke 4:16-30).
Jesus then goes down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and begins to teach in their synagogue, drive out demons, and heal individuals with various kinds of sickness (Luke 4:31-41).
Now, we learn in Luke 4:38 that one of the individuals that he healed was Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. This means a couple of things. First, Jesus and Simon have actually met before the events that took place in our text this morning. Second, you do not, typically, have a mother-in-law unless you first have a wife. So, I think it is safe to assume that Simon Peter is a married man, much to the chagrin of the Catholic Church. (Think about it, the Catholics believe that Peter was the first Pope, the Father of the Church here on earth, and he was married; but they teach that priest should not be married. So, I guess their church was started in hypocrisy. Just kidding.)
In the verse immediately preceding the story found in Luke 5, Jesus tell the people, “I have to tell the Good News about the kingdom of God in other cities also. That’s what I was sent to do.” Basically, Jesus was announcing to the people that he was on a mission from God. So, the story in our text this morning is an invitation to join Him in this mission.
So we come to Luke 5, our text this morning, and, based on Luke 4, we know that Jesus is a pretty popular guy. He has been teaching with authority, driving out demons, and healing the sick. I don’t know about you, but I would have gone to hear him speak, given the chance. So it is not too far out of the realm of belief that there was a big crowd following Jesus and wanting to hear what he had to say. It is also not too far out of the realm of belief that when people came to hear Jesus, they were probably bringing their sick, or demon possessed, relatives to have Jesus heal them. This means that people probably weren’t just sitting down on hillsides and listening, they were probably pressing up against Jesus saying, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, thanks for the talk but I think my mother-in-law has a demon, can you cast it out of her?”
It says that they were by the Sea of Galilee and Jesus, who has a big crowd pressing up against him, sees two boats. Now, you have to know that fishing boats on the Sea of Galilee were pretty decent size boats. They found a first century fishing boat in an archeological dig and it was about 8ft wide and 26 ft long. Also, remember that there are several stories in the Gospels about the disciples being in one boat traveling across the Sea of Galilee. I think it is pretty safe to assume that these were fishing boats they were traveling in. So, they were big enough to carry 13 or so people and even allow space for Jesus to curl up and sleep in the front.
Jesus sees Peter, which we know that they have already met, washing his net, something that fishermen often did after a night of fishing, with the others in his crew, we can infer this through both conversation and also at the end of the story he calls his partners James and John over. Jesus steps into Peter’s boat and asks him to push off from the shore, so that he can teach people without being crowded, and Peter obliges. After hearing about the fact that Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, we can understand why Peter obliged without incident. Otherwise, we might be wondering why he wasn’t like, “Who the heck are you, and what do you mean, ‘Push out from the shore’? I don’t know you!”
When he finishes speaking, Jesus turns to Peter and says, “Take the boat into deep water, and lower your nets to catch some fish.” Now, we need to realize a couple of things. First, it is in the middle of the day and fishing was typically done on the Sea of Galilee at night. Second, one did not typically fish in the deep water. Typically, you would fish just off the shore. Third, Peter is a professional fisherman, this is what he did for a living. Jesus has a carpentry background. So, essentially, you have a carpenter telling a fisherman how to do his job.
Also, it should be noted that, Peter’s friends and co-workers are watching this all take place, along with others on the shore. Peter is risking embarrassment and shame, both from his partners and from the crowd that had gathered. This is, more than likely, why he said, “Teacher, we worked hard all night and caught nothing. But if you say so, I’ll lower the nets.”
In obeying Jesus, Peter is risking his own honor, and comfort, and acting out in faith. Peter went against his own experience, science, wisdom, reason, and all that men might say about him to hold on to the Lord’s word. Jesus was testing Peter’s faith in Him, even before he called Peter to follow him.
Well, we know what happens next. Peter and his crew, it says “they” pull up such a large number of fish that their nets were starting to tear. They call over their partners, Jame and John, and there is so many fish that it began to sink both the boats. Basically, they hit the fishing lottery, a catch that would feed all their families for a bit and provide them with enough money to last awhile.
Peter falls on his face, confessing his doubt and that he isn’t the best guy in the world (Have you ever hung around sailors?). Jesus then tells Peter that from now on he is going to be fishing for men rather than for fish, essentially commissioning Peter to be his disciple. They get the boats back to the shore, leave everything, follow him, and their journey of discipleship begins. Pretty simple, right?
The one thing that keeps going through my mind when I hear this story is what Peter’s wife thought when he came home and said, “Hey honey, I’m leaving my fishing career, our family’s only source of income, to follow a rabbi named Jesus.”
Think about it, Peter, James, and John walked away from their livelihood, their families, and their home to follow Jesus. I understand that, at that time, everyone wanted to be a Jewish rabbi, but there was a process that most people went through and this scene is WAY outside that process. They were essentially committing a shameful act, at least by cultural standards, by leaving their families and their lives to follow Jesus; and for what?
