I. We see who we are as disciples when we see Jesus the teacher in verses 1-3.
A large crowd has gathered by the Sea of Galilee, listening to Jesus speak. Luke reports that Jesus was speaking “the word of God” to them. He likely was telling them that God wants all to turn to Him by believing in Jesus. But Jesus is having trouble getting that message to all the people because they are pressing Jesus very closely and so he does something about it. Jesus sees some fishermen washing their nets and asks them for a favor. If Simon could put the boat off shore just a bit then Jesus could speak to all the people. Jesus then sits in the boat and He continues to teach the people the Word of God. From the very beginning, Jesus taught the word, focused on the word.
That means that the followers of Jesus must be focused on the Word as well. This morning, let each one of us hear in this an encouragement for us to be sure and listen to the Word when it is preached and presented as well. We must, as we learned last week, learn to sit at Jesus’ feet throughout our lives. That is one part of who we are as Christians: we are to be followers of God’s Word who listen to the Word and focus on it.
Let’s also be sure that the message we are bringing to those around us is, in fact, the Word of God. There are some churches and groups who may have a lot of appeal to people, but who are not really teaching the Word of God. I recall reading about one T.V. preacher who received a letter in which a listener gave the minister great praise for all the good information given on relationships, self-image and the like. But what he liked the best of all was that he could listen to all of the “good” stuff, and then just at the very end when the minister got to talking about Jesus, the listener said that he could turn it off and not have to listen to the religious stuff. If we call ourselves the church of Jesus Christ, then we had better be sure that we are listening to and genuinely presenting the Word of God.
II. Being a disciple is also seen in Jesus the fisherman as seen in verses 4-7.
When the lesson is over, Jesus tells Simon to put the boat out into deeper water where the men were to lower their nets for a catch of fish. The men, who are experts in fishing, have just been fishing long and hard all night long. Night was the best time for fishing, but they caught NOTHING! Here is a carpenter telling experienced fishermen how to catch fish. It might be like me telling an architect how to build a skyscraper! Jesus was telling them to fish in an unlikely place and at the wrong time: in the heat of the day. If they caught nothing during the right time, certainly there will be nothing now. Simon obeys but his fisherman’s expertise tells him that Jesus doesn’t know what he is talking about. Yet his conscience moved by faith tells him that he must obey.
What happens next overwhelms them; obedience brings immediate results. They put down their nets and soon had so many fish that the nets started to break. Even when the others came to help them, there were too many for the nets to hold and both boats began to sink. Clearly the catch of fish was very unusual and amazing!
What we must remember is that we must obey even if we do not understand what God is asking. There are many things that we don’t understand in our lives. You may feel the burden of illness and wonder, “Why does God allow this to happen?” Perhaps you feel that you are not going anywhere at all in your job or career and wonder why God called you to go in this direction. Simon probably wondered why Jesus insisted that they do something that is futile, but he obeyed.
Muhammad Ali, world famous boxer, is reported to have boarded a plane at the height of his career, and resisted the instructions of the flight attendant. She told him to buckle up repeatedly and Ali said, “Superman don’t need no seat belt.” The flight attendant, without missing a beat, replied, “Superman don’t need no airplane, either. Buckle up.” Ali swallowed his pride and buckled up.
We may not understand what God is doing when we hear His call. “You want me to witness, to teach, to change my life, to endure this?” “I can’t do that! It doesn’t make sense!” Jesus showed His disciples very powerfully and clearly that all things are possible with God if they only trust and obey Him. Disciples are those who obey their Lord and Savior even when they don’t completely understand.
III. Who we are as disciples is also seen in Simon’s confession in verse 8.
Luke gives Simon’s full name of Simon Peter which highlights the call of Simon that is coming. Simon at first responds with fear: “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Abraham, Isaiah and Job all uttered similar things when they knew that they were in the very presence of the Lord. Simon recognized the powerful hand of the Lord in this and that drove him to recognize his own sin and cry out in fear. In fact, verse 9 says that they were all “astonished” at the catch of fish. Astonishment is much like the feeling that we have when we witness something amazing that we didn’t see coming or think was possible.
In this confession, we can clearly see who we are in the sight of God. When we stop to think of how we compare to God, it boggles our minds. We have a relationship with the great God, the Creator of all things. He is holy and infinitely greater than we are and we are sinners. Then we realize that this great God sent his only Son to die for us. We certainly don’t deserve this at all. Yet God saw us in all of our sinfulness and saved us anyway. And when we realize that God wants to use us to redeem the earth, it boggles our minds! We, like Peter, are sinful people who can’t imagine being used by the great and holy God. How can God use people who are as broken and weak as we are? Jesus tells us as well, “Don’t be afraid.”
Moreover, what we may consider to be impossible is very possible with the Lord. We look at all the people without Christ who are around us with their various needs and problems and we may feel overwhelmed, but God can use us to help these people. All that is required is a faith that God can do all things and a willingness to be used. God can take our feeble efforts of faith and turn it into blessing. God can take something is small as inviting someone to church and turn it into something big.
IV. Finally, let’s look at the call to discipleship given by Jesus in verse 10.
Jesus will not in fact “go away” as Simon had wished, but will in fact call Simon to an even closer relationship of discipleship, of following Jesus. Jesus is calling these men not only to follow Him; he is telling them that they will go and tell others about Him and they will gather many people in. The new disciples must have thought about the tremendous catch of fish they had just taken in. Would that be the kind of success that Jesus would give them as they fished for men and told them about life in Jesus? There was no doubt as to what they should do now.
The response of these men was to leave everything behind and follow Jesus. Before they had lived for themselves; now they will live for the Lord. The disciples still did some fishing in order to have some income. However, their priorities in their lives were changed radically. That is the final aspect of being a disciple: We leave all behind and follow Jesus. The purpose of our lives is now completely different. We now live to serve the Lord and be the kind of followers that he would have us be. We now leave the things that others may consider valuable behind and follow Jesus. We don’t live for earthly treasures or for mere human pleasures. Our sights are now set higher to the cause of God’s kingdom as we follow Jesus Christ.
God says to us today, “Give yourselves to me fully, completely, and unconditionally!”
And Jesus is saying to us today, “Go, be fishers of people.” There are many people who need to hear about the Lord Jesus and we have the task of showing them the way of life. We can do that by simply inviting people to church and by living a life for Christ. Let’s be faithful and obey Jesus’ call and be the hands and feet of Jesus to this sinful world. That is what it means to be a Christian, a disciple of Jesus Christ. We must change our lives completely and follow Christ exclusively. And each one of us must continually be fishing for men.