Luke 5:1-11 — Caught and Catching

The last two weeks we have seen what opposition to Jesus’ words looks like in the religiously virtuous who look down their noses at the way God works and then the demons and disease that Jesus came to overpower and heal in his ministry—to bring to restoration.

Today we’re going to consider someone who responds to Jesus’ words of power and has a changed life. Perhaps you’re here this morning and have been going to church a lot of your life. You hear these stories of miracles and see devotion of those around you, but it doesn’t make sense or it doesn’t seem real. Let me encourage you to know that each of our journeys with Jesus look different. Some are dramatically converted from darkness to light—from drugs to sobriety. Others are intended to struggle with their faith being real.  

The call to follow Jesus is a journey and not always a destination. He doesn’t operate with a balance sheet. Not a zero-sum relationship. It is meandering. It is aimless at times. But it is not without purpose. I want us this morning to walk through the story together and I will simply underline various aspects of the story and show how it applies to our individual—and corporate—journey with Jesus.

Luke 5.1-11

Jesus invites us.
Jesus was by the Sea of Galilee (Lake of Gennesaret is just another name for it). He sees two boats—both empty.  Jesus welcomes us into his ministry. He could have merely taught the people by the Sea of Galilee, but he wanted to bring Peter in on the gift. To give him his vantage point. Notice that Jesus asked him to go out a little into the water. Peter had the choice to listen or not. Much like us as we are here today. Jesus asks you and me, “Will you listen to me?” // By your presence, it is clear that you have this disposition. You could have stayed home, in your warm bed, but you are here. Ready to listen. That is not something that should be minimized. How many people just go to church when they feel like it? But you may have not felt like coming this morning. Odds are there are some of us who uttered those very words! “I don’t want to go to church today.” And yet, you’re here. This, my friends, is a gift. 

It’s often through the repeated and mundane that Jesus reveals himself.

We see that Peter and those with him had been laboring all night. They were tired. They were discouraged. They were weary. They thought that the day had been a waste of their time. And yet, even though his hands are raw from casting nets into the chilly and dark Sea, he tip toes into the edge of what Jesus wants him to do. // Friend, God knows you may be tired and discouraged and weary. But he’s not asking you to do something you’re not ready for. He’s not asking you to jump into the water and grab fish with your bare hands. He’s simply asking you to take a small step of obedience. You know what he’s asking you to do. The small decisions to not gossip at work. The small decisions to not talk back to your mom and dad. The small decisions to not be fearful of the future. The small decisions to not get frustrated and angry and disappointed with your spouse. The small decisions to knock on your neighbor’s door. To smile. To laugh. To ask questions instead of giving your opinions. To put one foot in front of the other and brush your teeth and make your bed. Obedience to God doesn’t always look wild and crazy on the surface. 

Jesus pursues. 
There’s an account in John’s Gospel that some have said contradicts this call of Peter. In John , we read: 

John 1:35   The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). 

So what do we do with this? Instead of shouting out contradiction, I spent some time trying to understand the timeline of these things. And there’s gold here. 

First, we see before this scene, Simon has already been hanging around Jesus with the crowds of followers. Just last week we saw how Jesus went to Simon’s house and healed his mother-in-law. So this is not the first time that Jesus and Simon are interacting. 

John’s account, then tells us how Jesus and Simon first met. It tells us that before this incident, the Lord graciously called Simon by a new name—mind you, this is all before this miraculous scene! 

Second, this makes sense of the scene at the end of John’s Gospel then where Jesus, after the resurrection, stands on the shore and tells Peter to let down his nets and catches a large amount of fish. Peter instinctively remembers this moment when he was led into deeper common with Jesus and jumps out of his boat, knowing it was Jesus!

Third, this story we read in Luke 5, then, is not a calling story as much as a commissioning story. We see that this is a call to a deeper communion and intimacy with Jesus. This is reflected in our service. We communion together with each other and God. But Deeper and Lasting Communion happens out there.

