In our last lesson we saw the unclean spirits knowing the power of Jesus and declaring Jesus to be the Son of God and the Holy One of God. Luke brings us forward in his narrative to show us what our response should be to the knowledge that Jesus is the Son of God. Luke is showing us how we are to respond to the fact that Jesus is the Holy One of God. This leads us into Luke 5.
Setting The Scene (Luke 5:1-3)
Luke tells us of a time when the people are pressing in against Jesus. This is an exciting moment because they are closing in on Jesus to hear God’s word. The people want to hear Jesus and the implication is that they cannot hear very well because of the size of the crowd. So the crowd is pressing in on to Jesus to listen to him teach God’s word. Luke has already caused us to grasp a subtle point that he is communicating in this gospel to Theophilus and all other readers. Since Jesus is the Son of God, we need to listen to what he has to say. We do not come together for entertainment and comfort. We come together to praise God and to hear God’s word. We cannot come for any other reason. We are not coming for stories, dramas, or movies. We must have the desire like the crowd to press in to hear God’s word. God’s word is that important. Give us nothing else but the word of God. There can be no substitution.
The pressing of the crowd gets to the point where Jesus is at the edge of the lake. Jesus gets into one of the boats on the shore, the boat of a fisherman named Simon who had just completed a night of fishing. The fishermen are there cleaning their nets, probably also listening to Jesus at least to find out why the crowd is pressing in on this man. Jesus gets into Simon’s boat and asks Simon to push out just a little bit. This act allows the crowd to come all the way to the shore and, more important, allows Jesus to amplify his voice over the water so that the crowds can hear him better. Jesus sits down in the boat (sitting was the common posture of a teacher and the crowd would stand and listen) and teaches the crowd from the boat. We do not know how long Jesus taught and we are not told the content of the message. But it is fair to assume that Jesus is teaching the good news about the kingdom of God (Luke 4:43).
Teaching Lesson (5:4-7)
After Jesus completes his teaching, he tells Simon to put out into the deep water and let down their nets for a catch. It is important for us to analyze what Jesus is telling Peter to do. The Greek word that translates into English “put out” is in the singular tense and the “your” in the command to “let down your nets” is plural. This is not Jesus and Peter by themselves. They are on Peter’s fishing boat, which archaeology has found a typical fishing boat in those days in Galilee to be between 20 and 30 feet. The plural tense tells us that Peter and his fishing crew are on the boat. Jesus instructed Peter, who is in charge of directing and steering the boat, to take the vessel out into the deep water. Further, once in the deep water, Jesus has instructed the whole fishing crew to resume fishing. Everyone on the boat is to let down the massive fishing nets. Jesus is saying in effect, “Peter, let’s go back out into the deep and let’s do some fishing.”
This helps us understand Peter’s response. Here is a rabbi telling a fishing crew how to do their job. This would be like someone like myself, a full time teacher, having the audacity to go to Alaska and telling the fishing crew on a professional ship to listen on how to fish. The fishing crew has come in from their fishing trip and were unsuccessful. But I, the preacher, know where we ought to go and get some fish. WHO AM I? Why would they listen to me? Leave the fishing to the professionals! This is the response of Peter, who says this in the most respectful way that he can. “Master, we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing!” Essentially, Peter is saying, “Jesus, this is not going to work. We have already tried. In fact, we have tried all night and we have worked hard all night. We caught nothing. That is why we were cleaning our nets. We are done for the night!” Notice the “we” in Peter’s response. This validates our observation concerning Jesus’ command. Jesus is instructing the whole fishing crew to get back to work. Further, don’t forget what Jesus told Peter and the fishermen. He did not say, “Put out into the deep water and let’s go fishing.” Rather, Jesus said to put out into the deep water and “let down your nets for a catch.” Jesus is saying that they are going to catch fish. “Let down your nets and you are going to get fish.” Peter’s response is that there are no fish to be found today. They have already tried that and now we are tired from our hard work.
But I am fascinated that Peter does not refuse Jesus’ instruction despite all of these factors. Peter does not reject Jesus’ directions. Peter questions it, but relents with an “ok.” “But at your word, I’ll let down the nets.” Essentially, Peter is saying, “Jesus, this is going to be an utter failure. But this is on you. You say where to drop the nets and we will drop the nets. Just say the word.”
I like the reluctance of Peter because it teaches us something valuable. We don’t have to understand the reason for Jesus’ commands for us to obey him. Sometimes we are unwilling to obey because we simply cannot understand how this command is godly or helpful to our lives. The Proverbs are a great example. No one wants to listen and obey the wisdom contained in it. We can’t understand how its wise teachings will be helpful to us. So we don’t do them. We don’t obey because it does not make sense. I want to press something upon us here. Peter did not understand this command in the slightest. It did not make sense. It was utter nonsense to listen to this teacher about where to fish. There was nothing logical about what Jesus said to do. So why did Peter obey? Peter obeyed because it was Jesus. Peter obeyed because it was Jesus who gave the command. Peter had been listening to Jesus teach from his boat. He was sitting right there. Peter, despite his reluctance, obeys because it was Jesus who said to do it. So Peter put some trust in Jesus and did it, even though he did not think it was going to work. Peter did what Jesus said. We need to do the same. Jesus said it and that is why I will do it, even though it does not seem to make sense. Even if I don’t think it is going to work or change my life, try it. Obey Jesus and see what happens next!
Peter’s Response (5:6-11)
They let down the nets and they caught a great number of fish. The number is so great that the nets start breaking. Peter and his men wave for another boat to come over and help. They pull up the nets and fill both boats with the fish. Both boats are so full that both boats are beginning to sink from the mass and weight. This is an unbelievable catch! This is a miracle. The impossible has just happened. What is Peter’s response to this event? Please notice that Peter does not say that we could make a lot of money with you around. Peter does not say that we need to have you come on all our fishing trips. Remember that these men are not fishing as a hobby. This is their livelihood. This is the way that they paid the bills and fed their families. Peter could have seen Jesus as the answer to his financial problems. Peter could have seen Jesus as the answer to all his physical needs and wants. But this is not the concern of Peter. We see the spirituality of Peter at this moment. Peter gets it.
Peter falls and the knees of Jesus and says, “Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord!” Peter immediately understands the lesson. The lesson is not that you can have wealth and fortune by following Jesus. Peter at this moment realizes who Jesus is and Peter knows what this means. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is the Christ, the prophesied deliverer and Savior. Peter knows who he is, “A sinful man.” Peter knows who Jesus is, “The Holy One of God.” This is the right reaction when we realizing who we are dealing with. We are not dealing with any average person. We are dealing with Jesus, the Son of God, the Holy One of God. Peter’s reaction is the same reaction that many had in the presence of God. Isaiah was acutely aware of sin when we was placed before the throne of God in a vision sequence. Ezekiel and John fell down as dead men in the presence of God. Peter gets it. There is not arrogance when in the presence of Jesus. There is no thinking that we are something when we come to Jesus. There is only one thing that should be on our mind as we come to Jesus: we are sinful and we cannot be around Jesus because we are so sinful.
Jesus’ Response (5:10)
We must appreciate Jesus’ response. Jesus would have been right to say, “Peter, you are sinful and you cannot be around me because I am the Holy One of God.” Instead, Jesus tells Peter, “Don’t be afraid.” Jesus’ words to us is the same, “Don’t be afraid.” We are to come to Jesus in our sins. We do not need to separate ourselves from Jesus. Jesus wants us to come to him. Jesus is welcoming us to him. He wants people to see their sinfulness, not to run away from him, but to come to him.
Jesus also gives Peter a new mission. Instead of catching fish, he will be catching people. Following Jesus is not about making money. Following Jesus is not about us continuing to do what we always have done. Jesus gives you a new mission. The mission is not a selfish mission of accumulating wealth or remaining in our comfort zones. Our mission is a soul saving mission. Our mission is for every person to become fishers of people. This does not mean that we necessarily quit the jobs we are currently occupying. We will read in the gospels later that Peter, James, and John are still fishing. We assume they are still doing this to pay the bills and take care of their families. But fishing was not their primary work any longer. Now we will be working for Jesus. Since Jesus is the Son of God and we recognize our sinfulness, then we must accept our new mission. Things change when we encounter Jesus.
Peter, James, and John accept the mission. They bring the boats to the shore, leave everything behind, and follow Jesus. Luke is painting a powerful picture for us with verse 11. What did Peter, James, and John leave behind? The text says they left everything. What did that include? The fish. The mountain of fish that could have made them a tremendous amount of money for such short work was left behind. To follow Jesus is not only to become a fisher for people but is also to leave behind the ways of the world. We are called upon to leave behind the things that the world deems important and care about the things that God deems important. There is no time or point is seeking after power, success, or wealth when we have been instructed with a new focus and mission — seek after people.
- See our sinfulness in the presence of the Son of God
- Jesus wants you to come to him for salvation from your sins. He does not want you to turn away because of your sins.
- Accept your new mission — seek to save people, not to advance ourselves in this world.