JESUS CALLS SIMON TO FISH FOR PEOPLE
Luke 5:1-11, Key Verse: 5:10b
“…Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.’”
In the last passage, Jesus drove out demons and healed the sick in Capernaum, and people of the town wanted to make Jesus the designated doctor for them. But Jesus told the purpose of God for him; it was to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God.
For the kingdom of God, Jesus called his disciples. They are not the people who just want Jesus to heal them and then live their lives, but who know who Jesus is and become kingdom workers. Though Jesus called a few disciples, in order to reveal who can be a disciple of Jesus, the author concentrates on Simon, who will be Peter the Apostle, the pillar of the gospel kingdom. May God bless each one of us to be a disciple of Jesus like Peter in this generation. Amen. There are two parts in this passage.
Put Out Into Deep Water (1-7).
Look at verse 1. “One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God.” The Lake of Gennesaret is the same as the Sea of Galilee and was also called the Sea of Tiberius. Capernaum is one of the towns by the Sea of Galilee. From Capernaum where Simon’s house was, Jesus went to a nearby place called Gennesaret, where fishing boats were parked. Standing by the Lake, the crowd of people came. Yet, Jesus did not heal people but taught them the word of God.
Look at verses 2-3, “He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.” Jesus saw two boats. Apparently, one belonged to Simon, and another, John and James. They just came back from fishing all night. Before Jesus spoke to Simon, what was he doing? He was washing his nets in order wrap up the night of fishing. Even though Jesus was speaking a life-giving message, Simon was not really listening to his message, but minding his own business like a college student who surfs the net during a great lecture. A few days ago, didn’t Jesus just heal his mother-in-law and many people were healed at his house? How would you respond if Jesus visited you and did a great healing ministry at your house? Maybe Simon’s mind was full of fish, thinking about why he could not catch fish all night. He had to go home empty-handed. What he was going to say to his wife and children who were waiting for him to bring some fish home?
All of a sudden, Jesus came and got into Simon’s boat and asked him to put out a little from shore, so that he could teach the crowd, using the boat as a stage. Interestingly, Simon did not refuse but served Jesus. Unintentionally, however, he was forced to stop cleaning his nets and listen to the sermon of Jesus. I cannot imagine how Simon felt, sitting by Jesus, listening to his sermon that was full of power and authority. Probably, he could look at the crowd who were responding to Jesus with awe and amazement. What do you see from Jesus in this? I see Jesus’ initiative, which moved my heart. Even though Simon was not interested in Jesus and his message, Jesus was constantly approaching him in one way or another, helping him to listen to the message so that his spiritual eyes could be opened.
Have you felt like Simon? Even though you are not much interested in the Bible or church or Jesus, God send a friend or a stranger to invite you, not only once but many times. You are here listening to this message because of his constant visit, even if you did not notice them. When I look back on my life, I can see Jesus’ visits to me many times from a young age. Though one of classmates in a high school shared the gospel, I hurt him with my nonsense atheism. One of my village friends invited me to a church many times, so I finally went to his youth group but criticized it, saying that they gathered for dating. I volunteered to go to a church when I was in the army, but slept through every service for two and a half years. Finally, God opened my heart to accept Jesus and I accepted the invitation to a Bible study at the age of 23. It is only by the grace of God, that his servants were willing to be instruments of Christ, initiating with such a sinner like me. Thankfully, all of their labor in the Lord is not in vain. I am forever grateful for what they have done. May we also be Jesus’ instrument, inviting people to Christ. Amen!
How did Jesus help Simon more? Look at verse 4, “When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’” After he finished speaking, Jesus focused on Simon, asking him to put out into deep water for a catch. Jesus was persistent in helping him. Simon was living a shallow life. He was catching fish, cooking fish and selling fish. This was Simon’s life. Jesus wanted Simon to go deeper in life, more than to catch and sell fish; maybe bigger fish in deeper water. It is not living by sight but living by faith in an uncertain world, going deeper spiritually, into a deeper relationship with God.