Peter had already been a part of listening to Jesus. This is where his relationship with Jesus becomes deeper and realer. Jesus slowly leads us into deeper communion and deeper obedience with him. — He asks. Presumably to see if he is willing. Then commands two things: Go out deeper. Let down the nets. — 

We see Peter’s reluctance, yet, in spite of his incredulity he utters small decisions of belief: “Master…BUT at your word.” Which is to say, “It doesn’t make sense to me. I’m a master fisherman and you are a teacher. I have been working all night with other master fishermen and there don’t seem to be any fish in the water. But based upon what I have seen you do in Capernaum in healing my mother-in-law, I will take this small step in simply letting down the nets. You’re not asking me to jump into the water. You’re not asking me to row to the other side. Just to go a little deeper.”

How many of us have been hovering around the obedience we know Jesus is calling us into? How many of us, don’t want to let that one thing go. We find control or safety in having that thing in our grasp. Like a fuzzy stuffed animal, we are afraid to let go. We’re afraid to step forward, albeit a small step, because we don’t know what will happen. What will happen if we ask that friend what they believe about life after death, about God? What will happen if we take that meal over to our neighbor? Will they think we’re weird? What will happen if we knock on that door

Jesus is pursuing you, my friend. He has been continually in your boat. He has been with you, and at times may have appeared to be asleep. But he has been with you and taps you on the shoulder and tells you to let go of your nets and to trust him with that worry and fear and unbelief.  

Deeper communion begins with Deeper Confession.
Peter knew that there was something this miracle worker Jesus was offering and teaching about. He knew there was a need for him to stick around. And yet, it’s not until he says, “Depart from me, because I am a sinful man, Lord” that he experiences the sweetness of communion with Jesus. 

You have been going to church and been around Jesus a lot of your life, but you aren’t experiencing the sweetness of communion with him because you haven’t confessed your rebellion against him. And not just once, mind you. When you encounter the holy and awesome God who loves you and pursues you, you see that you have mud on your face. You have dirt on your hands. When we encounter the holy God, like Isaiah and Ezekiel and Peter, we are confronted with our sinfulness. 

When was the last time you dove into the depths of your heart and saw the rebellion? Confessed. Unprompted.

It is cleansing and beautiful to confess. That’s why we do it each week. Mired from our sin, we practice confessing together to acknowledge that we do not have it together. Indeed, we outright rebel against God. 

Have you had the joy of experiencing your pain? Like Peter clinging to the robe of Jesus. Pushing him away but pulling him back. 

But Jesus does not depart. He stands there and points to a greater scheme he has in mind. “Jesus does not flee from sinners but seeks them” He puts us in a place where we can’t flee from him. He gently leads us into deeper and deeper communion with him. As we learn more of him, we trust him more.

One very practical way: Spend time looking at Jesus. The way he responds in these stories to his enemies, to suffering, to seekers. Slow down and consider.

Deeper Confession Comes at the End of Ourselves
Just so this isn’t lost on us. Notice the following: (1) They were cleaning their nets. They had Dirty and Empty Nets. (2) They had done what they knew to do and it wasn’t working. They had finished. They had come to the end of their day. They had come to the end of themselves.

Deeper Communion Comes in the Commissioning
Remember I said this is a commissioning scene more than a calling scene? Jesus Points Us to a Greater Purpose. We can get awfully bogged down with paying the bills—or not! Vv.10-11. Leaving everything  that is known and becoming an apprentice on the way. Actively learning from Jesus. Letting go of control and certitude. 

Peter was called to forsake probably the high point of his fishing career! Following Jesus looks at a huge catch of fish, probably the most they caught in their career…and then looking at the life Jesus offers…and saying, “Following him is better than all this.” Forsaking ALL.

But the Lord of your Future is also the Lord of your History.

But notice this: Jesus uses our past to inform and re-purpose our lives. He has called us to a future. That promotion at work could provide opportunity to have greater influence in others’ lives. Moving into that bigger house could provide more room to have people over to your house. Having that larger bank account could be used to bless more people. IF—IF—IF you see the gifts of God to point to his grander purposes. Faithful and small obedience. That’s what he’s calling you to. You may not win a popularity contest. But when people are hurting and searching…they know where they can turn. To the fuddy-duddy who talks about Jesus. About hope. About love. About grace.

Illustration: The civil rights leaders said they endured the beatings and humiliation because there was a problem that needed to be remedied. They were convinced that this was their time and their calling!

Matt Wireman