Sermon for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost February 17, 2019
Text: Luke 5:1-11 ILCW Series C 19:2109
Theme: They Left Everything and Followed Him.
I’m not much of a fisherman, but I’ve been told that the best time to catch fish is after the sun goes down, at least on the Sea of Galilee. During the heat of the day, the fish lie quietly in deeper, cooler water. But when it begins to get dark, they swim to shallower water to feed.
So it was that Simon and his companions were fishing all night – not for fun, not for sport, but for work so that they could provide for their families. Soon that was turned upside down in their lives.
Has that happened to you – that things in your life were turned upside down? When that happens, things that you used to think were important, aren’t as important anymore; things that you used to do, changed. Did you see the Savior at work in the change?
A fisherman’s life in Biblical times hardly ever changed. Such a man shoved his boat from shore in the late evening. He took off his outer, heavier garment and began to cast a net onto the water. It was a round net with weights on the edge so that the net would sink. As the men pulled the net back towards the boat, it would capture the fish feeding below the surface.
That night Simon and his companions cast their nets, waited a bit, and then hauled them into the boat. The nets were empty. They cast them again; hauled them in. Empty again. They threw on the other side. Still empty. All night long…throw…empty…throw…empty. They moved the boat here a bit, then there with the same result – the nets were still empty as the grey light of dawn appeared. The night’s work was a bust. Tired and disappointed, they rowed the boats back to shore and beached them. But their toil was not yet over. The men began to wash the nets of the sand and seaweed, branches and pebbles that clogged them, mending any tears in them along the way.
As the morning wore on, the noise of people gathering caught their attention. The sound drew nearer and louder until the men saw a great crowd of people streaming towards the lake. Ahead of them walked the teacher whom they knew – Jesus. They had been with Him on several occasions and were drawn to Him for He was different from all the other religious teachers they heard. Sometimes they had even left their fishing business to listen to Him. Could He be The Prophet whom God had promised long ago (Dt.18:18)?
This day so great a crowd of people pressed around Him that
Jesus walked to Simon, got into his boat, and asked Simon to put into the water a little way from shore so that the people could see and hear Him. The boat was His pulpit, the people on shore His congregation. What would He say?
Jesus always spoke of His heavenly Father, of the Kingdom of God, and of those who entered it, encumbered with sin. His words would address the deep poverty and needs of their souls and the wondrous beauty and glory of the opening of the Kingdom to them through the One whom God would send.
Simon heard it all as he sat close by, mending his nets. In the shadow of Christ’s majesty, how utterly miserable, on one hand, the teaching made Simon feel. Could such a weak and tired one as he ever hope, with whatever toil was his, to be successful before God? Yet, in another respect, the teaching comforted Simon’s heart with God’s grace so that the burden was lifted. Jesus knew his thoughts.
When He had finished speaking, Jesus bid Simon and his men, “Put out into the deep water, and let down your nets for a catch.”
“Master,” Simon answered, “we worked hard all through the night and caught nothing. But at Your word I will let down the nets.”
At first it seemed useless. Working all night long and nothing! What could change it now? Tired, discouraged, going against human judgment, it didn’t seem right. But God’s ways are not limited, His love is boundless, His purpose blesses. So, those who hear Him put out into deep waters and let down their nets against all odds, urged on by the power of His saving word and the trust that springs as a result from it. You see, there is a sense in which the Christian faith and life are one great “but at Your word, Lord, I will do it.”
When Simon pulled his net back into the boat, it was so full of fish that the net was about to tear. He called to his partners in their boat to come and help him. They came and both boats were filled so full of fish that they began to sink. When Christ is in the boat and bids one let down the net, a great multitude of blessings must happen.
What did it mean to Simon? He had already been following the Master as a student. However, he had returned to his occupation of fishing on the Sea of Galilee. Yet, this day it would be clear that Jesus was there for another reason.
Jesus had preached from his boat. Simon heard what He said, and it went straight to his heart. Now this miracle! It was not unusual to catch a large number of fish on the Sea of Galilee. But the truly miraculous was that the Lord Jesus had seen through those waters down to where the multitude of fish were and had directed Simon to them. Jesus could see through the waves, right down to the bottom. Likewise, He sees through people to the bottom of their hearts.
Simon’s heart was troubled by his sin, his weakness of faith, and his doubts in the midst of life’s toils. Earlier, Jesus had called him to discipleship, and Simon had followed that call. But here was another call. Perhaps he felt it coming. It was not only a call of following in order to learn, but a call to do and to enter fellowship with Jesus’ work. Would Simon’s heart, like the previous night’s toil, come up empty, clogged with life’s sand and torn by its pebbles? Could he be a faithful doer, a true fisherman for the Lord? This is what he meant when he fell at Jesus’ knees pleading, “Go away from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord.” It is the reason Jesus comforted him, “Do not fear. From now on you will be catching men”…that is, bringing them to the knowledge and faith of Christ Jesus as their Savior from sin.
And so it was, a life turned upside down, not in turmoil, but in the comfort of a Savior who quiets the heart in forgiveness and sends people out in service to His Kingdom. It was the same for James and John, Simon’s partners, for as soon as they came to shore, They Left Everything and Followed Him in a life of apostleship. So also do we learn the lesson of our own callings before God and receive comfort in it.
You are not called to be an apostle. That was the call for the Twelve and Paul also. But all Christians are called to follow, to learn, to grow, and to serve the Lord in His Kingdom. Many are the truths that we could consider in our individual lives of faith that shine forth in the symbolism of this account. Think of the different things that happened here when the first disciples were called to their work of apostleship and transfer them to your own life of discipleship. How does each part fit?
– the call of the Savior – your call, to be, to do what?
– the boat – your boat; where are you in life?
– the command of Christ to do, despite a night of seemingly fruitless toil on your part;
– the human prospect of unlikely success;
– the net and its casting at the bidding of Christ with His absolute promise and certainty of results taking place;
– the miraculous direction to the right spot where He wants you to be in order bless the effort;
– the multitude of fish caught;
– the net about to break, yet not breaking;
– the surprise at what Christ does, as strange as the miracle itself;
– and the lesson of self-knowledge, humbling, and trust in Jesus.
All this and more we can read and apply to our individual lives of faith. As the Lord dealt graciously with Peter, so He deals with us. And the lesson’s outcome that we learn for our discipleship in Christ, who gave Himself for us, is found in the closing words: “When they brought their boats to land, They Left Everything and Followed Him.” God grant it in our lives of faith, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.