The Gospel According to Luke: Part 12 :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

An Exposition

Luke 5:1-11: Nevertheless, at Your Word, I Will

“Now it came about that while the multitude were pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake, but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats which was Simon’s and asked him to put out a little way from the land. He sat down and began teaching the multitudes from the boat. When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your net for a catch.’

“Simon answered and said, ‘Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but at your bidding I will let down the nets.’ When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break, and they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. They came and filled both boats so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell at Jesus’ feet, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’ For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken, and so also James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.’ When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him” (Luke 5:1-11, NASB).

When I was growing up, my parents did not feel that it was their sworn duty to keep me fed, clothed, sheltered, and educated and then neglect to instill within me the need to take on jobs and responsibilities that not just assisted them in running the household, but gave me the important necessity of learning not just how to do chores, but to show me how to care for myself and be able to handle situations that would face me in due time. There were times when I didn’t want to do anything, preferring to hang out with my friends. However, I knew my chores would be there waiting for me and my parents weren’t going to do them for me, so I got the job done.

I also got a part-time job when I turned sixteen at a local grocery store, which included bagging groceries, mopping floors, stocking shelves, and doing anything else the management asked of me. I worked anywhere from 20-30 hours per week, went to school, and had my responsibilities at home to tackle and finish. I’ve never known a time where I wasn’t working, either to pay for my necessities, or later, to support a wife and family. It had to be done. There was no room for discussion or alternatives.

Work is part of the tasks that God expects of us as His own. Our LORD spent years in a carpenter’s shop, working with His hands to build houses, furniture, plows and anything else that a customer needed. All Jewish men were expected to learn a trade to support themselves. The apostle Paul supported himself as a tentmaker.

Today many pastors work two jobs or more to support themselves and take care of their churches as well. We need to remember that the apostles were all working men, mostly fishermen who lived near the shores of what is referred to as the Sea of Galilee. Their routine included washing and repairing their fishing nets, cleaning and repairing their boats, salting down their catch to preserve it for sale in the markets, haggling with other merchants for needed supplies, doing their fishing at night and staying out until sunrise, and starting the routine all over again. These were rough and hard men, strong and ready to use words that expressed their anger and frustration at their crew, or the lack of a decent catch, or paying taxes, or a host of issues.

In our study of Luke’s gospel, a rough, strong fisherman named Simon will have his life changed by allowing a teacher to use his boat as a floating pulpit. The story can be divided into the following parts:

There is an evening of struggle (v.5). Jesus was on the seashore and ready to begin teaching the growing crowds who wanted to hear Him. He climbed into Simon’s boat and asked him to move it away from the shore and give Him needed room to sit and proceed with His teachings. When He had finished, Jesus told Peter to go out into the deep part of the lake and let down his nets for a catch. Peter tells the Lord that they had been fishing all night and had no success. They failed in their attempt to catch fish so that God could set up the incident that will transform the life of Simon and his co-workers.

Remember that Simon and his crew are by this time tired, somewhat frustrated, and discouraged from their fruitless toil. The last thing they want to do is go out and repeat the process. It is certain that Simon is silently questioning the request of someone who might be good at building boats but is rather clueless about what it takes to be a skilled fisherman. This will be nothing more than a means of helping a teacher to get away from the crowds and amuse Him for a time.

Then, the nets got tight and start to go under with what is an enormous catch of fish that seemed to appear from nowhere. The haul is so great that the other boats had to help haul up the net and get the fish into all the boats that are starting to go down in the water due to the huge catch. Simon, who had been polite but silently skeptical, was now utterly amazed at what had occurred. His obedience had been rewarded beyond what he could have imagined.

One can imagine what Simon is thinking. He knows that this cannot be in any way a mere fluke of nature or coincidence. He knows this lake, its depths, its types of fish, their movements, the best times to put down the nets, and when to leave at the sign of incoming storms. He has witnessed a true, authentic act of God, and he is now aware that he has no business or right to be in the presence of Jesus. He knows that he is not righteous and doesn’t believe that Jesus should have anything to do with him; therefore, he makes the comment of a man humbled before God and feeling totally unworthy to be near Him. Yet, the Lord calls him into His service with a commission to be a fisher of men, a task that he will carry forward from this time on, save for his brief time of denial and restoration to service by the risen Lord (John 21:15-19; Acts 1:1-11).

Simon Peter will have a time of spiritual insights, failures, rebuttals by the Lord Jesus for times of weak faith, times where he will be witness to the glory of the LORD, and then be the leader of the apostles, empowered by the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and preach the first sermon of the church age, bringing in a tremendous soul harvest. He will be the main character for the first twelve chapters of Acts, write two letters to the persecuted church, and die as a martyr as Jesus predicted. But for now, his adventure with his co-workers and time with Jesus is just getting underway. He and his peers will have much to do and learn, and we will learn with them. Keep your nets ready.