We need volunteers in childcare and if you’d like to volunteer, we have someone up front who’d like to get your information. This is the third message in a series, Plastic Jesus: How Did Someone So Real Become So Fake? As I was preparing this message from the beginning of Luke 5, I noticed there were two stories of Jesus, the disciples, and fishing. The second story is from John 21, after the resurrection of Christ. I want to read both this morning for Jesus did the same miracle twice.
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, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 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. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 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. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 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.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:1-11)
And now John 21 (not my focus text but a parallel account):
After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. (John 21:1-14)
Few things began in a more obscure way than Christianity. From its humble beginnings, we see one Teacher surrounding Himself with a group of men. And while crowds continued to surround Jesus everywhere He went it was these men, these disciples, who were seriously attached to Jesus. And it’s here that we begin to meet these men. As we have read through the early parts of Luke, we've been introduced to principally two main characters: John the Baptist and Jesus Himself. Now the narrative begins to widen and we see some of the men closest to Jesus in the pages to follow. Peter, James and John had two fishing experiences with Jesus. One is before they join His band of Disciples and the second is after Christ's resurrection. We’ll see the differences in these two miracles and how distinctively Peter responds in a just moment.
What is a Disciple? A Disciple Is A Follower. A disciple is another word for Christian. Discipleship requires a master and to be a disciple, you must follow the Master. In modern terms, we might know such people as groupies. You might follow the Grateful Dead or Justin Beiber. But a groupie is simply following someone around from city to city.
Again, the narrative opens up a bit in our progression of Luke’s Gospel. As we'll see today's story play out, we principally see two characters -- Simon Peter and Jesus. Yes, there are others in the stories, but I want you to pay attention to these two men – Simon Peter and Jesus. We cannot dilute what it means to be a disciple. I want you to ask yourself, “What should I leave on the shore?”
1. Disciples Obey God’s Word
Note carefully the middle of verse one: “…the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God…” (Luke 5:1b). The crowds were there to hear “the word of God” Luke tells us that today’s story happens near a lake. He calls the lake, Gennesaret, but it is also known as the Sea of Galilee (Mark 1:16). The lake is approximately seven miles long and about fourteen miles wide. It was a popular place for fishing. This lake served as the home area for most of the disciples of Jesus. It was here that Jesus found one of two boats where sat down to teach the people. Nothing is known as to what Jesus said. But Jesus finds Himself at the edge of the water with no place to stand because the crowds are pressing against Him. To avoid being crushed by the people and to have a good line of sight to teach, Jesus asks Simon Peter is He can use of the boats (Luke 5:2). The remains of a similar boat were discovered in 1986 near an ancient excavated town in Israel, called Magdala. The boat would have been an open craft with a flat bottom and between twenty and thirty feet in length. Jesus will use Simon Peter's boat for a pulpit and the Sea of Galilee as a sound system as He throws the net of the Gospel over His hearers.
Jesus found the men on the shore after fishing and washing their nets in the morning. The men had fished all evening, beached their boats on shore, and stopped to eat some breakfast. They were in the process of washing, mending, setting the nets out to dry when they were interrupted by a large crowd of people around Jesus (Luke 5:1). Again, the crowds were there to hear “the word of God” Disciples always begin by hearing the word of God. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
For the people in Galilee in Jesus’ day, hearing God’s word meant following Jesus to hear Him preach. For us today, this means studying the Bible. This means hearing God’s Word preached. This means, memorizing Scripture. So, if you want to be a disciple, you start with the ear. Yet, note two kinds of people following Jesus that day: the crowds and the disciples. The disciples differed from the crowds, as they were a company of committed men.
Disciples Obey God’s Word
2. Disciples Trust God’s Son
Again, note two kinds of people following Jesus that day: the crowds and the disciples. Indeed, as we approach verse four the crowd fades from our focus. What distinguished between the two? One group obeyed Jesus while the other simply heard His sermons. As we’ll see, Peter had no reason to obey Jesus’ words.
