Luke 5.1-11: And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. 3And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.
And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.
Revelation 3.20: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
Do you ever have an uninvited guest come to your house? How do you feel when someone comes to your house? Are you pleased to see that uninvited guest, or are you unhappy?
Perhaps who it is at the door of your house or dwelling place makes you feel happy, not-so-happy, or just plain, downright irritated. Much in the same way that an unannounced, uninvited guest comes, Jesus Christ also often comes to visit us. He will not always announce himself, but he will always knock on the door of our life and heart. He comes to the doorstep of our lives and calls on us, and his call is always very distinct, clear, and easy to know.
When Jesus Calls, He Comes to Where We Are
When he comes to call on us, Jesus Christ never calls to us from afar. He always comes and is up close and personal. Jesus came to where Peter, Andrew, James, and John were living and working. As the story in Luke 5 tells us, these men were workers of a trade that required them to live near – or even on – the sea. For this work, these men needed specialized equipment. They had to have boats, nets, and, probably most importantly, patience. Anyone who’s been out to fish knows t hat fishing can be a long, arduous task, even if one is fishing for fun!
Because of this, very likely Peter, Andrew, James, and John had learned to be extremely patient men. They knew how to catch things, and had equipment to do so. Jesus, too, came to the sea. Even a quick, pictorial view of the area will show that the land around the Sea of Galilee slopes gently upwards, and is a great place to teach, preach, or even have a concert. It is said that the natural acoustics around the area of the Sea of Galilee are perfect for holding large meetings, that the voice of the speaker can be a bit weak, yet still carry a long way. Jesus, as we see in the Scriptures, had a large following.
Crowds of people were always thronging him, and his need for a good, amphitheater from which to speak was very great. Further, he needed a good pulpit. As he was by the sea, he saw these men’s boats. What better place to preach to a large crow from than a boat? Jesus asked Peter if he could use his and his brother’s boat. The interesting thing is that these men, either set of brothers, could easily have told Jesus to be off and on his way, and go somewhere else to preach. After all, preaching wasn’t their affair…was it?
When we read further in the passage for today, we see that these men had worked hard all night. They were very likely VERY tired, and not really up to having someone preach and teach from inside their boats, famous or not. What is telling about Peter and his mates is that they said, “Yes.” Perplexing, to say the least, are the possibilities as to why they said yes.
The Bible doesn’t mention a why Peter allowed Jesus into his boat to preach from, but it is safe to assume that, since they knew how to be patient, and were doing a particular work in their boats that didn’t require them to sail (cleaning their nets), they probably figured there’d be no harm in letting this famed and storied Rabbi preach from one of their boats. Further, this was a chance, too, to hear Jesus preach and teach up close. Since he was using their boats, Peter, James, Andrew, and John had, literally, front-row seats.
When He Comes, Jesus Shows us Who He Is
A true test of patience came for Peter at the end of the message and lesson by Jesus to the crowd of followers. When Jesus finished speaking to the crowd, he made a very simple, yet somewhat strange, request. After the lesson to the people, Jesus asked Peter to try for a catch one more time. Again, there is no directly written reason why Jesus asked Peter to do this, but the indirect, subliminal message couldn’t be clearer! Very likely, Peter and all three of his partners were very tired, maybe even to the point of exhaustion: they’d just finished fishing all night, and had caught nothing.
They were very likely discouraged at having not caught even one single, solitary fish for an entire nights work. Has something like this ever happened to you? Have you worked, toiled, sweated, bled, used up every ounce of your energy on a task, only to see absolutely nothing come from it? If so, how did you feel afterwards? You probably felt pretty down, and were happy to call it a day when the time came for you to leave work, right?
Think about how Peter felt: he was probably exhausted from his work, discouraged, and maybe even terribly disappointed; after all, if they didn’t catch any fish, they couldn’t take them to market, and if they could not take a catch of fish to market, they would not be able to put food on their families’ tables. Then, after what had been a good lesson and a great message, Jesus makes this one request. How did Peter feel about that?