What was Simon’s response? Look at verse 5. “Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’” Simon’s answer was not really good; it had a negative connotation. He had worked hard all night because night is the time to catch fish in Galilee. But he caught nothing and had to come back with an empty net. He was probably very disappointed and despairing, cleaning the nets and not knowing what to say to his family who were waiting for him to come home with something. He was ready to lay down his tired body, not to go out and throw a net again in the morning when no fisherman would do because they fish with poles during the daytime. Other fishermen could think that he was out of his mind. Moreover, fishing in deep water is not appropriate in the Lake but only in the sea. Simon could only say, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” But he did not finish there. He added, “But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Simon’s words, “Because you say so” have a negative connotation, almost saying like, “I don’t think we are going to catch any by throwing my nets in deep water in the morning but because you told me, I will do it.” Simon had a clear reason not to do what Jesus asked him to do. Yet, he denied himself and obeyed Jesus. Maybe he respected Jesus enough to deny himself—deny his tired body and 40 years of fishing experience in the Lake of Gennesaret. He was rowing the boat, passing the shallow water and seeing some fish passing by. But he went into deep water in the middle of the Lake and threw out the nets. Even though he was throwing the nets, he was not confident but just doing it because Jesus said so.
What happened then? Look at verses 6-7, “When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.” It seems that Simon asked another person to help him throwing the net, probably his brother Andrew, though it does not say. When they threw the nets, the fish in the lake swam as fast as they could from the shallow water and jumped in to the nets of Simon. When they lifted the nets, they had caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they asked their friends in the other boat to come and help them, and both boats were filled with fish, and even began to sink.
Here we learn a very important spiritual lesson. When Simon denied himself and obeyed Jesus, even with a complaining mouth, he experienced a miracle, catching such a large number of fish and filling two boats. Obedience always requires denying one’s own human thinking, even though it may be scientific, reasonable, and/or based on personal experience. It reminds us of the parable of two brothers; an older brother said that he would do what his father told him but did not do it. A younger brother said to his father he would not, but later he did what his father told him. Who obeyed? The younger brother. According to my experience, I have met many people who told me many reasons in order to avoid obeying the word of God. Though they have a great knowledge, they do not experience the power of God. But even though a person is not really understanding the Bible well and even grudgingly obeying the word of God, they experience miracles, whether small or big. In addition, Jesus’ blessing is beyond our human expectation.
In the Bible, anyone who denied themselves and obeyed God and experienced a miracle, beyond human expectations. In Genesis 12, when Abram was called to leave his country, his people and his father’s household and go to the land God told him to go to, he simply obeyed and went with the promise of God. And God blessed him as he promised to be a source of blessing to all people of all nations down through the generations. Those who believed in God’s promise given to Abraham also experienced God’s blessing upon them, and according to Romans 4 we are saved by the same faith. There are so many examples of people who denied and obeyed Jesus and received healing and blessings. When Jesus told the paralyzed man to get up and walk, he had to deny his paralysis and obey to get up. When he obeyed, he was healed.
Just as Abraham had to deny himself and obey God’s calling, Jonathan Goforth had to deny all his comfortable life in Canada and went to China with his wife in obedience to God’s calling. Even though they lost several children and suffered grief, they did not give up their mission life and bore much fruit. Likewise, M. Paul and Mary obeyed to go to come to America as missionaries and then go to Memphis, giving up their comfortable life in Korea and suffering a lot. M. Anastasia also had to leave her country and her family and come to America as a missionary. They are truly blessed in many ways, aren’t they. The reward may not be tangible and visible in the present life but we look forward to the heavenly reward like Abraham. That is what Jesus meant when he said, “put out into deep water for a catch.” This is the true life of faith. Therefore, when Jesus called his disciples, he told them the secret of blessed life saying, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” May God bless each one of us to deny ourselves and obey this year’s key verse and experience Jesus’ blessings abundantly not only once but many times in this year!