Let’s see the story…
After teaching the people, Jesus asks Peter to push the boat out into the water a little further in order to fish (Luke 5:4). Luke is careful to record the scene and Peter's words in response to Jesus. And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5). Peter at first mildly protested. It was the wrong time to fish. Peter, James, and John are tired; they have fished all night. Fishing with nets is backbreaking work as the net was laid out in a semicircle. The net encompassed over 100 feet and it would be drawn in hand over hand. Gathering all of this net by hand was done time and time again throughout the night. Again, it was morning. It was the end of the work day for Peter.
You can understand why Peter, James, and John hesitated when they were asked to put their soon to be dry nets back into the water. When we hear the expert fisherman's (Peter) words, we know there is little hope in catching fish. After all, it was the son of a carpenter who was telling the fishermen where and how to fish. But if you can appreciate his reticence then you can also be surprised by his obedience. He did, in fact, let down the nets as Jesus requested. Throughout the story, Simon Peter responds to Jesus with openness and respect. Peter calls Jesus “rabbi” which shows Jesus’ authority is important because Peter is clearly in charge of the boat.
Peter has no reason to obey Jesus’ words. There was not a single shred of evidence that led Peter to believe Jesus had a good idea. The only reason he has is because, “You say so.” The Bible tells us that is enough of a reason to do it. What about you? Is that enough of a reason for you. Even when you think it’s not practical. Everyone says, “That’s not going to work.” Nevertheless, disciples say, “But at your word …”
Do you do things just because Jesus says so? Jesus is not asking you to take His advice.
And watch the results: “And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 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” (Luke 5:6-7). The result is amazing as the men can barely get the two boats filled with fish to the shore before they sink. Several tons of fish were caught that day. The nets begin to break. This was a massive miracle of nature. The fishermen signal for help pull in the catch. The result is amazing as the men can barely get the two boats filled with fish to the shore before they sink. Several tons of fish were caught that day. The nets begin to break. This was a massive miracle of nature. Even nature obeys Jesus' voice. The fishermen signal for help pull in the catch. They huge catch would have brought a considerable amount of income to the men and they would need it because they soon leave their job to follow after Jesus. You can trust Jesus. Jesus knows fishing better than the fisherman.
Disciples Obey God’s Word
Disciples Trust God’s Son
3. Disciples Turn Away from Their Sin
Now Jesus does this miracle twice. And we note that in both instances, it’s the same problem – no fish are caught. In both instances, Jesus asks His disciples to do something, at His word. “…he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4). “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some” (John 21:6). In both instances, Jesus’ command doesn’t make sense. In the second instance, Jesus is a hundred yards away on the shore. “How’s does He know? We’ve been out here all night,” the disciples could say. Yet, Jesus say, “Obey Me, just because it’s Me.” In both instances, the disciples catch the mother load of fish.
And watch carefully the reaction of Peter, impetuous Peter for in both instances, Simon Peter has a very strong reaction. And you need to watch Peter carefully in both instances, for Peter tells us the point of the miracle. The point of the miracle is not the fish. The point of the miracles is to teach us about Jesus. And you can best see the lesson as you see the difference in how Peter’s reacts. In the first story, Peter says, “Go away.” In the second story, Peter says, “Come here.” In the first story, Peter says, “Go away. I want nothing to do with you.” If Jesus and Peter were not on a boat, Peter would have probably run. In the first miracle, Peter nearly jumps in the water to run away from Jesus. While in the second miracle, Peter does jump into the water, but to get near Jesus.
There’s Trauma When You’re Near God. In the first miracle, Peter became aware of his sin. He saw himself as blind, lame, imprisoned and oppressed (Luke 4:18). When Peter suddenly drops to his knees before Jesus, this act demonstrates Jesus' superiority. Although chaos is everywhere, the fish, the nets, and sinking boats can wait because Peter needs to sort out where he stands with God. When Peter sees the sheer massive amount of fish, he knows instinctively he’s in the presence of God. Peter isn't worthy to be in the presence of God. You see, the miracles are intended to teach us about the holiness of Jesus Christ. When Peter confesses his sin, he sees that his entire being is sinful in comparison to the purity of Christ.