It is true that the haul of fish just brought in would provide for their family for a bit. Yet, typically, in the first century, fishermen leased their rights to fish from toll collectors, guys who would tax them on the fish they caught and take their “cut.” It is essentially like winning the lottery today. You win $1 million dollars and then the government takes about 50% right off the top.
Now, Peter, James, and John, more than likely, thought that Jesus was the Messiah, the one who was going to make Israel great again, and if they follow him, they will have power and prestige. They probably didn’t leave their families and work for deeply “spiritual” reasons. (We see this later on in the Gospel, in Luke 22, when the disciples were arguing about who was the greatest.) I am sure that they were eventually expecting a life of comfort and safety as a result of following Jesus.
Of course, we know now that their lives would end up being anything but comfortable or safe. In fact, all three of these guys would eventually face persecution. We know from history that Peter and James were martyred, and the story was that Peter’s wife was also martyred for being a Christian.
I can’t help but wonder about the fact that if they knew what was ahead of them, would they still have followed? Would they still have denied their families, their hopes and dreams, their, somewhat, comfortable life, and follow Jesus?
The reality is that, after Jesus died and rose, after they came to realize the truth about the Gospel, they willingly risked it all for the sake of the mission. In fact, in Acts 4:23-31, the disciples pray for boldness in the face of persecution; and in Acts 5:41, they rejoiced that they were worthy to suffer for speaking about Jesus. Following the day of Pentecost, these guys were sold out for the mission, they wanted everyone to know about the forgiveness and new life that was in Christ Jesus, and nothing was going to get in the way of that fact! They were willing to risk their comfort and lives for the sake of the Gospel.
What about us? Are we willing to risk it all for the sake of the Gospel being proclaimed and disciples being made?
The reality for us is that we are on this side of the Old and New Testaments, we have the whole story and can, in some ways, understand both the risks and rewards. We can look back and see the fact that following Jesus isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, that at times, acting out in faithful obedience, is going to make us uncomfortable and feel unsafe. We have a much better understanding what Jesus meant by “counting the cost,” and “denying ourselves,” than the first disciples did because, as we know from history, there is a high cost to following Jesus.
We also know who Jesus truly was and is today. He was not some political Messiah that had come to make Israel great again, he was truly the Savior of all mankind who came to die and rise for you and for me. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, who has taken away our sins and given us new life through his life, death, and resurrection. He is the one who has overcome sin, death, and the power of the devil to set us free through faith in him. He is the one who has bound up our brokenness, filled us with faith, healed our hopelessness, given us peace in the midst of persecution, and generated joy in our hearts and lives, no matter what might happen around us. We know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, has washed us clean in our baptism and, through faith in Him, made us members of the family of God. Amen?
We also know that Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth and that he sends us, his children and disciples, out to proclaim his goodness and mercy to all we come in contact with. He calls each one of us to be disciples who seek to disciple others. He calls us, his church, to be on mission in the places where we live, learn, labor, laugh, and worship; and he gives us His Spirit to lead us, guide us, and equip us for the work ahead.
We know that He calls us, his church, to walk with the people and share with them the hope that we have in Christ. He calls us to be willing to risk it all for the sake of the Gospel.
Let me ask you this morning, are you willing? Are you willing to be made uncomfortable for the sake of the Gospel? Are you willing to do what it takes to get to know the people around here and to be in relationship with them? Are you willing to do the long and hard work of discipling others in the context of those relationships, to engage in work where both the commitment and relational levels are high but where you may not receive any instant gratification or thanks on this side of heaven?
I have to be honest, Jesus didn’t call us to simply sit in the pews. He is calling us to get into the game. He is calling us to be disciples that make disciples. He is calling us to share the love, grace, forgiveness, and mercy that we have experienced through faith in him with others.
I really feel that, as a church, we are entering into a new season. I don’t know exactly what that looks like, but I know that Jesus is not calling us to simply sit and do the same thing that we have always done. I believe that he is calling us to do something that will probably go against our own experience, wisdom, reason, and make us very uncomfortable, just like he did Peter. I believe that he is calling us to be bold and obedient, to dive into His Word, both as a church and as individuals; to ask His Spirit to guide us; and then to risk for the sake of the Gospel. I believe that Jesus is about to test our faith in Him, just like he did Peter.
Let me tell you, even if, in the end, it looks like a colossal failure, humanly speaking, if we are obedient and faithful in what God is calling us to do, by the power and guidance of the Spirit, I can guarantee it will be an eternal success.
The Lord is calling us, just like he did Isaiah, “Whom will I send? Who will go for us?” Who will go out into the neighborhood and beyond so that others may hear, and experience, the Gospel? Are we going to answer, “Here I am. Send me!”?