From Now On You Will Fish for People (8-11).
Look at verses 8-10. “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.” How would you respond to Jesus when he gave you such a large number of fish? I would say, “Thanks Jesus, would you do it again and again please?” Maybe the village of Gennesaret would vote for Jesus to be the president of the LGFA (Lake of Gennesaret Fishing Association).
But Simon’s response is unusual, even strange, saying, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man.” The miracle helped Simon to find who Jesus is. Simon changed the pronoun of Jesus from ‘Master’ to ‘Lord.’ He realized that Jesus is the Lord of creation who could command fish in Galilee to come into his nets. When he realized who Jesus is, he found himself a sinful man. How? It is the work of the Holy Spirit. The grace of God penetrated his heart. The grace of God is counter-intuitive to a human; a sinful man does not deserve anything, but Jesus blessed Simon even though he did not pay attention to Jesus and even almost ignored him and his request.
Simon wanted Jesus go away from him. He was afraid of Jesus, who knows everything. When Peter realized that he was a sinful man, he could not stand before Jesus, the Lord. It is like Peter’s darkness is exposed by the light of Jesus. When his sins were exposed, he wanted to hide in the darkness. This is the sinful nature of a human. He felt fear of being punished by the Lord who knew what he had done. In Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they hid themselves from the presence of God.
This is the beauty of Jesus, the word of God, revealing our sins and helping us repent and humble ourselves. When we look at Jesus, if we do not find ourselves a sinful man, we are a liar. 1 John 1:8-9 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” May God bless us to find ourselves a sinner before Christ and his word, so that we can be purified and stay in humility of Christ. Amen!
What did Jesus tell Simon? Look at verse 10, “Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” Jesus told Simon two things. First, Jesus forgave him by saying, ‘don’t be afraid.’ Jesus did not come to this world to condemn him but to save him from his sins. Therefore, he doesn’t need to be afraid of Jesus. He needs to overcome his feeling of condemnation and accept Jesus’ forgiveness from his heart. Moreover, he does not need to worry about his life, his fishing and his family because the Lord of all creation will take care of them all.
Secondly, Jesus gave him a mission. From now, he would not catch fish from the lake but fish people. What does it mean to fish for people? It is to catch people and raise them to be disciples of Jesus. As we go fishing, practically we need to have spiritual bait and gear, a hook and a boat and fishing poles. Let’s pray about what kind of fish we want to fish and what kinds of bait and gear we need to prepare for it.
Grace and mission come together. But Jesus’ calling requires faith and sacrifice. In order to be a fisher of men, Simon had to leave his boat and fishing business. He had to trust that God will take care of his family as he is going to follow Jesus.
What was his response? Look at verse 11, “So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” Simon made a decision. How hard it was for him? But he pulled the boat up on shore and left everything; his boat and fishing business, and followed Jesus. Interestingly, all of his friends who helped him felt Jesus’ calling and did the same as Simon. Wow! How could they do that? It is because they participated in it and experienced Lord’s provision when Simon obeyed. His first blessing through his obedience became a stepping stone for him and for others to make a decision by faith. As we know, all of them became great apostles who could go and make disciples and send them to the whole world. May God bless each one of us to make a decision to follow Jesus by faith through Jesus’ small miracle in Christ as a stepping stone and raise disciples and send them to the whole world.
Through today’s passage, we learned Jesus’ loving initiative and his miraculous catch of fish through Simon’s obedience. This is the biblical formula: one’s denial and obedience equal Jesus’ abundant blessing. Jesus’ miracle is a stepping stone to make a new decision of faith in following Jesus. The disciples are those who deny themselves and obey the word of God and experience his presence in their lives. May God bless us to raise 12 disciples who can leave everything to follow Jesus and use them to raise this nation to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation once again.