Every one of Jesus’ qualities is infinite. Jesus, as He is God, is infinite in knowledge. Jesus is infinite in power. Jesus is infinite in love. Jesus is infinitely just. And Jesus is infinitely pure. That’s what the miracle is to teach us. In both miracles, Jesus displays that is superlative.
By the way, when you talk about Jesus, you talk in superlatives. Peter knows that there is a vast difference between Jesus and himself. Whenever you get near God, it’s uncomfortable experience. And you see this clearly in Luke 5. Yet, you see this same experience throughout the pages of the Bible. For example, in Isaiah 6, you see an account where Isaiah is in the presence of God. “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5b)! Anyone that gets near the real God instinctively knows they are in deep trouble. In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, you see John in the presence of Jesus. He falls at Jesus’ feet as though dead (Revelation 1:17).
There’s always conflict when you are near the real God. There’s always trauma when you’re near Jesus. The Bible says God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). To get near Him is to be burned. To be near God, you’ll feel terrible about yourself because He is infinitely pure.
Watch Peter’s reaction in the second miracle. Just like the first miracle, loads of fish come on the boat. But unlike the first miracle where he runs from Jesus, in the second miracle, he runs to Jesus. So what changed in Peter? It was the gospel of God’s grace. Peter had not seen Jesus since he denied Jesus three times. Peter has unresolved guilt and he’s much more aware of his sin in John 21 than he was in Luke 5. Despite Peter cowardice, Peter runs to Jesus. What changed in Peter? Peter understands the gospel of grace. What does it mean to really be a disciple of Jesus? To be a disciple is follow Jesus but it’s also to enjoy God’s grace.
Disciples Obey God’s Word
Disciples Trust God’s Son
Disciples Turn Away from Their Sin
4. Disciples Make More Disciples
“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 5:10-11). From the start, God has designed Christianity for every, single disciple to make a disciple who in turn, makes a disciple. Peter has a simple faith (and that's a good thing). Modern readers are shocked when they see the words, “they left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:11b). While this was significant commitment, the disciples had been aware of Jesus for some time. Remember, some of Jesus’ disciples were first John the Baptist’s disciples (John 1:35-49) While discussions among the Twelve will continue for sometime (Luke 8:25), Peter recognizes that Jesus is not ordinary. Jesus was becoming a “known person” throughout Galilee when Peter, James, and John left their occupations to follow Christ.
The moment these fishermen have one of their best days fishing, they leave their professions to follow Christ. And this is what separated these men from the crowds. Not every disciple of Christ has to leave their job. But every disciple has to leave their life to pursue Christ. Some of you are called to keep your job and bring Christ to your place of work.
From the start, God has designed Christianity for every, single disciple to make a disciple who in turn, makes a disciple. Disciples multiply. Disciples don’t stay silent. Disciples pray for people. Disciples invite people to church. Disciples have memorized a short presentation of the gospel. Disciples financially support missions. But disciples don’t substitute financial support for being personally involved.
The first step of making disciples is to do evangelism. We need to be more aggressive in loving witness that wins people to Christ and then folds these people in the fellowship of a church where they are discipled. Evangelism is where people turn from death to life, from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to the power of God. Invest and Invite is a commitment where we’ve asked you to pray for three people and share the gospel with them in 2013. We were made to be disciples who make disciples until the end of time. How can you think you’ll stand before God Himself one day and ignore this? “Almighty God, I ignored this command and I didn’t make one single disciple.” Healthy things live. Healthy things multiply.
Don’t forget the apple. (Hold up an apple) How many apples do I have? One apple isn’t just one apple One apple multiplies into an infinite number of apples. Healthy things live. Healthy disciples multiply.