We see his feelings in his response to Jesus. “We’ve worked all night, and not caught even a cold!” Discouraged? Yes. Defeated? Almost. Yet, all the same, and, again, without a word of reason why, Peter said, “Yes” to the one, last draught of the nets. Perhaps they knew what Jesus could do, and hoped. Perhaps they had heard of Jesus’ reputation for miracles, and thought maybe he’d have one for them. Maybe Peter and his brother Andrew just said “Yes” to humor Jesus so he’d leave them alone.
We don’t know the exact reason for Peter saying “Yes” to Jesus. What we do know is that when Peter said, “Yes” to Jesus’ request, and lowered the nets, a great miracle took place: They caught so many fish that their boat, and the boat of James and John, began to sink. We aren’t given an exact number of fish, no measured amount of the weight of the catch: all that we know is that it was so great, it began to sink two boats.
The amazing thing is, at any point up to Jesus’ request, these men – any one of them – could have merely said no! Had they done so, Jesus very likely would have gone on to some other location, his blessing and miracles going with him. As with the rich young ruler, Jesus would have walked away had Peter forbade his requests at any time, but because Peter merely said, “Yes” and gave Jesus Christ a try, he and his family were blessed literally beyond measure.
We don’t know what happened to the fish, but very likely this great amount was able to provide for Peter’s, Andrew’s, James’, and John’s families while they were ministering with Jesus. Jesus further blessed these four men and their families in a greater way, by calling them to follow him full time.
Jesus Calls Us to Follow in the Same Way
After the catch, we get a good glimpse of the kind of person that Peter was. Many in the Christian Faith tend to make Peter out to be a headstrong, loud-mouthed man who often spoke before he used his brain. In this case, we can see clearly that Peter knew what and who he was: a sinner in need of redemption from God Himself. Peter had the right attitude! He saw his sin, and knew that Jesus was holy and righteous. In fact, Peter also saw that he had no right nor business to be in the presence of such a One as Jesus Christ!
Peter was humble! Because of that, Jesus called him and used him. We need to remember that Jesus never, ever calls the proud, the arrogant, the haughty, the cocky, the nose-up-in-the air person to follow him: he always, always calls the humble. Despite Peter’s weaknesses, there is no doubt that Peter was a humble man. Jesus wants us to be the same. A proud man or woman often cannot be saved, even from a life-and-death situation.
This is especially so in business and the corporate world, where too many prideful men and women have felt the sting of humility in the form of a hostile take-over or bankruptcy. There is also another aspect to Jesus calling Peter and his mates: because of their trade, Peter, James, John, and Andrew knew how to catch difficult things. Fish are not easy to catch! Again, anyone who has been fishing either for fun or for their livelihood knows that fish are VERY temperamental! If the sun is too bright, it’s very likely a fisherman won’t have a good catch. If the weather is too cold, too rainy, or if people are just plain too loud, there may not even be a bite recorded, let alone a catch of any kind.
“Catching” men is very similar to this, and Jesus knew that Peter and his mates would be perfect for becoming his ministers and apostles later simply because their trade was so demanding in the area of patience. Further, these men had to know their tools well! When Jesus came along, needing a place from which to preach, he found Peter and his cohorts mending their nets. Doing this is a daily process, as any fisherman-by-trade can tell you.
Dirty or broken nets work less well than clean, well-repaired nets. Because they knew their trade, knew their tools, again, Jesus was able to teach them very similar tools for catching men for the Kingdom. As with Peter, James, John, and Andrew, God calls us to follow. He wants us to use our tools and gifts like these four men did. He comes to us where we are, as he came to these four men. Are we listening? Are we like Peter, Andrew, James, and John? When Jesus called, they left their nest and followed! What about us? He is here, and He wants us to follow!
Why Jesus Calls on Us to Follow Him
Jesus Calls us to follow for two reasons: (a) He wants to call us to a higher way of living.
