Scripture: 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 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 the 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 land, they left everything and followed him. Luke 5:1-11 ESV
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Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus, the setting is the Feast of Passover. At its conclusion, Mary, Joseph, extended family, and friends return to Nazareth. A day’s journey in, they realize amid the afterglow of the celebration that Jesus (age twelve) is not with the other caravan members. They rush back to Jerusalem and find him sitting in the temple among the teachers three days later, attentively listening and asking pertinent questions. And those observing Jesus are amazed at his level of understanding—including his parents. Still, Mary expresses her dismay over Jesus being so engrossed in rabbinical teaching that he would be unaware of being left behind. Jesus then questions why they would search for him anywhere other than in his Father’s house. Nevertheless, Jesus submits to their direction and immediately sets off for Nazareth with them. And Luke adds that Jesus submitted to his parents’ authority and increased in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and fellow Israelites.
For today’s reading, we skip past the stories and teachings adequately covered in our review of Matthew and Mark’s Gospels to Chapter 5, where we read more details regarding Jesus calling his first disciples. Matthew (4:18-22) and Mark (1:16-20) comment that Jesus called Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, and John to follow him when they were fishing at the Sea of Galilee. But Luke adds essential details that bring significance to their last fishing outing before Jesus’ ascension (see John 21:1-14). Here, we learn that Jesus had preached to a crowd who eagerly pressed toward him. So spotting two empty beached boats, he approaches one of their owners, Simon, to row him out a distance so he might continue teaching the people with adequate spacing.
Once concluding his talk, he directs Simon to row further out to a greater depth and let down his nets. Simon expresses his doubt based on his unsuccessful venture the previous night. Nevertheless, showing deference to this rabbi who draws large crowds, he casts his nets. Much to his surprise, the nets teem with fish that begin to tear them apart. So Simon signals James and John to bring their boat alongside to haul in the overflow of fish, and both vessels verge on sinking. Realizing the miraculous nature of this catch, Simon falls to Jesus’ knees and begs Jesus to leave, for Simon confesses he is a sinful man. But Jesus reassures Simon and tells the four that they have a new life mission: to be fishers of men. And when they reach shore, the four unhesitantly leave it all behind to follow Jesus.
Takeaway: Luke’s storyline presents three essential elements of discipleship: teaching, fishing, and following. The narrative begins with Luke’s notation that Jesus was teaching to a crowd eagerly seeking more of the Good News. Likely, Peter eavesdropped on the rabbi’s message and resultantly obliged his directive. Jesus then created a living illustration oriented toward the vocation of those he would first call to follow him. And to emphasize that the four fishermen are merely the vessels of the catch (as much as their boats are to them), Jesus clearly states that he will make them fishers of men. Lastly, these young men, perhaps overlooked by society, recognize the magnitude of following Jesus aided by the miraculous nature of their catch. So they follow Jesus without knowing where he will lead.
Our takeaway? The order is significant. We hear the truth of Jesus’ teachings (as the Holy Spirit testifies to our hearts) and yearn for more. So we press in closer to Jesus (as did the crowds) and test the waters by submitting to his commands—even as futile as they may seem (as did Simon Peter). And when we do, we will see miracles, maybe not feats over nature, but certainly changed hearts, beginning with ours as we kneel before our Lord and confess that we are sinners. For this is what it means to follow Christ. Indeed, he calls all his brothers and sisters who come to know and love him to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV). And even though we do not know where he will lead us, our resurrected Lord will be with us every step of the way!
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son who always followed your orders—at the right time and in the right way—even to the climax of his mission on his cross. And we thank you for your Holy Spirit, who continues to reveal your Son’s truths, convict us of our sinfulness, and guide us toward the lost with his Good News. That said, we can quickly get things out of order. So would you please help us nurture our relationship with you and your Son and mature in understanding our sinful nature and your grace that overcomes our shortcomings so that we might take the Good News to the world in step with your Son? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling