Summary: A miraculous catch of fish, and the commencement of the Church's ministry.
A SINNER SAVED
I can remember reading a quaint old book by a Puritan who’s only acknowledged qualification for conducting a Christian ministry was, ‘Sinner Saved’. Without that we are either honestly mistaken, or really just charlatans and frauds! This begs the question, ‘What Must I Do to Be Saved?’ (Acts 16:30), which is also the title of one my other sermons; to which the answer is, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved’ (Acts 16:31).
As we open this chapter, we find the multitude pressing in upon Jesus to hear the word of God (Luke 5:1). It is wonderful to see such enthusiasm: but also quite alarming for the preacher. However, Jesus was not fazed by this: He had a work to do (John 9:4) and was tireless in fulfilling it (Luke 2:49).
There was a danger that Jesus might be trampled underfoot, but a solution lay at hand. Two empty boats lay by the shore. The fishermen had left them there while they were washing their nets (Luke 5:2).
The matter of teaching the people was urgent enough for Jesus to commandeer one of the boats. He invited Himself into the one belonging to Simon, and asked Simon to put out a little from the land. [This encounter between Jesus and Simon was not as sudden as it seems: Jesus had healed Simon’s mother-in-law the previous day (Luke 4:38-39).] Jesus sat down (the customary posture for teaching) and taught the multitude (Luke 5:3).
There is a natural auditorium in each inlet of a zigzagging coastline like that of Lake Gennesaret. It is possible for a person on the shore to hear a voice from a boat with great clarity. In a similar setting, I have heard voices of boatmen a little way out at sea as clearly as if they were standing right beside me!
When Jesus had finished speaking, Jesus said to Simon “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4). The average fisherman might be offended at someone else telling them how to ply their trade. However, what we need to learn too, is that Jesus knows best!
Simon’s response was respectful: he addressed Jesus as “Master/Teacher” which is equivalent to ‘Rabbi’. Then he began to frame what may have begun as an excuse: “through the whole night having laboured, nothing have we TAKEN.” However, there is a ‘nevertheless’ of obedience: “Nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net” (Luke 5:5).
“And this having done, they ENCLOSED a great shoal of fishes…” (Luke 5:6). It is never a loss to us when we obey the word of Jesus: quite the contrary. Putting it into cold figures: there and then, Simon was enriched (as long as his net didn’t break)!
Simon’s crew signalled to their partners in the other boat (a silent gesture, otherwise every fisherman in Capernaum would be pressing in towards their little boat). Together they filled both boats to the point of almost sinking (Luke 5:7).
Somewhere in the midst of all this frenetic activity (by fishermen who still hadn’t gone to bed after what had begun as an unsuccessful night), Simon’s priorities began to change. It wasn’t about him. It wasn’t about the catch. It was about Jesus coming into his life!
We often speak of Simon Peter’s call to the ministry. However, prior to that, what we have here is his overwhelming sense of being ‘undone’ (cf. Isaiah 6:5). “Depart from me, for a man a sinner am I, O Lord” (Luke 5:8).
So the first stage in Simon Peter’s call to the ministry was conviction of sin, contrition for sin, and an awareness of his wrong standing with God. The repentant King David had acknowledged, ‘I have sinned against the LORD’ (2 Samuel 12:13); and later confessed, ‘Against thee, thee only have I sinned’ (Psalms 51:4). But David soon discovered, as did Isaiah and Simon Peter after him: ‘A contrite heart, O God, you will not despise’ (Psalms 51:17).
But Jesus said to Simon, “Fear not; from henceforth men you shall be ‘CAPTURING-ALIVE’(!)” At Pentecost, that is just what happened. After Peter’s inaugural sermon, 3,000 people were added to the church (Acts 2:41). And so the work goes on.
After the miraculous catch of fish, they brought their boats to land, forsook all (including the fish!) and followed Jesus (Luke 5:11). It wasn’t about them. It wasn’t about the catch. It was about Jesus coming into their lives!
‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved’ (Acts 16:31).