(b) He wants to use us to help his kingdom grow. In the former, Jesus has three calls for the life of every person on the face of the earth:
1. The Call to Salvation – This is the first, most important, and most basic of the calls that Jesus places on the lives of people today. In fact, this call goes out to everyone on the face of the earth. No matter what the work is, nobody can truly work for God without being saved. It doesn’t matter of one is like Bill Gates or Ted turner, both of whom have given a combined $2 billion to charity and international work. Without salvation that comes only through Jesus Christ, these gifts by these two men really mean nothing, and are more like dirty laundry than any kind of Good Work (see John 6.29, Isaiah 64.6). The first call by Jesus Christ is always to Salvation.
2. The Call to Sanctification and Holiness – The second call, and, in most Holiness Church denominations, a second work of Grace is the call to live a Holy, Sanctified life. Living this life is basically where the believer – after having been saved – gives his or her life completely to God. It is said that Salvation is when the person gets God, and that Sanctification is where God gets the believer. Such is the essence of Holiness. It is not only trusting God to save from past sins, but also to help keep the person from sinning in the future. Two times, Jesus told people to “Go and sin no more”. This, essentially, is Jesus calling people to a life of Holiness.
3. The Specific Call to Service for Him – The third call for a person is the life-call. The Apostle Paul explains this well in his Epistles to the Corinthians, how everyone who believes in Jesus Christ is called to perform some specific work for him. This call may be to foreign missions, home missions, preaching, teaching, helping, volunteering, singing, pasturing, evangelism, or working in a secular field, or any combination of these. The fact remains that Jesus calls everyone who believes in him to some specific work. Just as Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to full-time service for him, Jesus, too, calls us, each and every person on the face of the earth, to service for him.
The bad news is that most people in the world – when Jesus comes knocking on their hearts’ doors – leave him standing at the doorstep, and never fully come to him, if they come at all. Even more tragically is that many Christians, after answering the call to salvation, fail to answer the call to sanctification and service, ending up living lives that were not God’s best for their lives. You see, God will never call anyone to do something that he or she really and truly does not want to do. He will never call someone to a life of drudgery and misery.
Jesus says in the Gospel of John that he came to give life, and to give life more abundantly. The famous Christian singer, Keith Green, composed a song that talked about not being sent to Africa. In his song, Keith Green sings about how he will do anything for God, just as long as He doesn’t call him to go to Africa. How many of us are like that today? How many Christians do you know who have – when the choice was given – made a less-than-the-best choice for their lives?
This writer knows of at least four young women who were in his brother’s youth group who – when called to be missionaries – married men who had no such call. One of them is now questioning her faith in God. The reason for this is that when God came calling this young lady to trust in him (as he asked Peter to do when he asked him to drop the nets into the water for one more catch), she balked, and now, though having a beautiful family with two wonderful children, she feels like her life is lacking, insomuch that she is questioning whether or not she is truly saved.
However, if we truly turn to Jesus and trust him when he calls us, we can have that life of abundance that he speaks of in John’s Gospel. In the end, though three of these four men died torturously horrible deaths, and all four of them felt the sting of persecution, Peter, Andrew, James, and John ultimately experienced that life more abundantly that Jesus spoke of. Are you living that life? Do you want to?
Conclusion: Are we Ready to Follow Him? Are we listening? Jesus is calling! Let Us Answer Him and Follow. As Revelation 3:20 states, Jesus Christ awaits at the door of our lives, our hearts, and our spirits, and knocks. Will we open? As Matthew 22 states, many are called, but few are chosen! Let us be among those who choose to be chosen.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, you always call each and every one of us who live today, and you have called on every soul that has lived in the past, and we thank you for it. Lord, for those who are being called, help us all to listen—to respond, and to carry forth doing thy will. For those who are being called to salvation, we pray that they will answer your Holy Spirit, O Father!
To those who are being called to a life of sanctification and holiness, Lord, we pray that they will answer. To those who are being called to go out into the world in service, I pray, Father, that they will answer! Give us all ears to hear, eyes to see, clear minds to understand, and hearts ready to respond. I pray all of this in the precious Name of Jesus Christ, the Savior, Amen.
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).